Some Benefits and Uses of Wireframes

From flowcharts to UML diagrams, we’ve offered quite a bit of important reading material for you out there. Our last post focused on wireframes and this present one also revolves around this really useful tool. To start things off we thought we’d focus a bit on the uses and benefits of wireframes.

You see, for the layman, the topic of wireframes may relate to just web designers and software developers. However, the fact of the matter is that wireframes are actually used by a variety of disciplines. While the main functionality of wireframes depends on the profession per se, find below some of the professions that utilize wireframes the most and how it benefits them.

  • Developers would use a wireframe to understand the functionality of a particular site
  • Designers would use a wireframe to push the user interface process
  • Information architects would utilize wireframes to illustrate the navigation paths that is present between pages
  • Business stakeholders would use wireframes to make sure that objectives and requirements are met via the design

Choosing to work with wireframes will lead to a collaborative effort since it helps link the information architecture to the visual design. Conflicts are sure to take place among these professional roles, as wireframing is a controversial part of the design process. Since wireframes signify an aesthetic that is very minimal, it is hard for designers to see how close the wireframe needs to depict actual screen layouts. Another difficulty with wireframes is that they don’t effectively display interactive details.

Generally speaking, wireframes usually have different levels of detail and may be split into two categories to show how closely they resemble the end product (this is also known as fidelity).

Wireframes that are Low-fidelity

Ideally low-fidelity wireframes (more like a quick mock-up) possess less detail and consume less time to produce. Additionally, these wireframes assist a project team to share effectively since they are usually abstract, with the use of rectangles and labelling to provide content. These wireframes are easy to identify with dummy content or symbolic content utilized to represent data when there is a lack of real content being available. For simple or low-fidelity drawings, paper prototyping is a common technique. Since these sketches are just representations, annotations—adjacent notes to explain behavior–are useful. However, online wire framing provides added benefits such as collaboration across distances, versioning and publishing for the next stage.

Wireframes that are High-fidelity

Then there are also high-fidelity wireframes. These are used for documenting, since they incorporate a level of detail that is very close to the design of the actual webpage or application, thus taking longer to create. With high fidelity wireframes, it is far easier to engage the client of a project since you are showing something that is close to the finished product. As mentioned previously, high fidelity wireframes gives a lot of priority to documenting. Needless to say, documenting is very significant since it is very important to communicate clearly with the next stage of a project. This would offer many benefits like reducing the chances of having to do re-work and also reducing time and money wastage.

We hope this gives you some useful insights into wireframes. However, there is more to come next week, with the focus once again being on wireframes and UI mockups, so stay tuned to this space. As always, you are more than welcome to give us a shout or to leave a comment below this post. Till next time – Happy Diagramming!

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Creately is now in Japanese & Chinese, plus we fixed some bugs!

I really hope you enjoyed the glut of posts we published, which covered UML diagrams and Org Charts, recently. You can bet we got more knowledge-based posts coming your way this week. But we just had to break up this exciting trend for some other exciting news. Remember how we told you about how Creately got faster with its response time earlier this month? Well, now we’re eager to let you know that we put in some hard work to sort out quite a few bugs, like those that are related to opening up diagrams and the behavior of connectors, for good. All this, just so you can enjoy uninterrupted, intuitive, and easy and fast diagramming with just a click or two.

And there’s more swell news. It’s just over a month since we got Creately and Creately Desktop up and running in German. Thanks to our Localization Program, we’ve got both Japanese and Chinese added onto our language portfolio as well. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the hard work put in by Tatsuya Aoyagi and Cai Ping. So, gentlemen, on behalf of the Creately team, here’s a massive THANK YOU for your support!

If you have used Creately in German, Japanese or Chinese, please do let us know your thoughts. We really would appreciate your feedback. While we’ve got Creately conversant with three global languages, we have started working on getting French, Russian and Spanish sorted as well. As a concluding note, if you know French, Russian and Spanish or any other global language and are happy to help us out, please do get in touch with us. As a token of all the support you give us with these translations, we’ll be glad to offer you some really cool freebies in return! =)

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Organizing for Success [2] : Map out your Organization Structure!

Here we go again – more on org charts! I did walk you through some of the different organization structures in our previous post, if you haven’t seen the post, go read it! And now, I’ll take you through 3 more organization structural types.

The Holding Company Structure

You probably know what a holding company is? However, if you begin to wonder what this is, here’s a little description. Holding company is an investment company consisting of shareholdings in a variety of separate business operations. These business operations may operate independently although they are a part of the parent company.

A holding company structure is based on the idea that the constituent businesses will operate their product strategy to their best potential if left alone, particularly as business environments become more turbulent. This structure may claim benefits, such as the spreading of risk across many business ventures and the ease of divestment of individual companies. Perhaps the greatest weaknesses of this structure are the lack of internal strategic cohesion and duplication of effort between businesses.

