Fireworks

Creating Prototypes for testing

One of my job responsibilities is to create the prototypes for testing. Sometimes it is me, sometimes it is one of my team. They are all used however for testing. I run a UX user group, and we recently had a meeting about tools for UX. A lot of prototyping tools were mentioned. I’ll write another post about the tools of the trade soon, but there are already a lot of options and articles about the tools.

To start with, I bet a lot of people who have never done that before know it takes upwards of 4 weeks to get a test on the books. Where are the users going to come from? What do they need to know, what product(s) do they need to have used, and so on. Who will conduct the test, who moderates, what software will you use to capture the testing? So many variables. Lighting, computers, servers, speakers, one-way mirrors and more.

Creating a prototype for testing means creating smoke and mirrors illusions. It is all about the interactions, and what level of interactivity the tester and product owner needs from the prototype to get the information they need from the users. What we use to get that information doesn’t even matter.

The first prototype my team did was in Axure. A mobile prototype. Then I did my first one in Flash, based on a wireframe. I had a blast creating that one. So much grief deciding on Flash to start with, I had tried HTML, but the interaction was too complex. Then I thought Muse, nope. Fireworks, no again. InDesign interactive saved as a SWF, and no again. I actually spent a lot of time on those, and a disaster all based on the level of interactivity I needed. I finally finished and was happy with my Flash prototype.

Since then we’ve done HTML, paper, Axure several more times, Flash Builder, Muse and I am still trying to decide on the next one. This one now is tricky. Turns out iOS turned tricks on us, and you can’t get rid of the browser window on an HTML prototype any longer, past the home/index page. Janky move Apple. So, I am now trying different things out which will probably involve an app on the phone side to display the prototype. This one also involves lots of form fields, so I couldn’t use something that just creates hotspots.

So again, how the user needs to interact, rules. We’ll see what I find to create that prototype that emulates a native application. So many choices out there, surely I will find something suitable. Will keep you updated!

Adobe Fireworks Resources

Recently I did a search of resources for someone new to Adobe Fireworks. This is the list I came up with, and please feel free to comment and I’ll add to it. Should end up a pretty great list.
I did videos for Total Training on Fireworks CS5, but everybody here already knows that. Just do a search. I think most are on youtube at this point. Greg Rewis also did a slew of them on tv.adobe.

In CS6, make sure you have Auto Save turned on here >>http://www.stuffandnonsense.co.uk/blog/about/turn_on_fireworks_cs6_auto_save

Make sure you have all the good extensions from:
John Dunning – johndunning.com/fireworks/
Matt Stow – http://mattstow.com/
Aaron Beal – http://fireworks.abeall.com/extensions/
http://fwextensions.com/
http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/2012/05/25/blueprints-for-the-web-specctr-adobe-fireworks-plugin/

Resources:
http://www.webportio.com/
http://www.extendingfireworks.com/
http://www.noupe.com/design/an-explosion-of-adobe-fireworks-resources.html
http://speckyboy.com/2010/05/20/25-awesome-adobe-fireworks-resources-for-web-and-app-developers/
http://fireworkswireframingkit.com/
http://johndunning.com/fireworks/about/QuickFire
http://192.150.16.64/devnet/fireworks/articles/atv_fw_interaction_design.html
http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/tutorials/applications/whats-new-in-fireworks-cs6/ (and they have a ton of videos by Tom Green and Jim Babbage)
http://www.adobe.com/devnet/fireworks/articles/css-sprites.html
helpx.adobe.com/pdf/fireworks_reference.pdf
http://bootstrapfireworks.com/#!prettyPhoto
http://www.fireworkstoolkits.com/
http://mattstow.com/export-responsive-prototype.html
http://www.fireworkszone.com/
http://launch.fwpolice.com/
http://www.smashingapps.com/2011/09/14/40-extremely-useful-adobe-fireworks-tutorials-for-designers.html
http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/
http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/2012/05/07/refining-designs-adobe-fireworks/
http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/2012/06/25/create-interactive-prototypes-with-adobe-fireworks/
http://fireworks.smashingmagazine.com/2012/07/03/interactive-prototypes-timesavers-adobe-fireworks/
http://unitid.nl/2011/03/touch-application-prototypes-tap-for-iphone-and-ipad-using-adobe-fireworks/
http://www.splashnology.com/article/adobe-fireworks-useful-articles-and-tutorials/2489/

http://layersmagazine.com/ – Tom Green has a ton of Tutorials here, and I believe Jim Babbage has stuff here also.

