Posts Tagged "Axure"


There’s a new video series in town and it’s the only one in English from an Axure-recommended trainer.

Our Axure 8 video series is now live and available for purchase! It’s been a secret, but last year, we connected with O’Reilly to write and create a video series to each Axure 8. It’s finally out today!

It’s only $149.99 USD and is available as a streaming video or DVD. It’s 16 chapters, 79 lessons, and over 9 hours of content. Pause as you need to and work along with me!

Visit http://pty.pe/ax8-video-course to hit O’Reilly’s page on this product and make your purchase.

Works for Axure 7 too!

Axure 8 has some new features that aren’t in 7. The UI of the program is also a bit different. But if you are on Axure 7, you’ll be able to use the techniques in nearly all of my lessons. A few lessons won’t be relevant to Axure 7, but nearly all will.

Enjoy and spread the word!

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Hello, Canadians! We are one of the few Axure-recommended trainers on the planet. We have already been training some Canadians, but we figured we’d shout it out publicly since we are getting more and more interest from your country.

We can train Canadians in a variety of ways… pick the one that works best for you or your team.

  • Live and on site. We will fly to you and run our usual curriculum or a custom training plan at your location. We charge a day rate plus reimbursement for travel expenses.
  • Live and online, remotely. We use Join.Me or can use your remote conference setup for training individuals and teams. We charge by the hour only for hours needed. No travel expenses! No VAT since this is a service taking place in the USA.
  • Live at one of our classes. We hold multi-day prototyping workshop intensives in San Francisco a few times a year. You can register and fly in for our Axure training. No VAT since this is a service taking place in the USA.

Please contact us and tell us about your specific training needs so we can put together a proposal. Proposals are free and there is no obligation.

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There are outside companies and people that offer libraries you can bring into Axure. These widget libraries might be free and some are paid.

I’ve been shocked to see that some free and paid ones are poorly constructed (and I’ll explain how momentarily). I’ve asked Axure what they do when they see someone create a “bad” library. They told me they contact that person and suggest they improve it. They said very often, that person doesn’t improve the library… they just lower the price (or keep it free).

That means there are BAD Axure libraries out there. Libraries I don’t like. Libraries Axure doesn’t like. I’m going to pick on one as an example of what makes a library bad and why you’d want to not buy it (or ask for your money back if you see something like this in a library for which you paid).

Global Widget Styles

For years, Axure has had a handy feature that allows you to create global visual styles for lines, shapes, buttons, text, backgrounds, etc… That way, if you want all of your buttons to look the same, you apply one global style. If someone decides later to change the way that button looks, you just change the global style and they all fall into line.

The opposite of this is styling things manually in Axure, widget by widget. Going to a button and manually choosing font size, colour, background colour, outline colour, etc… If someone later wanted all your buttons to be another colour, you’d have to find each button and change it by hand.

Using global Widget Styles makes sure you are never in that pickle!

Some Axure Libraries Don’t Use Widget Styles

Using Axure widget styles can future proof things and make styling so much faster and easier. Yet I find that many people don’t know about widget styles. Still, that’s not excuse for offering and in some cases selling a library that uses no styles.

Here is an example of a library produced by someone who isn’t me and isn’t Axure.

ScreenHunter_1095 Oct. 11 12.19

This looks like a nice button you might want to use over and over. It’s set up to be a blue button and it has a mouseOver style and mouseDown style (see the middle of the right side for those styles).

However, we can also easily see that it’s not using global widget styles. We know this three ways:

  • With the button selected, look at the top left for the droplist that shows which global style is on this button. NONE. It says “default.” That means this button is not using a global style.
  • Look to the right in the middle pane to see the Interaction Styles. MouseOver shows hexadecimal codes. If there were a global style there, we’d see the name of it. Under that is the MouseDown style. We see manual formatting like does it have a shadow and what are hexadecimal codes for colouring. Not a global style.
  • Open the Widget Style Editor (pictured below). Notice there are NO custom styles. That’s because the guy who built this library built NO global styles.

