UX Design Software – What I Use and When I Use It

10 Mar

UX folks hotly debate the merits of the various design software we use for flows, site-maps, wireframes, etc. all the time. In general, everyone kinda hates Visio (except for old people) and likes Omnigraffle (big generalization I know). There are lots of other options that people use though. The thing is, everyone seems to pick one and defend it as the best tool. Personally, I like most of them and use several for different types of projects. Here are the tools I use and why I use them:

Great general design tool and if I could only use one tool for all my deliverables it would definitely be Omnigraffle. It’s simple to use. Just get some Konigi stencils and you’re ready to design anything in the entire spectrum of deliverables. The great thing about Omnigraffle is that it makes it really easy to design very professional, albeit somewhat visually generic, documents. I use it for personas, flows and site-maps. I’ll also wireframe with it when I don’t need to show a great deal of interactivity in a design comp. For instance, I recently designed a single -page, static HTML landing page that was primarily about structuring and giving a hierarchy to a bunch of content. Since, there was no interactive navigation, Omnigraffle worked great.

Only when I really need to share design files with a creative team.

I love Keynote. I worked with a CD who obsessively made the entire office use Keynote for everything imaginable. It’s incredibly flexible and I’ve used it for almost every deliverable. Now days, I rely on it for storytelling. It’s great to sit a client down and walk them through a linear user-narrative in a format that enables transitions, reveals, etc. to help make a story come to life.

I use Fireworks mostly for personal web-design projects. It has all the great Adobe design features plus the added benefits of quickly creating multi-page documents. On top of that, I can slice up a design and toss it into Dreamweaver in a jiffy to produce everything from quick and dirty prototypes to finished website designs. I also like designing in Fireworks because you have more flexibility and control over the visual look and feel of the document. Sometimes this makes me compulsively fine-tune my wireframe designs which can step on the toes of design teams. That’s why I generally reserve Fireworks for personal projects where I’ll start wire-framing and progress into final design all in one doc.

Axure is my bread and butter prototyping tool. I’m personally not a good enough developer to hand code production friendly code in any reasonable amount of time, so I stick with tools that get the job done quickly. About six months ago I gave up traditional flat, non-interactive wireframes. I was spending all my time updating pages and pages of annotations instead of solving design problems. I also noticed that presenting a clickable prototype is one million times easier. There’s just no comparison between trying to describe an interaction versus showing someone exactly how it works. Lastly, creating quick prototypes instead of wireframes has let me cheaply and quickly test my designs with users before they go into visual design and dev which is pretty crucial. Axure excels in facilitating all of this. I do occasionally wish I had a bit more control over the visual design in Axure but, all in all, it makes my life and the project so much easier.


2 Responses to “UX Design Software – What I Use and When I Use It”

  1. Joe Zulli March 10, 2011 at 6:43 am #

    What about Balsamiq? How do you rate that vs. Axure for example?

  2. peterburnham March 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    I’ve only used a trial version of Balsamiq but it seemed great. Axure is much more robust and is focused more on prototyping than wireframing. Balsamiq seems primarily targeted at creating super quick interface sketches.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: