Before you begin prototyping…

As with any non-trivial activity, it’s always worth taking a moment before starting a prototype to ask a few questions.

This is far from a complete list of questions to ask but it should be enough to kick-start this preparatory process and get you thinking about the context of your prototyping efforts.

Picture of little boy playing the blues...

  • Scope of system

    How much of a system do we need to prototype? How much detail/depth do we need to go into? Do we need to model existing processes or software? What new functionality is to be added? What existing functionality is to be changed or removed?

  • Timescales

    How long do you have to complete your requirements prototyping? Is this a critical path activity? Is this work fully resourced? What would the impact of change be upon your ability to deliver a finalised prototype?

  • Tools available

    What tools do you have at your disposal? Is it cost-effective to buy in dedicated prototyping software, or to make use of existing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Visio or even hand-crafting your prototype in html?

  • Team issues

    How much of the work can be done by your team and how much should be farmed out to a dedicated prototyping consultant. Does the existing team have the right mixture of skills?

  • Project methodology

    What standard approaches are mandated by your organisation? Do you have authority to change a mandated approach? Do the objectives of the prototype play to the strengths of a particular method or technique?

  • Audience for prototype

    What will the audience expect to see in your prototype? Is the purpose to educate, market, critique, validate or solidify a proposed design? Will the prototype be used as a vehicle to solicit feedback from users or business stakeholders?

  • Completion criteria

    What specific acceptance criteria apply to the prototyping work? Who signs off? When?

I’m sure you can think of other questions that ought to be considered before the work begins – and remember, preparation is vital!


About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D:
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2 Responses to Before you begin prototyping…

  1. steve says:

    Nice list there, I’ve had a tendency to just charge build the prototype without too much thought

  2. I’m really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A couple of my blog readers have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

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