Prototyping as Communication

    Continuation of the article on the thinking of the designer .
    “The process is more important than the result. When the result dominates the process, you start from where you started. When the process leads us, we don’t know where we will go, but if we get to where we need to, we will immediately understand it ”
    Bruce Mau,“ Incomplete manifesto of creative growth ”



    I will continue to contrast TK and prototype in order to reveal the unobvious properties of the prototype and the effects of its application. The contrast between TK and the prototype should be understood as a contrast between what you have in the production process and what can appear in it.

    Participants in the project teams exchange the results of their work, lining up in a kind of food chain. As a rule, for each personal result dominates the overall process. While everyone does his job, its content, employee motives and criteria for decisions made by him remain hidden to other participants. Often, an analyst / designer / encoder / developer understands a project only on the basis of what he received from the previous link in the chain, and only at the time of setting the task and estimation. At the same time, he concentrates on his local site of work, without conducting any additional investigations and without evaluating the missed opportunities, prospects, consequences and interconnections of the results of his work with the results of other participants.

    Here at least 3 unpleasant things arise. The first - everyone defines a project for himself in his own terms, the idea of ​​the final product becomes a set of intersecting (sometimes very weakly) sets, each of which is a representation of an individual employee. A variety of ideas is a potential source of interpretation errors, misunderstandings, stressful situations, and even interpersonal conflicts. The second - the so-called areas of responsibility, when everyone is only responsible for their part of the work, and, as Peter Morville said, the cracks between these areas of responsibility often lead to the whole “gusto” of your products. There are reliable indicators of such situations: when colleagues say something like “if we knew this from the very beginning, we would have done everything differently” and “I provided them with an excellent design / documentation / etc., why did they spoil everything like that. ” The third - customers and end users remain on the sidelines of communication and practically can not intervene in the discussion process, influence decision making.

    Of course, patterns, standards, employee class, and refactoring solve many issues, but not all. The level of project communication decides a lot. Perhaps the highest level is achieved when the opportunity is realized for all participants in the development process (including customers and end users) to review and understand the design situation as a whole and the place of their piece in the general mosaic, understand the background and predict the development of events, express their vision, discuss accepted solutions and ongoing implementation. The main sign that it was possible to achieve this level is the “awakening” of the collective mind and the growth of initiative.

    Imagine how much effort each team of your project needs to make in order to find out for themselves these issues, how many documents (starting from the ToR), he needs to parse, how many procedures to complete. It is advisable that when immersed in this procedural chaos, he does not lose motivation and finds the strength to understand everything.

    Mr. Federman reveals the meaning of McLuhan’s statement “the Medium is the Message” with these phrases: “the nature of the medium of communication is a message” and “the new medium of communication carries a new type of information.” Imagine the prototype as a new means of communication on the project.

    A practical example that is easy to implement: take Axure as a prototyping tool. In general, the choice of a prototyping tool should be preceded by 2 things: determining the characteristics / parameters of the prototype and the prototyping method, Axure is good because it is suitable for many combinations, and for participants in the development process it will not be difficult to learn how to use this tool (of course, customers and end users do not will have to, they should come to the aid of the guys from your project team). Combining Axure with an http server ( good example) becomes the media base for broadcasting to a wide audience of prototype messages. Moreover, starting from the first draft prototype, which describes the customer’s business idea, all generated html prototypes posted on the http server are available for viewing in a single interpretation. Add to this the wiki-like discussion engine. Make sure that editing the source file of the prototype in Axure, generating and uploading its version of the prototype as an illustration to the statements, everyone could present their ideas not so much with words as with a prototype message.

    Such a prototype message will be the object of import-export of ideas of all participants of the project team, which should erase the boundaries of responsibility and develop in each a zealous attitude to the total product. Make the prototype as similar to the final product as possible - and get feedback from end users. Impress the customer - show how many ideas your team can generate, how the prototype evolves over time, acquiring new details, how the idea takes shape.

    A unique property of such a solution is the ability to convey a prototype message from the customer along the entire chain (or even immediately) to the end user (imagine users reading TK and expressing their attitude to the future product based on impressions from what they read), this is the same prototype message Having absorbed the reactions of users and accordingly changed, it can return to the customer and come from one addressee to another as many times as necessary, accumulating changes. Those. there is an opportunity to make both the customer and end users full participants in project communication and give them the opportunity to polemic along with everyone. The prototype can play the role of the so-called a border facility that helps representatives of different groups to find mutual understanding and conduct substantive conversation.

    We can present our food chain from the participants of the project team as a kind of communication channel through which prototype messages pass. You can evaluate this channel and “calibrate” it by doing, for example, the following. The marketer compiles the brand expression of the product, using the project team a prototype is created that fully reflects the expression, then this prototype is provided to users, their feedback and reactions are collected. On hand for comparison there will be 2 things: precisely formulated brand expression and how it was perceived by users. You can compare the clear signal sent with the received one, which makes it possible to study the signal-to-noise ratio in the channel, where and why distortion or interference occurs. Do not forget, of course, that errors may be in the expectations or the message of the marketer - but in one way or another, users will correct it. And by launching a clear brand expression message into the channel and understanding what mutations happen to it, you can predict and get more control over the passage and changes of messages (usually much less clear) from customers.

    The use of prototypes from the earliest stages of the project enables project participants to prepare in advance for their work, to identify patterns earlier, expand the understanding of the project, immerse themselves in the problems, become interested in the contexts of use. The most powerful effect of expanding the vision of problems being solved is switching from fixed project goals to flexible ones, when, for example, much of the functionality unclaimed by users is removed, or searches for a solution to a particular problem will incite to create a solution for a whole class of problems, and the product will be oriented towards to occupy a new or more extensive / narrow niche.

    You can reach a new level of motivation by organizing prototyping-communication as a process of filming a movie: selecting actors using the Persona method, scripting, wireframes scenes, storyboards, storyboards, prototypes, presentations, auditions, filming and editing.

    But the most pleasant thing that can and should change is that by participating in a clear and constructive communication, everyone is more focused on fulfilling their immediate professional duties, dealing with issues of creativity, rather than issues of creative conditions. Ideally, each participant sees clear goals, concentrates better and is deeply immersed in his field, receives feedback, feels the participation of the whole team, turns on faster, learns more easily and believes more in his strength, and as a result, he is more often in a state of flow.

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