Opinion about programming wizards

Richard A Downing richard.downing at bcs.org.uk
Sat Feb 8 02:13:16 PST 2003

Matthew Burgess wrote:

> "Billy O'Connor" <billyoc at linuxfromscratch.org> wrote in message
> news:81y94raja5.fsf at dps10.oconnoronline.net...
>> Good points, sure.  Prototyping.  That's the RAD tool's primary
>> use to me, the only real use I've ever seen for them.  Most of the
>> large projects I've worked on used RAD tools for the initial "throw
>> away" version of the system, but weren't used after that.  The
>> maintenance phase of the software life cycle is made impossible with
>> the use of these tools from what I've seen.  Most software spends the
>> majority of it's life in the maintenance stage, as well.
> Agreed, which has just sparked a thought.  Maybe these Wizards are being
> aimed at the wrong people.  If they're so useful at building quick
> mock-ups of a system, then make use of them early on in the life-cycle -
> requirements capture!  Ask the user what they want and they are going to
> change their mind infinitely many times until they're presented with
> something they can see.  So go through an intial requirements capture
> phase, then use the GUI wizard to provide a dumb screen (i.e. *no*
> functionality) that shows what the end-user can do.  They'll likely come
> back and say, no you've misunderstood X, or what about Y, so you add
> that onto your screen and in 2 minutes time ask them again.  Once the
> required functionality is known then you get the "hardcore" analysts in
> to find out how it should be done, i.e. the business logic behind those
> functions.  Then you analyse the most suitable platform for the
> application (although this in all likelihood will be constrained by the
> customer in some way).  I'm seeing an interactive Use Case Diagram here
> if any of you are familiar with UML.
> Matt.

I remember well a consultant at my old company using UML generated from a
design tool (one of the big ones, Rational Rose maybe, I can't remember
which) to aid gaining common understanding with the customer.  He said that
ordinary non-IT folk readily understood use-case diagrams in their own
domain (say, POS operators when designed a new POS), and as this was linked
to the code generator considerably speeded RAD protoypes for the real GUI. 
I think it's a mistake to think that ordinary people can't understand
programming - I'm not saying they can _do_ it - and these kinds of
visualisation tools used by the designer are a good way of communicating
the design intent.


Richard A Downing FBCS
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