In my opinion building a prototype is much more effective than a specification document. We can misinterpret words.
Are you under estimating prototyping?
Paul Boag

That depends on the words ;)

Your excellent post reminds me of a participation project a few years ago for a government organisation. Ostensibly, it was going to ‘open up’ EU decisionmaking to the public via a series of events, coupled with an online platform.

The client said all the right things about edemocracy et al at the briefings, but as we entered the platform’s architecture phase I couldn’t get them to answer a simple question:

Q. “What exactly will you do with the ideas submitted by people via this site?”

No answer. So I spent a few minutes drafting the launch version of the site’s FAQs, setting out what I understood the answers to be based on the briefings. And asked them to sign them off.

Faced with a text designed for publication, setting out what true participation actually implied for their organisation, they gave me my answer:

A. “We’ll pretend to listen to them!”

So, does drafting a few FAQs qualify as prototyping? It certainly saved the team months of building systems that were never going to be used. And meant I didn’t waste any more time on a brochureware project ;)

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