Visio - the interaction designer's nail gun?

Christina pointed to Henrik Olsen's article on using Visio to rapid prototype. The article talks about the process of using background pages and links to create clickable prototypes. I tipped this technique in the discussion of Dan's Visio article on B&A.

I've been using Visio 5 for the last 3 years (the pre-MS version) and doing quick prototypes for applications that way -- sad to say I'm afraid to ask my company to cough up the dough for an upgrade. Visio is a very worthy tool, and because of the entrenched Microsoft environment I work in, it is the tool of choice. Lately, however, I've found that using the Omni tools (Graffle and Outline) I can produce nicer diagrams exported as PDF. I have also been looking at Inspiration for OS X, anything to be able to use my TiBook more and my ThinkPad less. But I'm not sure I can do it all yet with these Visio alternatives -- especially using background-pages to create global elements and exporting an entire project to create a click-through prototype. If I figure out how to do it, I'll write about it. If someone else can do it, tell me about it.

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Concept Draw 2.0 coming this fall.

Or at least that's what they tell me.

If the developers of Concept Draw fulfill the expectation, the newer version coming this fall will be very cool, and cross-platform (as it is already).

CD already handles PDF export pretty well (the files are just a little huge), with clickable links and everything. It doesn't, however, very easily handle repeatable background elements... you have to assign them to a layer, lock the layer, then copy and paste into a new page, in which you have to assign to a layer and lock the layer all over again :-(.

It's a little clunky now, but I've been told it is in for a total revamp for 2.0, with more photoshoppish palettes, controls, etc.

That said, I've almost given up on using it for a while, at least until I see what 2.0 has to offer. It's gotten to be too buggy for me in OS X, and I end up using the very smooth but not as complex OmniGraffle and PowerPoint.

andrew hinton ::

Background pages

I'm of the opinion that there is not going to be an IA tool that serves all IA problem solving and is able to produce all the deliverables we need to produce. All the different tools at our disposal serve different purposes well. It really doesn't matter to me what I use whether it's a PC, Mac or Unix, Omni, ConceptDraw, Illustrator, Visio or whatever. That said, I will definitely demo CD when the next version comes out. :)

I've used background pages in Visio for a few years and have been trying to use background layers in OmniGraffle for the past year. As much as I hate to say it, I'm convinced that Visio is still the best tool for producing clickable rapid prototypes. I don't find that I need to create them so often. I usually just end up making static wireframes and making PDFs out of them or drop them into Word. I've actually asked OmniGraffle if they could add background pages, but they opted for layers in v.2. So I'm using different tools depending on what suits the project problems best.

It's good to be tool agnostic in this way, in my opinion, and to be able to adapt to a new tool quickly. The important thing is just to communicate your solutions quickly and well.