I created a paper prototype guided by Carolyn Snyder's excellent book, Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces, for a web application used to book occupancy of the road to do maintenance work, etc. It was a lot of fun testing it on my colleagues and a couple of genuine local users but when it got to testing remote users I thought perhaps I'd try to create an online prototype. I started with PowerPoint but found the macros deficient and a couple of things I wanted to do I couldn't. I then ordered Effective Prototyping with Excel by Bergen et al, expecting that their prototypes would involve some basic coding but was disappointed to find they didn't. A programming colleague showed me a couple of very basic code statements in Excel and I realised that with the Control Toolbox widgets, .Visible = True and .Visible = False statements, a couple of If statements, a little googling and a little recording of macros to figure out some code, I could create a pretty workable prototype, albeit only able to handle very specific use cases.

I would appreciate responses on:
* the value of this type of prototype
* whether it is possible to have more control over formatting of the Control Toolbox widgets, or, alternatively substitute the Forms toolbar widgets which are more formattable
* other "bits of code" that non-coders can add to the repertoire
* ways of making the prototype more like a real prototype, that is, not totally use case dependent, without going into real coding territory
* any other suggestions



Nevin Berger
06/23/2009 10:29

I think that using code for a prototype is a double edged sword. Using code makes your prototype more interactive and in that way more explicit in its description. However the other side to that is, the more time and effort you put into it the less flexible you can be when it comes to changes. The whole point to prototyping is to avoid becoming committed to your designs so that changes can be implemented quickly and with as little effort as possible.

Petra Liverani
06/23/2009 17:22

Hi Nevin,

I have to admit it took an inordinate amount of time to create this prototype but this was my first one. I'm wondering if with practice whether it would be relatively quick to change design because the code is so simple. I actually much prefer paper prototyping because it's fun but obviously that has its limitations and can't be used with remote users in any case. I'll see how long it takes to create the next one and decide if it's worthwhile or not.

10/05/2009 23:50

Apart from the discussion whether adding interactivity is necessary for a prototype (as with any discussion my gut says: sometime it is, sometimes it isn't), there is something else I noticed.
The prototype you posted could actually just as well have been done using no code whatsoever but with hyperlinks. True you do need to create a sheet for every instance you want to test, but these you would have needed to sketch anyway. When you want to test with users you can hide the sheet tabs in the options menu and go to full screen mode. That way it is almost unnoticeable that you are using Excel.
Contact me if you want an example and good luck prototyping (in any format)

07/23/2012 17:47

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07/23/2012 17:50

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    Petra Liverani.
    Hi, I'm a technical writer with an interest in usability and interaction design, based in Sydney.

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