Why Prototype?

I ran across an interesting presentation (”Sketching in Code: Using Prototypes to Visualize Interactions“) that David Vreba, Director of Technology at Adaptive Path, delivered at the UXWeek conference in August.

In particular, two slides in David’s presentation with the titles “Why Prototype?” caught my attention.  These slides sum up in a nutshell why prototyping is so important:

  • Visualize your requirements – save a lot of time and effort by not creating so many paper-based requirements that are difficult to review
  • Get to market faster – generate a lot of cash by getting a better product to market faster.

Why PrototypeWhy Prototype

Effective prototyping can reduce cycle times throughout the entire software development lifecycle.

David also presented 5 key reasons to prototype including:

  1. See problems more clearly
  2. See some problems at all
  3. Gain buy in from stakeholders
  4. Foster collaboration
  5. Help everybody understand what is possible

I think #2, “see some problems at all“, is one of the more overlooked reasons to prototype.  In many cases, stakeholders may not even be aware of problems with usability, flow and design until you actually show them what you had in mind.  This is because reams of text-based requirements written down on paper do not come close to showing someone what you meant.

Point #4 – “foster collaboration” – is probably the least expected side benefit of prototyping.  Without even knowing it, sharing a prototype gets groups talking that may have never talked in the past.  This then facilitates better communication throughout the rest of the project and has carryover benefits into the next project and beyond.

Most people need to visualize something and even better try something to truly understand it.  And it is much better to show them early in a prototyping phase than near the end of the development lifecycle when the final product is almost complete.

You can learn more about David Vreba’s presentation, and download the slides and audio at this link.

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