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User interface prototyping tips and techniques

I was looking for some tips on how best to optimize user interface prototyping when I came across some great tips at Ambysoft as well as the IBM Developer site. A UI prototyping process is very important for teams that want to take their product development process as close to being successfu as possible, and has numerous development cycle benefits as well. So, here’s these tips:

1. Work with the real users: There is no way to get around this. You need to get the actual end users involved, they are the ones who have the most at stake.
2. Use prototyping tool: It makes sense to spend some money in a prototyping tool that will allow the team to quickly put together screens and not have to put too much effort in getting this done. It is not necessary to develop good code, since a prototype is not recommended to substitute for final code.
3. Get users to work with the prototype: Unless all the stakeholders get involved with the prototype, they will not be able to see how the proposed system will meet their needs. Further, this will help in generating some useful feedback.
4. A good understanding of the requirements and the business: Since a prototype is meant to provide an overall idea of the final solution, the people building the prototype need to have a good understanding of the business logic and requirements.
5. The code is throwaway: It has been a standard understanding of the prototyping process that all code generated through the prototyping business is throwaway, and nobody should fall in love with the prototype and code that they would consider using the prototype as a development platform. Don’t spend unnecessary effort to make the code beautiful.
6. Not everything can be simple: When building a prototype, there is a temptation to try and simplify things in order to present a good picture. However, users know how complex their workflows can be, and it would be a mistake to not show them the contour of the final proposed workflow. It also helps in tweaking the complex workflow solution by getting good feedback from them.
7. Don’t get over-ambitious: Just because a feature is easily built via a prototype, does not mean that it should be put it. A prototype should not have features that are not part of the schedule, as that might lead to expectations that would certainly not be fulfilled.
8. Expert help in design: Building a prototype is not easy. It needs people who are experienced; for optimum benefits, if necessary, bring in expert help for this design.
9. Make users aware of what a prototype is / is not: Many end users are not so aware of software practices, and if that is the case, then they should be educated about the purpose of a prototype. There should be no expectation that a prototype is a product and just needs a bit more work.
10. Don’t use the prototype for making decision: The use of terms make a lot of difference to users. If you build a good workflow, but use very specific terms, users are likely to factor in the terms (for example, if there are alternate ways of completing a task) as a way of how the work flow will happen. It is better to have the terms be generic.

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