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High-Fidelity Prototyping 

What is it?

High-fidelity prototyping is a method where the prototype used for testing mimics the actual interface as closely as possible. Usually, in for software interfaces, another software tool is used to mockup the interface. This software tool accepts input from the keyboard or mouse like the actual interface would, and responds to those events in the same way (displaying a particular window or message, changing state, etc.) in the same way the actual interface would respond.

How do I do it?

Use a tool that allows you to mimic the look and behavior of the actual interface as much as possible. Many software prototypes are constructed using multimedia authoring tools, such as Macromedia Director or Authorware, Asymetrix Toolbook, or HyperCard. These tools allow you to construct on-screen interfaces that work exactly as the real interface would, including adding delays for slower machines or waits for "server" responses.

Web-based interfaces are probably best prototyped using HTML and Dynamic HTML. One nice thing about such prototypes is that you might get to reuse some of the code from the prototype in the actual interface.

Hardware prototypes can use foam core to provide a full-size physical representation of the product. If you are going to test extensively with the prototype, though, you might want to construct it out of sturdier materials, using a wood frame and plywood, for example. Some hardware (automobile dashboards, for example) are tested using mockups of sculpted clay over wood and wire frames.

When should I use this technique?

Like any prototyping method, use this technique when you don't have the "real" interface yet; namely in earlier stages of development. This technique is great when have a little more time or money to spend, and don't need to resort to low-fidelity prototyping. The better the prototype, the better the results. If the fidelity of the prototype is really good, you can use it in quantitative tests.

Who can tell me more?

Click on any of the following links for more information:

Dumas, JS, and Redish, Janice, A Practical Guide to Usability Testing, 1993, Ablex, Norwood, NJ
ISBN 0-89391-991-8 (paper)

Rubin, Jeffrey, Handbook of Usability Testing, 1994, John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY
ISBN 0-471-59403-2 (paper)

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