Tools

David Heller writes:

I have noticed that the bulk of Information Architects, Interaction Designers, and Experience Designers of all sorts feel that the existing tools fall short. There are people who have created fixes privately, but nothing that can really be used ubiquitously throughout the industry.

Certain tools not directly intended for use as information architecture and interaction design tools, have become standards for development such as Dreamweaver and Visio. These tools for example also have APIs which allow for custom components to be added to enhance existing useful tools.

My personal preference is to work to make Visio what we need it to be. Visio is the more extensible of the tools and unlike Dreamweaver is good for both charting & storyboarding. It utilizes the MS Visual Basic interfaces of office applications so we can program interconnected stenciled object, templates for backgrounds, output to XML structures, build flowchart shapes based on properties of represented objects, Connectors between various object types (sitemap vs. wireframe),
Component architecture structures, zooming from sitemap object to represented wireframe, etc.

What I propose is that a team use this site to post revised specifications for UI Designs, and allow the public to comment, and the team iterate off of comments. Then the site is used to present prototypes of sections, and finally to distribute a version to IAs at conferences and summits and from the site. This should be a controlled open source project so that people contributing code are screened, but people contributing ideas are completely open.

Again, this same idea could be used also for Dreamweaver or other extensible core applications.

Besides the goal of getting real tools for our needs, it will also be a means for the site and group to gain exposure and be taken seriously by the Microsofts, Adobes, and Macromedias of the world.

Let's make it happen.

-- David Heller
david.heller@documentum.com
UI Designer

Posted by Louis Rosenfeld at January 28, 2002 02:48 AM
Comments

David and Lou - thanks for setting up this section.

I use and like Visio myself; it's a good tool for creating representations of concepts and designs. It also can create simple prototypes, i.e. HTML pages.

I mention these three uses -

diagramming concepts,
sketching designs, and
creating prototypes

in the hope it helps us define this discussion. For example, a tool like Tinderbox (http://www.eastgate.com/Development/) might be an incredibe prototyping tool for IAs, as it can create very sophisticated linking and organization schemes without much scripting. But it isn't a diagramming tool and doesn't help you create a UI.

The intro above mentions 'IA design tool' and also mentions 'UI designs', and right there the scope is VERY big, perhaps too big for any one application to address.

Posted by Victor Lombardi at January 28, 2002 9:12 PM

CLARIFICATION: I made a mistake in my introduction, I meant Interaction Design and not UI Design. Thank you Victor for pointing that out.

Posted by David Heller at January 28, 2002 11:04 PM

You might consider a broader definition of Tools that includes the software we need to build and manage information architectures. I cover several categories (e.g., automated classification, thesaurus management) in this article:

http://argus-acia.com/strange_connections/strange011.html

Posted by Peter Morville at January 29, 2002 2:26 PM

I would personally like to see the community gravitate towards more open solutions than Visio, due to it's Wintel-only basis. Although it can export to other, more open formats, I've seen .vsd documents popping up on the web now, for both interaction with other IAs and for referrence to past lectures etc, which of course poses problems to those who choose (or whose companies choose) to avoid Microsoft products, for whatever reasons.

I think as a growing community, we should strive for the utmost openess and from the beginning, both to foster unity and to help impose upon future developers our desires for characteristics of future software that is more IA centric (Visio wasn't created for IAs, for a counter-example, and MS isn't exactly leading the charge in interoperability). As members of the larger web professional community, we should value and support the goal of web standards.

I would suggest something to the affect of HTML, XHTML or XML. For example, Dreamweaver adds tags to regular HTML to make certain sections editable while keeping other areas locked. I'm no code jockey, but I can't imagine it would be terribly difficult to script other applications into recognizing those tags (if you look at the source with your own eyes, you can read it yourself easily). I realize that there are certain pitfalls to all file types as of right now.

But the bottomline is if you don't have a Wintel system or run it in emulation, you can't view nor interact with .vsd's period, and thus the IA community they're helping to create. If this is not something we can solve *right now,* perhaps we should make cross-platform and file interoperability a goal in the near future.

Posted by Brian Christiansen at January 30, 2002 6:21 AM

I simultaneously agree and disagree with Peter. He helps to make my point by revealing some other substantial activities that take place during interaction design. And while we'd love one perfect app that would integrate everything, it's probably a futile effort.

