Interview – John Larkin on FluidUI, a Mobile Prototyping Tool
Hello and thanks for talking to The UX Review. First question, for those who haven’t heard of Fluid UI – how would you describe it in one sentence?
First of all, thank you for such great questions. Fluidui.com is a cloud-based mobile prototyping tool that helps UX designers quickly assemble wireframes and prototypes of mobile apps, model non-linear interaction flows between screens, add touch gesture events, add transitions and test on mobile with ease.
With so many other mobile prototyping tools on the market right now, where did the drive to create a new tool come from?
We see ourselves as building mobile prototyping tools for the touchscreen generation. Computing is undergoing a mobile revolution and touch interaction is going everywhere. Wireframing and mobile prototyping are also evolving with the ever-increasing ubiquity of touch interfaces. Fluid UI is built from the ground up with these considerations in mind. Incorporating the target devices as an integral part of the design process is crucial to creating successful mobile experiences. That’s why we’ve worked really hard to make the on-device testing process so fast and easy. More generally, as a team, building the latest generation of design tools that some of the best designers in the world are now using to tackle this new changing computing landscape is hugely exciting.
If there were one aspect of Fluid UI without which it wouldn’t quite be the same experience – what would it be?
Great question. I know all too well because before this thing was added the experience was definitely not quite the same. I am talking about the Infinite Canvas and pseudo Zooming User Interface (ZUI) that now form the core of the user experience. This was one of the riskier decisions we took during early development because it meant throwing out a significant portion of earlier work – something we are not afraid to do in pursuit a better UX. The decision to incorporate those UI models has paid off massively.
As you mentioned earlier, the prototyping tools market is healthy and competitive so it’s ultra important to stand out, be noticed and be better than the rest. That focus on mobile UI prototyping along with a unique user experience have given us an immediate competitive edge in the marketplace. A close second is possibly our small pet sheep – try it out to meet him – the Fluid UI experience would not be the same without him 🙂
Is Fluid UI targeted at new customers or for crossovers from other tools? How would you convince an existing Axure user to drop their tool and adopt Fluid UI?
Fluid UI is appealing to both groups based on what we’ve seen since launch. There’s a mix of companies and individuals seeking dedicated mobile tools and then there are other users who are moving away from existing wireframing tools in favour of a more up-to-date HTML5 solution or for a blend of both reasons. We have attracted a lot of Android developers who are looking for something similar to Xcode to create screen layouts and screen flows with more detailed interactions possible and less clutter. Apple developers have a lot more choice in tools so we’ll be reaching out more in the months ahead.
To users of desktop-only prototyping tools (Balsamiq, Axure et al) we would say why use a desktop-only prototyping tool when the world (aka your clients and projects) are going mobile and touch? Fluid UI offers 1,700 rich mobile and tablet UI components for all major mobile OS which means that complex screen views can be assembled using only drag and drop – a massive productivity gain when designing mobile apps. Adding touch gestures, animated screen transitions, scanning a QR code to test your mockup on touch device. Can you do that with your desktop-only tool? For the road ahead , a dedicated tool for designing mobile content will always provide a superior experience as we see it.
How does Fluid UI help non-experts to design apps which are user friendly and in line with best practices?
Without a doubt on device testing is key here. This is crucial to ensuring the experience works well on the target mobile device during the design process and long *before* coding begins. Designing for touch means including touch in the early design phase. Also we offer full UI element libraries for iOS, Android and Windows 8. All of our components are named in accordance with the Human Interaction Guidelines from Apple, Google and Microsoft respectively. We also link to Android and iOS design pattern galleries from Fluid UI to inspire mobile designers. Later in the year we plan to integrate a selection of popular design patterns directly into the editor.
Why have you chosen to make a browser-based app instead of the desktop alternative?
Browser ubiquity means that any newly launched tool will have to work in-browser to be fully available to the widest audience
Within this decade browsers will become like paper was in the 20th century. They will be ubiquitous and embedded everywhere. Being a browser-based app allows us to do things like this: www.fluidui.com/editor. There, that’s all you need to start using Fluid UI right now. We love the browser because that’s where the we see things going and not where they are right now or where they were when we started development back in 2011. Browser ubiquity means that any newly launched tool will have to work in-browser to be fully available to the widest audience.
A year of Fluid UI expert subscription costs $1068 (excluding discount), whereas an Axure RP License is $589 without a time limit. Why the difference in price?
We love Axure – it’s a great heavyweight tool, and it’s an honor for us to be considered in the same league. Fluid UI is all about a fast mobile dedicated workflow, and we strongly believe that a tool specifically designed for mobile can offer a better experience for mobile designers as compared to a more general tool. Our top premium account is designed for people who are using Fluid UI heavily and have dozens of projects in progress. This is aimed at design agencies working on several projects with multiple clients at any given time where the cost/benefit analysis comes up more than favourable.
For example, bear in mind anyone developing requirements for up to three separate projects could use our tool for a month for just $29, offering more flexibility and a far more preferable price point than an upfront $589 lump sum. We also have a free account for anyone who wants to use the tool more casually for non-professional uses (1 project, 10 screen, 10MB image uploads) or for those who just want to spend a little time evaluating how Fluid UI blends in with their existing workflow.
One of the benefits of Fluid UI is collaboration. Do you have stories to share from Fluid UI users who’ve used this feature or any tips on how to do this kind of session well?
Yes there are so many stories – we heard about disadvantaged kids in the Washington DC area having a great time uploading and linking images in Fluid UI or the Startup Weekend in Amman Jordan presenting their business ideas (lots of mobile apps) using Fluid UI.
We love stories like that. Especially, young people in different circumstances in different parts of the world getting a little help from the tool and having some fun along the way – this inspires us to make each new update better than the last.
If any of your readers would like to share mobile app mockups with us please do – any type of app design as long as it shows off what Fluid UI can do – please send the mockup link with a name and short description to firstname.lastname@example.org – if we like it we’ll add it to the demo showcase on FluidUI.com. We will also offer a free account upgrade to anyone that gets showcased.
What can we expect from Fluid UI in the future?
We are working through an aggressive product roadmap which incorporates tons of user feedback. First off, there will be regular updates to the Fluid UI service and lots of them. Expect exciting news about collaboration, exporting options, richer widgets, more in-depth UI logic and more UI libraries. Fluid UI will be even more widely available and in a number of new ways. We’re planning on pushing the Fluid UI player app into all major app markets. We are increasing our blogging activities in the months ahead so all will be revealed in the run up to each live update.
I should wrap up with a huge thank you to everyone in the Fluid UI community, they inspire the whole team and spur us on every day. We *love* your feedback, in fact, we thrive on positive (always nice to read) and negative (more useful) varieties. We hope your readers really enjoy using Fluid UI to design awesome apps and we look forward to their comments.
You can check out Fluid UI and sign up and claim your free account at www.fluidui.com.
What do you think about this tool? What do you use now? Let us know in the comments