Monthly Archives: March 2006

Prototype generation packages

Until I heard about Axure last week I didn’t know about any tools out there for creating prototypes. But in the last week, I’ve learn the names of two others. The list I’m keeping currently includes:

How did I miss all these before? Please leave a comment if you think there are others that should be added.

I have not spent much time looking at each of these. From what I have seen so far they offer high-fidelity prototypes to make sure that the sponsors/potential users understand how the application will work, look and feel.

I am very curious to see how well it generates code. The other side of the protokit benefit is that developers can also see an authentic design. Ideally, a high-fidelity prototype should look real both on the screen and under the hood. Developers should see all of the presentation assets (images and css) and exactly what mark-up their code (jsp, asp, php, etc.) should generate.

If you’ve had experience with any of these tools (or have examples online that they generated) please leave a comment below. I’m very interested to look at the output.

Ironically, these packages also automatically generate all the document debts that high-fidelity prototypes help eliminate the need for.

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Posted by on March 31, 2006 in prototyping


Freeware color-picker for Windows

For years I used an old version of Tiger Color’s application Color Impact to grab colors from the screen (like the eyedropper in Fireworks or Photoshop). But a few years ago they increased the price to $40, which IMHO is way too much to pay for a feature that should have already been included in MS Office.

Enter Color Cop, a freeware eyedropper for Windows. In the spirit of “Getting Real” (and unlike the bloated Color Impact app) it does just what you need and nothing else. Using this small, light app keeps me from firing up Fireworks when I just need to grab a hex or RGB for some pixel on my screen.

Props to Lifehacker, the source of many great tips.

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Posted by on March 28, 2006 in code


Anyone used Axure RP before?

If anyone has used Axure for prototyping, I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. I’m particularly interested in the ability to use a library of templates (like protokit) as a base.

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Posted by on March 24, 2006 in prototyping


Workflow is dead! Long-live workflow!

James Robertson and my co-worker Jeff Potts have a great discussion running on the problems with workflow in content management applications.

Workflows can be infinitely flexible when they are modeled the way work is really done. What’s needed is a model that more accurately reflects how people naturally work.

I think linear workflows are inherently flawed by design. Even in the most extreme example of linear work, a manufacturing assembly line, workers typically have the ability to stop the line and reject an item outright or request rework. But often the rework is something more complex than simply passing the item back to have it worked again.

When these kinds of exceptions occur in most workflow systems today, users create workarounds to the system to get their work done.

About 8 years ago I used a different kind of workflow engine at KMPG when Kevin Parker and I were helping creating an HR outsourcing center. We used a product called Action Workflow to handle all of the transactional items in and out of the center. Action is based on the ActionWorks Business Interaction Model which more realistically models how work is really done. Take a look at the model to see how different it is than the standard linear approach.

The Action model treats work the way it really lives, organically in a cycle of negotiations and performance. New cycles can organically recur in the parents. It’s a completely different (more effective and realistic) way to look at workflow.

I know James and Jeff were trying to keep this product-agnostic. But Action is the only example I know that’s using the cycle-approach. Everything else I know of is linear.

We need ways to systematically track the work that we do. The more accurately they model the way we do work, the less people will use workarounds, and the happier everyone will be.

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Posted by on March 24, 2006 in process