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Fake it till you make it: rapid prototyping using Flash—Phillip Fierlinger

Philip Fierlinger currently practices design at Xero. He has also founded iconic US digital design firm turntablemedia.com, whose clients included Apple, Sony and Macromedia. Before joining Xero, Philip worked for acclaimed web agency Shift, working on the NewZealand.com and IRD websites. His work has garnered numerous design accolades, including two Webby Awards.

I first saw Phillip's presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, as a non-designer, non-developer I was kind of surpirsed that I found his talk pretty inspiring.

Phillip has been around rapid web prototyping since 1994, back when the tools available were limited to say the least - he got the idea that as a designer he could build prototypes of applications without being a developer - faking it till (someone else) was making it.

Rapid prototypins, says Fierlinger, is the quickest and cheapest way to design web applications. It allows seamless and integrated iteration, evaluation and specification. He also embarked on a crusade to end the design reliance on wireframe - saying that they allow no context around the actual function of the site (in other words fine for a single page propoerty with no interactivity but useless for something dynamic).

Fierlinger has several approaches;

  • Low fi - establishes hierachy and flow
  • Hi-Fi - refines the hierachy creates the emotional connection and adds the branding
  • Fully functional - mocks the interactivity and simulates "real world" conditions

Some problems with interactive prototypes;

  • An illlusion of many options but they're shallow and incomplete
  • A requirement for evaluators to need to know what works
  • It's the critical path that matters
  • The high effort to build and update

Hence Fierlinger's move to screenflow prototypes where he simulates the user experience and the interaction with the application or website through a series of slides that simulate a flow. These screenflows become the specification thus making a clear and contextual blueprint for developers to create from.

It's hard to explain much of Fierlinger's approach online - lucky for the rest of us he runs his sessions regularly - details here.

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