Requirements for Website Prototypes (and Design Systems)
This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved ebook: On Web Development.
A project-related collection of static or dynamic templates made of HTML, CSS, and DOM scripting.
A microcosm of your online investment.
Consequently, factors like technical basis, information architecture, or quality assurance—by e.g. automated tests—are not covered here since the principles below have to be seen independently.
Bad (or even nonexistent) prototypes cost money.
Include everything that is used live.
The “What,” related to page types and elements.
Include everything that is used live.
The “How,” related to possible nova on the live website.
- Use “real” keywords and “real” microcontent.
- Address different use cases.
But: Dummy text is okay.
The use of realistic microcontent more likely means consideration of conceptual aspects as well as less risk of “implementation losses.” “Different use cases” serve “visual integrity”—do certain teaser constellations work, does the leading of long list entries fit, and so on.
Keep it simple, avoid redundancies.
The goal: A prototype must never become the live website.
Take into account a broad audience:
- developers (for developing and testing),
- project managers (for inspection at the inside),
- clients (for inspection at the outside),
- users (for usability tests).
While frontend and software developers always belong to the audience of prototypes, other groups are often ignored. This equals wasted potential—and wasted money. Please also note that the “users” group means a change in requirements since it generally requires more realism and less focus.
Offer a stable URL in order to:
- enable ongoing use,
- emphasize the importance of the prototype.
…as opposed to “local” prototypes.
- Requirements and changes in the prototype induce changes in the implementation, meaning the live website.
- Requirements and changes in the implementation induce changes in the prototype.
You will usually observe a “shift” as soon as a prototype-based website goes online—at first, the prototype is authoritative, but changes after the launch might rather induce changes of the prototype.
Continuous maintenance, even after project finish.
Potential jackpot: The next relaunch is just a redesign.
Communicate changes, no matter if related to prototype or implementation.
…understandably, implied by former requirements.
Document design principles and characteristics (modules, constraints, snares).
This should be mandatory even though good, working prototypes have never died of missing documentation.
A good prototype requires:
A good prototype means:
- easier frontend development and testing,
- easier and more unapologetic implementation,
- easier maintenance,
- a “real life” showroom.
- better quality,
- less costs,
- more fun.
“More fun” through less frustration by fixing errors and bugs that have been caused by differing browser implementations. How many untested “sleeper” elements are there on your website?
Is the prototype:
- available, now?
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
To further enhance your hi-fidelity prototypes as a requirements collaboration tool, consider using Protonotes - http://www.protonotes.com/
Protonotes are notes that you add to your prototype that allow project team members to discuss system functionality , design, and requirements directly on the prototype. You can think of it like a discussion board/wiki in direct context of your prototype. Once you have signed up with Protonotes, all you have to do is share your unique Protonotes url with your project team members and they can begin adding notes to the prototype - they do not have to sign up.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.