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In this chapter we're going to explore many of the tools and resources that can help you build effective prototypes. Before we get into the actual tools themselves, I want to take a moment and talk about how to go about choosing the right tools for your projects. Picking the right tool starts with understanding the focus of your prototype. It's not unusual for someone to use several different tools on different versions of prototypes over the course of a single design. Once you know the requirements for your prototype, you're a lot better equipped to know exactly which tool is right for the job.
When you're first starting out, I recommend staying with what you already know. Although there are a huge number of tools out there that are dedicated solely to prototyping Chances are you already work with software that can build what you need. I've seen effective prototypes made with PowerPoint, Keynote, Acrobat and Word. If you're a designer and have skills in programs like high end graphic software. Or if you know HTML and CSS, you're ahead of the game. But those tools aren't required to make effective prototypes. Explore the effectiveness of what you know first.
If you do decide that you need to use a tool that you've never used before, be sure to factor in the entire cost of using it. Aside from the price, be sure to budget in enough time to become proficient with it. Some tools have steeper learning curves than others, so make sure you take that into consideration. In some cases, people hope to have assets or code that can be migrated from prototypes to the finished product. If that's part of your workflow, you'll need prototyping tools that can generate that degree of fidelity.
You also need to think about how your prototype will be tested and distributed. Does it need to perform on mobile device and if so, can it respond to touch events and gestures? Does it require a proprietary client to view it or can it play within the browser? Do you need to distribute it to people in various locations? Or is it only for use in-house. All of these factors are very important when choosing tools. You want to make sure that whatever program you use, can export the prototype in the format needed, to distribute to your team and testers.
After it has been distributed what level of collaboration do you need. Formats like PDF allow you to comment directly within the prototype while many of the online prototyping tools have built in collaborating tools. If you have collaboration tools outside of your prototypes this may not be that big of a deal but it is something you will need to consider. Just be sure not to get too caught up in focusing on one tool or set of tools. Had I created this course four years ago, the list of tools I would cover is drastically different than the tools that I'll present today.
It stands to reason that in just a few years from now, a totally different set of tools will take precedent. Focus more on establishing a prototyping work flow that will generate the types of prototypes you need. And then adopt tools that are going to help you build them.
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