Wireframe diagramming tools

I’m working on a project at the moment that involves making recommendations on information architecture and user experience, along with a general re-skin for a new online e-learning application and the website that contains it. It should be officially released in a few months and it’s got substantial backing, so I’m hoping it gets some exposure. We’re certainly pushing for a more “Web 2.0″ vibe (that’s in quotes for a reason, please don’t flame me :) ).

Anyway, I’m currently drawing wireframes as the basic functional blueprint for how the site and app will work. At work, we’ve traditionally done our site maps and wireframes in good ol’ Visio. And apparently that’s still what most IA people use as their diagramming tool of choice. For a while now I’ve been thinking of switching to something a little more graceful, at least to make the visual result a little nicer. So far there are 2 main contenders…

A very knowledgeable IA person put me onto Axure. It looks rather promising as an all-round package for site-mapping, wireframing and rapid prototyping. I will try this, however I’ve decided against it for the current project as I don’t feel inclined to learn a completely new package in the time I’ve been given to actually produce diagrams and documentation.

So that leads me to the second contender. Another knowledgeable IA person I know sent me a link to a great little resource for all things IA – IA Wiki. In there I found a great article discussing using Macromedia Flash for creating wireframes. There’s a tool I’m well familiar with, but I hadn’t though of using it for this purpose. My other choice was going to be Adobe Illustrator, but I thought it was overkill for such simple diagrams (though probably the sexiest option).

Why Flash? Well to paraphrase the aforementioned article:

  1. We have it already – Flash development is a big part of what we do as a web agency. And I know Flash well.
  2. It’s easy to use for diagramming.
  3. It’s cross-platform (Visio is only available on Windows).
  4. You can set up a library full of commonly used wireframe widgets, like radio buttons, form fields, scroll bars, etc. Furthermore, these widgets can be actual screen grabs of the real thing.

For many other choices, here’s IA Wiki’s full list of diagramming tools.

Anyone got any other thoughts for this kind of stuff? What do you other designer/IA types use?


  1. Pretty good idea. Could even be a web service, too. Hmm!

  2. Web service! Now you’re thinking…

  3. hi henry,

    i’ve been doing this stuff for years (since ‘92) and illustrator is my choice of program. however, i have used director a few times to make interactive prototypes. read on for the ultimate wireframing tool…

    the whole point of wireframes and prototypes is rapid iteration and development of ideas. hence the best tools are textas and big sheets of paper (lots of it) and not a computer in sight.

    the ultimate return for this effort is the collaborative nature it encourages from customers/users and clients. by presenting rough designs people feel more encouraged to provide feedback as their comments won’t effect what seems to be a ‘finished design’

    this method is anchored in user-centred design practices. JT

  4. JT: Very true. The old pencil and paper is always useful for any stage of design.

    Andrew: What do you know, someone has created a web app to do online diagramming: Gliffy.