The prototyping tool I’ve been using the most?
I use just about every tool that comes out, whether for prototyping or removing duplicate MP3 files, because I am addicted to having the latest, the greatest and the most feature-rich stuff as soon as it ships. This is maddening for some clients, since the utility I swore by 6 months ago and they bought may fall out of my favor when a whole new platform gets my attention.
When dealing with prototyping, mockups and wireframes, I have several strategies for which way to go, what software is most applicable and what I need in terms of features and functions: large clients usually have a process and specific tools that are always used, and I adapt to their requirements.
Some clients have never prototyped, or have arcane and outmoded ways of doing things (storyboards on paper; Excel spreadsheets; Post-It note collages) that are both inefficient and unworkable: once I discuss the scope of work and capabilities a client possesses, we work together to develop a plan that specifies workflow, expectations, policy and (of course) tools and techniques.
Recently, I’ve recommended a prototyping/wireframing program to more than a couple clients that I only recently became acquainted with:
Here’s a quick video from the developers that will give you a sense of the product:
This affordable ($99/year for individuals; discounts for multiple licenses) and powerful tool is no-nonsense, stable and feature-rich. Most important for me, though, is that Wireframe Sketcher adds a third attribute that many other programs frustratingly can’t seem to get right: a UI and structure that is totally intuitive. This seems like a no-brainer, but apparently the desire by some developers to blaze new trails leads them to create a 4-step process that most of us find exactly three steps longer than expected.
My quick list of likes for Wireframe Sketcher:
- Extensive library of UI controls
WireframeSketcher comes with an extensive set of UI controls. Plenty of buttons, checkboxes, trees, tables,
layouts and flows come standard, and more are available from the developer and enthusiasts alike.
- Customization, adaptability and agility
Controls are very flexible and can be customized using properties and by applying wiki syntax directly
in text. I don’t need all of the flexibility, but it’s nice to know options are at the ready
- Interactive, exportable prototypes
Whether in PDF format or online, the ability to create navigable, visually accurate prototypes is essential.
Not needing a runtime player or relying on non-standard formats makes everyone happy and keeps the
focus where it belongs: on the prototyped product
- An application that’s also an IDE
WireframeSketcher comes both as a standalone application but also as a plug-in for any Eclipse IDE.
It’s cross-platform and has a native, fast UI for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Either way, both deliver
without sacrificing anything on everything from quick mockups to large prototypes.
- Under-the-hood stuff and innovations
- Built-in ‘refactoring’ lets you painlessly rename and move files around without breaking links.
- The flexible UI lets you take advantage of multiple monitors and arrange workspaces exactly
how you want
- Shortcut-rich: The interface is optimized for speed, so naturally multiple shortcuts are integrated
to improve efficiency and make repetitive tasks less arduous.
- The properties view is streamlined to maximize your efficiency. Standard-yet-essential features are
all there, including grid snapping and smart guides.
- Open XML framework with SDK: Wireframes are stored in an open XML-based format. You can easily
store your screens under version control and use standard Eclipse tools to track changes and to
perform diffs and merges when needed. Create your own tools around this format by
using the open-source SDK.
- Easy importing of assets and content: images, UI components and much more
This is as simple and uncomplex as it should be, and the competition should emulate the way content is
managed in Wireframe Sketcher.
Some visual samples of stuff I like:
Bottom-line: free trial. Give it a shot…
The developer offers a feature-filled trial demo for every OS and platform out there. Give it a try, and let me know what you think after you’ve played a bit. And of course, tell me what you think the best-in-class product is and why you think so in this space. I put functionality and power first, and brand loyalty has to take a back seat when my professional life is involved.
The demo URL: