Saturday, March 03, 2007

Napkin Look and Feel

(This is a post I'm recycling for a few years ago. It's still applicable today. :)

Any experienced developer can tell you the story about how they showed a rough prototype of a new application to somebody, but then couldn't get them to understand that the software wasn't anywhere near done yet. Joel Spolsky talks about it in detail in The Iceberg Secret, Revealed.

I once worked for a guy who I really respected as being technically smart and plenty business savvy. We agreed that we'd have the developers build a "mock-up" (we were careful to not even go so far as to call it a prototype--it was only a mock-up of the user interface) of a web based application we were considering developing. We stressed over and over again that this was a mock-up and was not the actual application, and was not even a prototype of the application.

So, we spent some time building the mock-up, agreeing on what it would look like, and provided just enough click-through type navigation that we could get from screen A to screen B correctly. The mock-up looked pretty good. In fact it looked like a real application. Over time the mock-up was enough of a success that we started kicking around the idea of actually building the application.

Here's where it gets weird. This guy who I respected as being technically smart, and who had agreed that this was only a mock-up, started using strange language like "finish the prototype" or "flesh out the functionality." It became apparent to me that, even with all of this talk about building a mock-up had been lost on him all along. He still figured a good percentage of the work was done, and that we now had a framework from which to flesh out the rest of the application. I tried to explain that it was like a Hollywood set--a building that was really just a facade with nothing inside, maybe not even any walls and the front was just propped up by 2x4's. But he'd already committed himself mentally, and all was lost.

Cases like this are why I love the idea of the Napkin Look and Feel

I wish there was something similar for web applications--maybe use one of those handwritten looking fonts for all of the text, and have a graphic person sketch all of the graphics to look hand drawn. It would be really nice if one could modify the LaF of the buttons and other widgets as well.


Blogger CatFood said...

How about using storyboards and diagrams to show how the site will work. Then making a really crappy looking HTML mock-up with no CSS and no images. Just plain ugly Times New Roman 12pt font with blue links ala Web 0.1

FYI, here's another good chew on the Iceberg thing:

1:19 PM  

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