Draftium: a Promising Prototyping Tool

We've been approached by the folks at Weblium to provide a review of their new SaaS product Draftium. Considering it has to do with low fidelity design I was happy to oblige.

Low fidelity design is an interesting challenge for a design tool. First of all it's a broad term despite what you might think initially. How low do you want to go? Do you want to incorporate content and copywriting or use fillers and placeholders? How soon do you want to get it done? Do you need to collaborate on it? Should it be responsive? Is the end goal mapping the content, or agreeing on a layout?

Those are quite some requirements.

For me personally, when I am producing a lo-fi design asset, I am looking for several things:

  • Ability to work fast. For me lo-fi is 80% exploration, and 20% getting it right so I need to be able to change things quickly.
  • Allowing me to work the way I'm used to. I have a way of going about things, and the tool should honor it, whatever it may be.
  • Get the right fidelity range. Most tools are either too lo, or too hi. It appears to be really hard to hit that sweet spot.

Now, Draftium is essentially a wireframing tool, but to call it that would be doing it a disservice since it does a lot of things, and a lot of them are very useful. This is why the team opted to call it a "prototyping" tool instead (my guess).

What's different about it is the fact that it produces fully functional web pages, and they are responsive. This is the most exciting thing for me here, because it allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Here's an example prototype produced with Draftium. It's rather impressive to think you could build something like this in a matter of hours, present it to the client and have them look at it on whichever device they'd like.

The way it works is that you pick and choose components from their library, and customize them for your needs. The process of doing so is very well executed, and fast. You could literally create a responsive wireframe, share it with the world, and collect feedback in five minutes, which is awesome.

The tool allows a great deal of customization of the components. Things like paddings, background images, and colors can all be set to one's preferences which might affect stakeholder buy-in a bit easier, considering you can apply the appropriate branding, graphics, etc. to the prototype itself.

Wireframe templates

The fact that the tool itself comes preloaded with dozens of pre-made templates categorized by industry is ridiculously awesome, and makes our job as designers much easier as those templates provide a starting point. This feature in particular is also useful to stakeholders themselves — considering they are not designers — as it allows one to never have to start from a blank screen, which is the most intimidating position you can be in.

However there are some downsides as well, which is perfectly fine since this is such a young product.

My main gripe with it is that it's too opinionated in terms of what it thinks I want to create. I keep hitting walls by not being able to find the appropriate elements I want to use at times, and this is mostly to the lack of "basic" elements in their library. For instance there is no way to add something like "text in columns", and instead you have to hope that there is a component in their library containing that elements, which you can customize in order to get to what you need (this sadly isn't always the case).

The level of fidelity they choose to support is also somewhat confusing to me. There are numerous of options concerning cosmetics (colors), style (button aesthetics), and behavior (parallax!?), yet some basic things such as removing an element from a component, or simply adding an image placeholder with certain dimensions are missing.

The final thing that might make me not pay for this product (yet) is that it seems completely geared towards prototyping websites, and it seems almost impossible to work on application UIs.

The good thing is that these all seem like things that are relatively easily solvable with some experience, and closer look into how users are using the product and what they want to get from it.

I will definitely continue to work in Draftium and I'm sure the team will address some of these issues as soon as they can.

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