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Prototyping: A Practitioner's Guide Paperback – Color, November 16, 2009
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Prototyping: A Practitioner's Guide is a terrific and comprehensive review of both the prototyping process and the tools involved. I found that the book both validated my experience in prototyping and provided new techniques to try out, with many "Aha!" moments in both respects. --Jeff Rankin
About the Author
Todd Zaki Warfel is a founding partner at Messagefirst, where he focuses on design-research for consumer and b2b products. A recognized leader in the design-research and usability fields, Todd speaks regularly at universities and industry conferences and contributes to industry publications. With over 16 years of industry experience, degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Cognitive Psychology, and a background in Product Design, Todd has been fortunate enough to create over 15 industry first products. Todd is a storyteller by nature and is rarely short on details. He is an active member in a number of industry communities and organizations, including the Information Architecture Institute, IxDA, and UPA. He has done work with a variety of clients including: Albertsons, AT&T Wireless, Bankrate, Bank of America, Comcast, Cornell University, Dell, IntraLinks, Palm, Sallie Mae, Splenda, SBC, SUNY, and Tufts University.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is "Spot On!"
It's difficult to rate this because the rating varies between the audience. Beginning Prototypers: 5 stars. Experienced Prototypers: 3-ish stars. Personally, I like the book, find it useful, and certain parts of this book will be useful for future reference.
Prototyping: A Practitioner's Guide can be thought of in two main parts. First, Chapters 1-4 (inclusive) discuss some background on prototyping, general considerations, basically things to think about and know about prototyping in general. Chapters 5-11 discuss specific tools used to develop prototypes, and a very basic how to use those tools to develop prototypes. Finally, Chapter 12 discusses testing the prototype.
People new to prototyping will probably find the most value in this book. People who are seasoned practitioners in prototyping will probably find the first half useful (theory and practices), but not so much the second half (tools).
Each chapter on tools gives a quick "score card" (quick view of strength and weaknesses at a glance), discusses some strengths of the tool as well as some weaknesses. Additionally, a quick and simple step-by-step how to make a <something> prototype for each tool is given.
One tool I find to be conspicuously absent is Adobe Flash. The author states that he chose not to discuss Flash because there are already a multitude of books dedicated to Flash. While I agree Flash is extremely well documented and there are many books on the topic, I think that Flash's popularity as a prototyping tool warrants at least a short chapter and discussion on using Flash specifically to prototype designs.
Reading books published by Rosenfeld is a very pleasant experience (I love Rosenfeld Media, they are my favorite publisher due to my user experience with their ebooks). The books are published in both ebook form and paper book form. The ebook, a pdf, was obviously designed to be read as an ebook. The font is large, clear, and easy to read on a variety of screen sizes. There are links within to book to relevant places online (e.g. All images link to a high-quality, CC licensed version on Flickr). These are truly the best laid out and thought out ebooks I have seen to date. Hopefully Rosenfeld starts a trend. The hard copy versions are printed on high-quality paper and are small enough to fit in a medium sized purse/bag.
All Rosenfeld books (that I've read) begin with how to use the book and frequently asked questions. The first chapter focuses on why you should employ a method (in this case prototyping) and why it's important--in addition to being informative, this first chapter seems to give the reader an arsenal for communicating with decision makers who might appreciate a solid rationale to spend time and money on whatever the topic of the book is.
A few very small issues:
* Early in the book, Mr. Warfel defines wireframes. I personally don't see why a wireframe can't depict flow - to me a wireframe is just a basic representation of the UI used to depict basic layout, flow, and interaction patterns. So, I think we simply differ slightly on the definition. I do like the term "narrative prototype" better and may start using that in place of "wireframe" - it is more descriptive.
* One issue with using common backgrounds in Visio prototypes is that you can't do a "select all" and then copy + paste the result into documentation, as all the background elements won't be copied. You can do a screen cap - but that takes a bit longer. So, just something to be aware of when using Visio.
* The author asks what is the point of using a virtual machine + Windows-only prototyping tools on a Mac. I'd say the point is simply that if, you do only own a Mac or Linux-based machine, you don't have to purchase an additional computer. Just a matter of practicality really.
* In the usability section - the author talks about the testing tool Morea, meaning "Morae" - a Techsmith product.
Again, these are small issues in an otherwise terrific book!