Verbal to Visual: Reviving the Lost Art of Prototyping

As soon as I concluded a meeting with one of the key stakeholders from my current project, I felt extremely relaxed. Not because the project was over but because of what he said to me: "Thank you, that's exactly what I want". The developers hadn't written a line of code, and he was already saying thanks even though we still had a lot of work to do. What he saw was a prototype/wireframe I had built using Omnigraffle.

Something is happening. We are becoming a visually mediated society. For many, understanding of the world is accomplished, not through words, but by reading images – Paul Martin Lester,
 Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication

Research has shown that communication with a visual dimension is more effective than one without. Herome Bruner of New York University revealed that people remember only 10% of what they listen to, 20% of the words they read and about 80% of what they see and put into practice.

Though visual communication is deemed more powerful than verbal communication, a combination of the two, carefully and intelligently blended together can be extremely powerful.

Beyond the advantage of assisting in the delivery of compelling presentations, the perfected art of visual communication can be extremely useful to today's business analyst. Understanding a 10-page Business Requirements Document can be made easier if the business analyst employs the use of mock-ups/prototypes and process diagrams.

Edward R. Tufte emphasized that to envision information, and what bright and splendid visions can result, is to work at the intersection of image, word, number & art. Employ the use of charts, diagrams, tables and colours wherever you can, to deliver a powerful combination of the visual and the verbal. Next time you're churning out that Business Requirements Document, consider using pictures instead of a thousand words.

Also published on Modern Analyst: From Verbal to Visual - Reviving the Lost Art of Prototyping

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