ScreenHunter_1096 Oct. 11 12.25

If you drag this blue primary button all over your project and then decide later you want the button to be another colour, get ready to go through your whole document, find each button, and change the styling manually. Want to change those interaction styles later for every time you used this button? Find every button and change it manually.

I can’t believe someone can sell that or give it away.

That’s not fair to you. At that point, what have they really built? They’ve made something worse than you could have made yourself. What’s the point! How long would it take to fix? Probably a few hours.

This is not just in this library. It’s in others as well. I would either forget about these “bad libraries” OR make sure you first spend what could be hours to redo all the manual styling as global styling. Why the guy who made the library wouldn’t do that, no idea. But just because he’s lazy and doesn’t believe in best practices doesn’t mean you should follow along! Be and do better!

What would it look like if this were done correctly?

How can you know if a library item is using global styling (potentially correctly)? See this screen shot:

ScreenHunter_1097 Oct. 11 12.27

Here’s I’ve applied three global styles to this button. One is the button in its default state (Primary Button, seen in the droplist on the top left). The others are the MouseOver and MouseDown seen on the right side, one style for each.

And then you’d want to see secondary buttons styled separately. Headlines styled separately. Text styled separately. Warnings and messages styled separately. Everything in Axure can have global styles. It’s nearly a crime to not use them. It’s doubly a crime to not use them and sell what you made to others as some sort of awesome starting point.

Buyer beware!

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We train people on Axure. We are one of the few trainers recommended by Axure on the planet! And proud of it.

There are other trainers, recommended or not. Sometimes we take a look at their lesson plans… and we’re always surprised by them.

It looks like trainers believe they must teach you every key thing Axure can do in one day. Given how much Axure can do, this is likely to cover too much too narrowly in too short a time.

Typically these curricula claim that in one day, you’re going to learn the environment, masters, dynamic panels, forms, variables, conditions, Axure “logic,” widget libraries, adaptive views, and Repeaters. Can that really be done? If you’re coming from a development background, you might be able to learn nearly all of Axure in one day.

Most of the people I’ve trained the past few years aren’t developers.

Why not? Because developers figure out Axure well on their own and generally need little training. The people who come to me for training were sometimes confused by Axure the moment they opened it. They don’t have a programming background. They often have art backgrounds and haven’t had to think of things in terms of logic or processes where the order of things matters.

I’m not saying that all art school people have a hard time with Axure. Some fall into it easily! Many don’t, and that’s OK; it’s why we’re here.

We teach you how to think like a programmer and stay a designer.

We’ve broken core Axure training into eight lessons that take 1.5 – 2 hours each. We start with understanding the software environment (menus, panes, toolbars). We fully cover masters and Widget and Page Styles, which are life savers. We then go into forms using standard Axure widgets and forms when you’ve custom designed the elements.

Not only is that a great lesson for people who like higher fidelity prototypes but it’s also a core skill that you’re going to use in many of our following lessons. Once you can build a custom droplist from scratch, you’re on your way to nav menus, mega menus, accordions, and other standard elements that use similar approaches.

We teach progressive disclosure, setting text, beginner-level variables, and iFrames. We hit adaptive views at the end but don’t go too deeply into prototyping for mobile. That and other lessons like having Axure do math and building “listeners” (automatically running processes) we consider to be add-ons for students after they’re comfy with the foundation lessons.

Nothing gets the quickie version when we teach it. Students are taught how to think out, step by step, each interaction they want to build. Rather than show you, “Here’s how to prototype a website,” we teach skills and approaches so that you can learn to make Axure do whatever you want.

We don’t teach you Repeaters unless you have a note from your doctor.

Repeaters are neato and powerful. They allow you to build “real” data into Axure (think mini Excel spreadsheet with text and/or images) that you can then manipulate. Pretty neat, right?