Holding_company_structure

The Matrix Structure

This is a combination of structures which could take the form of product and geographical divisions or functional and divisional structures operating in tandem. These may be generally adopted by your managers because there is more than one factor around which knowledge needs to be built whilst ensuring that these separate areas of knowledge can be integrated.

For example, a global company may prefer geographically defined divisions as the operating units for local marketing (because of the specialist local knowledge of customers). But at the same time they may still want global product divisions responsible for the worldwide co-ordination of product development, manufacturing and distribution to these geographical divisions (because of the specialist knowledge of these issues).

Because Matrix structure replaces formal lines of authority with (cross-matrix) relationships, this often brings problems. In particular, it will typically take longer for you to reach decisions since they may result from bargaining rather than imposition. There may be also a good deal of conflict because of the lack of clarity of role definition and responsibility. Perhaps the key ingredient in a successful matrix structure can be achieved by encouraging your senior managers to sustain collaborative relationships (across the matrix) and coping with the messiness and ambiguity which that can bring.

Matrix_structure

Team-based Structure

This structural type is aimed at using employees from various departments who form a temporary team in order to solve a problem. For example, if you’re running an Information Systems company, you might have development teams, product teams and application teams who are probably responsible for: new product development, service and support of standard products, and customizing products to particular customers (or customer groups) respectively. Now, since each of these teams will have a mix of specialists, you’ll be able to see the issues holistically.

Team-based structures allows every employee in your organization to feel important, feel like they have a voice so they are more motivated to accomplish their tasks. However, this structure has its problems. Team members can tend to be partial to their needs, resulting in more disagreement among the team. This can result in a lot of time wasted. Therefore, this structure may not be the answer for every business or decision-making requirement.

Team_based_structure

I will not overload you with too much information. I’ll save the rest for another post! So hope to see you soon with the a little more on organization structures. And, as always share your feedback and ideas. We’re listening!

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Organizing for Success [1] : Map out your Organization Structure!

Perhaps the most important resource of an organization is its people. So the role people play, how they interact through formal and informal processes and the relationships that they build are crucial to the success of any strategy. If your manager was asked to describe your organization, he would probably respond by drawing an org chart, to map out its structure.

But why does an organization need a structure? This is important because it gives a clear picture of the reporting lines and helps you understand who you should report to. Also, by having clear reporting lines it makes it easy for you to have more control over the resources. Organization structure is more like the backbone of an organization’s culture, it therefore can directly affect employee behaviour, performance and motivation. Therefore, having a structure in your organization is important rather than leaving it carelessly managed with no clear structure.

Organization Structural Types

Having an effective organizational structure in place can increase productivity, improve operating costs and employee satisfaction. This will allow you to identify the positions within an organization, determine who manages which departments and define individual job levels and roles in the organization. Lets go through some of the basic structural types. This will help you understand how each organization structure fits in to the business environment and the strengths and weaknesses of each structure.

The Simple Structure

This is no formal structure at all, just typical of an organization run by the personal control of an individual. It is commonly the way in which very small businesses operate. There may be an owner who undertakes most of the responsibilities of management, perhaps with a partner or an assistant. However, there is little division of responsibility, and probably little clear definition of who is responsible for what if there is more than one person involved.

The main problem here is that the organization can operate effectively only up to a certain size, beyond which it becomes too cumbersome and time consuming for one person to control alone.

Simple_structure

The Functional Structure

This is typically found in companies with narrow, rather than diverse, product ranges. It allows greater operational control at a senior level; and linked to this is the clear definition of roles and tasks. For instance, the marketing department would be staffed only with marketers responsible for the marketing of the company’s products.

This specialization leads to operational efficiencies where employees become specialists within their own realm of expertise. It’s best suited for organizations producing standardized goods and services at large volumes and low cost. The most typical problem with this structure is however that communication within the company can be rather rigid, making the organization slow and inflexible. Therefore, functional structures may be considered most effective for organizations operating in rather stable environments.

Functional_structure

The Multidivisional Structure

Divisionalization is considered as a solution to overcome the problems that functional structures have in dealing with responsibility and business diversity. Divisionalization allows a tailoring of the product strategy to the requirements of each separate division and can improve the ownership of the strategy by divisional staff.

Unlike the functional organizational structure, this focuses on a higher degree of specialization within a specific division, so that divisions are given the resources and autonomy, to react to changes in their specific business environment. Therefore, each division often has all the necessary resources and functions within it to satisfy the demands put on the division. In practice, however a multidivisional structure has problems, like conflict between departments which is common due to internal competition and differences in values and expectations. It’s also more expensive to operate and manage because each division is considered its own entity and some functions are duplicated.