See:
http://www.jwz.org/doc/worse-is-better.html

So I bet we'll always have a range of applications to deal with. We might try to find/improve the best applications for each area.

Some of the apps on Peter's list are about implementation more than design (e.g. "Search Engines"). If we exclude those, and add mine from above, we have a longer list:

Diagramming
Interface Design
Prototyping
Automated Classification
Automated Category Generation
Thesaurus Management
Usability Analytics

That last one I made up to cover tools like WebCAT and IBM's EZSort.

Hope that's helpful.

Posted by victor at January 30, 2002 8:05 PM

Hi folks, the issue of open-source vs. WinTel is an interesting and painful one. The problem is that there is a tool out there that can do much of what we need already in diagramming and interface design as well as prototyping. It is also the most extensible of all the applications that are being used today out there. To do a completely new open-source project would mean that we have to create a new application from scratch, as opposed to ammending and appending an existing application.

I want to be as open in this discussion and keep all viable options available, but I do have to say that my intent was not to build an application, but to take an existing applicatin and customize it for our needs.

To do this would require a smaller set of programming skills, and would give us a strong basis for actually completing the task in a reasonable amount of time.

Posted by David Heller at January 30, 2002 11:23 PM

To Victor's & Peter's point about the types of tasks we would like a tool to cover. I think both of those lists are too long, not because we don't need such tools, but because it is probably better to segregate tools than it is to combine tools unnecessarily. Again, this is a question of scope and programmability as it is about what should and shouldn't be done.

I would love to do everything, but I will settle for diagramming, interface design, & prototyping right now. Maybe we can find ways to add the other tasks, or incorporate merge points through XML transfers between apps so that we can create a suite of interoperable tools.

Posted by David Heller at January 30, 2002 11:26 PM

Hi, David and all

I´ve just read your comment about building tools for IA on sigia and would like to help... I´ve been working with Visio for 3 years now, and though it is an excellent tool, I sometimes feel it´s way too complicated. And I sure miss something that works on my mac...

I´ve been thinking of building such a tool using Flash. It is powerful, easy to program, object-oriented, XML-Aware, and has database connections built-in... Plus it is cross-platform, runs on any browser or in a standalone file, it´s cheap to distribute etc.

What do you guys think?

Posted by Danilo at January 31, 2002 12:39 PM

So I have a question. What is the primary roadblock question that needs to be answered in order to move the discussion from discussion to action?

Is it what tool are we going to center our project around?

or

What are the basic needs of a big IA that can be encompassed in a simple tool that fits the needs of the largest population of IAs?

I think in the spirit of not choosing technologies before functionality we should answer the latter question first. Also I think we are aware of all the issues in the first question much more than the 2nd one.

I'm interested in other people's thoughts on this.

Posted by David Heller at February 3, 2002 6:50 PM

Hi folks, to better organize the discussion, I'm starting a Yahoo Group. To subscribe send an e-mail to IAToolDev-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

This list will be moderated by me. The topic will be focused on the discussion of developing tools for IAs. The base of the discussion will be based off of the introduction here and where we've gotten to from here. See you in the group.

Posted by David Heller at February 4, 2002 4:21 AM

Re Mac tools, there's a Mac OS X tool called "OmniGraffle" (http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnigraffle) that is in many ways superior to Visio. I don't use Visio, so I can't say whether OmniGraffle is complete enough to compete with it. But it's pretty good, nevertheless.

>>I think in the spirit of not choosing technologies before functionality we should answer the latter question first.<<

Good idea... amazing how quickly the discussion went from supporting designers to the platform debate.

Re where to start, I'd like to see people reflect on their experience with design tools, rather than immediately assume there's some perfect missing tool that will do the job. We use lots of tools to get things done. If I'm building a bookcase, I don't wish for a perfect bookcase tool, I assemble the tools I need from a variety of specialized and general-purpose tools. Similarly, does anyone wish that Photoshop and Illustrator were one program? I doubt it. They're useful together because they're 1) specialized and 2) interoperable. That's what I wish for.

Beyond that, I want tools that have (and/or let me create) some semantics about what's being designed. That's why I don't like Visio... it helps you move lines and boxes around, but it doesn't really understand hierarchy, containment, linkage, temporal sequence, etc.

