Collaborative wireframing – to use, or not to use

When an Information Architect is working on a project, documenting wireframes should be easy to produce and easy to follow. However, throw several information architects into a large project, each working on a different aspect of the project and the documentation can be difficult to manage. This is especially true when all contributors need to access the same set of wireframes in order to carry out their design work.

This is often a dilemma on large scale development projects where several information architects are contributing to the one project. Choosing the most appropriate prototyping tool can alleviate potential problems. At UI Centric the tool of choice is Axure RP Pro, which allows multiple pages within a single Axure file to be accessed at the same time. The program allows pages to be “checked out” when required and “checked in” when amendments to a particular page have been completed. When checked out other page in the wireframe are not affected and allowing multiple contributors to continue working on the same file simultaneously.

Minor issues can arise when a page is checked out and when an attempt it is made to access it by another user. This occasionally happens when somebody on the design team is still working on a particular page when an attempt to access it is made, or similarly if a contributor forgets to check the page back in. As each user has an I.D. number, they can be identified as the program displays the I.D. of the user when the attempt to access it is made. This allows you to remind the user in question to check the document back in when they have stopped working on the page. As the size of the Axure document can be quite large in terms of pages and content, document management is important to track each change ensuring stakeholders are kept informed of any amendments that have occurred. It is also important to note that Master panels still possess their global change functionality in the overall file and any changes made to them will impact across the whole wireframe where they are in use.

Part of the Axure package is the sharing of wireframes online through their AxShare service. The facility offers secure, individual logins and facilitates wireframes discussions. The latter being a convenient feature to capture conversations in the one location as opposed to email, which can be fragmented when communication is coming from several different project contributors. However, some companies are reluctant to host their wireframes with a third party where potential company sensitive information is being shared and developed. The alternative is to store files on your local server, which is a better option when company confidential information is being discussed. This can be achieved by storing the Axure file on a network drive or an SVN for connecting to the wireframes remotely. To assist in setting up this facility Axure provides a tutorial on their website, http://www.axure.com/shared-projects.

When document control is exercised rigorously, collaborative working in Axure is an excellent facility allowing multiple contributors to work on the same project. For large scale projects it is an essential kit in the UX toolbox.

About the author

Fergus O'Callaghan

Fergus O'Callaghan

Information architect and user experience designer

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