Systematic design, user centered implementation and testing to requirements can contribute significantly to assuring quality of design support tools. The problem is that disorganized requirements elicitation and testing is generally time consuming and can sometimes lead to formulation of incomplete specification requirements. Furthermore, current software testing techniques involve usage of partially or fully implemented prototypes and thus provide feedback for the developers too late. These problems can be avoided through the application of a novel computer based pre-implementation testing technique, called abstract prototyping. It comprises structured multistage design and evaluation cycles, involving both the developers and the potential end-users as the evaluation subjects. This technique introduces quality improvement cycles early in the development process, well before the implementation of prototypes, and provides a structured framework for defining requirements and testing of design support tools.
In this paper we first introduce the abstract prototyping technique. Then we describe the architecture and functionality of the software developed for abstract prototyping. We also give an example on the application of this software tool for evaluation of the particle system theory for vague modeling of shapes in conceptual design. This software tool facilitated definition of requirements and testing to the formulated requirements. In this case the particle system theory represented the highest level of abstraction of the vague modeling software tool. The same procedure can be used in the subsequent levels of abstraction of methods, algorithms and pilot implementations. We can argue that the abstract prototyping technique helps to achieve the kinds of improvement and quality gains that are expected in the development of new design support tools and in upgrading the existing tools.