Oh… and one of the few Fireworks User Groups, Fire on the Bay. Tons of recordings http://www.meetup.com/Fire-On-The-Bay/

From my previous posts about extensions:

http://www.vcarrer.com/2010/09/fireworks-mini-web-wireframing-kit.html
http://www.dragnet.se/webbdesign/websitewireframes.html
http://buchok.com/blog/?p=56
http://speckyboy.com/2010/05/20/25-awesome-adobe-fireworks-resources-for-web-and-app-developers/ (this entire post is great and *filled* with wireframing extras)
http://www.fireworkszone.com/fireworks_annotation_command
http://vector.tutsplus.com/tutorials/web-design/build-a-promotional-iphone-app-website-wireframe-in-fireworks/

http://fireworks.abeall.com

Extensions
http://johndunning.com/fireworks/
http://speckyboy.com/category/fireworks-extensions/
http://speckyboy.com/2010/05/20/25-awesome-adobe-fireworks-resources-for-web-and-app-developers/
http://fwextensions.com/
http://orangecommands.com/

That should be enough to get you going for awhile. 🙂

Update for why Fireworks is better than Photoshop

Designers being designers have used Photoshop forever. It is sad to see that they also seem to use it for web design. Right tool for the right job I say. So, if you use Photoshop for web, or even Ilustrator, listen up.

Since I wrote the last post about PS vs FW, I’ve seen a few other posts and none of them go into specifics. So, here is a list. There is 1 thing people forget the easiest though when comparing, which is why they can’t fully be compared. Photoshop is pixel based, while Fireworks is vector. Fireworks can also manipulate bitmaps, but Photoshop only uses the term vector to certain objects while working in Photoshop. Once exported, they are no longer vector, which is HUGE. Anywho, here you go.

Things they do similar:

  • They both have a similar layout, thanks to Owl panels in CS4.
  • They both have styles (layer styles in Photoshop)
  • They both have layers and layer groups
  • Some similar tools (clone stamp, tragic wand…)
  • Export jpg, gifs, png (8, 24, 32), psd, tiff, flat png, swf, etc
  • Same type engine – hmmm (personal note, would love more control over text)
  • They can both put text on a path
  • They both can mask, select bitmaps, clone, pen tool, paint (though not anywhere near the same)

Now these are similar remember not exactly alike, but many of the tools are called the same thing. For instance they both can have layer effects. Fireworks calls it Photoshop Live Effects, but has the same options. Photoshop has Adjustment layers, but both can use levels, curves, hue and saturation and others.

So some major differences are:

  • Animated .gifs
  • Gradients – they both have them, but Fireworks 
does it better
  • They both integrate well with Dreamweaver and Flash, 
except vector shapes in Photoshop end up being 
bitmaps still when brought into Flash.
  • Text – They supposedly have the same font engine, but there is room for
improvement in Fireworks
  • Export slices

They both have animated .gifs, but do it very differently. Gradients goes to Fireworks because it is on a vector object, plus you see the start and stop points and it’s super easy to manipulate. Again the difference between when something is vector or not goes to Fireworks. If I am going to Flash, which is a vector program btw, why would I use something pixel based unless I am manipulating an image? I wouldn’t. But technically, Photoshop can go to Flash. I can open a PSD in Flash and make a symbol. The big difference here is Fireworks can make symbols. It’s more similar to Illustrator at this level than Photoshop. Exporting. I won’t go into some rant here. Photshop simply doesn’t have the same control over exporting as Fireworks does. Plus it makes a smaller file if optimizing. Thanks to fellow Fireworks geeks like Matt Stow and David Hogue, we have enhanced Exports that actually export nice CSS. At least to the point where it makes it easy to manipulate and I have a nice starting point. OK, onward we go.

  • Filters – you can bring in Photoshop filters inside Fireworks
  • They both export PDF’s, except Fireworks can make interactive ones, but Photoshop has more typical PDF options. Unfortunately, Fireworks does not embed fonts.
  • They both can make an *almost* instant web gallery (just a minute or 2 depending on how many images)
  • Define is a slice as an image or html (Fireworks can do a background image, PS can’t)
  • They both export CSS, but PS and AI use Absolute positioning
  • They both have align features,  
but FW can align to the stage/canvas but PS can auto-align layers.
  • They can both do a slideshow, although Photoshop
does one via a PDF presentation, and FW can do one
 of all document pages and ends up a swf.

So what does Photoshop do better?

  • Image Manipulation
  • Defining and selection areas of a bitmap using a variety of means, such as… Alpha channels, Quick Select tool, Quick Mask mode
  • Rubber stamp, yes they both have one, but there is NO contest as to which one is better and can do more.
  • Healing brush and similar tools
  • Brushes (so many to choose from)
  • Defining your own brush and/or pattern
  • Color management and CMYK, which FW does not do
  • Zoomify
  • Actions (Fireworks can be scripted, but this is just something I’ve done for so long that it’s a presonal thing. I can make an action and a droplet to do most repetitive tasks  in Photoshop so fast and I couldn’t make a script that fast.)
  • Batch commands and droplets
  • Even through Photoshop is a bitmap program, you can open/place something as a smart object. Allows for resizing bitmaps, and can update an Illustrator document later and the ability to make an image a Smart Object so it can be re-sized without degradation to the image. (smaller back to normal size, not bigger)
  • Content-aware scaling (amazing feature)
  • 3D
  • video manipulation
  • vanishing point

So what can Fireworks do?

