Monday, 26 November 2001
Which tool is the best for creating prototypes? The answer is remarkably simple.

Sticky pads are the perfect prototyping tool.

Demands for a prototyping tool

    Sketched prototype
    Users view a system
    as a collection of screens.
    A set of A4 size papers, 1 per screen,
    precisely fits that perception.
  1. A user must understand the prototype with ease.
  2. A designer should be able to quickly create and change a prototype.
  3. A user should feel free to comment.
  4. A prototyping tool must fit in the budget.
Paper sticky pads satisfy all of these requirements.

Point number two includes another, often overlooked aspect. A designer's mind is more open for comments if he has not yet spent a lot of time on the design.

What does not work?

  • A prototype does not have to look official and in fact, it should not!

    The more formal the specification, the bigger the threshold.

  • A prototype doesn't have to conform to the mindset of IT staff.
    • A prototype does not have to be a full functional specification. Input for the programmers will follow, later.
    • Abstraction puts up barricades. A screen with xxx and 999 is far less appealing than an example with real values.
    • Users think in terms of screens. To them, information flows from one screen to another. Diagrams are mostly abracadabra to them.
      A too perfect prototype.
      To them a logical database design or dialog flow diagram is just an incomprehensible pulp of boxes and lines.
  • A prototype need not resemble the real and final product.

    Strangely enough, a perfectly looking prototype is far from effective.

    The user perceives the system as already done and any comments he may have are therefore too late to be of any use. Such a real prototype generates less comments.


IT staff, sharpen the pencils, seize a pair of scissors and a glue-pot. Get some sticky pads.

And sketch, cut and paste!

Till next week,

IM George Harrisson, 25 Feb 1943 - 29 Nov 2001