Sunday, July 25, 2010

Using Prototypes, Not Pictures

Gavin Bell in his book "Building Social Web Applications" recommends that you use prototypes rather than pictures to communicate the design of your social web application.

Gavin says that in large companies normally designers hand over a set of Photoshop pages to the developers and let them bring the application to life. There are two things that can go wrong with this approach.

1. Designers, knowing or subconsciously, add unnecessary design elements hoping that some how the developers will figure things out.

2. Designers and product managers do not get to understand, verify, and get a second opinion on their own design before too much investment has been made.

We know that conversation with potential users and feedback is the best way to design products and improve them. A prototype is the best way to accomplish that.

Here is my recommendation. For all web applications, build a clickable prototype with a tool of your choice.  This approach makes sense to any web development project, even if it is not a social web application. I use Axure to create my prototypes and get feedback from users. Axure is very good for this purpose.
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