I think prototypes are critical to effective website and application development. Whether the prototypes are simply drawings on paper, or a functioning website without superfluous design features, both are great ways for visually communicating design possibilities, and also give the actual experience of clicking through the website or application. I think it’s extremely interesting the paper prototypes are just as effective in testing iphone apps as prototype apps, and that IU had done some user testing with paper prototypes on students. I think that developing iteratively is the best way to prevent going too far with an idea that isn’t what your client wants, or isn’t going to work on your target users. Prototyping is the method that designers and information architects can ensure that their clients really “know what they mean” when they are presenting new ideas and designs.
In the experience I’ve gained using LucidChart throughout the semester, I’ve found that it is easier than drawing prototypes on paper. Even though I consider myself artistically competent, LucidChart allows you to create functional experiences – which is really invaluable to communicate things more abstract than static pages. Prototyping tools are getting so popular and advanced now. Axure was also super impressive, and even creates a working prototype in your browser.