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the good life in a digital age

wireframing with Google Drawing

I’ve been experimenting with wireframing using Google Drawing. And not entirely because I like making my life hard.

(and yes, I’ve been doing lots and lots of sketching too, so there’s no need for the sketching mafia to scold me)

I’ve started off at the Guardian with a PC but we were a bit uncertain if I would switch to Mac+Omnigraffle. I could have got Visio but as I’m working in an office that uses Google Docs I thought I’d give Google Drawing a go.

The big advantage is that I can share the wireframes with anyone in the office without creating PDFs. We could in theory collaboratively edit them but at the moment we’re still in a world where I produce and the others read. Another advantage is that everyone is always accessing the latest version.

And you never have to save. Drawing does sometimes crash but never when you’ve forgotten to save for the last 30 minutes of intense productivity (I’m looking at you Visio).

Morten has produced some basic wireframes which are a good place to start but as he acknowledges one of the big limitations is the lack of customisable stencils. He gets around this by keeping his shapes in the gutter. I’ve tended towards keeping them in a separate document and then copying them to the web clipboard. For some reason you can’t just copy and paste shapes between documents, you have to use the web clipboard option on the toolbar. Lack of stencils was a real pain getting started but I’ve pretty much adjusted now.

There’s also no layering, which would be a shop-stopper for anyone producing large multi-page specifications, that need to be regularly updated. I don’t do that kind of wireframing very often so this is actually less of big deal for me.

Drawings are single page only. If you want to print, you’ll have to create every page in separate drawing. If printing doesn’t matter so much you can just create multiple wireframes on a very big Google drawing page. Where I’ve been creating a series of wireframes, I’ve created separate drawings in a folder and then just shared the folder with everyone else. This is probably the thing that feels hardest to get around.

Which all sounds pretty awful for keen wireframers but I’ve quite enjoyed it really. It worked best when I was drawing a single new component and then needing to share it quickly and widely.

Drawing is more straightforwardly suited to flows and sitemaps as they are likely to be single page, not need layers, and only use a couple of shapes (probably ones available in the fixed set of stencils).

Oh, and it’s free.

Some tips:

  • Objects pasted within the document are pasted on top of the copied object, regardless of where you’ve scrolled to. If pasted from another document then they appear in the position they would have in the original document.
  • Keep the text boxes as small as the text allows (other wise you may find it hard to select other ‘smothered’ objects)
  • Similarly putting frames or boxes around other object stops you selecting the objects within
  • To make the page larger, zoom out so that you have more grey space to drag into.
  • You only need to highlight any part of an object to select it.

Keyboard shortcuts/controls:

Move a gridline  :  Up / Down / Left / Right arrow
Move a pixel : Shift+Up/Down/Left/Right
Move up/down in Z-order : Ctrl+Up/Down
Move object to the Top or bottom : Ctrl+Shift+Up/Down
Group selected objects : Ctrl+G
Ungroup selected objects : Ctrl+Shift+G
Delete and add to clipboard :Ctrl+X
Add selection to clipboard : Ctrl+C
Paste clipboard contents  : Ctrl+V
Duplicates selection : Ctrl+D
Delete selection : Delete, Backspace
Smooth drag  : Alt/Option while dragging an object.
Restrict to vertical or horizontal dragging : Shift while dragging.
Copy an object : Ctrl + drag the object to copy
Preserve aspect ratio while resizing: Shift while resizing an object.
Rotate in 15 degree increments : Shift while rotating an object.


Written by Karen

May 27th, 2011 at 6:45 am

Posted in deliverables