UIEtips: Prototyping’s Resurgence – Communicating the Designer’s Intent

Jared Spool

March 8th, 2012

Imagine two designers. One is really imaginative and inventive, but hasn’t spent any time learning how to use any of the prototyping tools available today. The other has mastered multiple prototyping techniques quite proficiently, but isn’t particularly imaginative or inventive.

Which one would more likely produce a portfolio of great designs over time? Our research suggests the proficient prototyper will beat the innovator.

The prototyper has the advantage of quick iterations on their side. While their initial designs won’t be anything special, they can get immediate feedback, make changes, and try again. Over time, their designs will evolve into something quite special.

In today’s UIEtips, I explore how prototyping is coming back as an important design tool. Starting with a brief history of prototyping and why it went away for a while. We look at how the best teams are making investments in mastering multiple prototyping methods, to give themselves the best flexibility.

Read today’s article: Prototyping’s Resurgence – Communicating the Designer’s Intent

At our April UX Immersion Conference, Dave McFarland has put together a full-day workshop to help any designer learn to become proficient using JavaScript and jQuery, two of today’s most powerful prototyping tools. See Dave’s workshop details.

2 Responses to “UIEtips: Prototyping’s Resurgence – Communicating the Designer’s Intent”

  1. Scott Says:

    Great article (again!) Thank you for the background, I have been programming since the late 90’s and was wondering where it had been or why it was getting more popular. I have fully embraced it now.

  2. Jen Fabrizi Says:

    Jared, Thanks for this article that hit close to home! Just had to reply.

    I’ve been in UX since about 1991. Of course, we didn’t call it UX back then! I cut my teeth on designing object-oriented business applications with lots of data to display and user tasks to make easy-to-use. Your article described my life in the ’90s: interactive paper prototyping in JAD sessions with users and developers; prototyping in Visual Basic; “guerilla” usability testing; and quick iterations.

    (Actually, my 1st prototyping tool was EASEL Corp’s programming language. Originally you had to code the UI layout, compile the code, then run it on your OS/2 IBM desktop machine to see how it looked! Then they came out with a WYSIWYG UI layout tool and that was cool. But not long after that VB came out for $99 per license and EASEL was not long for this world…)

    I digress… It’s interesting that prototyping is coming back, as you say, to make the designer’s intent clear. And it’s great how you describe rapid ways to prototype that will actually also work in the Agile context. For example, prototyping and the Agile paired programming model can work really well together: design and usability work can fit in the Agile scrum cadence by pairing an interaction designer and front-end developer. They work closely to quickly create prototypes that can be tested with users and will become “shippable-worthy” code in the scrum cadence.

    I’ve sometimes found it challenging to find and hire interaction designers with enough deep background in designing complex applications on the web (or GUIs for that matter). I think this skillset will continue to increase in importance so maybe new interaction designers should read Larry Constantine and others who started in the GUI world. While mobile interaction design is seemingly changing things, the whole idea of users’ tasks and intents is very applicable in the mobile design space. Once you’ve seen a couple of paradigm shifts, you realize that things come back around!

    When I saw this article, it made me feel less like an old-timer and more like that wonderful dress in the back of my closet that’s now in style again!! 😉

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