Excel Prototyping

June 23rd, 2009

Petra has been exploring the idea of using Microsoft Excel for prototyping purposes. Introductory documentation on how to create such a prototype along with the real sample has also been posted online. At first glance, it appears like such a prototype is more suitable for complex data transformations than for GUI design which can be more easily achieved with stronger drawing applications. However, personally I have very little experience with such an approach and it would be interesting to see what others think.

Petra writes:

I created a paper prototype guided by Carolyn Snyder’s excellent book, Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces, for a web application used to book occupancy of the road to do maintenance work, etc. It was a lot of fun testing it on my colleagues and a couple of genuine local users but when it got to testing remote users I thought perhaps I’d try to create an online prototype. I started with PowerPoint but found the macros deficient and a couple of things I wanted to do I couldn’t. I then ordered Effective Prototyping with Excel by Bergen et al, expecting that their prototypes would involve some basic coding but was disappointed to find they didn’t. A programming colleague showed me a couple of very basic code statements in Excel and I realised that with the Control Toolbox widgets, .Visible = True and .Visible = False statements, a couple of If statements, a little googling and a little recording of macros to figure out some code, I could create a pretty workable prototype, albeit only able to handle very specific use cases.

Credits: Petra Liverani

One Response to “Excel Prototyping”

  1. Jeff Harrison Says:

    I've done some great prototypes with Excel, though usually, it's to do something that involves interactions with data, like searching/selecting and table sorting. I can't imagine trying to prototype a full web application in Excel, but it's been just the thing for illustrating actual functionality.

    (I was also disappointed by the focus of the "Effective Prototyping" book — it seems like they could have done a lot more with it.)