Interview – Victor Hsu on Axure RP

Victor Hsu
We speak with Victor Hsu about Axure RP – the industry standard wireframing and prototyping tool for UX Designers

1. For those that haven’t heard of Axure how would you describe it?

Axure is a wireframing and prototyping tool for web sites and applications. Design and business professionals use it to get a solid feel for how a design is going to work before it’s coded. They can also use it to get informed feedback from users and stakeholders and to increase the chances that the final application gets built as intended.

2. What is the culture at Axure like?

We’re over-achievers. Our back office team learned Axure so they can help customers with product questions. Our support team composes emails that are more thorough than the documentation. The marketing team pushes to improve the products and training instead of buying more ads. And our dev team does things like buy a computer from a customer to fix a single bug.

3. Axure is often cited as the industry standard tool for UX Designers and is often  asked for in job specs. Can you describe Axure’s rise to this position?

Axure ScreenshotAxure was started 11 years ago so it hasn’t been a short journey. Early versions of Axure RP really broke down the barriers to prototyping and that brought us our first customers, some of which became leaders in the UX community. They had plenty to say about how to improve the product and we listened.

Some of the major steps forward were the introduction of dynamic panels which enabled in-page interactivity, shared projects for team collaboration, and the Mac version. As the product improved, the price for the Pro edition has stayed under $600 and now there is a $289 Standard edition.

Many customers are able to learn the tool on their own or with some help from the online training. The combination of its interactive capabilities, price, and generally easy adoption has made Axure the preferred tool for a lot of UX Designers.

4. Can you tell us about Axure’s capabilities for mobile wireframing and prototyping?

Using the out-of-the-box widgets or custom widget libraries for mobile that customers have published, you can create a wireframe for a mobile site or app just like you would a web app. The generated prototypes can be viewed and experienced directly in the browser on the device. You can prototype interactions like taps and swipes currently, and we’re planning to extend the mobile interactions in future versions. There are also options so you can add an icon to the device home screen and open the browser without the chrome to give you that app experience.

5. How can UX Designers use Axure to wireframe for responsive layouts?

Defining Interactions in Axure RP
Defining Interactions in Axure

We’ve seen a few different approaches for responsive with Axure. The most straightforward is to create multiple versions of the design targeting different screen sizes. Making use of masters and styles, you can get some reuse to make updating across versions a little easier. There is a clever solution for detecting when the browser size changes and moving widgets or linking to alternate versions as needed. We think there’s a better way, and we’re going to take our first steps towards that in version 7.

6. There are a whole raft of other wireframing and rapid prototyping tools available and it could be argued it is faster to create prototypes in them rather than Axure. Given RP (Rapid prototyping) is in your name, how do you see yourselves competing against these other tools?

Our customers want Axure to be fast, but they also want it to be capable of creating rich interactive prototypes for an ever-evolving software industry. And they want it in a reliable and usable package. That’s a very hard thing to deliver year after year and we love doing it. That makes us a tough shop to compete with.

7. With more agile and lean approaches to UX the weighty functional specification document is becoming less and less relevant. Axure can generate functional specifications from wireframes – how do you see this feature developing in the future?

We’re seeing this too. But there’s real value in documentation and likely more than what the generated Word specification delivers currently. We are planning to take a step back and see if there’s a better way or even another format that makes more sense in today’s world.

8. One of the great features in Axure is AxShare which lets you share your prototypes with your team or clients. How are your customers using this feature?

Prototype discussion in AxShare
Prototype discussion in AxShare

AxShare has been a popular service and is close to generating its 1 millionth prototype. The main use case is to share password protected prototype links with clients to gather feedback. We’re also hearing from customers that they are hosting prototypes on AxShare for usability tests. And it’s also a great place to host a prototype to view from a phone or tablet.

9. What can we expect from Axure in the future?

We want to build great software and help others build great software. Axure RP and prototyping have been a good step towards that goal. We think we can make prototyping even better. And we’re also seeing opportunities up and down the software lifecycle.

You can check out Axure RP here