Creating High Fidelity Prototypes for Desktop Applications

31 Mar 2013 - 7:43pm
3 years ago
5 replies
2768 reads


I'm a design student looking for recommendations for an application/software (or any other method) that would allow me to create a high fidelity desktop application prototype for the purposes of demonstration and testing. Unfortunately I can't code :(

Right now I'm using Axure but it's got it's limitations since it's best suited for web and mobile.

For instance, the background image I have right now is a screen capture of my entire desktop with the menubar; all the interactions would just float on my "desktop".....but the problem with this scenario is that all the browser chrome is still visible.

Greatly appreciate any help or recommendations!





1 Apr 2013 - 4:34pm

In my group at Microsoft, we use a combination of Photoshop or Illustrator with Power Point or Keynote to build interactive prototypes.  We're also planning on trying Adobe's new prototyping software. I think it's called "Edge".

Callie Neylan

1 Apr 2013 - 8:13pm
parus sheopuri

Hi Sally,

Depending on the kind of interactions involved in your testing scenarios, you could potentially use Adobe Fireworks.

Firewoks allows for hot spotting, rollover effects etc

2 Apr 2013 - 2:35am

I honestly think you are using the correct tool already, but perhaps are not approaching it in the right way. Axure will allow you to build logic and view states that you will not be able to achieve with interactive PowerPoint, Keynote or PDF prototypes. It allows you to think like a programmer without having to know programming or markup languages. I would actually say that Axure is pretty agnostic when it comes to what you are prototyping for, whether that be a mobile device, web app or desktop app. If you are not able to find the UI toolkit necessary to build you app in readily available libraries on the web, then it gives you the flexibility to design your own.

The problem you have highlighted can surely be easily overcome by presenting your prototype in full-screen mode with the browser chrome hidden? You might even be able to force it to load in this state if you are sending it to others to view with very little effort.

2 Apr 2013 - 9:20am

It depends on what kind of fidelity you are looking for. If you want high visual fidelity but low interactive fidelity, then tools like Photoshop/Fireworks can work for that, perhaps with the addition of other hacky approaches like using PowerPoint or Keynote.

If you want high interactive fidelity (without coding), then you will want something like Axure, Indigo Studio, or Justinmind. 

You can also use tools like these together. For instance, I was just talking to someone who is using Fireworks for the visual fidelity and using Indigo Studio to make it interactive.

There's also the question of information fidelity (content/data) and logical fidelity--how well does it reflect a working rule set. If you want that kind of fidelity, you'll want to opt for a tool that supports it.

The drawback in going too far with hi fidelity is you invest a lot in a prototype, and all those things that make changing "real" software expensive and undesirable start to kick in. You spend so much time on them, it is both practically harder to change and emotionally harder to change. Good enough should be, in most cases, what you go for. IMO. ;)

5 Apr 2013 - 8:27am

I use Axure for prototyping desktop applications - and have found some very successful methods of doing so. i have just created a Axure meetup - we will be meeting using google hangout - until the group grows large enough - but the theme of the group is rapid prototyping. If you are interested in joining - I will dedicate the first meeting to prototyping desktop applications best methods: 


Please  invite friends, this is free  - and meant to help the UX prototyping community.

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