Tuesday, February 05, 2008
The wonderful world of prototyping tools
Last week I attended the LA User Experience Meetup at Wongdoody, a marketing ideas agency in Culver City. The focus of the evening was an iRise demo, a tool that makes wireframes and hi fidelity mock ups interactive and annotatable. It uses layout and functionality paradigms familiar to anyone who uses Adobe CS3 apps. iRise is definitely a big team tool, as it allows multiple people to work on 1 doc simultaneously, and the licensing price starts at 5k.
After the demo a few classmates and I got into a conversation about all the different prototyping tools available. So which ones should we be using? In my quest for the answer, I discovered a world of opinions, not just on the tools but how they're used together to communicate everything from rough ideas to polished presentations.
I recently joined IxDA and found some excellent threads on this topic. Check out What tools do you use for prototyping? and the feisty debate that sprang from that, Paper is not a prototyping tool. Here's just a few of the tools UX designers use:
1. Paper. Where ideas are born. Besides the shower.
2. Visio & Omnigraffle: Often referred to as Mac & PC equivalent of each other.
3. Axure & iRise. Similar in the fundamentals, but not in price.
4. Intuitect: First heard about this on Boxes and Arrows
5. Flash, Dreamweaver and After Effects: While Flash and Dreamweaver are often top of mind on the visual design/production end, they're commonly used for simulating interactions, such as a drag and drop. After Effects, a motion graphics app, can often express in movement what would be hard to describe in words.
6. HTML, CSS & AJAX: More control, but without the WYSISWG interface.
7. Photoshop, Illustrator, & InDesign: The crossover apps between print and web design.
8. Powerpoint and Keynote: Some people add their Visio wireframes in Powerpoint to create a client demo.
9. Canvas 11: Haven't heard much about it. Looks similar to Illustrator.
10. GUI magnets: Enhance your whiteboard or your fridge! Not a product you can buy... yet. But I want to. You can also make your own with magnetic backed paper from Staples.
There are more. Many more. Bottom line? The tools you use will most likely be determined by your company. Some companies test drive new tools while others stick to the tried and true. The most important things you need as a UX designer are your ideas. How you communicate them can take innumerable forms.
Image by scui3asteveo via flickr, used under a Creative Commons license