Monday, May 23, 2005

Digital Prototyping for the Masses

If you've read UXCentric for awhile, you know I'm obsessed with bringing end-users into the site design process. Since it's impractical to actually invite a few hundred thousand folks to join a project team, I employ many of the usual methods to gather user perspectives—surveys, usability tests, card sorts and prototype testing (among others).

I'm a big fan of Carolyn Snyder's Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces, but I have to admit that (1) paper prototyping is a hard sell to some Clients and (2) I'd rather put digital prototypes in front of end-users much sooner in the design cycle. So way back when—while at a big consultancy during the dot-com era—I began exploring ways to do the latter.

After much tinkering and debate with colleagues, I devised a method of using Adobe Acrobat to quickly create interactive prototypes from my Visio wireframes. The process requires no coding and is about as easy as creating paper prototypes.

That's the subject of my two-part "User Advocate" column, Interactive Prototyping, at Kelly Goto's always-interesting gotoreport at gotomedia. I begin by making a case for digital prototypes in general and PDF prototypes in detail. You can then try out a sample prototype or even build your own by following a step-by-step tutorial through the process.

And since I think the world of Kelly and all she's done for Web design, I'll toss in a plug for the new edition of her outstanding book, Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow That Works. Full of practical advice hammered out in the crucible of real world experience, this is a book that belongs on your desk.

I'm truly pleased to share my ideas about PDF prototyping with the UX community and look forward to your comments.

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