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Hand-crafting prototypes in Visio

The Q3 2006 issue of GUUUI looks at how to hand-draw prototypes in Visio using a tablet computer or a pen tablet. It's a fun, fast, dirty and dynamic technique, which is most useful early in the design process, when we are trying out lots of alternatives.


Henrik Olsen - July 02, 2006

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Review of the book Paper Prototyping

Pabini Gabriel-Petit has published a lengthy review of Carolyn Snyders book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design.

Gabriel-Petit concludes:

"This is a valuable book on an important topic by an expert in usability. It demonstrates that paper prototyping is an effective technique that is useful in many contexts and provides a complete reference on how to use paper prototypes in usability studies."


Henrik Olsen - June 08, 2006 - via Putting People First

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Video lecture about design thinking by Tim Brown from IDEO

Here's a one hour video starring Tim Brown from the design firm IDEO. He talks about how to fuel innovation by studying people and evolve and validate ideas through rapid prototyping and storytelling.


  • The video lecture Innovation Through Design Thinking

Henrik Olsen - June 08, 2006 - via LukeW

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The book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces

Being a strong advocate for prototyping, I'm a bit embarrassed that I haven't read Carolyn Snyder's book on paper prototyping until now. And I regret it. Her book has a lot to offer. If you are more into computer-based prototyping, you can still learn a lot from the renowned practitioner.

Carolyn assumes that if you want to build a prototype, it's because you want to test it with users. This has a strong influence on her workflow: Find test participants, create tasks, design the paper prototype, test it, refine it and test it again until you are confident that the design will work.

Something that fascinates me is that the book offers a ready-made step-by-step process for development teams to follow. Just add paper. The workflow seems to be a perfect companion for agile developments methods such as SCRUM.

On the negative side: Clients are almost absent in her book. And that's a pity, because prototypes are great for communicating with clients.


  • Companion web-site
  • The book at
  • The book at

Henrik Olsen - May 14, 2006

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Review of Axure RP Pro

The Q2 2006 issue of GUUUI is a review of the prototyping tool Axure RP Pro.

The good:
- Drag and drop widgets onto a grid (as you might know it from Visio)
- Generate prototypes in a format that behaves like real web pages (i.e. you can interact with forms and pages can scroll)
- Save time on repetitive changes by using custom widgets and templates
- Simulate rich interactivity by showing and hiding layers
- Automatically generate user interface specifications

The bad:
- You can't navigate your pages inside Axure by clicking links and buttons
- Somewhat expensive


Henrik Olsen - April 01, 2006

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Axure RP Pro

Axure have released a version 4 of their dedicated prototyping tool Axure RP Pro. The tool is a very strong competitor to Visio.

Some great features:
- It has a adopted the basic concept from Visio, where you drag and drop widgets onto a grid
- The interactive prototypes are generated in real HTML, meaning that they behave like real web pages (i.e. forms are interactive and pages can scroll)
- It can automatically generate specifications in Word format
- With its Masters you can create custom widgets and templates to reuse in your pages
- With its Dynamic Panels you can simulate rich interactions by showing and hiding layers in response to users' actions

I can't tell if Axure is better than Visio, since I haven't used it for a project yet. But it sure looks promising. Download the demo to decide for yourself.


  • The prototyping tool Axure RP Pro

Henrik Olsen - March 21, 2006

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Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen

DevSource has published a nice 8-minute online video interview featuring Dr. Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen addresses a wide range of topics, such as proper attitude for programmers, the importance of prototyping in design, and the reasons why PDF, Flash, and local search engines can hurt more than they help.


  • Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2006 - via WebWord

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How to use PowerPoint for prototyping

Jensen Harris from Microsoft has posted a small practical tutorial on how to use PowerPoint for prototyping. Paste screenshots of the different interaction states into PowerPoint, use transparent shapes as link areas and put a static frame into the master background, so that you only need to put the interface elements which changes on each slide.

In Harris' opinion, the technique has several advantages compared to paper prototypes. Prototypes build in PowerPoint feel somewhat interactive, they can be modified more easily, and computer enabled prototypes feel more natural to usability test participants.

Of course, this method is rather primitive compared to prototyping with Visio.


  • Prototyping With PowerPoint

Henrik Olsen - February 27, 2006

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Visio - the interaction designer's nail gun (2nd edition)

The Q1 2006 issue of GUUUI is a second edition of an article on using Visio for rapid prototyping for the web that was published at GUUUI back in Q3 2002. The new edition includes a new and improved version of the GUUUI Prototyping Tool for Visio 2003.


Henrik Olsen - January 15, 2006

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User-centred design cuts support calls by 90%

Here's a great case on how prototyping and early involvement of users pays off. Because McAfee made user interface design of their ProtectionPilot a prime directive, they ended up with a great product and received approximately one-tenth of the support calls that the company would expect.

The article lists 23 tips gleaned from McAfee and their design team.


  • Clean, cutting-edge UI design cuts McAfee's support calls by 90%

Henrik Olsen - October 17, 2005 - via Dey Alexander

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See also: Cases and Examples (18)  Cost-justification and ROI (20)  Usability testing (35) 

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