Posted by Harry Saddler at February 6, 2002 9:57 PM

The question to me has become how to help all the tools communicate with each other in ways that give us the overall effect we're looking for. There is some critical mass of functionality coming, but it will likely not come in the form of a single application.

Posted by John Abbe at February 11, 2002 8:35 AM

Hi all,

Great discussion, and a bit deja-vu...

I'm not an IA, but I'm interested in the subject. My "burning interest" is in IA tools development, dur to my background in software development (I am employed by an "advanced software development" tools vendor).

In mid-2000 I was active on SIGIA-L discussing notations and tools for IA. I took notes and started some white papers, all in the vault somewhere. I always start this discussion with a basic (biased) premise:

Web development is a specialized form of software development.

Tools and process requirements of the latter apply to the former, but the former has requirements that go above and beyond those.

The discussion on SIGIA-L led to the controversial general notion of "standards" for IA, which led me to "punt" out the iastandards.org site a little over a year ago. My interpretation of "standards" is much less rigid than some might think. Other committments have left me unable to keep up my participation in the discussion (and the website was more-or-less dead on launch) but I'd like to continue contributing in any way I can.

I will switch my input to DH's yahoo mailing list, perhaps occasionally posting results here. I'm a consultant, so I'll have to interact when I can from my native email account, which may be spurious.

To start with, here are a few basic thougths:

1) I submit that waht you all are reaching for is at first a _process_. The s/w dev world has in recent years been in the same game. Tool vendors have been working on defining "good" practices and processes for general s/w development, aiming to offer specialized -- but highly integrated -- tools that give good coverage of the entire (implicit) process and interoperate as seamlessly as possible to support it. There is still progress to make. At this point the tools-to-process mapping tends to be a manual meta-process of following directions about how to get your stuff out of tool A and into tool B in conformance with the "process". This is QUITE different than having the tools "understand" the process to some degree. Making the tools smarter and the big picture more automated is what we are all working toward.

2) Since you are developing software (at least from a basic "implementation" POV) you will naturally be worried about things like change/configuration mgmt, version control, distributed development, "requirements management" in the general sense, implementation tools (e.g. IDEs) etc. However, the lists posted by others illustrate that general s/w dev tools and processes probably won't cut it. IA and webdev have more specialized needs.

3) Open, interoperable tools are the way to go. One "do it all" app is unlikely to be developed anyway. A set of "robust" tools that each handles its own specialty well but interoperates with other tools in support of the (implicit) underlying process is what is required. This not only avoids vendor lock-in but you get the usual advantages of competition etc. Plus, it should bring diversity to interpretations of "process". You tool suite should support a flexible process which your team can define and tailor.

4) the trick is to find out what you all have in common and define it _without_ enslaving yourselves to a "least common denominator" mentality. That is the essense of my interpretation of "standards" and was my original intent for the website. Dunno what I'm going to do with the site still (due to time constraints I might have to give it up for adoption) but that was the intent anyway.

So, to progress on this discussion, I'd suggest first fleshing out the subtasks/roles/aspects that make up the overall process, then choose specialists in each area to work on producing requirements for public scrutiny. Only by giving structure to the effort will it evolve beyond simple sequential "me too" agreement that tends to happen in email threads. I suppose the goal is an ontological metamodel of the IA process, if not webdev in general. A guess!

Anyway, there are my opening 2c on the subject! I really get "pumped" by this discussion. I'd be glad to do what I can from a s/w perspective, but I'm certainly no domain expert!

Regards,

/Chuck

Posted by Chuck Lutz at February 12, 2002 7:20 PM

Has anyone heard of TINA - Tool for Information Architects?

It's a final project for three students at Berkeley. Two rather large and extensive PDFs to grok ... (printing now, got the coffee on the grind even as I type)

http://IAwiki.net/TINA

Posted by Eric Scheid at March 13, 2002 3:46 AM

Per a promise to Anthony Hand back in February, I'm re-posting a series of comments from SIGIA regarding concerns/issues with Visio.

Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002
From: "Heller, David"
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

> What would be your export format requirements?
I don't think there is a single set of requirements. But Visio as a format isn't portable or interactive enough (see below)

> What formats allow to "show my documents to everybody"? How does the existence of the Visio Viewer (tech preview) affect requirements?

