Paul McAleer

The UX of Creating UX

Paul McAleer

A short while back on Twitter, I stated my desire to see a wireframing tool from Panic. You know Panic, the people up in Portland who write amazing Mac software, right? Coda, arguably the best HTML editor on the Mac?

I thought I’d explain my tweet a bit. Here’s the deal. I use OmniGraffle nearly exclusively, and think Keynote is a reasonable alternative. Axure is a nice tool, but the UI is an uncomfortable hybrid of OS X conventions and Windows conventions and I’m hoping I’m not the only person working in UX who is sensitive to this.

It comes back to the tasks that I need to do when prototyping and wireframing, and unfortunately not any one tool excels at all of them.

  • For raw wireframes, OmniGraffle is very good but it occasionally feels like I’m just using a souped-up PDF editor. Keynote and Axure have way better placement tools, in my experience.
  • To annotate wireframes, OmniGraffle is a huge pain in the ass. There are some scripts and tools on the web to assist, but it’s not an automatic thing. It needs to be. Axure has the spirit of this down pat.
  • For interactions, OmniGraffle is super basic: one can show/hide layers and switch canvases, or run AppleScripts, but that’s it. It’s not sufficient for clickable prototypes. Axure wins big here.
  • If you (unfortunately) need to produce giant spec documents, OmniGraffle offers nothing. Axure can do this and do it relatively painlessly - that’s a huge bonus.

While UX isn’t a new discipline, we’re woefully behind in tools. Now, everyone figures out their own workflows and what’s best for them. What I’m saying is that my workflow - the user experience of creating a user experience - is not optimal.

Why did I call out Panic? As mentioned at the outset, they make beautiful software. The UIs are Mac through-and-through, and there’s obvious love and care put into their stuff. Sometimes it’s a subtle animation, sometimes it’s copy, but it always adds up to a great experience. And that’s what I want. I want my experience to be streamlined, simple, and straightforward so I can focus even better on my work.