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Since developing a new CMS is a very costly activity involving a large number of developers working for several months, it is crucial that the user interface and the underlying software architecture is properly designed at an early stage so as to reduce the need for rewriting source code.
A clever way to ensure such a proper design (in the sense that the final product works as intended in the hands of the users) is to visualize and test the design before implementing it. In reality however, development and design often run in parallel, one trying to keep up with the other; sometimes development is ahead, and sometimes design is ahead. During the development of EPiServer CMS 7, we have made sure to involve users regularly to evaluate both design prototypes as well as the most recent implementation. Doing so, our project team has been able to identify usability problems and spur new ideas, and then adjusted the design to better suit our end-users.
At some stages of the process, we used paper prototyping to visualize the interaction design for some parts of the user interface. We simply invited people in the target group to try out the paper prototypes as if they were real user interfaces. As the participant "clicked" in the prototype, we moved the paper pieces around to simulate the behavior of the interface. Even though paper prototypes have many inherent limitations, they have been useful for testing overall interaction flows, wordings of text and impact of graphic design.
This video clip shows how a design prototype could look like when we were evaluating a new concept for the toolbar in the new CMS: