Magnetic Prototyping Tool

Ben Speaks is selling a magnetic prototyping toolkit similar to many paper prototyping toolkits. It contains widgets and a magnetic board that can be written on with whiteboard markers.

I'm not sure what the benefit is beyond laminated widgets and post-it notes. Gimmick? Or real value? I guess I'd have to use it to see if I like it better than my laminated paper prototyping kit I made myself. Advantages to the home rolled version being that it was cheaper, and I have enough material for a dozen screens, not just one.

Whether or not it really works better than paper, I like to see people exploring with prototyping tools.

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Questions about your kit

I do rough fuzzy sketches, then austere wireframes, and then real wireframes and color mock-ups, but a protyping kit sounds interesting. I have some questions about yours and how you use it:

On your personal kit, are your widgets on plain paper or cardstock, or are they mounted on foam core? Art board?

Do they have velcro on the back so you can stick them to fabric-covered bulleting boards, or do you place them on a flat surface?

And do you use overhead pens to write on the lamination? Does it erase well?

Anything else about the kit that makes it extra useful?

my homemade kit

Here's what I have for my homemade kit

- a dozen landscape 11x8.5" laminated sheets that have the IE browser bar printed at the top. My next batch I'll also add a grid. Yes, I go through them, mostly by giving them away to people.
- a lot of post-its in various sizes and colors
- 3M "post-it note glue" (don't recall exact name, but allows you to reposition arbitrary elements)
- laminated widgets (cardstock) including buttons, fields, sets of radio buttons, and checkboxes, etc. I just made up an HTML form and screen captured it for the raw widgets.
- overhead markers (which wipe off ok with water, unless you leave them on for a long time. Also a danger of people using a whiteboard marker if you're in a brainstorming type room.)
- acetate sheets (can use as overlays over the mockup to do form fillin, represent layers, etc.)
- restickable vinyl shapes (many colors of cirles, stars, squares, etc.) From stationary store in their laminated wall poster area.
- scissors
- ruler (straight edge and a square)
- polaroid camera (instant imagery) and magazines (likewise, but harder to find appropriate images for business in Cosmo or GQ)

One note - laminate with the heaviest laminate you can find. The 'pocket' lamination in most office stores (Staples, etc.) is what I've used. Much better than thin laminate, but at times I wish it was thicker.

Some people prefer tabloid (11x17) paper with bigger widgets. I have tried that a couple times (no laminate, just a big sheet with the browser at the top and a bunch of post-its). It's better for group work I think, but I like the portability of my kit (all fits in a relatively small plastic container).

I've used this kit for 3 things:
1) Mocking up ideas myself, to show a client.
2) Working collaboratively with a client (how well that works depends on a lot of things, but can be fun. I've actually gone more to 'designing the box' type exercises for collaborative client work, where we design hypothetical packaging to capture needs)
3) Teaching prototyping techniques (great group exercise)

My initial cost was $44 CDN ($30 US) 3 years ago. Incremental cost is minimal for replacing supplies.

Jess McMullin

another prototyping tool

I have also seed large flip charts that have the browser window printed on the border. Comes in handy when having a working session with a client.

It is another tool of the trade

I will be the first to admit that there are advantages to using paper/sticky notes (etc) for production workouts.

I have found that the kit is better when used as a brainstorming and "think out loud" tool for colloborative design then in a production mode.

Just my two cents worth!