Axure jumpstarts projects, enables collaboration

Axure RP provides interactive wireframe software with prototyping and specification tools.

Specifications
Axure RP provides interactive wireframe software with prototyping and specification tools. Users can generate an interactive HTML website wireframe or UI mockup without coding and send a link to clients or other users to review. Android or iPhone app interfaces can also be designed and viewed on mobile devices.

Cost
A perpetual single user license is $589. Cost is $539 each when purchasing five or more at a time. Each license can be used on two computers.

Ownership
Independent

User
Bob Brin, digital creative director at Padilla Speer Beardsley, has used Axure RP for about three years.

How do you use it?
We use it to create a blueprint of a website or digital project. We start by laying out page outlines. Then we blueprint individual pages.

You're actually building a very simple website as you do it. In the old days, a wireframe was drawn with static printout pages. Now, when you add a navigation bar you can link everything so you're moving from a rough layout to essentially a website prototype before you've done any design.

It exports to HTML, Word, or Excel, which can be shared and added to.

It's becoming much more collaborative. A new beta feature called AxShare, allows you to upload an Axure document and it'll generate an HTML file and allow people to add discussion notes. Your designer, client, content providers, and programmers can all comment, so everything comes together easier, and it saves wheel spinning at design and development.

We haven't had any major glitches. Axure has a discussion forum that helps you work through issues. You can also email them.

How does it serve your business needs?
It helps clients envision a site without distracting them with design. It's very easy to fall in love with a cool design and not think through functionality. Axure helps ensure everyone is very clear on project scope, content, and functionality.

A clickable prototype provides a nice comfort factor for clients before they spend a lot of money on design.

Also, it allows us to do usability testing before the design is done. It's great if a client has an idea for a complicated site and they want to beta test internally to get an idea of how people will use it and how they can improve it. In some cases, usability testing can help us formulate better rationale for an approach for the client.

How does it integrate with your existing infrastructure from an IT standpoint?
It runs on the desktop.

What are the main benefits?
It provides clarity on project scope and details.

Cost savings. You work through content and layout issues before you go to design and development.

What are the main drawbacks?
It's designed for information architects, so problems can arise if someone who maybe shouldn't be using it gets too involved. For more sophisticated projects, the tool doesn't make you into a professional information architect, just as a circular saw doesn't make you a carpenter. You have to get skilled at it, like most tools.

What would you like to see improved/added?
The site outline that's generated doesn't create a flow chart or map. Instead, you have to draw the map manually. I'd like automatic drawing of a site map that we could then modify.

We're looking forward to the collaboration tool expansion. There's a discussion area for an entire page, but it would be nice to talk about individual elements and have the ability to add an email chain so collaborators know when someone updates a page.

Competition
Microsoft Visio – provides diagramming tools.

OmniGraffle – a diagramming application for Mac.

Adobe Muse (currently in beta) – allows users to design and publish HTML without writing code.

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