There is always a lot to learn in any new position, and having recently joined the Sametz Blackstone digital team, I was excited by the prospect of learning how to use a new wireframing and prototyping tool called Protoshare. I’ve used a number of tools to do similar things before–all of which are useful for various reasons—including Omnigraffle, Illustrator, Fireworks, Axure, and even PowerPoint.

Interactive wireframes are an important tool for conveying the proposed functionality of a website. It is, however, always important to set the stage when first showing a wireframe to a client: they are not meant to represent design, but rather to highlight the information architecture of, and the journey that a user might take through the site.

Does it answer the important questions from a user perspective? Where am I? Where can I go? How can I get there? How do I get back? When partnered with a functional specification and representative page type designs, everyone involved can develop a clear understanding of look and feel, user experience, and development considerations.

Protoshare screen shot

Protoshare is a web-based tool that has a GUI approach, with objects organized according to a very intuitive component palette. The inspector allows for a good amount of object customization, including animation, visibility logic, appearance, position, size and specification details. Global elements can be created using masters and templates, and design elements can be imported and managed through the assets library. When planning state functionality, there is a quick review mode that allows you to easily test the wireframe before it goes live. To share, files can easily be exported and published to the web. Reviewers can post feedback directly onto the UI, and emails can be set to alert the creator of new comments or questions.

Another feature I like in Protoshare is the ability to have multiple page designs within a single project. This means that alternate approaches can be easily produced or different designs altogether, perhaps a tablet or mobile approach to facilitate a responsive build. Overall I highly recommend Protoshare. The learning curve is minimal, and functionality is just enough to help cut down on time needed to wireframe.

Most importantly, it encourages an early and ongoing dialogue between strategists, designers, developers and stakeholders, allowing everyone to take part in guiding the direction of the project.