denim – simply sketch your user interface

I’ve been using a tool for user interface prototyping and testing called “DENIM“. DENIM is an application that allows you to sketch a user interface using a tablet connected to your pc or mac. It allows you to zoom in and out to create varying levels of detail as needed.Example UI sketch of DENIM

For example, often you will first sketch the general flow of the site. This will look like boxes with a textual name or title. You can then draw lines between these boxes indicating a flow from one box to the other. With DENIM, you can then select a box and zoom in. When you do this the box becomes a page. You can then add details to the page, such as (sketched) forms, buttons and links. Now you can draw a line from one of these sketched buttons to another page and the sketched button becomes a live link. What does this mean? Well, DENIM allows you to save your prototype UI as html pages with clickable images–your sketches embedded in html. When you click on one of the hot areas, which are blue (non hot areas are black ink on white, hot areas are blue ink on white), you jump to the target page.

Suddenly you have a live prototype. I’ve shown these live prototypes to customers and colleagues. At first people seem perplexed. They seem to think I’ve scribbled on a tablet, taken screen a shot and this is how I’m going to show them the proposed UI. Then they click on a link or two and suddenly they get it… and off they go exploring the whole site, spewing out suggested changes. After a few minutes you go back to your office and spend a few hours coming up with a new version. A couple iterations of this and you and the customer have a pretty good understanding of what is to be built.

But It’s Not All Rosy

This program feels abandoned. It has some bugs. The web site has a video of a future version, but the video is a few years old and the features in the video have not been released. I’ve learned to save my work often, and to save it as different versions. Occasionally your DENIM model will become corrupted and sometimes you cannot fix it, so you have to revert to an earlier state. DENIM creates snapshots for you but I lost trust in them early on and haven’t tried again. DENIM also seems to have a size or complexity limit. When the complexity of your UI exceeds some level the model can no longer be opened. I’ve also noticed that some machines can open some models while others cannot — perhaps it is a memory issue.Even with the bugs DENIM is a worthwhile tool to have in your bag. Please check it out.