Review: The best wireframing tool yet? | Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice

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Paul Boag Posted by: Paul Boag On Thursday, 15th April, 2010

Review: The best wireframing tool yet?

When there are so many wireframe tools that help plan your website, finding the right one can be challenging. However, I think I have found a real gem.

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The estimated time to read this article is 5 minutes

Maybe your wireframe needs to be more interactive. Maybe you just want it to look more impressive for the client. Whatever the case, there are no shortage of tools that will do the job.

From web apps like Balsamiq and Mockingbird to desktop software like Omnigraffle or even Powerpoint, there is no shortage of ways to wireframe.

Each have their pros and cons but all seem to fall down in one fundamental way – It is hard to share your wireframes with the client. For example Mockingbird is a great wireframing tool, but clients who use IE cannot view them. Balsamiq suffers from a similar problem where wireframes can only be shown as images.

Balsamiq

These tools are all great for internal development. However, as a communication tool with the client they fail miserably.

However, while at SXSW I ran into a chap who has built a tool that overcomes this problem. The app is called Flairbuilder.

Present your wireframes to clients with ease

Like Balsamiq, Flairbuilder is an Adobe Air application. This means it is cross platform unlike many of my previous software recommendations.

Building in Flairbuilder is similar to other wireframing tool. It is quick, easy and fairly intuitive.

Flairbuilder

Things get interesting when you have finished and want to show the client. At this point you have a couple of options.

You can email the saved file to the client and tell them to open it using the Flairbuilder online viewer.

Flairbuilder free view application

Alternatively you can upload the finished wireframe to your own server and send the client a URL which automatically loads that file into the viewer. e.g.

http://www.flairbuilder.com/viewer/?url=http://www.boagworld.com/sample.fbp

Because the viewer is built in flash it is accessible to anybody with the plugin and provides a consistent viewing experience independent of browser or operating system.

However it isn’t just Flairbuilder’s sharing capabilities that makes it so good. It is also the functionality of the application itself.

Everything you would expect and more

Flairbuilder does everything you would expect from a wireframing application. You can add, edit and remove pages. You can insert boxes, text, form elements and other screen objects. These can be dragged around the page and edited to your hearts content.

However, Flairbuilder is not designed primarily as a static wireframing tool. It is designed as a powerful prototyping application. Elements are not static. You can add events to them in order to make them interactive.

We are not just talking about linking pages together either. In Flairbuilder it is possible to…

  • Show and hide elements
  • Display popup windows
  • Create carousels and slideshows
  • Build working tabs
  • Insert usable accordions

The list goes on.

In short Flairbuilder is the most powerful wireframing tool I have yet to encounter.

A reasonable price

What makes it even more amazing is the price. Admittedly it cannot compete with Mockingbird which is currently free. However, for the additional functionality you get over something like Balsamiq (priced at $79) the $99 price tag seems very reasonable.

Any drawbacks?

With me heaping all of this praise on Flairbuilder you might be under the impression I am being paid for this review. I am not. The creator did give me a free copy, but he did so without ever asking for anything in return. The reason I am writing this review is because I am honestly impressed with the product.

However, it does have one drawback. It can become slow when dealing with large wireframes. When you start adding in a lot of imagery (not something one often does with wireframes) it seems to slow the whole system down considerably. This can prove very frustrating at times.

An image heavy wireframe

That said, a recent update seems to have gone some way to improving the problem and I am sure more updates will follow shortly.

Finally, if I was being super picky I would say the application has a small learning curve when you start. This is hardly surprising with so much power under the hood. However, this could prove problematic if you are new to such tools.

Do I recommend Flairbuilder?

So do I recommend this application? Absolutely. At least, I do if you want a tool that can build complex wireframes and prototypes that need to be viewed by a wide range of people.

If on the other hand you just need something simple for your own reference then a free product like Mockingbird maybe the way to go.

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