Jens Oliver Meiert

Requirements for Website Prototypes (and Design Systems)

Post from June 9, 2007 (↻ May 18, 2017), reflecting Jens the .

This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved e-book: On Web Development.

The following article is derivative of the speech I intended to hold on the webinale 07 in Ludwigsburg. It covers best practices for website prototypes based on HTML, CSS, and DOM scripting.

Contents

  1. Definitions
  2. Problem
  3. Requirements
    1. Universality
    2. Actuality
    3. Realism
    4. Focus
    5. Accessibility
    6. Availability
    7. Commitment
    8. Continuity
    9. Communication
    10. Documentation
  4. Disadvantages
  5. Advantages
  6. Checklist

Definitions

Prototype:

A project-related collection of static and/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.

Problem

Bad (or even nonexistent) prototypes cost money.

Requirements

Universality

Include everything that is used live.

The “What”, related to page types and elements.

Actuality

Include everything that is used live.

The ”How“, related to possible nova on the live website.

Realism

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.

Focus

Keep it simple, avoid redundancies.

The goal: A prototype must never become the live website.

Accessibility

Take into account a broad audience:

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 slightly induces a change in requirements since it generally requires more realism and less focus.

Availability

Offer a stable URL in order to:

…as opposed to “local” prototypes.

Commitment

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.

Continuity

Continuous maintenance, even after project finish.

Potential jackpot: The next relaunch is just a redesign.

Communication

Communicate changes, no matter if related to prototype or implementation.

…understandably, implied by former requirements.

Documentation

Document design principles and characteristics (modules, constraints, snares).

This should be mandatory even though good, working prototypes have never died of missing documentation.

Disadvantages

A good prototype requires:

Advantages

A good prototype means:

…and thus:

“More fun” by the quite more unlikely frustration that occurs when frontend or web developers fix errors and bugs that have been caused by differing implementations, be they bred by careless adoption or by missing communication. How many “sleeper” elements are there on your website?

Checklist

Is the prototype:

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of July 27, 2015.

Jens Oliver Meiert is a developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google) and philosopher. He experiments with art and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Amazon. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

Comments (Closed)

  1. On June 12, 2007, 13:51 CEST, Mike Padilla said:

    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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Last update: May 18, 2017.

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