Two months ago I was introduced to the concept of Pretotyping. If I remember correctly, the introduction was through an excellent InfoQ article. The concept and practice intrigued me and I was able to apply it to a project I was working on recently. This is a recap of that experience in the hopes that is may assist others.
There is an excellent website that provides some great information on Pretotyping. The site is www.pretotyping.org. The definition of a Pretotype that is proposed on the site is:
My Pretotype experience
So now that we can see the connection between Agile, Lean and Lean Start-ups, and Pretotyping, what was my experience with Pretotyping?
1. A Pretotype is an incredibly valuable tool to be able to design and perform analysis on the large rocks of value for a project and solution without having to get drawn into details. It was a great tool to stay grounded in what value the client would realize as opposed to the colour schemes, particular fields, and other minutiae.
2. It is difficult to communicate to the client and gain agreement as to where exactly a Pretotype will stop and where Prototypes and other deliverables will continue. Although we tried to state as clearly as possible the boundaries, people are used to Prototypes and find comfort in the detail that exists in Prototypes. My only suggestion would be to continue to over-communicate and continue to discuss the differences between a Pretotype and Prototype. My other thought would be to use the actual term Pretendo-type to more overtly communicate the purpose of the Pretotype. (Some people may assume a Pretotype is a Pre-Prototype, while it is a totally different animal)
3. Although the Pretotyping proponents talk about the ability to use paper and other deliverables for the Pretotype, our clients required a technical experience to allow them to interact with the Pretotype in a manner that is similar to the potential end state. The good news is that there are plenty of great tools out there to create Wireframes that can be used to create Pretotypes. Be careful though, the use of these tools can increase client expectations as to how far the Pretotype may go towards being a Prototype.
I ended up using Iplotz as my Pretotyping tool and I was very impressed with the tool. It was very easy to use and also allowed for the all the functionality I required. Iplotz has both an online and disconnected mode. Iplotz also allowed me to group all my Wireframes into a project and let people collaborate of the project. The suite of controls was also very extensive. I have heard great things about Balsamiq as well. There are a multitude of other solutions as well. I encourage you to review the options and decide for yourself which fits your needs the best.
Pretotyping has definitely found a permanent place in my Agile toolkit. It won’t fit for every project and client, but I believe it will be something that I will use more often than not.