Axure: Mac to Windows and Back

I’ve recently been testing how well Axure RP handles project files that are moving back and forth between Mac and Windows.

The initial results have been pretty exciting. All the interactions and conditional layers added on one platform are preserved when editing the project file on the other platform.

Since Axure released version 5.6 for Mac in April this popular prototyping tool can now be used by teams that are split between Mac and Windows users — perfect for a team in which the visual designers use Macs while the UX folks and developers use Windows. Shared projects can be accessed by both platforms for file versioning and page check-in/check-out.

Below are screen grabs from Mac OS X 10.5 and Windows 7. These are from the Movable Web reference project I’m building that will attempt to implement as many of Axure’s features as possible on a fictitious website/blog focused on mobile applications. More on that later this summer.

Axure’s license is user based and allows two installs, which is how I use it on Mac and Windows 7. And the license includes a 30-day free trial so you can test drive it before committing to a purchase. If you are a student with at least a 3.0 GPA you can get a free license through Axure’s Good Student Program and UPA members also can get a discount.

Axure RP 5.6 for Mac
Axure RP 5.6 for Mac
Axure RP 5.6 for Windows
Axure RP 5.6 for Windows

Do Your Reviewers Have a Sense of Humor?

Be wary of what you let your customers say, they may just have a real sense of humor. If your site allows consumer reviews — and what credible site doesn’t these days — you may just have to be prepared for people armed with a odd sense of creativity and a little too much free time on their hands.

Case in point: one very funny review for fresh whole rabbit in the Amazon.com grocery section.

I’m not sure if P. Breakfield IV of Greenville, SC, actually thought he was ordering a cute fuzzy bunny from Amazon, but his review was even funnier than Amazon using their site to push food items like fresh rabbit meat and wild boar tenderloin. Amazon has collected some funny reviews from the site, but their content team missed one of the funniest I’ve ever read.

Fresh Whole Rabbit Review on Amazon.com
Fresh Whole Rabbit Review on Amazon.com

A Fun UX Quotes Site

I came across this little gem the other day — UXQuotes.com.

There’s nothing like a clean, concise quote from a noted designer or thinker when you need a short and sweet line to explain why we do what we do. Of course we all hope to work for an organization that already “gets it”, but whether you do or don’t it never hurts to have a little ammo in the back pocket for when someone challenges the need for dedicated UX resources. Another good quote source is the Pithy Design Quotes on the Society for Technical Communication’s website.

Enjoy…

UXQuotes.com
UXQuotes.com

Design Tools for iPad

Apple’s iPad has been out only a few weeks and already clever software developers are building design tools for this amazing new platform.

The Omni Group, makes of the popular OmniGraffle wireframing tool, have released OmniGraphSketcher for iPad. Priced at $14.99 in the iTunes App Store, OmniGraphSketcher allows you to create attractive charts, graphs, and other data visualizations on the iPad.

And Endloop, a Canadian iPhone/iPad development company, has released iMockups, a wireframing and diagramming tool for the iPad. Available on iTunes for $9.99, the app allows designers to create Balsamiq-like wireframes using their fingers.

I haven’t used iMockups but Endloop says in its blog that upcoming features include snap-to grid lines, a border and background color picker for UI controls, improved customization of UI controls, additional UI controls, more icons, and the ability to export to email, XML, or PDF. iMockups gets a 3-and-half-star rating from users in the iTunes store and the few reviews there comment about the app not being 100% ready yet.

It will be interesting to see how OmniGraphSketcher, iMockups, and other diagramming apps for the iPad add to the collaborative design process. For now I’m still keeping my sketchbook handy, but this could be the first wave of exciting new additions to the interaction design toolbox.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOyIVqJcGfc]

Google’s 3D View of NYC

Google is once again using its technology to allow us to explore our world in new and exciting ways, this time helping New York City tourism promoters create 3D tours of selected parts of the city. In a marriage of high-resolution 3D streetview photography and digital maps of New York, Google’s partnership with NYC & Company gives us a glimpse into the future of immersive, exploratory experiences.

Using the Google Earth API and the new hi-res images, NYC & Company has added the 3D tours to the interactive wall and table displays at its information center. The 3D fly-throughs also are available on your desktop in Google Earth.

For more information, see Google’s case study.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4k2_HHrk8Y8]

Status Messages Don’t Have to Be Dull

Amazon iPhone App Cart
Amazon iPhone App Cart

It’s a cardinal usability heuristic that status messages on your website need to be clear in communicating the current state of whatever task the user is engaged with and tell them where they can go from there. But that doesn’t mean they need to be dry and dull as if Mr. Spock was doing your copy writing.

Amazon’s iPhone app offers a playful take on the standard “you have 0 items in your cart” message seen on many ecommerce websites. Since it’s obvious the cart is empty (because there’s nothing in it), Amazon uses the occasion to suggest you give your cart a “purpose” by filling it with books or CDs. It adds an element of personality at a point in the experience in which it’s OK to be playful.

