May 14th, 2008 by Rich Page
So you have some great ideas to test to help improve your website. Perhaps you want to test having a new page or site section for your website. The first step is to design a simple website wireframe (here is a good intro to website wireframing) for your idea. Problem is, you probably have limited design knowledge or skills (and no, MS Paint doesn’t count ), or your designers may be too busy because they are knee-deep in another more important project. All to familiar right?
What do you do to try and communicate your ideas? Sit and wait for the designers to become available? Probably not. Chances are you will probably try your luck at designing yoursefl what you want the pages to look like. And for the vast majority of us, this is not going to work out too well – its simply too hard to convey ideas easily. Being lucky in the sense that I am a web analyst with some design skills, I previously used Macromedia fireworks or Visio to draw basic site elements and shapes and print them out – with average success at communicating my ideas. I can imagine its even harder for non-design minded folk!
So whats the solution? Well, luckily, there has been a recent rise in some great website wireframe tools that not only let you design simple prototypes of new pages and site sections using limited design knowledge, but actually let you easily turn them into working, interactive wireframes, with built in specifications - the perfect vehicle for conveying your latest and greatest idea for a website test!
One of the wireframe tools that I have recently been impressed the most with is Axure. They have really done an excellent job at understanding the needs of web analysts like myself. Not only do they give you some great tools to help draw the basic outlines and features of pages and sites, with standard web elements like images, tabs, buttons and forms, but you can actually annotate your ideas with pops ups and easily turn them into seperate specifications documents – making it even easier to convey your ideas details. Then once you are done, its a breeze to turn your flat wireframe design into a living breathing prototype for your boss or anyone else to click around in real time. This makes it so much easier to communicate your ideas for testing to your peers and boss!
Here is the complete features list of the Axure, so you can see just how much better they compare against using more traditional graphics or diagramming tools. And before you ask, nope, Axure didn’t pay me to plug them. I did some research into what else is out there for website wireframing and there really are very few other tools out there that compare. Tools like Oversite and Jumpchart offer a few of these features, but really don’t get the mustard in comparison.
I suggest anyone that is involved with the analytics or marketing of webpages gets themselves a copy of this software – its not just for website architects! It will make you look like a genius and will help you get your ideas tested and implemented (and hopefully a payrise or bonus from the results!)