Saturday, March 24, 2012

JustinMind: You immediately recognize when you see a great product!

I have a pretty good technical background what with years of experience building and supporting online banking sites serving millions of users.  However, I must admit I haven't done a lot of hardcore programming in the last couple years.  Which only means that I am relying on some of the best engineers to actually build and scale returnguru.com and the mobile apps.

However, I have been looking for creative ways to build mockup screens, define the requirements and collaborate with geographically dispersed engineering team (Oregon-Ohio-Australia!).  First I started with very basic wireframes for my own sake but those became worthless quite quickly.  then I scoured the internet for images and PSD files that I could use to create mock-ups for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone Apps.  I found many great sources but it was still pretty much a manual exercise to painstakingly take those images and stich together some useful mockups.

Here's an example of what I was able to accomplish after hours of work!
Useful but did not lend itself to fast protyping and collaborative changes.  I thought I had to live with this for a while until I suddenly stumbled on JustInMind (www.justinmind.com) on google!

I thought JustInMind was one of those startup sites with barely working functionality but I browsed their examples and explored their widgets, I realized they were more than a hyped-up startup.  so, I first downloaded their recently released free edition of prototyper and started playing with it.  The tool was extremely intuitive and I was able to quickly create great looking prototypes for Android and iPhone Apps.  For both of these combined, I may have spent 3 hours tops!  And the resulting mock-ups are not just static images.  No way!  They are fully interactive and can easily pass off as real apps if you browse to them via your mobile phone.  One of the limitations for me with the free version was that it could import additional widgets, which meant creating our Windows Phone App mockup was not easy/possible with the free version.

Intrigued and excited, I downloaded the 30-day trial of the Pro edition.  And that was like opening a pandora's box.  Not only can you prototype for any kind of platform, but you can incorporate an infinite level of intelligence into the mockups.  A few of the key features you can leverage are:
  • Rich interactions: MouseOver, Drag, PageLoad ...
  • Conditional rules.
  • Validations.
  • Forms and Datagrids simulation.
  • Variables.
 So, with the help of the free trial, I could also build our Windows Phone 7 App protype in literally couple of hours.  Oh, I forgot to mention the additional goodness of UserNote where you can easily share, collaborate and test the protypes for a nominal subscription fee.

Anyways, I am quite delighted with my JustInMind and UserNote experience so far and I intend to use the software/service for a long time to come.  Check it out for all your startup and enterprise prototype needs!  Here's a quick video of our very first iPhone App protoype created in hours...
video



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