Web site prototyping

Prototype

A preliminary version of part or a framework of all of a web site, which can be reviewed by its target audience or the marketing team. Prototyping is an iterative process in which web site users suggest modifications before further prototypes and the final version of the site are developed.

Prototypes are trial versions of a web site that are gradually refined through an iterative process to become closer to the final version. Initial prototypes may simply be paper prototypes, perhaps of a 'wireframe' or screen layout. These may then be extended to include some visuals of key static pages using a tool such as Adobe Photoshop. Finally, working prototypes will be produced as HTML code is developed. The idea is that the design agency or development team and the marketing staff who commissioned the work can review and comment on prototypes, and changes can then be made to the site to incorporate these comments. Prototyping should result in a more effective final site which can be developed more rapidly than a more traditional approach with a long period of requirements determination.

Each iteration of the prototype typically passes through the stages shown in Figure 7.4, which are:

Start

Analysis

Te st and review

Design

Prototype produced

Develop

Figure 7.4 Four stages of web site prototyping

Hard launch

A site is launched once fully complete with full promotional effort.

Soft launch

A trial version of a site is launched with limited publicity.

Analysis. Understanding the requirements of the audience of the site and the requirements of the business, defined by business and marketing strategy (and comments input from previous prototypes).

Design. Specifying different features of the site that will fulfil the requirements of the users and the business as identified during analysis.

Develop. The creation of the web pages and the dynamic content of the web site. Test and review. Structured checks are conducted to ensure that different aspects of the site meet the original requirements and work correctly.

When using the prototyping approach for a web site, a company has to decide whether to implement the complete version of the web site before making it available to its target audience (hard launch) or to make available a more limited version of the site (soft launch). If it is necessary to establish a presence rapidly, the second approach could be used. This also has the benefit that feedback can be solicited from users and incorporated into later versions.

Before the analysis, design and creation of the web site, all major projects will have an initial phase in which the aims and objectives of the web site are reviewed, to assess whether it is worthwhile investing in the web site, and to decide on the amount to

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