Assist a top-notch interactive agency with redefining the information architecture and user experience of a major global corporation’s flagship website, integrating the content and functions of multiple external sites, and designing over 400 screens within an aggressive timeframe. Read more…
Information architects (IAs) and interaction designers have many tools at their disposal, but pull one of them out of the toolbox most often. Microsoft Visio has been the been the IA’s nail gun since the profession’s early days, however this tool was never designed specifically for interaction design and instead is an all-purpose diagraming tool.
Visio has served us well for many years, however, we here at Molstad Consulting have recently made the switch to Axure RP Pro, a tool that is rapidly gaining momentum within the user experience design community.
The first and most notable benefit is that Axure was built by user experience designers for user experience designers. Elements are measured in pixels allowing an IA to know exactly how much space is available resulting in wireframes a developer can really use. Lack of pixel measurement was always a severe shortcoming in Visio, so we’re particularly pleased about this feature. Also, default spacing can be set to a certain number of pixels (10 by default) so shapes can be dragged and snapped to these ruler marks, giving everything natural spacing which can be exactly replicated when the site goes to development.
Lacking in the early days of Axure, widget libraries are now readily available and extensive. Frequently used web modules such as calender pickers, carousel photo galleries, form elements, buttons and tabs, even iPhone user interface elements, can be downloaded for free and easily dragged into your prototypes.
Another game-changer is the ability to export prototypes in HTML format. These can then be zipped up and either emailed or uploaded for review. Depending on the prototype’s level of detail, the result can be a fully navigable website complete with drop down menus, active form fields, and even dynamic error messages (through the use of dynamic panels). These exports can be used for stakeholder review or even for in-depth user testing exercises. You are also not limited by height so prototypes can naturally scroll to reveal all included elements and content just like a web page.
Try one out yourself.
Masters can be created for repeating elements such as global navigations, footer navigations or any other module that’s used in a variety of places on the website. Through creative use of backgrounds in Visio, this was achievable, but the position of the module would be have to be the same throughout the prototypes. In Axure, you can place these modules anywhere you want, yet still make global updates to the module in one place.
Often times, prototypes need to be annotated to explain operations behind the scenes or to give more details for development teams. Axure has built this right into the tool. Simply click an element and a form appears allowing for entries such as specifications, status, benefit, risk, assigned to, and more. Once exported, a small graphic appears over the element. When that is clicked, a popup window opens revealing the annotations.
In the interests of building a user community, a lively discussion forum demonstrates the breadth of the user base and keeps everyone connected, sharing ideas.
It’s great to see tools specifically designed for web prototyping reaching maturity. Consider this tool for your in-house user experience staff. Even if you don’t have information architects or interaction designers on staff, those in charge of communicating requirements to your external agency can use Axure to relate ideas and concepts quickly and cleanly. With every one literally on the same web page, the development phase will sail along.
Establish a new website architecture, showcase product lines more attractively, and bring the Klement’s Sausage online presence up to speed with their offline marketing campaigns.
Klement’s Sausage is well known nationally and in the Milwaukee area especially for their delicious sausage products and their beloved Racing Sausages that entertain crowds at every Milwaukee Brewers home game.
Molstad Consulting worked closely with the Klement’s IT and Marketing departments, advising on content strategy and presentation as well as leading discussions on graphic design direction. The Molstad Consulting team analyzed the company’s existing and upcoming marketing materials and designed a look and feel that combines the “taste and fun” as well as the tradition of excellence Klement’s is famous for. Flash animations were created to showcase products and their popular “Patio Daddio” television commercials.
The Famous Klement’s Racing Sausages, were featured on the site complete with their history, bios, downloadable wallpapers and a custom-designed Flash video game. The game allows site visitors to race as their favorite sausage through the streets of Milwaukee to the Brewers opening day game.
“I’m extremely pleased with the way our web site project went from concept to completion. The Molstad team took the time to listen in order to make sure we got what we wanted. Their great service, knowledge and art talent is incomparable. They have assisted in driving our brand image by offering exceptional ideas and a unique design that has also translated into sales. I’ll definitely be calling Molstad Consulting the next time I’m in need of the services they provide.”
- Jim Westerman, Marketing Director for Klement’s Sausage
Clearly define and document all requirements, and orchestrate a multi-disciplinary team leading to the launch of enhanced technology and innovative design within an aggressive timeframe.
Brookstone Homes is one of Southeastern Wisconsin’s largest home builders, and have reached that status through progressive ideas and excellent customer service.
CI Design had established a beautiful and highly effective campaign of marketing materials for Brookstone. Recognizing the size and scope of the website redesign project, Molstad Consulting was called in to manage the entire process.
Working closely with Brookstone Homes, Molstad Consulting advised on long-term content strategies and defined and documented a new information architecture and metrics for success, dividing the project into manageable phases.
Next, information design was analyzed and wireframes were created to gain consensus on key screen layouts as well as serving as blueprints for CI Design’s creative team and Brookstone’s developers. These areas include a fully revamped community and ready home search, a customer portal allowing new home builders to track and view their home’s progress, customer service forms and many other design-intensive layouts.
Once production began, Molstad Consulting tracked all communication and decisions via a project extranet, moderated discussions, evaluated progress and performed quality assurance leading to launch.
Molstad Consulting’s search engine marketing team has set up a successful pay per click ad campaign and continues to monitor its performance, driving traffic after achieving the top position for numerous competitive keywords. An organic search engine optimization campaign is currently underway.
In addition, our analytics system was set up to monitor all site traffic and referrals giving Brookstone a clear picture of site visitors, the paths they take through the site and an easy way to track desired actions.
“The development, design, and launch of the new Brookstone Homes web site went smoothly and efficiently thanks in large part to your valuable contribution to the team. You played a critical role in keeping the many moving parts and pieces in order throughout the process. It was due to your hard work, expertise, and project management skills that we were able to accomplish all that we did in such a short period of time.”
- Dawn Wilson, Vice President & Director of Marketing for Brookstone Homes
“You were a vital part of the project, the glue that held it together, and we couldn’t have done it without you. You kept us efficient by managing all the details and delivering the requirements and content we needed when we needed them. Your wireframes and approval system eliminated unpleasant surprises and kept all accountable, including the client.”
- Jim Taugher, President of CI Design
Brookstone Homes, Inc. was honored with several recognitions at the 2006 Metropolitan Builders Assocation’s Standards of Excellence Awards. The annual event recognizes innovative use of sales and marketing techniques and practices. In the marketing categories, Brookstone Homes earned gold awards for Best Web Page Design.
Completely overhaul and improve the company’s online identity, both graphically and functionally, and enhance the home search experience.
HomeSale Realty’s previous site was quickly becoming too small to contain the content and functionality necessary to represent the fastest growing real estate brokerage in Wisconsin. The property search confused most users and was getting little traffic.
Molstad Consulting conducted a requirements analysis, fully documented the findings and prototypes and led a multi-disciplinary team in designing the new front-end and back-end interfaces.
Public site visitors now enjoy a much more robust and user-friendly property search of the entire Multiple Listing Service and can sign up to be automatically updated via email when properties that match their search criteria become available. A home search can begin right from the homepage by clicking on a county taking the user to a screen to see the number of listings available in each community. From there the search can be narrowed using extensive new search criteria options.
Each property allows a home buyer to view a dynamic notification of open houses, virtual tours and multiple property photos with a unique caption for each. They can also map the property, request a showing (sent directly to the listing agent) or click an agent’s photo or name to jump to that agent’s custom online vanity page.
The back-end automatically downloads all available MLS property data into the system on a nightly basis and allows the staff to manage the brokerage’s available properties, open houses, virtual tours, agent profiles and property update accounts. They enjoy instantaneous updates to the public site which previously had to be run through a separate agency.
Each agent has a separate login to manage their own properties, open houses and profile.
The public site also features an extensive “Newsroom” area giving the media and public easy access to notifications of HomeSale’s many and frequent accomplishments. These include HomeSale’s television commercials featuring Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita integrated into a custom-designed Flash video player.
“Without any extra clicks, the home buyer gets what they’re looking for the instant they land on our homepage.”
- Roy Scholtka, President of HomeSale Realty
Help a new and innovative commercial roof bidding website go from good to great.
Molstad Consulting was approached by Top Floor Technologies to perform a professional review of their client’s complex roof project bidding website. The system consisted of more than 50 unique interfaces to be evaluated.
The resulting document featured numerous annotated screen shots organized by user access and task flows with detailed recommendations for improvements in the areas of information architecture, information design, graphic design, interface usability, user task fulfillment, help system usability, and copywriting.
The site is currently reflecting many of these recommendations with more updates in progress and the company plans to introduce new functionality based on broader strategic observations.
The RoofBidsNow.com website has seen an increase of contractor signups amounting to nearly 250 contractors nationwide. The company has been featured in Roofing/Siding/Insulation Magazine and has enjoyed many newly submitted positive user testimonials.
TroyResearch is an Internet-focused consumer opinion market research firm. From online focus groups to custom surveys to hybrid Internet/traditional methodologies, they use Internet technology to help their clients stay in touch with their customers quickly and cost-effectively.
TroyResearch operates a massive back-end system to administrative their online services and client data. Maintaining and adding to this system was becoming more and more complex and difficult to manage resulting in higher costs and extended deadlines.
Molstad Consulting introduced new methods of documentation and project management, including functionality specifications and wireframes, serving as prototypes of interface elements as well as a context for decision making. This documentation became the blueprints for TroyResearch developers on multiple projects, giving them a clear picture of user needs and programming requirements.
Featured projects include:
General Market Research Tools
- Allows for expansion of Troy Research market research services into other industries
- Created multiple new online, dynamic reports, with expanded calculations, allowing radio stations and other clients to conduct a more efficient and detailed statistical analysis of their survey data with a focus on usability
- The new reports allow for crosstabbing, trending, frequency tables, participation reports and multi-filtering
- Enhanced the TroyResearch online survey system to allow a major national film industry client access to more meaningful data of the film opinions of their younger audiences
- Established new functionality milestones such as quota rules to keep an online survey open until the necessary data has been obtained and survey branching options to ensure a respondent is being asked specific, relevant questions based on their responses
- Enhanced the TroyResearch online survey system to allow a major national film industry client to dynamically trend the results of multiple film opinion surveys over multiple weeks for specific films
- Provides crucial data with which the client can determine appropriate advertising expenses as a movie approaches its release date
- Allows the staff of TroyResearch to more easily search through their library of thousands of song segments (hooks).
- Increased the usability of the search results by providing enhanced sorting options as well as the ability to play the hook from the search results for reference
“Our development phases were taking too long and costing too much. Molstad Consulting’s wireframes and functionality specifications helped rein them in by laying out what needed be built in clear detail.”
- James Young, IT Director for TroyResearch