If you want to spark a debate in the UX world, raise the issue of prototyping tools. At Frontend.com, we conducted a comprehensive look at the tools out there over the past few months. From this we have landed on Axure as a standard within the company (for user testing at least, we do use other prototyping programmes when looking at communicating design concepts). A lot of the other tools we looked at were too lightweight to suit our specific needs. We typically work on complex systems and require prototypes to be as close to real life as possible to remove the cognitive load for those testing the app.
Instead of doing just another comparison of the marketplace, here’s a report on Axure’s pros and cons after serious use of the tool in recent months by our team.
The Pros of Axure
Good for Clients
All too often, static design documentation can prove difficult for senior level clients to penetrate. They don’t have time to join the dots, to connect something on page 18 with a related item on page 72 for example. Who would? Axure comes to the rescue by providing a clickable online prototype that even the busiest of Executives can understand and comment on. However, there is a very closely related Con to this, described later on.
A Holistic View
If you have to design intricate controls and modules on a static tool like Visio, it can be difficult to get a feeling of how they flow together as an interface. In contrast, Axure’s comprehensive interactivity allows you to imagine exactly how the interface gels together. Making for a better end product.
Ever been in that situation where you have to change the wording on one button but you end up having to do it on every page of your prototype? In Axure, you can set up Masters to overcome this. They allow you to make one change that persist everywhere. This is a huge time and frustration saver.
Axure allows you to show what a design will look like in different screen sizes, mobile, tablet and desktop. While not truly responsive, the content of the primary view is conveniently inherited by the others to make things easier to create. Eh volia.
Do you need something better than the ‘sketchy’ look of Balsamiq? Need something easier to generate than HTML and polished Photoshop images? Axure allows you to style widgets and import your own libraries. You can achieve both low and high fidelity prototypes, perfect for usability testing if required.
Global Variables allow you to change content of your Axure prototype based on what the user does. For example, typing their name in to an input field means you can retain that name and present them with a personal greeting on subsequent pages; “Welcome Sarah”. This makes the prototype feel that bit more realistic.
The Cons of Axure
Difficult to Follow
If your Axure prototype is not fully interactive and only certain paths through the demo interface work, clients are likely to find it very difficult to follow. They tend to click around as if it were a fully functioning product. Understandably so. This is the case even if you document those paths in the Notes that accompany the online prototype as clients tend not to read them.
There can be a steep learning curve in coming to grips with the ins and outs of Axure. Some of Axure’s most impressive and useful functionality needs a great deal of skill and patience to execute, such as Repeater Tables that allow you to fake a database of backend. If you have any experience with coding then you’re more likely to get how the software works. We’ve seen accelerated learning in our team when there is a real project at hand and real interactions to create in Axure. There’s something about deadlines that focusses the mind.
If designers get moved between projects, it can be very difficult to understand another designer’s Axure files, or even one’s own files after the passing of time. This is due to personal workarounds and the sheer complexity of the designed interaction.
Not Quite Mobile
One would expect to build separate screens in Axure for separate screens that might exist on a mobile app for example. However, doing so means that there can be a significant delay between screen loading. This feels glitchy. A workaround is to build everything on a single page using Dynamic Panels. Initial loading time is longer but transition between pages is smooth.
Some clients still require printed versions of the interface specification. Creating a printed version of a complex Axure prototype, one with a lot of dynamic panels for example, requires much manual effort. This is because the built in Export features are pretty basic. This can be frustrating and time consuming.
There are times when an element of your Axure design goes inexplicably array and causes the prototype to crash or not run at all. Bug fixing is difficult to do on your own as some of the error messages are very vague. On occasion, we’ve had to send the file to Axure Support for debugging. The result has often been to entirely rebuild a section of the prototype.
Many clients present their web and mobile pages using custom fonts. Any such fonts need to be hosted on your own server and referenced properly in the final Axure output. Doing so is not straight forward and you are not familiar with this sort of thing, your clients will be viewing your lovely prototype in Times New Roman.
It’s difficult to start working quickly on designs destined for different screen sizes like mobile or desktop. This is because there are no templates to facilitate this. All designs must be manually configured.
The unfortunate reality is that your prototype will look spiffing on some browsers (like Chrome) and poor on others. This is not very useful if one of your clients’ system has prescribed browsers such as Internet Explorer (yes, this still happens). Best thing is to test your prototype on the browser being used at client side or in the usability testing lab.
Ironically, although Axure is targeted at UXers, it is not the easiest to use software in the world. To get the best out of Axure, you must commit to getting to grips with the nitty gritty of the thing and there’s nothing like trial and error to get to the bottom of that. Overall, Axure is a very powerful tool and is the future of interactive prototyping at Frontend.com.
Source link https://www.uxswitch.com/axure-the-pros-and-cons/