  • Vector…everything
  • Pages and Master pages
  • Shared Layers between Pages
  • Application development (like AIR)
  • User Interfaces
  • Common Library of commonly used items like HTML, Flex components, and custom symbols I can make myself
  • Making symbols like for Flash – Drag and Drop from FW to Flash (try that with PS. FW retains them as vector)
  • Exporting MXML and other options
  • Interactive alignments like Flash
  • Rollovers and States
  • The ability to make wireframes and then make
them working html or an interactive PDF
 (with hotspots liked to Pages) and get client approval on layout before time
is wasted on a design
  • Background slices, foreground etc.
  • 9-slice scaling
  • CSS Export – Matt Stow’s better CSS Export
  • Pathfinder (Illustrator’s Pathfinder, but on crack)
  • Auto shapes including some 3D
  • Special Characters panel (but will it be there next version?)
  • Commands unique to web
  • A preview of rollovers etc. without having to open a Save for Web window
  • Send to email
  • Vector shapes, real vector shapes
  • Ability to easily make a hotspot, new button, etc
  • Via property inspector, manipulate a variety of fills types, patterns, stroke options and more
  • Someone is making a new
plug-in every day

Quite a list, huh? I have seen the most amazing logos, drawings, etc. come from Fireworks. People use it in the most amazing ways daily. I have been using Photoshop since version 1. I’ve been certified in it for years and years. I’ve taught it for over 12 now. But I use the right tool for the right job, and for me, anything, anything at all for the web, I use Fireworks. I can make a site 10 times faster in Fireworks than Photoshop any day of the week.

But, like other web geeks, I am not always the designer as well. Often I am given a PSD file. What then? Not a problem. In CS4 they make that process much less painful. I can not only bring in a Photoshop file, but I can export back out of Fireworks as one as well if needed.  Sometimes, some things don’t always come across exactly the same. Masks sometimes need to be re-linked, but all in all, it works pretty well. All layers are 100% opacity so that would also need to be changed. Fonts can have different spacing at times as well. All-in-all though, it can be pretty seamless.

Once you dig in, find how useful Pages can be, do a wireframe or 2 you’ll be just as hooked as the rest of us who consider themselves to be Fireworks Evangelists.A shout to guru Jim Babbage (http://www.communitymx.com/author.cfm?cid=1036) Who is the nicest guy, and knows his stuff in Fireworks.

Here are some helpful links, though not remotely a complete list.

Web Design: Photoshop vs Fireworks – no contest

There have been many a showdown lately about whether fireworks or Photoshop is the better tool for the web. I hate to say this, but Fireworks is the better tool to go to the web. (Let me say I am a Photoshop ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) and Certified Instructor, and have been using it since version 2.0, but it’s a matter of the right tool for the right job) I love Photoshop, I do, but hands-down Fireworks is better for many things like:

– It slices better than Photoshop hands down.
– It has Pages, which let you carry on your design to other pages with a Master page for all common elements.
– With Pages, it allows for you to start with a wireframe and have the client approve of the basic structure before you move on to full blown design. It’s called rapid prototyping.
– From that wireframe or design you can make your navigation work and post it to a site, or make a PDF to send to the client.
– It exports much better CSS without having to slice everything up, as we use background images now, and Fireworks understand that and lets you choose when something is a background image.
– It’s a vector-based drawing program, and since most people use Photoshop, you can make your page more unique, plus making vector shapes is much easier.
– Makes symbols to go into Flash if necessary. (Yes you can bring in a Photoshop file into Flash, but it’ll still be a bitmap, not vector art, thus a bigger file)
– Makes skinning application super easy, like for Flex since it also exports as MXML.

(Flash Catalyst (formally Thermo and to come in 2009) will allow the designer to design a web application in Photoshop, Illustrator or Fireworks and bring it into Catalyst and make scroll bars and buttons, and other things function, then hand that off to the developer to let Flex finish things off.)

Photoshop has many positives, and it is by far the standard for image manipulation. I will say for simple image manipulation, i.e., color correction fireworks does a fine job. I can do most things to my images right inside of Fireworks that I need.

The problem as I see it, is Fireworks was just added to the Creative Suite in 3.3 of the Design Premium. Designers haven’t had years to play with it, except for us old groupies of the Macromedia Studio collection. I won a copy of Ultra Dev (Dreamweaver) and Fireworks 3 years ago, 2000 I think. Many current designers just don’t bother learning something new. They already have Photoshop and why learn a new tool. Didn’t Photoshop take what ImageReady had and they incorporated that into it? Well the answer is yes, to a degree.

Can I slice in Photoshop and name it and even make it text? Yes
Can I export as html, and some CSS and have my images go into a folder? Yes
Can I easily make an animated GIF? Yes
Can I make rollover images easily? Whoa, ah, well, ummm, no. This is where the buck stops to a degree. If I want to make a rollover image in PS, I’d have to rename the slice and re-export it.

So, can I save time in Fireworks? Yes. Could I convince others to join me there and save time and frustration? Maybe. For every designer who has CS4, I’d say come on in, open up Fireworks and see how it can change your life by freeing up time spent making Photoshop mockups.