Methods for prototyping thick applications

4 Sep 2007 - 11:43pm
6 years ago
7 replies
411 reads
Matt Attaway
2004

Hello all,

I'm in the process of designing my first major "thick" application( yay! ),
and have run into something of a brick wall in figuring out how to prototype
it. It's a fairly smart client that is less for creating content and more
for managing it, with a database backend. I'm comfortable with paper
prototypes, but I know at some point I'm going to need to go beyond that.

The problem is I don't know how far beyond paper prototypes I need to go. If
I were doing game design I'd pop into Visual Studio and start coding a rough
version, but I've found that desktop GUIs are much more time consuming to
hack together. The three options I'm considering right now are:

1) PowerPoint prototype - seems only a step above paper, it may be even less
flexible, but you can email it
2) ActionScript or Javascript prototype - more flexible than PowerPoint,
won't have live data, somewhat time intensive
3) C# or C++ "ugly" GUI - time intensive but very flexible, can have live
data

I'm afraid I'm jumping straight to coding because that is one of my main
skill sets. However I'm also worried a PowerPoint prototype will have an
"uncanny valley" effect where it will look like a GUI and act like a slide
show. There are a lot of different paths the user can explore in the client,
and I've seen PowerPoint prototypes blow up in the face of a curious user. (
What does this button do? Nothing? What a terrible GUI! )

Is there another option I'm missing? Are any of these a huge mistake? I
sense an "It Depends(tm)" coming, but any advice would be greatly
appreciated.

Cheers,
Matt

Comments

4 Sep 2007 - 11:51pm
AlokJain
2006

Matthew,

I am doing a pretty rich Web App as well, and have used javascript
without any database connection. I have simulated wherever possible
through javascript variables or show and hide of divs..

For testing I have made it clear upfront to users that this is a
prototype, not the final software and some areas would be non-
functional. In my case users are also potential customers (seems like
something similar for you) but they understand and so far no issues.

Cheers
AJ

On Sep 5, 2007, at 12:43 AM, Matthew Attaway wrote:

> Hello all,
>
> I'm in the process of designing my first major "thick" application
> ( yay! ),
> and have run into something of a brick wall in figuring out how to
> prototype
> it. It's a fairly smart client that is less for creating content
> and more
> for managing it, with a database backend. I'm comfortable with paper
> prototypes, but I know at some point I'm going to need to go beyond
> that.
>
> The problem is I don't know how far beyond paper prototypes I need
> to go. If
> I were doing game design I'd pop into Visual Studio and start
> coding a rough
> version, but I've found that desktop GUIs are much more time
> consuming to
> hack together. The three options I'm considering right now are:
>
> 1) PowerPoint prototype - seems only a step above paper, it may be
> even less
> flexible, but you can email it
> 2) ActionScript or Javascript prototype - more flexible than
> PowerPoint,
> won't have live data, somewhat time intensive
> 3) C# or C++ "ugly" GUI - time intensive but very flexible, can
> have live
> data
>
> I'm afraid I'm jumping straight to coding because that is one of my
> main
> skill sets. However I'm also worried a PowerPoint prototype will
> have an
> "uncanny valley" effect where it will look like a GUI and act like
> a slide
> show. There are a lot of different paths the user can explore in
> the client,
> and I've seen PowerPoint prototypes blow up in the face of a
> curious user. (
> What does this button do? Nothing? What a terrible GUI! )
>
> Is there another option I'm missing? Are any of these a huge
> mistake? I
> sense an "It Depends(tm)" coming, but any advice would be greatly
> appreciated.
>
> Cheers,
> Matt
> ________________________________________________________________
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5 Sep 2007 - 2:01am
bhakti भक्ति
2006

Matthew,
My team needs to deliver similar stuff as you have mentioned and we too make
the protoytpe partly functional where the user can get the idea fo the
functionality by setting up 2-3 work arounds in the prototype.

If its a fat client we make the prototypes in Visual studio and for web app
its the use of javascript that facilitates for the user understanding.
Upload if for viewing, if possible.

Moreover we build a slideware to present the potential of the
functionality/feature. Here we cover

- All the work arounds (includes use cases considered)
- Bubbles explaining the use/action/purpose played by the UI elements
- Notes for references and requisites.

This covers all aspects of the feature and the communication is 100%
~ Bhakti

5 Sep 2007 - 7:53am
Dave Malouf
2005

Matt,
"It Depends" ... Seriously though, use the tools you are most
comfortable working in. If you are a coder, I'd say you have a huge
advantage and you should use it.

Something you might want to look at though are tools like Flash/Flex
and Expression Blend/Visual Studio. These tools allow you to really
do intelligent programming and even prepare for whatever data hooks
you may need to create.

If ya got a lot of cash, software like iRise and Serena have
"similuators" that are pretty good. On the cheaper end, Axure is
pretty good for web apps, but it sounds like you are beyond that.

Also, don't discount good old HTML with its friends JavaScript and
XML to really build a good even thick looking/feeling prototype with.

In the end, you need to ask yourself what are your goals with the
prototype:
* validate externally
* proof of concept for IxD
* proof of concept for technology
* documentation

Each one might lead you to different methods.

-- dave

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Posted from the improved ixda.org
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5 Sep 2007 - 9:02am
Todd Warfel
2003

When deciding what method to use, the first question you need to ask
yourself is "What's the purpose, or goal of the prototype?" The
second is who's the audience?

So, let's start there. Matthew, what is your goal with this thing?
What do you hope to accomplish? And who is going to use/see the
prototype? Based on that, I think we can start go put together some
good guidelines for making your decision.

On Sep 5, 2007, at 12:43 AM, Matthew Attaway wrote:

> Hello all,
>
> I'm in the process of designing my first major "thick" application
> ( yay! ), and have run into something of a brick wall in figuring
> out how to prototype it[...]

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

5 Sep 2007 - 10:08am
Fred Leise
2006

Intuitect Professional is also a tool that enables you to turn
wireframes into an HTML prototype, so that's another option.

Fred Leise
Chief Operating Officer
Intuitect
fred.leise at intuitect.com
o: 303.247.9000
c: 773.791.2849
www.intuitect.com

Matthew Attaway wrote:
> Hello all,
>
> I'm in the process of designing my first major "thick" application( yay! ),
> and have run into something of a brick wall in figuring out how to prototype
> it.

5 Sep 2007 - 2:59pm
Matt Attaway
2004

I

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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5 Sep 2007 - 5:30pm
Matt Attaway
2004

Hmmm, looks like I found a bug in the beta site; putting a less than
symbol in my post seems to have killed it. =)

Take 2.

Thank you all very much for your responses. They've really helped me
focus on what the prototype needs to accomplish.

The prototype will be a proof of concept for the IxD; both the data
visualizations and the workflow we are implementing. The audience
will be the team and the company honchos. All of the audience members
will be very knowledgeable about the model. It will also probably used
for external validation, but that won't be the primary purpose.

Thinking about it this morning has me leaning towards a fairly
dynamic prototype. I think we're going to need something that we can
sit down with and test a number of different scenarios. I think my
design instructor called it "exploring the probability space."

Matt

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20113

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