February 12, 2019

UX Prototyping Tools: InVision

The fourth post in the series where I share my unsolicited opinions about prototyping tools. As an aspiring UX designer, I'm going through the UX Design course with CareerFoundry, with the added mission to "check out" as many prototyping tools as reasonably possible. 

As a reminder, my criteria (or context) for tool evaluation are:

  • quick to learn or at least to start using
  • sufficiently long trial period
  • easy to use across 3+ devices
  • Windows-compatible
  • preview your work on a mobile device
  • convenient (or at least usable) for user testing, including remote test

Today I'll be briefly writing about InVision and concluding with some final words, from the perspective of instructional design. This may sound like a surprising twist in the story, but there's a lot of interest in UX within ID and partially it is directed at the tools of the trade. As someone who has been practically involved in the both sides, I wanted to reflect a bit on whether or not a jump into prototyping tools would be a good idea for an e-learning developer (or a general instructional designer).

InVision

Free plan: no
Trial period: 14 days (9 months for CF students)
Runs on: browser

Adding hotspots to a mid-fidelity mockup

Simply put, you'd use InVision if you're creating your screens in some sort of graphic design software (it's particularly oriented at Photoshop and Sketch users). You upload screens to InVision and create clickable hotspots to trigger actions. Thus you create an interactive prototype to send for a review or a test.

What I liked:

  • Browser-based and doesn't require installation. 
  • Previews work well on both mobile and desktop. Prototypes can be previewed either in Invision app or simply in a browser on your mobile device. 
  • Sort of easy to learn, but rather hard to discover. The UI is one of those "lightweight" "contextual" and "intutitve" things, which I personally find rather infuriating. It's not an app that I need to use in case of emergency, it's a professional tool, so I want to see all the options clearly labelled and readily available. Definitely not hidden until I accidentally mouse over something.
  • While InVision generally works and, once you get past the infuriation of sudden discoveries, it's actually quite convenient to work with, especially if you need to make changes to your screens. You can simply drag-and-drop your new image version, without losing hotspots or comments.
  • It is a robust review tool. With version management and a bit of a Kanban board for sorting screens into "Review needed", "Done" and "Needs work". Not super useful for a solo-student, but I can definitely see the benefit in a realistic business context.

What I didn't like:

  • As already mentioned in the previous point, InVision can be rather infuriating. For example, during my second hour into the app, I accidentally discovered that I can actually break a long list of pictures I apploaded into groups. But to find that out, you need to hover with your mouse between images to get an easy-to-miss prompt to create a section. Overall, I felt that InVision was full of such small annoyances, as its minimalistic design doesn't really communicate things well. It feels like InVision is trying to dance its features for you instead of speaking plainly. 
  • Unfortunately, it does happen to have glitches, particularly when applying hotspots. Sometimes they can't get saved, sometimes they vanish, sometimes they don't work.

In short: it is a robust tool for reviewing anything that you produce in another program. However, it doesn't feel like it's worth the price (especially considering that XD and Figma can do similar things and are available for free).

Final Words (From the ID Perspective)

When it comes to making interactive prototypes, if you're coming from Storyline / e-learning development background, you'd probably be amazed by the lack of functionality the UX tools offer. I constantly felt that I should build my prototype in Storyline, because you can do so many things quicker (or at all) in it: triggers, conditions and branching are the first ones to come to mind. In prototyping tools, you have to create a screen for everything, which after Storyline feels like a waste of time.

So, if you're looking to somehow combine UX and ID, then, firstly, consider that a UX Designer's job is different and occurs in a different context. Thus, adopting prototyping tools would not really be the best move, in my opinion. Personally, I've been prototyping e-learning on paper, in Power Point and in Storyline (for different levels of fidelity) for ages, and even now, after being exposed to variety of prototyping tools, I'm not convinced that I would adopt any of them as an Instructional Designer (or Learning Experience Designer or whatever you want to call that).

So, if you're looking for something to prototype your e-learning in, I would very much recommend defining the problem you're trying to solve and be very SMART about it. Don't adopt tools because you can or because it's a cool "UXy" thing to do and we should "design learning experiences". It is not the tools we use that define that. Some of the tools cost not only money, but also time to master them, so consider whether this investment would really add something for you (other than learning a new tool).

Interested to read about other tools I've tried out? Then check out the following posts:

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