Axure has always been one of the best wireframing tools on the market and is great for more complex projects that require dynamic data. With Axure, you can really focus on mocking up projects that are more technical and require extra attention when it comes to structure and data.
One of the great things about Axure is that it can actually replace all of these tools. Axure handles flow charts/diagrams, wireframing, and prototyping.
Why wireframe in Omnigraffle only to have to completely rebuild it to be an Axure prototype?
Wireframe in Axure and then create an interactive version. Time saved.
Low, Medium, And High or Full Fidelity
Some people tell me they like Balsamiq because it’s easy to use and they like the sketched look. Axure does sketchy effects too. They are under “Page Styles” and you can apply your wiggly lines and hand-written fonts to all pages in your file or just some.
Axure can handle medium fidelity. But it can also handle high and full fidelity wireframes and prototypes. I have done many fully designed Axure prototypes for showing to stakeholders, user testing, and other good reasons. Just paste or bring in your image files or comps, apply interactions, and boom, it looks just like the real thing.
One feature I notice a lot of people missing about Axure is what Axure calls Widget Styles. You can create your own visual styles. From text to buttons to links to shapes to background gradients, these can be global styles in Axure. You then apply these visual styles to elements (aka widgets), and if someone changes minds later, you can easily globally change fonts, sizes, colors, etc… A huge time-saver! You can even create styles for hover states, selected states, and disabled states of words, buttons, or form fields.
Axure Is For Everybody
In my training world, I’ve taught interaction designers, information architects, front end developers, product designers, product managers, web producers, managers, user researchers, and user testers.
At the very least, Axure is a great way to express an idea you have and bring it to life. Everyone benefits from better communication and better collaboration within and across teams.
At the very most, bringing rapid prototyping into your process using Axure can help with brainstorming, refining ideas, communicating with stakeholders, and user testing… especially user testing. It’s great to put something realistic or semi-realistic in front of users and have them react to it.
I have heard some people say that they don’t want or need Axure because they are building prototypes out of real code. That’s great if you have the people and time to do all of that coding. The benefit there is that if the code is good, the product is good, the UX is good, and everything validates in testing, you have something that’s a step closer to implementation. If you are prototyping in Axure, that’s not production-ready code. Once everything is validated and ready, you still need developers to now build it.
However, seeing the amount of time badly burned on dev and QA on products, executions, or designs that turned out heavily flawed, I believe strongly that prototyping with Axure can be faster and more cost efficient than prototyping in real code. But there are purists who feel that’s the best or only way.
I did a hackathon last year where I was working. A dev guy had an idea and wanted me to dress it up a bit. He spent nearly two days trying to get his code and API calls to work. Within about an hour, I had a realistic-looking Axure prototype that pretended the API calls worked. He ended up showing that for his presentation.
Axure prototypes can be seen by anybody or anything with a web browser. Desktop, mobile web, or native apps can all be simulated in a browser. You do NOT need the Axure application or any special viewing software to interact with an Axure prototype.
You can also create your own Widget Libraries. These are like Omnigraffle Stencils but better since Axure “widgets” in a custom library can include interactions. For example, if your project uses a drop down menu with certain visual design and styling, you can create a custom library that contains the droplist including interactions (ie: what happens when the menu slides down, what happens when it slides up, etc…)
Huge Feature Set
Like any software, Axure has its limitations. But what it can do is beyond what most people will ever need. I am always shocked to go deeply into it and find things like sine, cosine, and tangent. Are people drawing parabolas?!?!? I am NOT going to need that, but that’s neat that it can do that.
It can do math calculations. It can do parallax scrolling. It can pin things to pages. It can work with data arrays (though not external data sources). It is just starting to tackle responsive web and breakpoints (as of when I’m writing this). It handles web fonts. It handles many (but not all) mobile gestures such as long press and swiping.
Community and Support
Axure has community forums where people (and Axure staff) really help each other. Nobody acts like they are competitors. Nobody is in a flame war. It’s a really nice place where you can get and give help.
Axure support are fast and amazing. Sometimes to answer my question, they will send back a little file they built to illustrate what I needed. Amazing. I should be paying PER YEAR for this software given how good it is and how amazing support is.
What are the capabilities and limitations of Axure?
If making comparisons between other tools is helps that's fine, though the focus of the question is understanding the capabilities and limitations of Axure.
- simple tools to help you on creating wireframes and flow charts
- customizable Page Notes. I changed and added to the different types of page notes. I have (Design Notes, Visual Design Notes, Technical Notes, Content Notes, My Notes). These are notes that accompany each wireframe.
- customizable spec doc. I can publish a version for my graphics designer...e.g., In the specification settings, I turn on "Visual Design Notes" and turn off others that don't apply to my graphics designer.
- create your own libraries - for widgets that you use a lot
- wireframe element annotations are easy and customizable
- element interactions (for prototyping and to communicate to programmers)
- you can create master elements that are common on pages (for example, side bar)
- You can use SVN (version control) for your wireframe project so that multiple people can be working on the set of wireframes. (this was a big plus for me)
- Customer service is great. Usually they will get back to me within a few hours. When I first started using it I had some questions that was not apparent in the tutorials so I emailed their Customer Service.
- your spec is a Word doc. In the past we've made our design documents prettier than what Word allows you to do, but then the trade off is that you're spending lots of time trying to format the document. (this is a minor con for me)
- right now you can't rotate elements on a screen. (you can scale and move)
- sometimes I find the selection of objects on different z-indexes frustrating
- they don't have layers...could be useful