And also often unnecessary. We used it for an eCommerce prototype because the client insisted that when someone clicked “Add To Cart,” the EXACT item they chose showed up “for real” in the shopping cart. Would the prototype have been “worse” or harder to test if Lorem Ipsum showed up in the shopping cart?

Someone emailed us recently thinking he needed to learn Repeaters because he was going to have rows of data added, edited, and removed from an interface. Well, you could learn Repeaters but they’re rather complicated. Can this just be faked out? Can you have adding a row show a hidden row? Deleting that row removes it and moves the ones underneath up? And you only build certain rows to delete so that the prototype always looking like it’s perfect?

It will be faster and less hassle to build the “fake version.” It might even be fine for user testing. Consider saving your time and “faking” it instead of building Repeaters. Repeaters aren’t the wrong choice. They’re just a tough thing to learn for most people.

I tell students it will take you a half day to wrap your head around Repeaters and then most of the week to start to feel like you get them. I once taught them to a really sharp UX guy, who seemed to pick it up well. At the end of the week, I asked how it went. He said it took him a half day to wrap his head around it and most of the week to just get it to start to work they way he wanted.

Which means I have NO idea how people are teaching it fully as a small section of a full day workshop.

When choosing an Axure trainer, consider the background and comfort of students.

Are your students all developers? Then nearly any trainer will do. 🙂

Are your students artists, visual designers, UX practitioners, managers, business analysts, or product managers? You probably will want to look at Axure training that doesn’t try to pack it all in a day. You may think you are saving time and money on a one-day bootcamp or workshop. Ultimately, the real measurement of that is how much your students learn and how independent they feel after that class.

Our workshops are two full days. We also offer private training on your site or over the internet. Private training is customized to who your team is, what they need to know, and the pace at which they go.

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A question we get a lot is, “How do we create custom Axure widget libraries?” These are often for a company, a team, or a product.

If you’re more familiar with Omnigraffle than Axure, widget libraries are like stencils except they can be completely interactive. You can build custom droplists that drop, get selected, and slide back up. You can build accordions that expand and contract. You can build buttons with hover states.

Axure’s custom widget styles allow you to style text, buttons, shapes, backgrounds, and lines. In addition to their “default” versions, you can build mouseOver, mouseDown, selected, and disabled styles for each widget.

Widget libraries are self-contained files that can be shared and brought into any copy of Axure, Mac or Windows.

Custom Widget Libraries Save Time and Money

This makes a custom widget library a fantastic tool, especially where multiple workers are in the same file, on the same project, or would benefit from pre-made building blocks.

Instead of hoping that staff build things the same way as each other, grabbing elements from a library will allow for easier standardization.

What About Free and Paid Axure Widget Libraries?

There are free and paid widget libraries out there. Some aren’t so bad. But we’ve been surprised at the poor quality of some of the paid ones. Widget styles weren’t used correctly or at all, leaving you with extra manual work later. That’s money not well spent.

Curious about a custom Axure library and styles for your client, project, or company? Get together a list of your components and contact us for a free proposal.

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We take on projects where we are, as I call it, the “Axure pair of hands.” Someone has a design but they want to see it come to life in Axure. They know we’d be faster than they would be, and we’ll build a kick-ass file they can show off, maintain, or retire after its defined purpose(s).

One thing I’ve noticed about those projects is that they tend to run way longer than I anticipate. My estimates are off. We’re billing by the hour, yet the client isn’t bothered that it’s taking longer. What’s going on here?

For these projects, they are running way longer because the files the client sends us to put into Axure aren’t correct, approved, proofread, or finalized. We are getting files that aren’t quite ready. Once someone notices what’s wrong with them or the client comes back with more changes, the files are re-sent to us. We sometimes have to nearly completely rebuild the prototype with a whole new set of images.

We are typically getting these images as Photoshop comps or Sketch files with layers and groupings.

Lots of projects run long. How much longer are these running?

