Nowadays there is a great variety of interface design tools available on the market. Most of them have some great characteristics, but they certainly cannot satisfy every possible need. A web developer often has to make a choice depending on the requirements of a specific project. I will try to simplify this difficult decision by enumerating the main properties of a most helpful interface design tool.
Usability is the most important trait of a good user interface design tool
Quite logically, an instrument whose role is to design and test the usability of a user interface, should be easy to operate itself. Usability of a user interface design tool comprises a number of features, such as intuitive design, that is for example, a web-developer can expect the navigation buttons to perform the same functions as they would in any other application. A good user interface design tool is, therefore, easy to learn and operate when one encounters it for the first time. This is particularly handy for users that are involved in the user interface design process but do not have knowledge of web-development or web-design. A sophisticated design of the tool may lead to time-expenditures which are unnecessary and wasteful.
A good user interface design tool provides the necessary functionality
At times a web-developer may want to create a low-fidelity wireframe, discuss it with the client and proceed to implementation after that. At other times, some intermediate stages would be needed. A good interface design tool should give users a chance to choose how detailed their design can be. The best way to achieve that is a certain number of pre-designed elements available in the library, with a possibility to reuse them as well as import new ones if needed. Grouping elements and saving them as a new template can be a great time-saver for complex and large websites with repetitive design. In addition to producing and duplicating elements the user should be able to easily modify and remove them.
Another small but significant feature that accounts for functionality of a user interface design tool is gridline or automatic alignment of elements. While it seems like a minor detail, it arranges elements that are drag-and-dropped automatically and helps the design look neat without much effort.
A good user interface design tool enables teams to share projects and collaborate
Being able to share projects with others is increasingly important for web-developers working in a team. The possibility to work on a project together with the group without having to be in one location ensures speedy development. Some online interface design tools go even further in that they enable a team to work on a project remotely all at the same time. Not only do they not have to send each other the revised file, but also can they see what each of them is doing on the screen. This can be an excellent brainstorming opportunity at the very beginning of work on a new user interface.
A good user interface design tool produces wireframes which can be easily reviewed by clients
Let us imagine that a wireframe has been created and it is time to show it to the customer. Before sending the wireframe to the customer, it is important to make sure that he will be able to view it. Therefore, a good interface design tool should produce wireframes in the formats which are supported by a variety of applications. Ideally, interactive wireframes are viewed directly in web-browsers. Unless the web-developer works with only one client, whose browser preferences are known, wireframes should be viewable in all main browsers.
No doubt, one interface design tool cannot satisfy every need, which is why so many different tools exist in the first place. Using these simple rules of thumb can help web-developers to eliminate the ones that do not suit them as well as to consider their own needs and priorities for a convenient user interface design tool.
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