Paper Prototyping for the Artistically Challenged

I find when I am designing modifications for Dynamics NAV the best way to describe the proposed solution to the users is to show them a screen. For a long time now I have used a technique called "Paper Prototyping". It sounds very technical, but it really just means you draw what the screen is going to look like on a piece of paper and talk about it with the users.

Here's an example:

 

The image is intended to be simple and have a rough hand-drawn appearance so that the users focus on the functionality of the system and not how it is going to look. Making changes is as simple as using an eraser. The best thing about this technique is that it is very fast.

Sometimes, I would create a mock-up using the NAV Form Wizard, but you really can't beat the speed of scribbling a quick design. Well I thought you couldn't, until I discovered a tool called Balsamiq. Here is the same image drawn using the Balsamiq tool:

 

This image was as quick to draw as the hand-drawn one (quicker if you discount the time needed to scan the image) and it has that same rough hand-drawn look but is a lot neater. The Datagrid control is created by typing in a comma separated list! How easy is that?

 

I used this tool on my latest project and I can definitely recommend it to anyone that needs to prototype solutions. A lot of the controls are very web-application focused, but I think it will serve the purpose for NAV quite well.

You can play with a free online version or download a trial from www.balsamiq.com and you can see some more sample mock-ups here.

Comment List
  • This post was a bit of a test at using Word to create a blog post. I've been wanting to do this for a whlie and never got around to trying it with a picture hosting service provider. Unfotunately, although a quick test post worked, I needed to manually upload these images. David Singleton's blog includes some info on how to set this up - Thanks David! I guess I need to work on the whole image part.

  • Hi Dave,

    Thank you for a great post. I've already downloaded Balsamig and look forward to try it out.

    Personally I have always worked after the rule "One picture says more than 1000 words". So I like to draw the forms on a whiteboard while going the requirements with the users. And often I have also been creating the "mock-up" in NAV, but it although the form editor is easy to use actually still takes more time than the paper based form.

    Erik

  • I've always done my prototyping right in the development tool, regardless of which one it is. For me, with a background as a developer, it's easier to quickly create objects, I have not found a tool that I can do that more quickly than just developing something quick. Having an actual table with an actual form that you can use in an actual use case beats any screendrawing.

    This is an awesome tool for consultants though. It looks rough enough around the edges to look like what it is, just a prototype, and nice enough to be presentable.

  • Daniel,

    I follow you on that. Always done my prototypes directly in NAV. But that's really because I've so far never found another tool which could do it just as easy as in NAV. Maybe this tool can?

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