How to Begin with Next-Generation Website Prototyping?

31 July 2014

Liverpool: The existing toolset and accepted practices for producing UI and UX ‘deliverables’ have become discontented.

Building static mock-ups in Illustrator and Photoshop no longer captures the spirit of existing UI design. Similarly, developing wireframes and UX documentation in tools such as Axure appear to be in touch very little of how an app or site truly feels to use.

These tools are diminishing, confining the design to a series of static ‘states’, instead of communicating the dynamic, rich, immersive experience that we anticipate to put together.

For example, think about clicking on an item in a list view to make an information screen known. How is the list item organized? How does the new screen put up? What happens when we click to go back to the list view? How are latest items added to the list view?

Regardless of how many screen-state ‘snapshots’ you make, the vital character of current screen design is how UI elements switch from one state to another, and how innovative screen elements are brought on/off screen.

Animations and transition appear to be where the spirit of UI design now lies, as we switch to more spatial design arrangements.

It’s a space, not a page

Part of this is for the reason that interactive media are now becoming omnipresent, we no longer need to make reference to paper-based metaphors, such as ‘the page’ so as to make our interfaces user-friendly. Now, spatial metaphors for navigating content on screen are more helpful, and transitions depict in the language of animation.

But nearly all of the existing interactive designer’s toolset is not sufficient to discover, design and fabricate these interfaces.

Animation software can be employed to develop mockups and prototypes of interaction. Adobe Edge Animate, After Effects, even Flash, can be utilized to exhibit transition effects, which can be utilized to show transition effects, which can be output as videos, animated gifs or Flash files. However, these can be time consuming to put up, and while they might be fine at showing a specific UI transition effect, altering the parameters can also be an extremely labor intensive exercise. And certainly, once you have created a rich interactive UI demo, then you have to interpret all your interfaces and transitions into working code for your website or app.

Visual composition tools

It’s no shock that many of the tools that interactive designers are turning towards are visual multimedia containing tools, employed by video effect programmers and VJ’s.

The best known of these is Apple’s own visual programming tool Quartz Composer which – if you possess a Mac – you may already have on your computer, presuming you have Xcode installed.

(You will find it the Developer > Applications folder, or it can be downloaded as part of Xcode).

How does it Work?

Learning Quartz Composer can take some time but its node-based approach is sensible. Its visual depiction of a computational procedure may make it more comprehensible to designers, and it’s simple to tinker around with constraints and change the wiring of a composition.

With Origami, developing interactive mockups for mobiles and browsers is quite easy. It gives ready to use interface elements to build up the interactivity and functionality of your app, such as transitions, buttons, and text layers etc. It’s simple to alter the parameters of say a transition, so as to try out different effects.

Other node based tools for visual programming are also finding support from interactive designers.

One latest tool which looks appealing is Vuo, which is presently in beta.

Next-gen mockup and prototyping

Latest tools are being released which are meant specially at enabling interactive designers to prototype web sites and apps.

One of the finest of these is Briefs. It is a Mac-only tool very much oriented to the formation of apps for iPad and iPhone, though mocking up desktop apps is feasible too. As well as the main Briefs application for the Mac system, there is also an iOS app Briefscase, to let you to bring out your Briefs project to an iPad or iPhone so as to demo and allocate your mock-ups on a real device.

The top feature of Briefs is that it is not just a tool to demo functionality; it is in fact a great design tool, to aid put up good user interfaces in the tight screen space of a phone or tablet.

For an open source solution, look into Framer.js, an interactive prototyping framework to build UI mockups quickly.

Future tools for Development and Design

As stated above, all the tools featured so far might assist you think about and present the UI of the app or site you’re creating, but you are still faced with the job of executing the design.

This is possibly an even bigger difficulty when employing these tools than generating static wireframes and mockups: now you don’t just have to replicate the layout, you also have to apply the same functionality and the transitions.

There’s an dispute that designing in the browser is the top way to guarantee your comps are not writing cheques your code skills can’t cash.

However, there are some apps that can aid bridge the gap between production ready code and visualization.

RealTime Studio by Outracks, is a well executed IDE for visualization, nearly a mix between the node based tools such as Quartz Composer, and a timeline based tool such as Edge Animate.

As in RealTime Studio you can notice both the code and its visual depiction, both designers and developers can employ and comprehend it. Outracks utilizes its own language called Uno, similar to Java or Actionscript.

Another exciting new product is NoFlo which is a JavaScript implementation of Flow-Based Programming (FBP), separating the control flow of software from the actual software logic. Assisting you manage bulk applications simpler than customary OOP paradigms, particularly when importing and editing large data sets.

The NoFlo engine is open source and it is available for free. There is also a hosted version at Flowhub., which can be run either as a Chrome app or in the browser.

Flowhub and NoFlo give a commanding glance as to where flow based programming may take both visualization and development, and expectantly will build into the intuitive quick application development tool it intends to become.

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