What is your dream IxD software setup?

16 Jan 2012 - 8:05pm
4 years ago
5 replies
1484 reads
Mathew Sanders

I'm joining a new startup in 2 weeks (yay!) and have been asked to choose (within limits) what software I want to use, what would you choose and why?

I'm used to sketching in pen+paper then moving to hig- fidelity wireframes with omnigraffle but I'm thinking of adding Adobe Catalyst to the mix (to prototype rich interactions & transitions) and Fireworks for production graphics (buttons etc) which since it's a start up I will also be responsible.

What would you choose, and why?

Cross-posted from Quora: http://www.quora.com/What-is-your-dream-IxD-software-setup/


17 Jan 2012 - 5:40am
Jo Packer

I work at a music startup - songkick.com. I use pen and paper a lot to generate, explore and communicate ideas and concepts fast, so great you already have that in your tool box. I also run sketching hacks to work on ideas and feature with developers, product managers and QA. Often we go straight from sketch to code and iterate in the code. Sometimes we go from sketch to photoshop (with our design director), sometimes sketch to Hotgloo and use our component library. It all depends on the feature / stream of work.

Hopefully you will be collaborating a lot in small focused groups where using software only one person can edit might slow you down. I assume you'll be working in an agile environment where detailed omnigraffle wireframes probably won't be needed.

Here's some other design tools I find allow me to communicate design ideas fast. Often these designs serve as artifacts for discussions on front and back end options, what's possible in the time, what isn't going to add a mass of technical complexity. Not my dream set up but works for me at the moment.

1) http://www.hotgloo.com/ - When I move from sketch to basic interactions - it's cheap, fast and simple ($28 per month / 5 project / unlimited users)
2) Textmate - HTML/CSS/Jquery for more complex interations
3) Photoshop - to take screenshots of what is already there and add, delete, edit.
4) Keynote if I'm desperate and need a tool everyone already has.
5) Google docs - Drawing (yuck) and Documents

You'll also want tools to help you test out your ideas early and often with real and hopefully representative people. The expense of Morae maybe too much for a start up here's some other options.

1) Screen camera - To record face to face research sessions on our windows 7 machine - which we run at least once a month - pcwinsoft.com/screencamera / $50
2) Five second test / Usabillia / Verfiy app - for super fast feedback
3) Skype - for remote moderated sessions
4) Openhallway / What users do / Try my UI - for remote unmoderated videos using either people we have recruited ourselves or very occasionally using people recruited by those companies. You set it up and come in the next morning and there will be a few videos amongst the noise / technical issues which are really useful.
5) Clear left made this useful remote research decision tree http://www.flickr.com/photos/clearleft/4931570875/
6) Elizabeth Bacon also keeps a public Google Docs spreadsheet https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AiUefdff4crxcGMtTkFlRExtWUZ2ZUNSbEllak51RkE&hl=en#gid=0

17 Jan 2012 - 12:05pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus

My question would be, what gaps/issues in your current workflow are you trying to solve? IMO, there is no "ideal" toolset for design, it's personal preferences and choosing the tools that let you work in the most productive and creative way.

For me I use lots of paper, Copic pens and markers, sticky notes, OmniGraffle, Illustrator, Photoshop, TextMate for HTML/CSS/JS/Other Code, AfterEffects for motion prototypes, and lots of other tools depending on the project... 

I tried Catalyst and didn't like it.. it was limiting in places that I didn't like (i.e. it only outputs to Flash) and still more complicated than the tools I use now for doing things like interaction and motion. I generally find that all-in-one tools (Catalyst, Axure, etc) are okay as long as what you want to do is something they already do... they aren't great for open creativity or experimentation. They also tend to be really effort heavy and don't "get out of the way" when I want to get ideas out fast.

That's just my experience.. Some people love those tools.. and that's why it really is a personal preference. Try a bunch of stuff and see what works for you. Think about what things in your workflow could be better and try tools that fill those gaps... 


28 Jan 2012 - 7:43pm


I generally like to sketch out layouts + flow with pen and paper before heading to the computer. Think it helps generate better ideas and allows me to work quickly and freely compared to what I'd create digitally.

From there, I'll start creating a hi-fidelity prototype (often using iRise), to create an interactive simulation that's pretty much near the final output. I've found digital prototypes to be a lot more effective when talking with the rest of the team (Business, Development, etc.) and trying to solve problems around the design. Everyone can see exactly how it will look and function before it gets coded.

Tools I use:

- Pen and Paper (initial brainstorm and sketches)

- Photoshop/Illustrator (design of UI elements)

- iRise (fully-functional digital prototype)

I wrote an article a few months back reviewing some popular prototyping tools, could be worth checking. Some people left great recommendations in the comments.


Hope this helped, good luck in your search!


8 Feb 2012 - 12:34pm




8 Feb 2012 - 2:16pm

I'm basically a one-person shop and I work with a variety of contractors, clients, etc. For sketeching I use Balsamiq, for site maps and static wireframing I use Visio and for prototyping I use Axure. Axure is particularly nice in terms of sharing (more than one person can work on the same version).

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