One of the best tools in the requirements gathering/clarification process is the system prototype. System prototypes allow you to get feedback from end-users to ensure that you are developing a system that meets their needs. Technology has made the creation of prototypes much more feasible and cost-effective. As such, you should ensure that every system you create has a prototype created for it. Below are the three main categories of prototypes and some of the most popular tools for each.
Low-fidelity – a low-fidelity prototype is a rough graphical representation of the system. It does not contain functionality, but rather aims to get feedback on the general design/look and feel.
- Pen and Paper – has the benefits of being cheap and having a very low learning curve. Hard to version drafts without manually creating new papers.
- Balsamiq Mockups – software tool that allows you to create mock-ups/prototypes very easily. Can export output to image files for distribution.
Medium-Fidelity – a medium-fidelity prototype is used to refine the look and feel of the system or define high-level interactions.
- Photoshop – using Photoshop allows you to clearly define the final layout and look of the system. Users will get to see exactly how the system will look and can verify it matches their needs
- Flairbuilder – allows you to create interactive prototypes that can convey high-level workflow/capability.
High-Fidelity – a high-fidelity prototype is used to gather feedback on the usability/workflow of a tool. These prototypes take longer to create, but can be used with end-users to ensure that the product works as needed.
- Dreamweaver (or other HTML editors) – creating a HTML-based prototype allows you to build a prototype that looks and acts in a similar manner to the final product. Back-end code is not included, but the interface/experience should match.