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At what stage in development is the user interface designed?

 
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Many development methodologies say that the user interface ought to be designed and built at a relatively late stage in system development. This makes sense to me; although I don't have extensive experience at system design, it would seem a good idea to determine WHAT information is to be presented, not HOW that information is presented, to the user.

But the UI does have to be developed, sooner or later. At what stage in system design should it be built?
 
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We usually make two documents. One is a use case, which has no references to windows, screens, buttons, colors, menus, etc. The other is a UI spec which is all windows, screens, etc. We don't have to finish one before starting the other. We use rough UI sketches and prototypes to understand each other at any point. Things might even start with pictures, but they'd likely change a lot before we're done.

Is that the kind of thing you're asking?
 
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In agile development you develop your system in iteration. Most requirements, at least in business applications, involve user interface aspects. So, the implication is that you'll be doing UI design throughout the project. You might find my article Agile Usability to be of interest.

- Scott
 
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wow! the real scott ambler in this forum? Hiyahh Scott!


In past projects, we do UI in almost all iterations of the elaboration phase assuming in each iteration there would be a UI requirement. Objective is to get a requirement defined/designed out the door for developers to build and move on to the next requirement.
 
Benjamin Weaver
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Thanks you guys, (I have been on holiday). This info will be quite useful.
 
Stan James
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I just mentioned in another thread that I used do to the user manual first, with pictures of the UI and all. That goes back to good old waterfall thinking that you can nail all the requirements down before you start. Ick. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Robert Martin's Agile Software Development book has a case study that implements all the business rules for an entire system with no UI at all. At the end it seemed fairly obvious that one could add any kind of front end you liked after that. I've never attempted to work that way. It sounds a bit scary.
 
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