Axure RP: Prototype Your Startup and Applications

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Axure logoPeople who know me and know how busy I already am, thought I was crazy to take on yet another gig writing here for Rev2. I took this job for the opportunity to meet great people and write for a great blog. Over the past week, I have done interviews with two great companies and have at least one more lined up for this week. The first one is Axure, with whom I met with on Friday.

Axure RP is a PC desktop application. Wait up. Hold the presses. This is a web 2.0 blog, so why is Jason writing about a desktop application? Well, let me tell you why. Axure is directly related and can be very useful to any web 2.0 start up. Axure is software that lets you rapidly prototype and create specifications for software including rich internet applications. In fact, through my consulting company I have been hired to help startups with user interfaces and we utilize Axure to prototype their interfaces and collaborate before they are sent to designers and programmers.

Axure ScreenshotOn Friday I met with Victor Hsu, one of the founders and the president of Axure, at a great Indian restaurant called Monsoon. Let me give you a little background on the company. It was founded in 2002 and is a privately held company. They are self funded and have been profitable for three years. The first version of Axure RP was released in January 2003. I asked Victor why Axure was founded. He used to work in a larger corporation that developed software. The specifications that were coming from product managers were not up to par and he believed they could be better. So, the idea for Axure was born. The first version started off more as specification software, but it soon morphed into prototype software too.

I thought it would be helpful to tell you how I use Axure RP. As mentioned above, I work with clients to develop the user experience for their interfaces. We work together to wireframe prototypes complete with interactions and faux functionality. Axure RP uses a system of hidden panels that can be manipulated to create pseudo functionality. You can see a good example here. All these interactions can be annotated with notes and outputted as a Word specification file or as an html, wireframe mockup. These wireframes and specification documents are then sent to the designers and developers to make them into real working applications. I mockup the user interface and send it to a designer. The designer takes the mockup and makes a Photoshop design and incorporates it into our GUI. I then sign off on the design and it is coded into xhtml. The xhtml is then sent to the programming team to actually put the functionality into and integrate it into our software. So, from these two examples, you can see how Axure RP can be useful for start ups. Whether your team works in the same location or they are virtual, like mine, Axure RP can be very helpful. This nifty little software helps you produce web based software more accurately and timely.

Victor was kind enough to tell me what Axure RP has coming up. They are working on collaboration features that allow users to check in and checkout files. They are using SVN backend technology to accomplish this and it should be all transparent to the user. They also are going to be adding more RIA features and functionality to help create better specifications and prototypes. A lot of users have been asking for a Mac version and they are currently exploring the idea. Safari compatibility will be released soon which I hear will allow you to create pseudo iPhone apps. One thing I mentioned to Victor was adding specific iPhone support to help prototype apps to run on the iPhone interface. I think that would be a killer addition and one that I could personally use here soon.

If you are looking for a better way to prototype your new web 2.0 startup application, give Axue RP a look. They offer a great product for a competitive price. It is built rock solid and I have yet to find any bugs. Also, they offer a good student program which will give a free copy to students based on certain criteria as well as non-profit discounts.

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