It isn't a question of "showing" if I understand it so much as being able to have ONE view for showing and ONE view for cataloging. This means like in Powerpoint I need a place to have notes that I can hide during the display, but maybe have them visible only to the presenter.

The viewer in general isn't good enough b/c it isn't multi-platform and it requires an install of lots of people that IAs don't have control over. Nor does it allow for editing, annotating, and good interaction.

As for subscription information to the IAToolDev list, I sent Scott James a private e-mail and have not had a response. I was not sure that he would be appropriate for the list or not and asked for his feedback.

For everyone: IAToolDev-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

This list is not a general discussion list, but a group of people trying to develop a REAL product. We are not going to be talking theory, except when it is required to come to requirements for building a truly usable and extensible application.

The goal was originally stated as an expansion of an existing app that allowed for it like Visio or even Dreamweaver, but that might not be the case moving forward.

- -- dave

Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 21:25:06 -0300
From: Bernardo Carvalho
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

- -----------------------

It isn't a question of "showing" if I understand it so much as being able to have ONE view for showing and ONE view for cataloging. This means like in Powerpoint I need a place to have notes that I can hide during the display, but maybe have them visible only to the presenter.

The viewer in general isn't good enough b/c it isn't multi-platform and it requires an install of lots of people that IAs don't have control over. Nor does it allow for editing, annotating, and good interaction.

- -----------------------

Then maybe it is not something that should be solve inside Visio, but instead something that should be worked better inside Powerpoint - that is, Visio and Powerpoint should have better integration, so I could make a "Diagram Presentation" using common Powerpoint tools, instead of having them inside Visio, that is not for that purpouse.

I believe the way is something along the lines of having a "export as PPT" option in Visio, and specific functions in Powerpoint to deal with files that came from Visio.

[]s
bernardo

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 00:59:25 -0500
From: Joe Sokohl
Subject: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

Hi,
first of all, without a doubt, the ability for Macintosh and Linux users to collaborate with Visio users is paramount. This viewer is only available for Wintel platforms...and, interestingly, only for MS Internet Explorer.

From a usability standpoint, the formats should be exportable to any format...a receiver ought to be able to open the file without first having to configure crap or save as or other endlessly frustrating and ultimately difficult activities...but I doubt that'll happen. At least it ought to export to these file formats:

.tiff (tagged image format file)
.jpeg (Joint Photographer's....Graphic)
.gif (Graphic Image Format)
.ai (Adobe Illustrator)
.cvs (Canvas)
.fm (FrameMaker)
.pdf (Portable Document Format)
..... (Freehand)
.cdd (ConceptDraw)
..... (Inspiration)
.sdr (SmartDraw)

In addition, Visio should be able to open any of these files saved in their native formats, allowing the user to edit the file, save it, and send it back.

I think a key problem is statement/concept "show my documents to everybody." Most of the time, I have had to collaborate with people, meaning that they want to edit my original document, allowing me to see what they are thinking. Simply showing it to them is not enough, I'm afraid. Too, we already have that--it's called "paper." Next to that, PDF does the job of simply "showing" the document to someone, in my experience.

Finally, of course, I'd love to see some cooperation among these companies (usually translated as Microsoft opening up parts of its technology to allow this sort of collaboration). Don't think it'll happen.

Joe Sokohl
Sokohl & Associates

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 02:07:56 -0500
From: Ziya Oz
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

Joe Sokohl wrote:

> Next to that, PDF does the job of simply "showing" the document to someone, in my experience.

PDF, furthermore, allows you to annotate and manage those comments in various ways, as well as actually edit the document (to an extent with the non-Reader version) via a Win/Mac plug-in.

Short of that, SVG is the only other format 'open' and flexible enough to permit such an exchange, but the app-level support is many months away.

For a limited feature set, there's, of course, CSS1-3 with its box model, but web browser support especially for positioning is spotty and compliant visual layout tools are non-existent at the moment.

As I have previously said, if certain functionalities are required *solely* for IA work, I don't think there's a market large enough to support any significant development. While the 'plug-in' approach may reduce development costs, it often has the significant drawback of the single-OS lock-in.

