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September 2009

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Rapid Prototyping with Protoshare

Posted 9/3/2009 1:36:00 PM by Mark Reichard

Readers of this blog will know that I'm in favor of any tool that helps with requirements definition and project planning for Web projects.  I'm convinced that it's the insufficient definition of requirements and a failure to agree on concrete expectations between clients and developers  that are the primary cause of failed Web projects. 

Just two weeks ago we were called in to consult with a company that had hired a Web vendor and was concerned about the project.  From our discussion, it seemed that the vendor was of the "start writing code first and ask questions later" school of Web project management.   and their response to several of the clients requests for details about the sit was that all would become clear once they saw the finished site, and that anything the client did not like could just be changed.  Just like you would not hire a contractor who planned to build your building first and then find out how you wanted it look and function, you should not hire a Web developer who does not thoroughly research your requirements and draw up a detailed blueprint for the site.

In line with this idea, we've recently started to use a rapid Web prototyping tool for all sites that we develop.  The tool is called Protoshare (www.protoshare.com), and it allows you to quickly and easily create functional prototypes of Web sites.  You can iteratively prototype the site by first specifying which elements (links, text blocks, form fields) will be on each page without specifying details of colors, fonts and images.  This allows you to get agreement on the broad outlines of the site.  You can then add additional detail by developing CSS sytle sheets for site elements and uploading images.  Finally, you can give a designer access to the prototype to develop design comps for key pages, and these comps can be uploaded directly into the site for client review.

We've found this to be an invaluable tool, and the regular enhancement schedule means that there's a good chance that the few gripes we've had with the tool will be resolved soon.

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