ProtoShare Helps Mentor Graphics “Nearly Eliminate” Rework

"Making adjustments after development typically would have taken 3 or 4 days to complete. With ProtoShare, these types of changes are implemented into the prototype over the course of a morning."

Ron Fuller
Web Manager, Corporate Marketing, Mentor Graphics

Background

Mentor Graphics is a worldwide leader in electronic design automation. The company is headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon and has more than 4,500 employees worldwide, with annual revenue of more than $1 billion. Web Manager of Corporate Marketing Ron Fuller and his team of developers, designers and operations professionals manage all customer-facing Internet applications, e-commerce projects and products. Collaboration is core to their development team. Mentor Graphics recently adopted the Agile development methodology, but Fuller felt that his team needed more efficient collaboration processes.

Challenge

Mentor Graphics applied the Agile philosophy to their development process, but they needed a more effective way to communicate the functional, design and content aspects of projects. Their previous process involved white boarding the client's requirements and having the creative director create detailed non-interactive wireframes in Photoshop or Omnigraffle. They would review those wireframes with clients via phone and email, use the feedback to compile a detailed functional specification, and then pass both the document and wireframes to development to begin coding sprints.

Unfortunately, this method didn’t allow the client to fully interact with a site or application and truly understand what Fuller's team intended to build until after it was being developed. And it wasn’t iterative, so it was difficult to introduce client changes before the process was far along.

Content Manager Cynthia Morgan says, "During internal user testing and client review, I would literally have to wait until we had something functional to show people because they could not visualize the interactions marked up in the PDFs we presented. And only at this point was where we found all the problems."

"And you can imagine what we learned," adds Fuller. "We were doing a lot of change rounds. Our design didn't always make sense when it got to development and testing, so our developers would spend days with rework. And it’s very expensive to change HTML and back-end programming."

Fuller’s Web Services team needed a more effective method to improve internal collaboration, quickly get everyone on the same page, and use client feedback to rapidly iterate to uncover the right solution – earlier in the process.

Results

When the Web Services team decided to try ProtoShare they learned that moving from static wireframes and design comps to interactive prototypes had an immediate impact on their process. Since implementing ProtoShare, the Web Services team is able to quickly build an interactive prototype to gain internal team input and agreement. They then share the web prototype with clients to get them engaged with the proposed functionality and gain true understanding and buy-in. Once the team iterates through this process and uncovers key insights, the prototypes then serve as a wireframe design framework for the creative director.

"With ProtoShare, we’re uncovering key insights much earlier in the cycle, making adjustments when they are quick and easy to do," says Morgan. Fuller adds, "Making these kinds of adjustments late (after development) typically would have taken 3 or 4 days to complete. Now with ProtoShare, these types of changes are found early and are implemented into the prototype over the course of a morning."

Once design and content are finalized, the approved wireframes are attached to Jira tickets serving as a visual and functional specification for the development team. Morgan no longer needs to translate notes from static PDFs to lengthy, detailed written specs that might not convey the true meaning.

"ProtoShare gives us a vehicle to clearly communicate functionality to the development team in a way that allows them to refine stories and create Agile sub-tasks from our wireframes, nearly eliminating rework," Morgan says.

Morgan is now able to spend more time on in-depth user testing and she can communicate more clearly with clients. "The ability to instantly show my stakeholders a wireframe and get sign-off on content is of the biggest value for me. I don't have to sit with them and try to explain what the page would look like, or how it would act. I just send them their ProtoShare login, they make comments with pushpins, and we go back and forth until they make a decision. It's much, much easier and I have an audit trail."

Fuller reveals that his team encountered an unexpected benefit to using ProtoShare: the ability to organize all their project information in a single location. "Before, we would find wireframes in various company directories, information in the wiki or in Jira, or elsewhere. If we ever needed to reference feedback or a previous design, it was cumbersome to locate. But all our work, iterations, and feedback are now stored in ProtoShare, so if someone has questions, I can pull up the information within minutes and make any changes on the spot," shares Fuller. "Being able to access and discuss all of our comps and wireframes in one place is a huge benefit," he adds.

Mentor Graphics continues to find ways to improve their collaboration process with ProtoShare. They now are able to work more collaboratively with stakeholders and developers to uncover better designs in less time.