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all. I'm wondering how do you spec./plan out your project? For example, for webiste you can use Wireframe. How about for desktop or add-ins such as MS Office add-ins? I want it as simple as possible and don't want spend all day using some sort of diagram software to sketch it out. Do I simply write down what features I want to build for the software then filter out what is possible and what is not possible? Any tips is appreciated.

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4 Answers 4

The absolute simplest method of 'em all is to whiteboard it and take pictures of what you've done.

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+1 And a camera to take and save a picture of it. –  Klaim May 31 '11 at 12:43
    
Everyone's got cell phone cameras these days... –  Alex Feinman May 31 '11 at 16:19

Whiteboard+marker and/or paper and pencil work for me. I have heard many say so too. It is, in a way, connecting the dots between what is desired and what is existing.

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Paper/Pencil

For initial ideas, sketches, basic flow charts.

Visio

Once I have the ideas down. I flesh out the methods, flow charts etc. in MS Visio. Then I start writing

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Wireframes will work for any GUI - it doesn't have to be a web GUI. I've absolutely used them for client apps in Java using Swing, for example.

I think in general, you need to spec at the level at which you need to communicate. Since your UI involves both developers and users, you need to spec at a level at which everyone involved can understand. For a fast, 1-3 man project, that's probably a sketch in a notepad or on a white board. For a big 20 + person project that's probably:

  • initial team brainstorming on a whiteboard
  • elaboration with Visio or another tool that will at least draw GUI-looking objects
  • Use case elaboration of what happens before, during and after the pictures
  • over arching style guides and dictionaries so that as people draw GUIs, the interfaces look alike
  • specifications between systems if needed

I'm a big proponent of putting out only as much design as you need. If you can draw it, have the user feel confident in your solution, and have your team reach a shared understanding of the plan - then you're good.

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+1 for switching media when you have to. No single tool has to do every job...there is significant value in switching fluently between whiteboards, paper, Visio, mockups, etc. –  Alex Feinman May 31 '11 at 16:19

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