Oct 25, 2008 / .net ~ gui ~ uml
Text Based GUI Prototypes

A few years ago I developed an Enterprise Architect CASE tool plugin for Wells Fargo bank. It allowed them to combine UML Activity Diagrams with the GUI prototyping diagrams, and then generate interactive HTML that users could explore. It was fun.

I like EA, but each tool comes with an overhead. You have to buy, learn, install and upgrade the tool. Also, it sits there using up memory and CPU. And, it's another "context switch" during development.

Given my current interest in .txt files, I've been playing with creating plain text files to mock up UIs. 1980's eat your heart out. I was able to mockup 8 screens in roughly 8 minutes, which is pretty good going. The format looks something like this (2 pages shown):


Username: XXXXXX
Password: XXXXXX
[x] Remember me


Forgot your password?...

Forgot Password

Please enter your email and 
we'll send you a password.

Enter Captcha: XXXXXX 

[Send me my password]

One thing I like about this is that the essence of a GUI can be captured in very little time.

Like all models, this one helps me focus on a particular set of concerns. In this case, screens, content and workflow. Not layout, pixel perfection, design, colour, widgets adn controls, ajax, master pages and routes.

I'm not sure where all this is going, but I'm almost convinced the way to productivity is small, simple models that focus on a tiny subset of concerns. The problem I'm trying to get my head around is how to get value from such simple models in code, without making the models heavier. Perhaps you can't. Anyway, that's all for another rambling post :) ...

Anyone got any GUI prototyping experiences to share?

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