You wouldn’t use this tone if a customer’s order was canceled 10 days before Christmas because the product they purchased is out of stock and cannot be back-ordered. Nor would you use it if a consumer is in a dire situation they need to recover from, like not being able to find their previously made hotel reservation when trying to confirm it online. But in no-stress situations like the obviously empty cart more websites and mobile apps could use a little bit of personality.

A Delightful iPad Experience

With the launch of the iPad a few days ago we’ve been bombarded with countless commentaries and critiques of the user experience and potential new business models made possible by Steve Jobs’ “magical” new product. But sometimes you just have to sit back, relax, and watch someone totally engage with a product to remember why it is we UX designers live to create great experiences — we do it because it’s just plain fun.

A video surfaced on YouTube this week of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl playing with an iPad while her dad asked her to do different things. The dad, Todd Lappin, on whose telstarlogistics YouTube channel the video first gained attention, wrote that his daughter likes to play with his iPhone, but that this was her first iPad experience. While she clearly enjoyed herself, she also stumbled in a few places based on her previous experience with different devices (and who hasn’t seen that before).

The joy in this is seeing her complete immersion in the moment. She’s happy and excited not because of great UX or technical accomplishments, but because she’s having fun. It’s a great reminder of why we get up every day and do what we do.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT4EbM7dCMs]

iPad Prototyping Tool

Teehan+Lax, the awesome team that brought us the iPhone GUI prototyping PSD, has stepped up again with their iPad GUI PSD.

I used their iPhone GUI PSD about a year ago in an HCI graduate class project and was able to create some very polished comps that our project team used for medium-fidelity prototype testing once we glued the printouts of the app to iPhone shaped foamcore cutouts. I won’t be standing in line Saturday waiting for an iPad, but I know where I’ll be turning if the opportunity comes along for an iPad design project. Enjoy!

iPad GUI PSD
iPad GUI PSD

FRONTLINE Probes Evolving Digital Nation

PBS’s FRONTLINE recently took a fascinating look at our evolving online culture in a film that explores the pros and cons of the brave new media world we all inhabit. The film, titled Digital Nation, challenges assumptions about the negative effects of digital culture on childhood learning while also questioning if we even understand the social changes wrought by our always-online culture enough to render a verdict on the effects our virtual lives are having on society.

Showing a more optimistic attitude, Philip Rosedale of Second Life argues that in the last 50 years we have gone from movies shared in theaters to movies shared by a small at-home VCR audience to movies enjoyed solo on our iPods to a new social experience in which we can be physically alone but still communicating in real-time with many others via Facebook posts and Twitter feeds (remember the CNN/Facebook/Obama inauguration?). Have we come full circle and is the technology that once separated us now advancing to the point it can bring us back together, albeit in new ways? Great questions indeed. Answers TBD.

The film is available free online at PBS.org. A trailer is provided below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6PRIGW6pqA]

New Mobile Features for United and Target

United Airlines and Target last week both introduced new mobile features for smartphones, becoming the latest national brands to try and increase customer loyalty with time and money saving mobile features.

With United Mobile Check-in you can have your boarding pass sent to your mobile device via email for some itineraries. No printing is needed. According to United’s website, once you receive your boarding pass, you can scan the barcode on the screen at airport security checkpoints and at the gate during boarding.

The service is currently limited to eight airports: Chicago O’Hare, Dallas – Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco and Washington Dulles. United said they plan to expand the service to other airports. If there is a seat change, upgrade or change in departure gate, your boarding pass can be refreshed to display the new information.

Target meanwhile introduced mobile coupons last week.

Target claims it is the first major retailer to send scannable coupons to cell phones, although there have been other coupon sites offering mobile coupons in the last year, including Cellfire, Coupon Sherpa and Yowza.

To enroll in Target’s mobile coupon program, you can register at Target.com or text the word “COUPONS” to 827438.

The service sends text messages with links to a Web page that features various coupons. CNET reported that the program works with any phone that has a mobile browser and data plan for Internet use.

Target reportedly will replenish coupons as they expire, and the coupons are good at any Target store but not at Target.com.

JCPenney announced last year it was partnering with Cellfire to pilot a scannable mobile coupons program at 16 stores in the Houston area.

The timing of the mobile coupon offerings takes advantage of growing use of mobile devices to access the internet. Industry publication Internet Retailer reported earlier this year that online coupon redemption increased 360% in 2009 over the previous year, indicating consumers’ appetite for discounts is exploding just as more people are embracing the mobile internet for shopping.

Target Mobile Coupon Signup
Target Mobile Coupon Signup
Target Coupon Confirmation
Target Coupon Confirmation
United Mobile Check-in
United Mobile Check-in