Prototyping Tools Playoff

by on October 18, 2008

I must have followed (and contributed to) dozens of conversations about web prototyping tools over the years. Having skimmed through yet another thread on the topic this week (this time on one of the LinkedIn UX groups), pretty much the same pattern repeats itself. Some swear by Visio, others Axure. Some say Fireworks has no equal for the task. PowerPoint might also get a few fans. There is always somebody who declares that Omnigraffle wins hands down. Somebody then usually mentions iRise, sometimes Flash, and then perhaps we’ll get a left-field suggestion like Acrobat, Excel or some Photoshop plugin. Like all “what’s best” discussions though, it ends inconclusively, and usually on a tangent about something unrelated.

But what if we were to organise a playoff? A playoff would not determine the “best” tool (boring as is may be, I think that depends on circumstance), but it might throw up some interesting observations.  If nothing else, it would be fun to do.

The Task

Re-create an existing online application using the prototyping tool of your choice. The application will be web-based and chosen by the judge(s) so as to present contemporary “Web 2.0″ style interactions for the prototyping task. The winner is the person who, in the opinion of the judge(s), manages to re-create the reference application to the highest degree of fidelity so as to demonstrate as many of its features as possible without recourse to verbal or other explanation.

The Rules

1. Contestants can choose one (and only one) tool.

2. Contestants will have a fixed time limit to complete the task.

3. Contestants will be allowed to use the following tools outside of the chosen prototyping application: Notepad, Paint and the clipboard (or the equivalent for Macintosh).

4. Use of the application’s help files are permitted.

5. Contestants will not be allowed access to the Internet.

Of course, we couldn’t get too serious about the results: like all such “research” there would be flaws in the approach. However, I for one would be interested to see how somebody might sketch, say, the Flickr photo organizer, or the JumpCut movie editing interface, using Fireworks or Visio.

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