This guest post comes courtesy of Andrew Mottaz, part of the team behind Protoshare and their new add-on in the Atlassian Marketplace, Protoshare for JIRA.

HighFidelity MockupIt’s difficult for end users or other stakeholders to really know what they want from software until they see it, experience it and use it. Whether you are an Agile shop working from user stories, a waterfall team, or somewhere in between, adding higher fidelity interactive visualizations to your JIRA issues helps get stakeholders and end users engaged in the requirements process. You’ll get better feedback on stories and requirements earlier, eliminating rework, frustration and miscommunication.

We released ProtoShare for JIRA to solve this problem. ProtoShare is an HTML-based prototype and mockup editor that allows you to create interactive visualizations in low, medium or high fidelity. Any user who can view an issue can view and interact with a ProtoShare mockup. Our goal: make it seamless and fast to add interactive mockups to JIRA issues.

What’s missing from written specs

Our company started out as a development shop, and we wrote many long, detailed specifications. Sometimes, our specs were excellent. They spelled out our plans and our customers enthusiastically signed off on them. Still, project after project was subject to last minute changes, disappointed customers, confused developers and frustrated project managers.

So we, like many teams, embraced agile development. We interacted and participated more frequently with our services clients. Development maintained a tighter focus. And yet we would still hear “that’s not what I asked for” or “that’s not how I thought this would work” when solutions were delivered. We discovered that it is possible to deliver a solution that meets all the acceptance criteria, yet still have a dissatisfied customer.

What was missing from these processes? Stakeholder engagement. When you just use written descriptions, sketches, low fidelity outlines or even flat design comps, stakeholders see what they want to see. They assume that details will meet their expectations. It’s not until people interact with software that they really understand what they need. Interacting with software or software prototypes lets people engage on an emotional level, and it radically increases quality.

Up the fidelity, up the engagement

Let’s explore the following user story: “As a shopper, when I click add to cart, I want to stay on the same page so that I can easily continue shopping.” This is a simple enough user story. Most people have a mental model for an ajax based add-to-cart function. I’ve certainly worked with Agile shops for whom this would be enough of a user story to package into a sprint.

You might start visualizing the backlog by creating a very simple, grey-box wireframe that looks something like this:

Low Fidelity Mockup

Users who look at this will generally understand that clicking “add to cart” will update the cart display in the upper right hand corner. The reaction most users will have to this is “yeah, that makes sense”. Very few will actually play out the scenarios in their head. This level of fidelity provides useful additional information for developers, and sets expectations for development, but is too reliant on people using their imaginations to create engagement and understanding with users.

If I take this to the next level of fidelity, and add design and functional fidelity, I can actually get the stakeholders to interact with the prototype.

Once users start to interact, you will get a whole new level of engagement and feedback. You’ll hear things like:

  1. “I didn’t see the cart value change – I thought nothing happened when I clicked add to cart.”
  2. “I don’t think showing only the last item added is going to be enough. I want to see more information about what is in my cart.”
  3. “Where is the link to view the entire cart at once? Doesn’t that need to be part of this?”

And so on. High fidelity interactive prototypes will help you to clarify requirements and user stories, identify subtle usability issues, uncover hidden requirements and effectively set expectations for stakeholders.

Get Started

Give this technique a try yourself. If you’re an Agile shop, try using interactive prototypes as part of user stories. If you’re a traditional waterfall shop, build interactive prototypes to illustrate requirements. Share this with all of your stakeholders, from executives to QA. I think you’ll be amazed at the increased participation. If you’re keen, try ProtoShare for JIRA. It’s available today in the Atlassian Marketplace. We think you’ll find its a fast, easy and effective way to get interactive prototypes embedded in your development processes.

Try ProtoShare for JIRA