New web applications should be fully designed (screen by screen as detailed image files) before any programming begins. After all, if we were building something as basic as a house, we would start with a detailed blueprint. Why not do the same for our software applications?
This visual prototyping is a key to our "design it right first" strategy. After designing these screens, you and your end users can review them to be sure we are on the right track. With your feedback, we then go back to the drawing board to modify and clarify our designs. Only upon final signoff do we start coding. This brings us to our "code it once" strategy. In the absence of doing these visual prototypes, programmers instinctively like to jump right in and start coding. Then when they are "finished", the end users finally get a look at their work and come up with a list of changes. Then it’s back to the programmers for expensive and time-consuming code changes.
This pattern typically also results in unnecessary design and functionality compromises. Once an application is basically built, the end users know that it’s too late to make major changes to the application. So, they end up settling for only moderate changes ... just enough to get them by.
"Planning pays off 10 to 1". In some cases, these "design it right first" and "code it once" strategies can save you 20-50% of the overall cost of the project. We’ve even seen several cases where the resulting usability (almost an afterthought in the minds of the programmers) was so bad that these applications had to be 100% scrapped and rebuilt, costing the owners hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of frustration.