Recently, I had a chance to try my hand at prototyping with Axure (read: ak shûr). Axure is a software tool used to create interactive HTML prototypes of your apps or websites.
I don’t think that I need to tell you how important and useful prototyping is. But to quickly sum it up, prototyping can be used to:
- iron out UI, UX and IA design
- reach an understanding between you and the client about what it is exactly that the software/website is supposed to do
- exchange feedback between you and your client
- user test at the early stages
- estimate development costs
- bring large teams together by providing a reference points
Of course all these benefits exist only if the prototype can be clear enough and can be built and updated quickly. And here is where Axure comes in.
How Does Axure Work?
Once installed, Axure presents an extended drag-and-drop interface.
The left-side panel shows the website structure and the website elements/widgets that you can drag-and-drop to the right-side panel, the website’s or app’s body.
Once the widget is in the body panel you can manipulate it by rearranging, aligning, adding text. And because Axure allows you to create interactive prototypes, you can also add behaviors to elements. For example, you can create drop down lists, add list items and show or hide other elements depending on which list item is chosen. Buttons can link to other pages, menus can show sub-menus on hover etc. Very neat.
Once your website or application is ready you can “build it” which basically creates the html code behind the prototype. Now you can open the website in your browser or send the code to other people involved in the project.
Good Things About Prototyping with Axure
The 3 best things about prototyping with Axure are:
- Simple and intuitive interface makes it really easy to use the product
- You can build powerful and complex interfaces really fast
- If you ever need support, Axure offers comprehensive training on their website
Bad Things About Prototyping with Axure
The 3 worst things about working with Axure are…well it’s hard to find bad things really. I guess the interface is designed to speak best to web professionals and designers so if you are nether you might need some help from the training.
And the second drag for me is the price of the software. Most companies can easily afford it but if you are a freelancer you might be hard pressed to gain access to this great software.
Prototyping is an important part of building a digital product, be it a desktop application or a website. And prototyping with Axure is a fast, professional, and powerful way to build complex prototypes. Ergo, if you are a web professional or a programmer and you can afford it, Axure should be in your toolbox.