I'm currently reading Steve McConnells "Survival Guide" and am thinking of how I can improve our processes on requirements development. The book seems to have very strong ideas about using prototypes and I'm not sure if they are quite right for us.

As background, we are 2 fulltime staff and we usually work on projects of 4-6 man months size, while we are also doing often significant amounts of maintenance on existing clients sites. About 80% of projects have about 1/2 man month of web design involved, which is usually done by an external contractor.

We develop in-house software for owner operators, largely based on CRUD generated admin interfaces using Symfony, which we often combine with a Joomla CMS website system (WYSIWYG and configuration type entry screens)

My thoughts on requirements development are:

  • If I was to build a prototype it would be fastest to actually just generate the CRUD interface in Symfony, unless it is a complex interface, then a paper storyboard would be faster. I would however see no reason not to re-use the data model for the final CRUD generation - McConnells advised strongly against this. The reason why this is fastest is that we don't have good mockup and design skills in-house and it seems likely quicker to write a quick, rough data model and produce the output by copying in past clients HTML and buttons.
  • For some users it may be sufficient to showcase another project, then to just tell them what field we are going to have in which screen
  • Many CMS problems could also be modelled by example of case studies, then describing fields.
  • Writing a user manual seems to be the most productive way to gather requirements as it can be used at the end

The question is: are CRUD tools a good way to build prototypes or am I tricking myself? Is anyone else here using CRUD tools for prototyping? Or alternatively, how long should it take me to learn mocking up prototypes by copying existing screens/ rows/ fields/ buttons around with Gimp/ Photoshop?

  • As written, this question is about software engineering practices rather than project management.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Dec 24, 2017 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


To make it more clear for the ones who don't know Symfony: It's a PHP framework that can be used to create web applications, and in my opinion is a very good one. It's comparable with Drupal.

Using Propel or Doctrine it becomes easy to create CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete) forms to be used in a administration or even in the frontend.

As the forms that are created are initialy an exact copy of your relational database table, it will create only the basic CRUD form and most of the time misses a lot of the requirements. Of course it is possible to modify the form as you want...

If I understand your question correctly, you have an issue to know in advance what your form should look like, so it covers all requirements.

A few options are possible, or a combination:

  • A good way for you to work (at least that's how I did that and worked pretty well) is to create mockups of the final screens and how they should look like. Visualizing the forms does a very good job and shows you exactly where the missing fields are.
  • Another option is to create all possible user stories so you have all requirements in advance.

Creating forms in a backend or frontend isn't an easy job, having examples from other projects is good and can be used to get ideas, but in the end, a mockup of the actual screen is in my opinion a very good way to discuss possible issues or missing fields.

update In addition to your changed question:

creating the CRUD forms themselves takes way too much time, don't forget, in order to generate them, you first need to create a database etc.

Please do not use Photoshop or Gimp to create all your mockups, they are far too complex to do these easy things.

There are tools out there way better to create those mockup screens. You'll be able to create them really really fast and almost no learning curve.

some examples:

some are free, others are paying, your choice to make...

  • Hi Kenneth, thanks very much for the feedback and thanks for explaining Symfony to people. Your feedback is helpful, but not quite what I'm looking for. I'll update my question now to be clearer.
    – jdog
    Aug 25, 2011 at 8:26
  • @jdog, I've added some examples on what tools to use to create those mockups.
    – Kennethvr
    Aug 25, 2011 at 9:42
  • thank you. These tools have come a far way since I looked last maybe 1.5 years ago. I think I'll try working with something like this.
    – jdog
    Aug 25, 2011 at 19:28
  • I've just seen this old question and can report back that I settled on using balsamiq mockups now, which works really well
    – jdog
    Sep 11, 2015 at 20:08

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