This chapter explores the concept of patchwork prototyping: the combining of open source software applications to rapidly create a rudimentary but fully functional prototype that can be used and hence evaluated in real-life situations. The use of a working prototype enables the capture of more realistic and informed requirements than traditional methods that rely on users trying to imagine how they might use the envisaged system in their work, and even more problematic, how that system in use may change how they work. Experiences with the use of the method in the development of two different collaborative applications are described. Patchwork prototyping is compared and contrasted with other prototyping methods including paper prototyping and the use of commercial off-the-shelf software.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Rapid Prototyping: Rapid prototyping is a method that involves creating a series of prototypes in rapid, iterative cycles. Normally, a prototype is created quickly, presented to users in order to obtain feedback on the design, and then a new prototype is created that incorporates that feedback. This cycle is continued until a fairly stable, satisfactory design emerges, which informs the design of a production-scale system.
Patchwork Prototyping: A rapid prototyping method for creating high-fidelity prototypes out of open source software that can be integrated by users into their everyday activities. This gives users something concrete to play with and facilitates a collaborative process of sociotechnical systems development. It is ideal for highly equivocal design situations.
COTS Integration: The process by which most businesses integrate commercial off-the-shelf software systems in order to create a computing environment to support their business activities.
Equivocality: The name for a lack of knowledge that cannot be mitigated simply by doing research or gathering more information. In an equivocal situation, decisions often need to be made, definitions created, and procedures negotiated by various (often competing) stakeholders.
Paper Prototyping: A rapid prototyping method for creating low-fidelity prototypes using pencils, paper, sticky notes, and other low-tech materials that can be quickly iterated in order to explore a design space. It is often used in interface design.
Uncertainty: The name for a lack of knowledge that can be addressed by obtaining more information, such as by researching an answer, looking it up in reference materials, or collecting data.