SkillSwap – Rapid prototyping in Plone

31 May 2007

Not my immediate expertise but having playing around with data driven applications & websites many years ago, I was keen to see how they’d evolved and also to learn a bit more about rapid prototyping in the software world. Andy Parkhouse and Ben Whitnall from Team Rubber stepped up to the challenge.

Andy introduced agile and rapid prototyping as a very practical requirement that they adopted as larger projects were no longer sticking to the original plan and budget. Being a relatively small company they can’t afford to let projects wander, rapid prototyping and an agile approach meant they were able to get closer to the clients actual wish list (rather than their published tender specification) and to have more control over the development process from there out. Andy didn’t adopt a formal approach (e.g. Extreme Programming), preferring an approach that was organic to his company.

There was a short comedic break while they installed a vanilla Plone on the laptop and found the working folder (some bright spark pointed out the more straight forward install on Windows).

Starting with 3 discovery meetings to establish what client really wants, Andy and Ben pretty much dove straight in. They asked for audience members to be the client and began with an exploration of what the web site would be, who it was targeted at and some of the functionality. After that there was a short filmic interlude from the Kensington Report courtesy of Rubberductions (part of Team Rubber).

Plone was used as a wire frame prototyping environment. Although Plone was also used as their product delivery platform, Andy was very firm that they threw the prototype away and began again from scratch to prevent hacks used in the prototype finding their way into release ready software. There was some talk about Druple as a Plone killer (apparently lots more folks code php than Plone) but Andy was sticking with Plone for the time being because so much is already built which leaves time for design & run.

Then it gets technical – but they set up up a new cms driven site and started editing in real time (i.e. prototyping with the client in front of the laptop). Others have highlighted the speed of prototyping (most noteably for me was Rick Segal) but to see it in real time was still pretty cool.

Thanks also go to Ed for organising SkillSwap in Bristol, Watershed and Knowledge West for the room and Netsight for the beers. 🙂

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