Monday, November 10, 2008

Product Development Process

I chanced upon this document by Laurie in which she describes a typical product development process. We follow a very similar process, except that the MRD is seldom a formal document. Based on the analysis of market requirements from various sources as described here, we write the PRD. The UI mockups are done by our UI designer who works closely with the Product Managers to understand the workflows.

When there is a need to change the layout or the UI elements, our designer provides a static mockup. For workflows, we use Axure Pro, a wonderful wire-framing/prototyping product. Axure allows us to place UI elements, create links to other pages and design a prototype that is easy for our developers to play with and understand. There are two main advantages in using such a prototyping tool -
  1. It forces us, the Product Managers, to think through the design a lot more. When only static mockups are provided, the development team has to many assumptions about various corner cases. Given the distance and timezone differences, it is not always possible to validate these assumptions. However, PMs have to address many of the corner cases when designing dynamic mockups and this reduces the gap between what PMs want and what development thinks PMs want. See here for details.
  2. These mockups can be used to demo upcoming features to prospects and customers. Axure prototypes look very similar to the real software and helps us get advance feedback about workflows and features that we are planning for future releases.
I'm told dynamic prototypes can also be created using a Visio plugin. This could save you some $ for sure, but I found it a lot harder to use. Unless I am really cash-strapped, I'd consider the $539 for 5 Axure user licenses a big bargain.