For my money, the most elegant and accessible general prototyping app is OmniGraffle 2.0 that runs only on Mac OS X. The most potent web-specific, multi-user prototyping tool is Adobe GoLive 6 which runs on Win/Mac. None of the apps I've seen or used are very good at extensive automation or integration with other apps.

Then, of course, there's the minor issue of no two IA/ID/UX/etc professional being able to agree on just what's needed in such an app :-)

Best,
Ziya

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 07:51:12 +0000
From: Clifton Evans
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

In addition to the standard professional formats above, I would add..

.eps (Encapsulated Postscript)
.png (Portable Network Graphic or Png not Gif)
.bmp (Windows Bitmap)
.pic (Native Format for Macintosh)

**Most importantly, the product should be exporting to flash if it is going to be seen on the web. It would be a mistake to market yet another proprietary format of plug-in, especially for vectors.

Clifton.

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 08:34:13 -0500
From: Whitney Quesenbery
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

At 12:17 PM 2/5/2002 -0800, Heller, David wrote:
This means like in Powerpoint I need a place to have notes that I can hide during the display, but maybe have them visible only to the presenter.

So maybe an option would be to:

Export all of the pages in this Visio drawing, placing an image of each page (in a tightly compressed format like PNG) into one slide of a Powerpoint file.

This would cut out several steps for me. What I do now is: Save as HTML, using PNG as the graphics format Import the PNG's into Powerpoint etc.

Whitney Quesenbery
whitneyq@acm.org

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 11:07:49 -0600
From: "Miriam Frost"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Three shortcuts that would be awesome in Visio:

CRTL+ --- zoom in of working space
CTRL- --- zoom out of working space
spacebar & mouse --- hand tool to move around working space

Mannnnnny other layout programs (Fireworks, PhotoShop, Illustrator, etc.) have these three keyboard shortcuts. Out of habit, I'm constantly trying to use them in Visio... d'oh.

Thank you for asking!!

best,
Miriam

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 12:24:31 -0500
From: Andrew Heaton
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

A big howdy to the evil empire / benign innovator / Borg / House Majority

Make a version for the Mac. I have more than enough peers that don't use Visio specifically because it ties them to a Windows machine.

Many of the more technically oriented IA's do fine, but most of the more creative-oriented IA's use Macs.

(This is not to say the technically oriented IA's are not creative, it's usually business groupings in an organization)

I've got a grand appreciation of the Mac group within Microsoft, give them = a shot at it.

- - A

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 10:21:00 -0800
From: Avi Rappoport
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

How about defining an XML DTD or Schema and exporting / importing via that format? Seems as though it would open up the Visio options for cool little utilities, other platforms, other browsers, etc.

Avi

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 12:44:06 -0600
From: "Miriam Frost"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio
> Make a version for the Mac.

A hearty +10 to that. I really prefer Visio but will have to switch to ConceptDraw when I someday leave my current employer to freelance. All Mac/Linux at home.... All my other designer friends are in the same boat. Thanks.

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 13:44:05 -0500
From: "Gregory Richards"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

- ----- Original Message -----
From: "Miriam Frost"

> Three shortcuts that would be awesome in Visio:
>
> CRTL+ --- zoom in of working space
> CTRL- --- zoom out of working space
> spacebar & mouse --- hand tool to move around working space

The zoom shortcuts do exist in a non-standard way:
SHIFT+CTRL+left-click = zoom in
SHIFT+CTRL+right-click = zoom out

I use them all the time, but I would also prefer that they adhere to the prevailing standard you cited (if we agree that Adobe and Macromedia can be the benchmark for a prevailing standard).

- -G

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 11:31:05 -0800 (PST)
From: Bill DeRouchey
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

I've started thinking exactly along these lines and was planning on bringing this up in the IATools group.

An XML approach to IA (I was thinking IAML) could make for some very interesting applications. Personally, I'm looking at InDesign 2 to
implement this. But maybe that's just my book publishing background talking.x

Bill DeRouchey
Flume
bill@flume.com

Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 21:24:54 +0100
From: "Heller, David"
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Personally, since I use Visio more than Fireworks I make the other mistake, where I want Fireworks to zoom using the mouse scroller. That I LOVE!

But yes, if Visio dealt w/ the standards of drawing tools (something that Adobe & Macromedia have finally come close to gether on) that would be a real help.

