Visualising requirements and prototyping

Given the complexity of most software systems why do we still insist on primarily documenting and elaborating requirements in text? I think the main reason is that writing comes so easy to us where as producing a more visual representation of what we mean requires more of an initial learning curve.

A more visual representation is easier to process and understand. It is also less ambiguous then natural language on it’s own. It can form a very good basis for requirement elaboration. Please note, that textual description may still be required to annotate a visual representation but should not repeat information represented by the picture.

Drawing on a white board and taking a photograph is the easiest route but what if you want to make changes and some one’s wiped the original drawing off. Some time invested in getting proficient with a drawing tool such as MS Visio or Omini Graffle is an invaluable string to a developers bow. Obviously you don’t have to stop there … there is a wealth of rapid prototyping tools out there to further enhance the requirements elaboration and documentation, and then there is always the option of producing a prototype in the target technology or one that you are comfortable in.

Recently I have used and excellent visio stencil GUUUI to elaborate and document stories for a website. I then attached these to the stories as part of their description. Follow the simple instructions on how to use it – I’m sure you won’t regret it.

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