How protosketching can speed digital development

How protosketching can help digital development

Government project managers are always looking to streamline the way processes and ideas influence final products.  They want to flush out poor ideas and models as early as possible while also accelerating creativity. One way agencies can achieve this is through protosketching. 

Protosketching is a way to simultaneously explore user experience and design solutions, and is especially useful where developers must define dynamic interactions in response to user behavior.

Alan deLevie and Robert L. Read from 18F, the government’s digital services agency, suggested in a blog that agency designers and developers can build a prototype in three hours by coding their sketches and prototypes at the same time rather than making them two separate processes. 

Even if initial coding is incorrect, the process of protosketching lets designers and project managers think more creatively about their ideas and quickly spot bugs. The goal is not necessarily to create a finished product, but to rapidly spur inventive thinking.

Protosketching also allows for more timely development, especially if ideas can be tested and debated within a single meeting.  Like an extra-brief agile sprint, it allows bad ideas to be tested by the end-user and discarded quickly.

Another benefit for agencies is that protosketching can save time in the procurement process.  A protosketcher can facilitate conversation between the agency and contractors by demonstrating various solutions, 18F suggested, giving the program manager a better understanding of the problem as well as the solution. That insight can lead to a more effective request for proposals. 

18F’s blog provided case studies on successful experiences using protosketching. In protosketching a human resources dashboard for GSA’s HR department, 18F built a sample during a meeting that let GSA personnel preview and criticize the model. GSA staff were then able to indicate fields they wanted added to the dashboard. 18F said the interactive prototype provided for a better discussion between both sides and increased the speed of the procurement process for building a new platform. 

Agencies can check with 18F’s consulting business for help with protosketching, and there are even mobile applications users can download to their smartphones to practice turning ideas into workable prototypes.    

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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