My friend Loren Baxter who is an Interaction Designer and UX Engineer and owns the site “A Clean Design” has just released version 2.0 of his fantastic “Better Defaults” library of widgets for Axure RP 5.5 and higher.
I’ve started working on a large project as part of a team of 5 people recently. Aside from doing the visual design, I’m working on the UX strategy and information architecture with an IA and UX designer from the US. We’re of course creating most of our documentation, user flows, wireframes and prototype in Axure RP Pro. He and I have been working on the same project file using the new Shared Project feature from Axure 5.x and collaborating on it through a free Subversion server (www.myversioncontrol.com). That works very well and, once a day or sometimes more often, I’ll generate the Axure prototype and FTP it to a password protected sub-domain on my site so that other team members can consult it. There’s also other project file linked from a page in the prototype. But there was one thing missing from this process.
The thing is that, as of now, Axure prototypes do not handle comments on the project from other stakeholders as some online prototyping applications like Protoshare do. But recently, I’ve discovered a little script that enables us to integrate comments quite easily using the free Protonotes service. That script is called Head Insert and has been developed by another Axure enthusiast named Joshua Morse. He originally published version 1.2 in this blog post and recently updated the script to version 1.31 which can be found here.
Dan Harrelson from Adaptive Path has written a very interesting blog post titled Rapid Prototyping Tools and what makes good prototypes. My long time favorite Adobe Fireworks is mentionned along with Axure RP Pro (which is a newer tool in my arsenal) but also several others including online tools like Balsamiq Mockups.
What is most interesting to me in the post is the first part before he lists the tools and where he explains the principles of good prototyping and why it should be done in the first place. For me, this comes following a very well received presentaion at the IA Summint 2009 from Fred Beecher titled Integrating Effective Prototyping Into Your Design Process and which I followed through live tweeting as I couldn’t attend.
Both Harrelson and Beecher press the important point that creating interactive prototypes helps us design better user experiences as they help validate a design direction early in the process before investing a lot of money and effort into design or development solutions that may not yield the best results possible.
I strongly suggest you take a look at Dan Harrelson’s blog post and go through Fred’s presentation slides. They may put you on a track to improve your own process and deliver better solutions to your clients.
The new version 5.5 of Axure RP Pro has been released a couple days ago after being in public beta for a few months. It’s a very significant upgrade in terms of new features and is free for existing customers with a current license.
Noteworthy features include the ability to load and create external widget libraries (similar to Visio stencils for exemple) that can be shared with coworkers or other Axure users. The new version ships with a bunch of libraries based on the Yahoo Design Patterns Library.
Other improvements include changes to the design environment like the addition of a size and location panel directly in the UI, a Dynamic Panels manager palette and more. Check the changelog for all the details and download the new version here.
The upcoming 5.5 version of Axure RP Pro has been made public and is available for download. For anyone who’s been interested by Axure and wanted to try it, now is a great time to do so. The beta is rock solid and, if I understand the following blog post on Axure’s site correctly, it will expire only on February 28th which would give you quite a bit longer than a regular 30 days trial to test it out. That’s a good thing since Axure is a pretty complex and powerful application you have to spend a little time with to appreciate.
For more details including links to the download as well as to 3 blog posts describing the new features in detail, see the following: