iPlotz: Goofy Name Belies Powerful Wireframe Tool

Anyone who has ever built a Web site for a client knows the painful process of gathering feedback on page layout and navigation. That’s what makes sketching wireframes such a valuable technique for eliciting those responses – before spending time and energy on design and coding. But trying to capture critical feedback on Photoshop wireframes can be arduous in its own right. iPlotz promises to make the entire wireframe process much easier – and more affordable.

iPlotz offers a Web-based tool for quickly sketching wireframes of Web sites and demonstrating navigation between pages. Using the straightforward interface, designers will be creating rough sketches of Web pages and linking them together in a matter of minutes.

There are a number of things to like about iPlotz.

First, it’s incredibly easy to use. With its drag-and-drop funcitonality, we were able to quickly recreate wireframes of current ReadWriteWeb pages right out of the gates.

Second, unlike other diagramming tools which offer everything from org charts to electrical schematics, iPlotz is focused on Web site wireframes. In fact, one of the best features of the product is the limited number of objects from which you can select. There’s just enough available to build a semblance of a Web page.

Third, those objects are very rough – as if hand sketched. Why isn’t this a detractor? In this case, rough is better. Representational elements enable wireframe designers to focus clients on concepts and functions without getting into design specifics. Need to move beyond the standard components? iPlotz allows users to import other media – like specific images – to incorporate into the wireframe.

So what’s not to like? Given that the communication around the wireframe is critical to this portion of the Web design process, we had hoped for more from the commenting features. In our testing, there was a clear division between the design interface and the comment interface. To make a change based on a comment, users have to toggle back and forth between those two screens. Worse yet, the comment pointers don’t adhere to objects on the design screen. We were able to move one object out from under a comment and replace it with another – destroying the context of the original comment.

But while the “collaboration” features may be lacking, there’s a great deal to like about what iPlotz offers for wireframing. Enough so, that we’d consider using iPlotz as a simple sketch tool without even touching the comment features.

If you’re interested in test driving iPlotz, you can open one project with up to 20 pages for free. That’s plenty to give you a feel for the tool. If you find it useful, the subscription price is $99 US per year.

And try to overlook the name. Remember “Yahoo!” and “Google” sounded goofy the first time you heard them, too.

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