Multidivisional_structure

Although it can be hard to determine when your current organizational structure isn’t working, especially if you do not have a high level view of the structure, effort should be made to identify if your business has grown beyond its current structure or organizational design. When the structure isn’t working it leads to inefficiencies and wastage as well as possible internal conflicts. If you identify these sorts of problems it may be time to rethink your structure and move toward a better company structure.

Having looked at a few organization structures today, watch this space for more on the same topic to follow soon. In the meantime, please do let us know if you have any questions/suggestions, we are more than happy to help you.

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Creately just got faster and more responsive

Creately was always about intuitive diagramming that was fast and smart. We’ve always made it a point to keep upgrading our systems to ensure that you face no delay at all when it comes to creating those all-important diagrams. So as tweeted by Nick yesterday, you should notice an increase is speed when it comes to certain functions.

A faster app means a happier diagrammer

Some of the improvements also includes a faster response time when it comes to functions such as Create, Save, Open, Rename, Copy, and Delete diagrams, amongst many others. Other improvements include a quick response to opening the document manager and selecting as much as five diagrams at once! It’s a no brainer as to how this could translate to real-world benefits.

We reckon our performance upgrade would save you a whole lotta time, thanks to time being reduced when it comes to the usual diagramming functions such as opening documents, creating diagrams, saving and publishing them.  But there’s more reason to cheer, our performance upgrade has inherently improved the response time for Central Desktop as well. Read on to see how.

Central Desktop is fast, real fast

As most users may already know, Central Desktop offers a complete Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) collaboration platform, which allows business teams to communicate and collaborate online. This collaborative workspace gets more powerful now with Creately’s integration into Central Desktop’s platform that offers customers the ability to translate their ideas graphically.

The new online diagramming feature makes it extremely easy for users to create a visual diagram and embed that into online documents, wikis and discussions with just a few clicks. The good news is that this process has got quicker compared to what it was.

Access our Public Diagrams faster!

A real testament as to how versatile and easy-to-use Creately is would be the vast amount of diagrams drawn by our users. Currently we have in excess of 100,000 diagrams that encompass everything from Block Diagrams to UML Diagrams. This page has been a constant source of inspiration for new diagrammers and there are many diagrams that could be graded as Novice at one end to Professional at the other end. Despite having thousands of diagrams, the time taken to load a page is now quicker than what it was. You can click a diagram to view it on the Creately Diagram Viewer, which is also fairly fast now.

There are more improvements along the way (very soon!) in the form of bug fixes. We appreciate all the bug reports you guys have sent us and we’re hard at work to make sure Creately is that much smarter to work on. We’re all for constant improvement; if there are certain things you want improved, you’re more than welcome to pop us a tweet or send us an email.  It’s true what they say, sometimes it’s those small details that can make a world of difference.

Diagram references: http://www.psdgraphics.com/icons/psd-red-speedometer-icon/

Tags: announcement, collaboration, Customer First, Features

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At just $75, you get Creately Desktop and more! « Creately Blog

As promised on our last post, we’re itching to let loose a flood of details on just how awesome the Creately Desktop experience is. While we did rave about its funky features (with Diagrams Anywhere being the proverbial icing on the cake), we’re excited to offer all our users the revised pricing plans (5 plans in all!) BUT with more features that are all-new for Creately Desktop.

But before we get into the details of what this shiny new app costs (which compared to our competitors is peanuts), we’d like to give a shout out and a big “THANK YOU!” to the hundreds of users who took the plunge and downloaded Creately Desktop. You guys rock!

Now, on to the good stuff. While $75 will get you Creately Desktop, you’d be glad to note that this price gets you way more than just the app, like Creately’s online functionality (FREE for a year!) along with a year’s worth of upgrades, also absolutely FREE! If you’re a new user, it’s never too late to discover a the product thousands use every day! For our existing Creately users, we’re offering a 33% discount, which means you can enjoy this new take on diagramming bliss for just $50!

Want to share your thoughts on Creately Desktop and our plans? Go right ahead and connect with us here, here or here.

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10 features why diagramming is easier with Creately Desktop

With Creately Desktop being set up for launch within a matter of days, we’re more than excited with the positive response we received from all you awesome users! The launch of Creately Desktop may be the natural way to go for an app that’s still growing, yet it is also about offering something that people are wowed by. Because diagramming is the foundation on which our house is built, we thought of highlighting 10 great feature-rich reasons why diagramming is easy as peas with Creately Desktop.

1. Diagrams Anywhere

This is the “Man! This really is a big deal” moment of Creately Desktop. Basically when you create a flowchart, mindmap, UML, wireframe, mockup or any other diagram, just click the Diagrams Anywhere feature and you can have all your diagrams sync’ed into both the online and desktop platforms.

