On the Recent Explosion of Prototyping Tools

Khoi Vinh, now Prinicpal Designer at Adobe, on “Where We Are Today with Prototyping Software:”

Prototyping as a craft, or even as a subset of the craft of user experience design, is still young enough that it would be premature for us to try and settle a winner in the short term. This somewhat awkward, highly formative stage in which we basically get a brand new prototyping app every month or so is actually one of those rare necessities that feels like a luxury. All these independent attempts at figuring out how this new discipline should work are good for our craft, not to mention tons of fun, and there’s no reason it has to end soon. Barring a butterfly flapping its wings the wrong way on a trading floor in China, it may in fact turn out to be a good long time until we need to declare a winner at all in this space. To be sure, a winner will be crowned eventually—that’s capitalism, folks—but until then, it’s a wonderful time to be a designer.

It’s definitely an awesome time to be a designer. So many tools at our disposal, plenty of which are edging out old tools and ways of working. Even more so in the prototyping space that contend with a variety of priorities, from speed, to workflow, to the flexible, to the code-ready and more.

At the moment and due to the projects I’m helping with, InVision is the tool I’ve been using the most and I love it. Yes, stitching pages together may seem like a pain sometimes, but this practice actually helps out flush every single interaction, at least as far as static web applications go. Not to mention, they’ve been constantly improving on the product and adding new functionalities for the way designers and product teams work. But, I do see that this is only one method, ideal for this particular project, and like any other, has its own limitations. But this is the very reason why I think this era of design tools is exciting: paradigms are being challenged and there are tools that exist depending on your need, taste, resources, and constraints.

Especially with the rise of mobile and smart devices, and with new interface guidelines being carved with each new OS version (i.e. Apple iOS 9 and Google Material Design), tools would have to improve parallel to the technologies we have today and those that are yet to come. But the best part? When before we had to stick to only a select few tools and were forced to adjust our processes to these few, now we can take our pick and see which one matches the projects we’re working on best and variables each of us have. The tools still define our workflows, but we have more power and freedom than ever.

This will constantly change and there will be lots of trial and error and learning in the process, but that’s exactly what we need as designers: we have to constantly challenge our own ways of doing and thinking while remaining fresh and dynamic because the things that we work on, just like the people we design for, are constantly evolving.

As for prototyping tools, there is no one right answer. The right one is what gets the job done for your team, and ships the right product for your user.

 
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