- -- dave

Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 17:39:19 -0600
From: Betsy Martens
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

Here's what Joe Sokohl said on 2/5/02 11:59 PM:

> From a usability standpoint, the formats should be exportable to any format

Just to indulge my own TNT (technical nitpicking tendencies), there are three-character protocols for the file types Joe has cited if one is to adhere successfully to bi-platform compatibility:

.tif not .tiff
.jpg not .jpeg

Also: Illustrator and Freehand typically are exportable/importable/viewable as .eps files.
FilemakerPro = .fmp
MS Excel = .xls
Quark Xpress = .qxp

> In addition, Visio should be able to open any of these files saved in their native formats,

I think this is asking a lot of any application, and just about technically impossible given the current constraints of software development.

Which is why the best solution I've seen to the access/compatibility issue is the use of Excel. My former colleague Eric Johnson managed to make lovely documentation from Excel spreadsheets through mindful use of type, color, cell size, and line weights. This worked for a variety of team members on either side of the platform divide, as well as clients.

Betsy Martens
bigshoulders@mindspring.com

Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2002 10:39:05 +0000
From: Clifton Evans
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

Joe Sokohl: .at a very very minimum, I would say that a Macintosh version of Visio, as Andrew and others have mentioned....

As another absolute bare minimum, the program should be exporting to something vector other than the inconsistent .eps or the massive .pdf formats. Preferably it would be Illustrator and/or Flash files in order to actually use the files on that web thing we are making.

Clifton.

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 17:10:43 +0100
From: "Heller, David"
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio

That visio already does ... It has the amazing VML format which is incredibly light.

- -- dave

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 09:26:02 -0600
From: "Horacio Salazar"
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Miriam, Gregory, list:
If you use a mouse with a wheel, it's a lot easier to do both zooming and moving through the design.
To zoom in, you press Ctrl and move the wheel away from you.
To zoom out, you press Ctrl and move the wheel towards you.
To move to the upper part of the diagram, you move the wheel away from you.
To move to the lower part of the diagram, you move the wheel towards you.
To move to the left of the diagram, you press Shift and move the wheel away from you.
To move to the right of the diagram, you press Shift and move the wheel towards you.

After a while you move quite quickly, as it becomes second nature (and, in contrast with the hand tool, you move around¨*without* having to change the position of the mouse). In fact, eventually you tend to try it in other apps. (I wish it'd be as easy to deal with the object properties ).

Greetings from México.

Horacio Salazar Herrera
horacio@daniloblack.com

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 10:39:54 -0600
From: "Miriam Frost"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

> If you use a mouse with a wheel, it's a lot easier to do both zooming and moving through the design.

Thanks for the tips!
I think the hand is still easier. These shortcuts, I have to remember 3 (or 6, depending on how you look at it) combinations of motions/buttons... The other way, it's spacebar-click and you're golden... and it's far easier to
shift directions.

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 12:25:25 -0500
From: Brian Christiansen
Subject: SIGIA-L: Re: Direct Feedback, Visio / IA Tool Dev

Sorry to nitpick, but I'd just like to amend the following (previous) posts along the lines of file compatibility (which I think is terribly important to future software development).

You could apply these comments to future Visio, but I would also say these should be applied to a future IA-centric program, like the one that Dave
Heller @ Documentum is trying to lead the charge in. I must also note that as a Mac user, I don't use Visio.

In addition, I'll offer something worthwhile, some opinions on these file types:

Joe Sokohl said on 2/5/02 11:59 PM:
> At least it ought to export to these file formats:
>
> .tiff (tagged image format file)
> .jpeg (Joint Photographer's....Graphic)

"Joint Photographer's Expert Group" is the group that wrote the spec for this picture format, which they named after themselves. A good, widely compatible format, but I don't know if there would be any use of exporting in this format, however, I believe it should absolutely accept their import, for use of adding graphics to the file.


> there are three-character protocols for the file types Joe has cited if one is to adhere successfully to bi-platform compatibility:
> .tif not .tiff
> .jpg not .jpeg

This is a matter of semantics, as the DOS protocol "(dot) 3 letter extension" are based on these 4-letter acronyms, which are the "official names," but no platform that I'm aware of (Mac, *nix flavor) use a 4 letter extension for these anymore (noting Joe's former use of the NeXTStep OS [which somewhat lives on within Darwin and Mac OS X]).

