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Using Paper Prototyping For Creating Software Prototypes

Mar 21, 2008
Generally, prototyping is used to determine if a design is effective or if it can really perform the functions it was made to do.

The same goes with software prototyping. In prototyping software the creators of the program make an unfinished model of the program available to consumers. The creators let their potential clients test the software and allow them to evaluate how well it works.

Because of the generated feedback, designers can alter the software even before they began to release the full version. This would be more economical to the creators rather than releasing the full version now and then patching up the software's inconsistencies later.

It would also help designers save face in case the software failed to leave up to consumers' expectations. It is a fact that consumers know more than anybody else about problems that could be encountered in using the software.

So any form of feedback from them early on in the project could be valuable in the program's performance. Through the feedback from prototyping, determining at first hand what the consumers really want can lead developers in creating a faster and cheaper software.

Improved and increased user involvement: Protoptyping requires user involvement and allows them to see and interact with a prototype allowing them to provide better and more complete feedback and specifications.

The presence of the protoype being examined by the user prevents many misunderstandings and miscommunications that occur when each side believe the other understands what they said.

Since users know the problem domain better than anyone on the development team does, increased interaction can result in final product that has greater tangible and intangible quality. The final product is more likely to be satisfy the users desire for look, feel and performance.

However, when not used properly, software prototyping might be detrimental to the development of the whole program itself. Developers might be too focused on creating a prototype that they become remiss on their job to make the full version of the software. Consumers might also think that the prototype is the real thing and might inaccurately evaluate the product by having too much expectation.

Also, developers might spend a great deal of time creating a prototype. A prototype is supposed to be created quickly and if it takes too long for the developers to make one, it might become too costly for the whole project. Plus, additional expense can be incurred on creating a separate team to develop the prototype.

Creating programs and websites, software, and even hardware, entails careful consideration in terms of its user interface. Sometimes, in the planning stages of these programs, we get caught up in the big picture and are unable to foresee certain details that affect how our programs will pan out in a step by step manner.

The traditional way to develop programs is to build a prototype and test it. It would be fortunate if after testing, you will only have to do some minor revisions, if at all. The problem arises when you find out that your program has a user problem, which will entail for you to trash most of your hard work to solve the obstacle.

To help programmers and users, a user testing method called paper prototyping has been popularized by many top technology brands that boast of programs and hardware that are very user friendly.

The main difference of paper prototyping and regular prototypes is that paper prototyping utilizes paper as the medium to plot out programs. The method of prototyping is usually best conducted like a focused group discussion where paper prototypes are employed to simulate the program to be developed.

With paper prototyping, you can either utilize printouts of your wire frames or hand sketch your designs. You can even use a combination of both. Prototyping experts say that paper, scissors, glue and sticky paper are a must during the paper prototyping process.

These materials are made to simulate your programs so that through the interactive process of going through the paper prototype, you can find out if your product ranks high on usability. This paper prototyping process also saves you time and effort because it allows you outsider insight on your product, way before you even begin to actually build it. With this method of testing for usability, you will never have to "go back to the drawing boards" because you won't leave the drawing phase until all kinks are ironed out.

This method of testing is particularly useful for the production of websites, programs, and software for use in a personal computer or a mobile phone interface. You can learn a lot of valuable lessons from paper prototyping. For instance, if in your paper prototype, you find that the users testing the mock up tends to click a particular feature which was not designed to be a link, then you know that it should actually be one.

Paper prototyping can save you a lot of time, effort and cost at the planning stage, even before you begin to write codes or start building.
About the Author
Low Jeremy maintains http://Prototyping.ArticlesForReprint.com. This content is provided by Low Jeremy. It may be used only in its entirety with all links included.
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