As I mentioned in my last post, the combination of deign and development skill is, in my mind, the next killer skill set. This week I came across a Boxes and Arrows post from last year, Prototyping with XHTML, written by Anders Ramsay and Leah Buley. It’s a terrific post that provides some concrete tips on getting started and making the most of prototyping in HTML, but it also articulates the benefits of such prototypes more clearly than any other post I have read on the topic. Here are some excerpts that I found particularly compelling:

  • By making the idea manifest, prototypes force upon <your design> the concrete realities and user experience idiosyncrasies of the actual production technology and offer a crisp verdict on the quality of what you dreamed up in drawings.
  • Issues that don’t easily reveal themselves when working in illustration software will often be obvious. This includes issues related to your design and the browser viewport, from the basic question of if the design should center itself in the browser window, to more advanced issues, such as how to design for different window sizes and browser resolutions.
  • And therein lies a core problem with using static artifacts to communicate interactive solutions; they effectively force the user to prototype the solution in their imagination, where all solutions seem to function in glorious perfection. With XHTML, we minimize the cognitive leap that users need to make, allowing them to instead experience and respond to something nearly identical to the actual solution.
  • One of the biggest problems with wireframes is the lack of a standardized notation. In other words, my wireframes certainly don’t look anything like your wireframes. This means that visual designers and developers who use wireframes are continually relearning how to interpret our work, leading to noise between author and reader…. In contrast to wireframes, XHTML is a standardized notation, anyone who knows XHTML can read your document. More importantly, it is a language spoken fluently by a key target audience of your design documents, the developers. And those who don’t know or care about XHTML can view the part they do care about, the page design, by opening the document in a browser.

Read the full article here and be sure to check out the interesting discussion happening in the comments.