The classic Mac system consists of two hidden 4-letter acronym file attributes, "file type" and "creator" which are hidden from other platforms because they are stored in a fork of the file which the other OSs don't accommodate (Mac files: 2-pronged, Other OSs: 1-pronged) So extensions do not apply to classic Mac file creation, but Mac users have come to add DOS style 3-letter extensions to cross platform files to aid in Windows-users ability to read the files, by simply appending the .TLA to the end of the file name (and many programs include an option to do this.

Linux/Unix-based OSs (including BSDUnix-based Mac OS X) can accommodate longer extensions, but I believe they all use 3-letter extensions in
regards to these particular file types.

Basically, this is a matter for whoever would be actually doing the coding on the program, and not an issue for us the brainstormers, or us the users, because the most accommodating style of file specification would be used, and then dealt with accordingly by each port of the program to
accommodate the platform on which it's running.

> .gif (Graphic Image Format)

Compuserv's "Graphic Interchange Format" Again, I'd echo my comment on the JPEG file, whereas I believe the ability to use this is great especially implementing gif's transparency abilities), but ability to export in this
is probably not useful.

> .ai (Adobe Illustrator)

I would suggest that perhaps we should avoid the more proprietary formats in favor of the more standard ones. Here I would leverage AI's ability to use EPS (encapsulated post-script) for AI compatibility, Just like Betsy said, let us leverage major programs' abilities to edit other more open standard formats.

> .cvs (Canvas)
> .fm (FrameMaker)
> .pdf (Portable Document Format)
> ..... (Freehand)

Freehand is .fh, and a version number, ie: Freehand 9= .fh9

> .cdd (ConceptDraw)
> ..... (Inspiration)
> .sdr (SmartDraw)

cvs, fm, fh, cdd, (inspiration), sdr; I cannot speak to these formats, but I would group them under the same comments to the .AI format. Also, if the program was open to plugings (like Photoshop) then conceptually any file format could be imported, and the few who need to import these type of file could buy the extra plugin.

> Also: Illustrator and Freehand typically are
exportable/importable/viewable as .eps files.

> FilemakerPro = .fmp
> MS Excel = .xls

Do a lot of IAs out there use these two? For things like wireframes? I've heard of a couple people using Excel, but not FileMaker. Again, I'd echo the .AI comment, unless there is a real need for XLS.

> Quark Xpress = .qxp

.qxd "QuarkXPress Document"
Again, I'd lump this into the .AI catagory.

> In addition, Visio should be able to open any of these files saved in their native formats, allowing the user to edit the file, save it, and send it back.
>
> I think this is asking a lot of any application, and just about technically impossible given the current constraints of software development.

I imagine that it would not be feasible for one program to be able to edit all these files. Also, not very useful. If the major programs can edit and export in several types of near standard files, then we should leverage that.
- --
Side note: Speaking of formats, Lemke Software's "Graphic Converter" can import 145 file formats, and export 45! This is $35 shareware (for classic Mac and Mac OS X) written by a couple of guys in Germany, and is commonly
known as the poor man's Photoshop. That shows what a even small project can really do! [http://lemkesoft.com/us_gcabout.html]
- --
Lastly, I should suggest these as being IMO as the most valuable import/exportable, editable formats to such an IA-centric program:

XML
SVG
EPS
PNG
(FLA?)
and save to PDF (built in ability already on Mac OS X, should this be built in to other platforms, or should they leave it to the user to acquire Acorbat Distiller?)

Three of these are loved by W3C (XML, SVG [scalable vector graphic], PNG [portable network graphic]) and I believe as part of a field that mostly deals with the Internet, that we should support the W3C recommendations as standards. This will help us be most compatible with our colleagues and the medium with which we work.

PDF is now nearly a standard in its ubiquity, and another format to consider would be .FLA (Flash, a plugin in 98.3% of web browsers, according to Macromedia), should motion be necessary, and could be useful in the time before SVG spreads its wings.

Sorry for my long post, but hey it could be worse: it could include full-length copies of all the former posts and be in HTML, so you have to
climb through miles of markup!