Without naming names, one project I was sure was 5 hours. They re-sent it so many times with so many changed comps that it took 25 hours. Another project I estimated at 10-15 hours. It ended up around 30 hours.

In both cases, these projects would have come in at or under my estimate if the (first) file we were sent truly were the completely done, no more changes, finalized file.

But we don’t mind!

Our clients know we are billing by the hour. And these clients often fall on their sword, apologizing for how many times they have sent changed files. All of these clients were grateful for how many changes we did and how quickly we did them.

Sometimes you don’t notice a mistake in a design until you see it brought to life in a prototype. That’s one of the many great benefits of adding prototyping to your UX process.

If you want to pay us extra to redo things that we didn’t get wrong, we will accept that payment. 🙂

This is also why we don’t quote a flat “project” price.

Projects are, by nature, unpredictable. An estimate of hours is always just that.

We usually look awesome by coming in at or under the hours that we estimated. Clients love that! However, in cases like these, the clients could have saved time and money by getting us “perfect” files, even if that meant delaying our part of the project until those files are ready.

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Surprise! We scheduled an east coast Axure bootcamp this year!

It will be a day and a half in downtown Philly. July 20 (all day) and 21 (half day), 2015.

Capacity is 19, so register ASAP to secure your spot. We find most jobs are willing to pay/reimburse for Axure training, so start hounding your boss.

There’s an early bird discount as well as discounts for teams of 2 or more registering together.

For all the details, please see our bootcamp page!

We’ll be on the east coast for private corporate Axure training. If you want some of that awesomeness, contact us for a custom proposal.

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After two successful Axure prototyping workshops in San Francisco so far this year, we have gone ahead and scheduled the rest of 2015. All in-person workshops will take place in downtown San Francisco.

Learn more about our two-day Axure prototyping workshops including links to register for each event.

We will also be offering live online classes you can take from anywhere in the world.

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Excellent Foundation For Working Efficiently

Attendees that were already using Axure have been pleasantly surprised with how many of our techniques will help them save time, effort, file size, and complexity. Come get a hands-on strong foundational knowledge of how to use Axure. Dump your newbie mistake habits!

Very Limited Capacity

In order to give people the most personal instruction and make sure everybody is following along, our in-person workshops will be limited to 7 seats per day. Come for one or both days.

We’ll do one two-day workshop per quarter. If the dates don’t work for you or the event you want is sold out, please consider bringing us in for private training.

2015 workshops will be May 14 and 15, July 16 and 17, and November 5 and 6 (piggy-backing on An Event Apart).

Axure For Everybody

Our attendees have been from consulting companies, agencies, and Fortune 500 companies. We welcome students, UX enthusiasts at all levels, as well as non-UX staff such as BAs, project managers, and product managers.

Fly In!

We have had people fly in from all over the USA for our Axure workshops. You can too! Our events are not limited to people who are local to the Bay Area of Northern California.

Can’t Fly In?

We have started scheduling series of online classes. Learn what we teach in our two-day workshops (and beyond) live and online. Join us from anywhere in the world! Learn more about our online class series.

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Once in a while, I meet someone who is unsure about using Axure or is unfamiliar with its strengths. Sometimes people will assume that Axure is good for one type of worker or project but not for another. So let’s take a look at where Axure shines, at least in February 2015. And I apologize that I’m so biased, but holy cats, I love Axure… and offer training on it.

You Only Need Axure

Some companies I’ve worked at wanted to do wireframes in Omnigraffle and then prototype in Axure. Or they like to do wireframes in Illustrator and annotate them in InDesign. Or they like flow charts in Visio, maybe some wireframes there, and make them clickable in InVision.

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.

Global Styles

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.

Iterate Faster

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.

Flexibility

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.

I’m a Fan!

I’m just an Axure fangirl. They may not be for everybody but I can’t think of a UX practice that would not benefit from Axure. From flow diagrams and wireframes (handled better than Omnigraffle, in my opinion) to clickable interactive prototyping, it’s a great and cost effective choice.

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