I’m becoming more and more a believer in the value of modeling and visualizing requirements. I was trained in the more traditional methods of eliciting and capturing requirements, and have seen success doing things that way, but I am quick to  admit that a picture truly is worth a thousand words (or is it a mock-up is worth a thousand “system shalls”?)

In this post I’ll share a few great links and quotes on rapid UI prototyping that have helped reinforce the value of visualized requirements in my mind, and that I thought you might find interesting.

Now, bear in mind that prototyping can be as simple as the mock-up on a paper napkin, and as complex as a fully functional prototype that actually evolves into the end product. As a business analyst, my interest and focus will tend more toward simple wireframes and mock-ups that I’d use to draw out additional requirements and to set design on a solid path.  So, on to the good stuff –

  • In an  excellent read highlighting the shortcomings of traditional requirements gathering techniques and the importance of collaborating to conceptualize solutions, Andrew Gordon shares the following on UI prototypes:

Use cases are okay, but there’s no substitute for putting, at least what looks like, a real solution in front of stakeholders. In my experience UI prototypes validate system requirements better that any process modelling or workshops could ever do.

[A]ble to capture 93 – 95% of the business requirements functionality by using a collaborative requirements method and by creating and validating paper prototypes with the business community… If a more traditional interviewing approach is used to gather requirements, studies show that only 65% of the requirements will be captured.

[A]nnotated pictures are far more specific & engaging than trying to describe with only text things that can be easily shown. If that adds pages to the document, it is a small price if it gets read and understood.

  • Here’s a great article on prototyping. I includes some tips on effective prototyping and a great grid comparison list of rapid protyping tools. It includes all the more popular apps and some interesting ones I hadn’t heard of.
  • I’m actually evaluating Balsamiq Mockups right now, myself, and will be sharing my thoughts on it and a few others off the list that I’m familiar with in the coming days.  I’ve also recently been made aware of another mock-up tool aptly named Mockup Screens. Both are extremely reasonably priced, and relatively feature-rich.
  • If you really want to keep it simple – and free – and use Firefox, have a look at the Pencil extension. Per the Pencil Project’s homepage:

Pencil turns your excellent Firefox 3 browser into a sketching tool with just a 400-kilobyte installation package. Pencil will always be free and can run on virtually all platforms that Firefox 3 supports.

I’m going to stop the list there for now, although the web is full of great resources on requirement visualization/mock-ups/wireframes, or whatever you want to call it. That said, what other mock-up and wireframing productions do you use or recommend?

Mockup image by lilit