In the past, roles were simpler, and we identified as either UX Designers or Graphic Designers. UX Designers handled workshops, wireframes, and prototypes, while UI Designers focused on refining polished UIs based on Low-Fi mockups. Unfortunately, this art of prototyping seems to have faded away in recent years.
The Lost Art of Prototyping
Our roles have evolved and diversified alongside our titles, with designations like Product Designers, CX Specialists, UX/UI Designers, and Cognitive experts becoming more common. During this period, our tools have also improved significantly. We shifted from using Axure and Photoshop to embracing one-tool-fits-all solutions like Figma, although it may not be the perfect fit.
The Challenge with Figma and Similar Tools
Figma and Sketch are undoubtedly fantastic tools, and they are incredibly easy for beginners to master (trust me, I love them too). However, this ease of use can lead to unintended consequences. As a UX Designer, starting a new project with Figma might make you believe it's the only tool you need for everything. The focus on Hi-fidelity design in Figma can inadvertently lead to neglecting fundamental techniques, resulting in what I call the "Figma effect."
For instance, creating sketches and low-fi wireframes early in the design process is essential because it allows you to explore multiple possibilities with minimal effort. However, Figma's seamless flow might tempt designers to skip these vital steps, which can lead to the aesthetic bias phenomenon
The Business Value of Low-Fi Mockups and Sketches
Based on my experience, skipping low-fi wireframes can be detrimental to the UX process. While different people may divide the process into numerous steps, by opting for hi-fi designs right away, you limit your brain's ability to explore alternative solutions. Designers often get so engrossed in refining hi-fi designs that they overlook small improvements that could be easily incorporated in low-fi or sketch stages.
Axure Encourages Process and Interaction Thinking
Sure, Figma can also show flows and allow prototyping, but Axure takes it to a different level. The tool might appear raw compared to Figma, and even its interaction panel can seem complex, but mastering it transforms your approach to design. Axure compels you to think about business logic and interactions deeply. Every page needs to make sense, as each one represents a unique view. In contrast, Figma sometimes features pages dedicated to entire sections or serves as design sandboxes with hundreds of views lacking any logical connection.
Low-Fi Mockups May Not be Glamorous, But They're Vital
Yes, low-fi mockups might not be visually appealing, but what's worse is delivering an unusable product with poor planning. By investing time in low-fi wireframes, you can expedite the final UI design process, leading to better outcomes with fewer mistakes. I've witnessed experienced designers overlook navigation because they're overly focused on content. Prototypes, including low-fi versions, can help the team understand the entire process better and solve problems collaboratively.
The Power of Axure in Prototyping
Axure can do wonders – from prototyping simple games and e-commerce shops with business logic to creating fully functional examples like mortgage calculators. It allows you to rapidly create different states of the same component using "masters" in Axure and even design responsive websites through "Adaptive views."
One of Axure's strengths lies in its safety and robust community support. Countless times, I've found myself turning to the community for guidance on implementing complex interactions that could save weeks of development or hundreds of hi-fi artboards and meetings. The ability to learn from others' experiences and share knowledge makes the Axure community invaluable.
Interestingly, Axure is an offline tool, which can be a significant advantage for those who prefer working without internet access. However, for dedicated Figma users, there's an official Axure plugin that allows you to import Figma files into Axure, bridging the gap between the two platforms.
I won't deny that Axure can be challenging to master, but as the saying goes, "no pain, no gain." A good UX Designer shouldn't rely solely on one tool like Figma; instead, it's essential to explore other options like Axure to understand how they can influence your design process and thinking about products holistically.
Axure remains the gold standard for many blue-chip companies, and countless designers have utilized it in their projects or witnessed its capabilities in action. For newcomers, I recommend starting with simple demo prototypes available for free download on the official Axure website.
While Figma and other prototyping tools have their merits, exploring more about prototyping techniques and tools, including ProtoPie, UXPin, and others, could open up new possibilities for designers seeking to elevate their craft.
If you're interested in learning more about prototyping or have specific topics you'd like me to cover, feel free to let me know in the comments. Prototyping is a crucial aspect of UX design, and continuous exploration and improvement in this area can lead to exceptional user experiences and products that truly resonate with their audiences.