The UX of Axure Part II

By | April 16, 2010

It’s been almost a month of using Axure.  It’s not all roses and sunshine, but it definitely is the best click-able prototype creation tool I have used.  With that said, it still leaves ALOT to be desired.  Here are some of the things that bug me on a daily basis.

Labels
Some background:  If you want to add interactivity to a page, you have to add onClick “cases” on the page.  The wizard looks like setting up a rule in Outlook.  One of the steps is to choose which thing you want to interact with.  Let’s say you want a tab to switch or a tree node to light up, you have to choose the object from a long list.  Here is the problem.  Everything starts off as “unlabeled”.  Which means when you are looking at the list, you can’t tell what is what.  If you want it to say something you have to “label” each and every object in your prototype.  This is horribly insane and problematic.  A much better solution would be to allow the user to click on the object he wanted on the page and it would automatically choose itself in the tree.

One of the worst parts about this labeling is in the tree.  Let’s say you make a tree to use on the left hand side of the page.  Each and every single node in the tree needs to be labeled independently.  This is pure stupidity.  What do you think I would label a node on the tree?  I would label is the exact same thing as the text in the node.  Here is a picture:

The entire labeling process sucks.  Suggestions are to “auto-label” or allow easier ways to click/hover to get what you want.

Selection Model
Let’s say you have a button and you move the button over an icon.  Then you realize you want to put the icon in front.  How can you click the icon.  In MS PowerPoint, this is simple.  You highlight the area around the icon, but not the button and it will just select the icon.  Now you can move it, or reorder it.  The selection model is:  Only select objects you encircle entirely, not partially.

Axure doesn’t use this model and it drives me nuts every day.  They use the model where you select every object that your selection box touches.  So if you barely touch an object you didn’t want, it gets selected too.  It’s possible Adobe Illustrator does this, but I have to confirm.  My suggestion is to switch to the PowerPoint way.  It’s much easier to get what you want and more natural for most users.

onLoad Initialization
There are a bunch of things you can do to “initialize” a page.  I use it to set the ON states for the global nav.  Right now, in Design-Time, you can’t see the initialization take effect.  You have to generate the entire project and view it in a browser to see it work.  I don’t know why they don’t have a button to “run onLoad cases now” which would make the screen look right while you are designing.  This seems like a really easy feature, but it would radically change how I use it every day.  I would generate the project into HTML alot less and get work done alot faster.

Modals
Some systems get “Modal Happy”.  It’s a dependency on using modal windows everywhere rather than direct manipulation.  Axure has modals on top of modals on top of modals several layers deep.  It’s a pure example of what NOT to do.  There is an alternative.  Axure doesn’t use its space very well.  There are navigation items taking up room and not nearly enough space utilized for manipulating settings.  I would seriously consider an exercise in Information Architecture to redo the workspace with an eye towards eliminating modals.  I think it can be done quite easily and really improve the speed that someone uses the system.  Modals are not verboten, but they can get way out of hand.  Axure crossed the line about 50 modals ago.

Tabs
Every time you open a page a tab opens.  Turns out this is impossibly annoying if you have more than 10 possible tabs to look at.  They scroll off the page and make finding them impossible.  So you end up using the navigation tree on the left to open up the right tab.  If this is what happens to most people, then just eliminate the tabs completely and use the navigation to open up the page. It’s just wasting space.

Summary
To be clear: I like the system so far and its better than the alternatives.  However, these little annoyances are borderline critical.  In other words, I am having a hard time justifying the time it takes to build a clickable prototype based solely on stupid stuff I have to do in the tool.  Storyboards are quicker.  I am still moving forward with this prototype, but its right on the bubble of “not worth it”.

3 thoughts on “The UX of Axure Part II

  1. Marcus Tucker

    I’ve been submitting constructive criticism to Axure for a couple of months now (easily at least 40 suggested improvements by now) and they have been very receptive indeed, saying that many of my suggestions are near the top of the list for inclusion in the next version (6) which is in development… I don’t think I’ve picked up on any of the issues you’ve mentioned though, so I’m sure they will be added to the list too!

    However, RE: Selection Model – actually both modes are already available, simply switch between them using the icons in the toolbar on the right of the zoom/100% dropdown!

    😉

    Reply
  2. Marcus Tucker

    PS – if you haven’t already emailed Axure a link to this article, then please do so!

    Reply
    1. Glen Lipka Post author

      Thanks Marcus. I will try that selection toggle. 🙂 Axure is pretty good about monitoring blog posts about them. I’m sure they will see it.

      Reply

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