2. Moderate accessibility levels with Edit & View

While you can share diagrams with viewers, you can give permission to editors to make changes on diagrams as well. Moreover, you can now choose your editors or delete them and invite collaborators via e-mail (or you can save yourself the trouble by simply clicking on the dialog box that allows you to share with the entire team). You can also enable view and/or edit links (depending on who you want to edit and/or view your diagrams), which opens up your diagrams in a super-versatile Diagram Viewer (if you want to view) or the Creately Editor (if you want to edit).

3. Publish your Diagrams

What’s the point in sharing your diagrams if you cannot publish them? Not only do you get to publish an always-updated diagram to any web page, you can easily push it through Twitter, Facebook and more recently, LinkedIn as well.

4. Accountability via Notification

Once you save your diagrams, you can keep all the members of your team notified with regard to the changes you have made. Everyone knows who changed what, and what the next action should be with a simple notification.

5. 1000s of images @ just a click

If you can’t find what you need in Creately’s shape libraries you can also search for images from Google and IconFinder.com. So there’s no excuse to share diagrams that are unrealistic and empty. With 1000s of images accessible with just a click, sharing your ideas just got more colourful and real.

6. The zoom-able and sharable Diagram Viewer…

…is the icing on the cake. The Creately Diagram Viewer is a simple embeddable widget that allows you to include an always updated Creately diagram in any web page. Once added just save your webpage and your Creately diagram is available immediately.The widget always fetches the latest version of your diagram to display making sure that visitors always see the latest version. When working as a team on the same diagram or diagrams in a project all the changes made using Creately will be reflected immediately in your documentation ensuring that the Creately diagram and the published webpage stays synchronized.

7. Easy-to-use Interface

With Creately Desktop, work is not only easy but it’s easy on the eyes as well. With its one-touch click facility and user-friendly tools, working is a real pleasure. Why? Simply because, everything is where it should be – logically placed.

8. Getting your ideas across is easy when Diagrams are Beautiful

With over 100s of user friendly templates, you can create mockups, UMLs and mindmaps (amongst a zillion other diagrams) that are beautiful and easy to work with. What this means is that collaborating on them is an easy and enjoyable experience too. Not convinced? Ever tried collaborating on something like this? We rest our case.

9. The Drag and Drop convenience

Diagramming is all about saving time, doing away with inconveniences and making the process seamless as possible. This is why the Drag and Drop convenience is one of those small things that make a big difference. No need to press Ctrl+O to bring in a new image. Even if you have a cdml file on your desktop, you can click and drag it onto your Creately Desktop and it will convert into an image. Just Drag and Drop, virtually anything.

10. Access diagrams, even when Offline

With Creately Desktop, you can enjoy working on your diagrams even when you are offline. So, in other words, the diagrams that you worked on while being online will be updated onto your Desktop. So once you do go offline, you can still work on them. Once you are online, the diagrams you worked on will get synchronized.

Tags: Beta, collaboration, desktop, diagrams, Features

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Diagrams Anywhere - A unique feature of Creately Desktop

It’s just 5 days into Beta and I would say that things are looking great! While I think that the process of ironing out various bugs are being done quite effectively, it would make sense to highlight the many advantages of Creately Desktop’s features (bit by bit) leading up to the official release.

Users of Creately would know that this app has always been about working on diagrams and sharing them with ease, wherever you are. Collaborating on diagrams within your own team with publishing that’s 100% secure, and embedding diagrams on Google sites and social media is part and parcel of the Creately experience. Moreover, users would also be familiar with its intelligent features like how when embedding a diagram (via the Diagram Viewer) on a Google site would still mean that you could make changes to the diagram on Creately, thereby updating those changes on the Diagram Viewer.

So what more could we offer on the desktop version of Creately? Conventionally, when putting out an online app and then the same app as a desktop version, you’d expect them to be two separate products. But (we thought) why don’t we amalgamate both the online and desktop versions? What links both the online and offline versions would be this exciting and potent feature – Diagrams Anywhere.

So when you create a flowchart, mindmap or any other diagram, basically just click the Diagrams Anywhere feature and you can have all your diagrams sync’ed into both the online and desktop platforms. In other words, you get to work on the same diagram either online or offline, whether you are on land, sea or air. Let’s put the benefits of this feature into context. Let’s say your boss wants you to amend an organizational flowchart that he has shared with you. You can work on it offline while travelling and once you do get connected, it’ll automatically update itself.

To put this into perspective, we’d like to invite you to try the Beta version. Let us know what you think and you could enjoy the true awesomeness of Creately Desktop the day it is officially launched at a discount.

@rohitha

Try Creately Now

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