Here is an interesting use of Excel. Use it to design User Interface Prototypes.
A UI Prototype is one of the steps we do while developing systems. It contains a clear and detailed user interface mocked up so that we can clearly find-out how end-users would react to such a system.
Now, there are a ton of great tools to build UI prototypes, easiest of them being pencil and paper. But I have been using Excel (ahem!) for creating UI prototypes for the last few years with great success.
In almost all the projects where I worked as a business analyst, I used Excel (or Powerpoint) to create clear, well defined UI mockups to show what the end system would look like. This has helped greatly in understanding various unstated needs of users and speeded up system development.
A Practical Example of UI Prototypes made in Excel
Today I want to show you a practical example of how UI prototypes designed in Excel helped me choose one alternative over other.
While creating Excel School sales page, I needed to clearly show both options and provide a way to select one of them for the prospective students. I had 2 ideas in mind. I wasn’t sure which one would work. My initial thought is to draw both of them on paper and show it to my wife and find-out which one she would prefer. But then, my drawing is as good as my skateboarding. Just plain awful.
Even though I cannot draw a peanut on paper, I can create a whole peach tree in excel. So I turned to it and created 2 exact mockups of what I had in mind.
Then I showed both of them to my wife. She pointed to the one on left.
So I went with that option and designed it in HTML / CSS later that night.
But, this is a lame example. What if I want to make a complex UI in Excel?
Of course my example is lame. But you can make complex UIs in Excel with same ease. Remember form controls? You can use them to quickly create a mock up of almost any system and show it to your users to get instant feedback.
Here is an example:
Download Excel UI Prototype Examples Workbook:
In this workbook, you can find above 3 examples. See them, play with them, poke them to get inspiration for your next UI prototype.
Do you use Excel for Prototyping?
As I said, I have more than once impressed my customers by quickly churning out a mockup using excel. You can easily add drawing shapes, icons, form controls and place them on the grid layout to give perfect alignment and look. I think this is a great use of Excel.
What about you? Do you use excel for UI Prototyping? Share your experiences using comments.