~brian christiansen
[ http://briandigital.com ]

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 14:12:23 -0600
From: "Miriam Frost"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Another thing I just noticed.... and this derivates from most M$ software as well as other platforms/mfgs:

Even when using the text tool -
CTRL-B does not toggle BOLD
CTRL-I does not toggle ITALIC.

(Um. I am using Visio 2000 not 2002. Couldn't find anything on the Visio site to indicate whether or not this has changed.)

cheers
Miriam

PS Thanks again for asking. I like Visio and am pleased to see that the development team cares about how actual users work with it!

Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 23:15:28 -0000
From: "Heller, David"
Subject: RE: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

This has indeed changed ... Even ctrl-u has changed to underline ... Which is a bit awkward b/c I got so used to using it in previous versions to mean ungroup.

When group is ctrl-g and ungroup is ctrl-shift-u I think that is a bit weird. But I've recoverd.

- -- dave

Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2002 22:56:14 -0600
From: "Phil Arko"
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Visio Output

Another alternative is Freehand. I'm not a big fan of Visio (I find it clunky and limiting, and it likes to crash), but I support freedom of choice. Both Illustrator and Freehand have similar features, and make it very easy to design good-looking deliverables (I use either, depending upon my needs). Freehand does offer a few more benefits from an IA standpoint.
Here are just a few:

» A file consists of a large desktop, on which you place pages (of variable sizes) anywhere you wish. I usually organize all of my pages in the shape of a siteflow or process flow, and add arrows and titles outside of the pages in large print in a separate layer. I then zoom out to 25%, take screen shots and use that as a quick cover siteflow (with actual thumbnails of each
wireframe - this has been really helpful in presenting to clients!).

» You can mirror an area (essentially, define a master area in one place), place a copy of it anywhere, and as frequently as needed. It's sort of like master symbols, rather than master pages. You pick and choose which ones to put together. This is extremely useful for managing global and local navs, logos, and legal copy. Just change it once, and all of your wireframes are magically fixed. And this keeps the file size down.

» With a graphic tablet, you can draw and make notes with the pencil tool (on a new layer, of course) while presenting to clients. This is invaluable in quickly moving towards a sign-off of wireframes because you can agree to a draft of the next deliverable, rather than start the process over again in the next meeting (OK, you can do that with Illustrator too).

» It plays nicely with Dreamweaver (both being from Macromedia). Depending upon how you set up your wireframes, you can easily move your wires into Dreamweaver and, with just a little tweaking, have prototypes for usability
testing.

a few more cents,
Phil

Date: Fri, 08 Feb 2002 08:23:00 -0500
From: Andrew Heaton
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

Rather than try to figure out the best key combinations, why don't we just propose that Visio allow the user to set key combos for any and all features?

Adobe, you listening? I want this in Illustrator too. I hate learning new keys for the same features every time you upgrade!

- - A

Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2002 09:06:48 -0500
From: lee.r.sachs@Verizon.com
Subject: Re: SIGIA-L: Direct Feedback, Visio

As per a few other postings on this subject, I think someone mentioned that they wanted Visio to have more of the palette-like tools of Adobe &
Macromedia apps. That's fine or, since it's an MS product, I would think it would wind up with the bland "Autoshapes" choices as part of the MS
Office apps drawing tools. This would be a disappointment, but for now Visio's stencils are kind of an island when compared with virtually any
other app out there. They don't really fit with MS and they certainly don't work with Adobe/Macromedia. Just my 2 cents.

- -lee

Posted by Paula Thornton at May 21, 2002 1:43 PM

What application you create a site map in is not what I would consider a tool. There needs to be more applications like the one Performance Drivers provides (LifeLine) which does site and page analytics. They have a *huge* catagory on IA issues that better complete project life cycles for IA people. Too often we think of IA being at only the begining of the project process and ending at launch.

You need to continue learning how *actual* users use the site. Optimize and you will be able to better quantify returns on your work, and make your site visitors much happier.

Posted by Ben W. at March 20, 2003 10:16 PM

I think Visio and Dreamweaver are both find... but they're only for Wintel...There are Open Source (and multi-platform) tools as good as any of them (and they're cheaper too).

Posted by Yoandy Rodriguez at October 29, 2003 5:11 PM

Testing

Posted by Lou at December 30, 2003 6:24 PM


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