I use Visio all too frequently in my job to create Web application wireframes. It's a good desktop application, but I'd like to move to an online equivalent to:
- Share files and collaborate with remote coworkers
- Work from home on my Mac, and at the office on my PC
- Use web apps to build web apps! I feel virtuous when I use the types of products I make.
I've had good experiences with the Mindmeister concept mapping tool, and so I had high expectations for online wireframing. Here I'll generalize a personal point about transitioning: Users happy with a desktop software solution will not jump to a Web app that's missing key features. There are clear benefits to Web apps, but they're not worth losing efficiency and functionality.
As a result, Gliffy doesn't make the cut for me. It's missing keyboard shortcuts and paste from the OS clipboard, two features I use constantly in Visio. (At least, I couldn't find them in the interface or in Help.) You can copy and paste within the application, but you can't bring in content from outside.
In addition, on an aesthetic level, I didn't care for the application's Visio-esque UI. Those tiny, monochromatic icons are ugly and undifferentiated. Fitts's Law says that relying on those little targets would make my experience slow and error-prone. Besides, guys, the Web is a new platform you're building for. Some visual creativity would signal trial users that you're setting them free from the anesthesizing blue and gray prison of Windows desktop apps.
The makers of Jumpchart must have had the same interface insight, because their UI is radically different from Visio and Gliffy. They appear to optimize for classic text-based web pages. In fact, the tool eschews icons and buttons entirely. It's much more like a wiki than a typical Web app, and that could be a problem. Jumpchart's page-centric model feels very dated in 2008.
I was turned off immediately when I saw Jumpchart uses something called Textile markup to edit its pages. Like many folks, I've learned HTML and wiki markup already. Why should I learn yet another markup language?
At least, since the tool is not Flash, you can easily paste in text. But where are the visuals? This application should be called Jumpword, because I couldn't find features involving charts or graphics of any kind.
For now, I'm stuck using Visio, and probably purchasing Omnigraffle for my Mac at home. Gliffy and Jumpchart must move fast to add features, because old-school corporations like Adobe are bring their big brands to bear in the Web space.
Update: I received an email, plus a comment below, from Gliffy representatives who say they're following up on the issues I raised. Perhaps we'll see keyboard shortcuts and improved copy-and-paste soon!
Update 2: Next, a review of Balsamiq Mockups.