Group working is a firmly established work practice, not least in the computing industry. Computer supported collaborative work, or CSCW, is a young discipline growing in importance. Surprisingly, there is little software support aimed specifically for use by work groups, which consist of developers and users who are working jointly on the production of new applications. In this paper, some of the issues surrounding CSCW are investigated. Arguments are put forward for features of a support tool that would be beneficial in this context. The practice of prototyping as a disciplined, managed part of the software development cycle is examined as a particular case where CSCW systems could be applied as a documentation, argumentation and assessment support tool.

An ORACLE-based experimental system which supports some of the above features, implemented to amplify the general treatment of the topic is described. The system provides explicit support for the different roles played by various members of the work group involved in the development of an application, and so provides documentation support for the roles and responsibilities of different work group members involved in the prototyping process. How this system can help in the management and control of the prototyping process is discussed, together with how the system may be used to maximise the benefits of prototyping without loosing control of the development process.

In addition to supporting the different roles of work group members, and providing prototype version control, the system includes specific support for the assessment of the usability of the application being developed. It allows for the selection and application of usability criteria 198with respect to each prototype developed, and so integrates and provides documentation for the processes of prototype production and evaluation.