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Briefs makes iOS app design easy and stress-free

Marco Tabini | May 29, 2013
Forget paper, static graphics, or ad-hoc solutions —with Briefs, prototyping iOS apps is as simple as building a slideshow, and as close to the real thing as you can come without calling in a developer.

Finally, any part of a scene can be associated with actors that, in turn, can be used as triggers for what the app calls transitions—the actions that allow the user to navigate through the mockup's workflow. Transitions include all the animations that typical iOS apps implement, like slide-ins, three-dimensional flips, and so forth, as well as the ability to play sounds. Creating a transition from an actor to a new scene is as simple as Control-dragging from one to the other, and then specifying a number of details that govern a animations's behavior, like delay, direction, duration, and so on.

From Mac to mobile
As I mentioned earlier, Briefs features a companion app, called Briefscase, that can be installed an iOS device. While you're working on a mockup, you can use the app's BriefsLive feature to visualize and interact with it in real time—including manipulating all the graphical elements and experiencing the various transitions.

In my tests, Briefscase worked very well; as long as your iPhone or iPad is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac, the interaction between the two is flawless and nearly immediate, allowing you to quickly and efficiently gauge how good your timing, dimensions and color schemes are working. (In a pinch, Briefs also included a Mac-only simulator, although that's not quite the same experience as the real thing.)

That's not all that Briefscase can do; you can actually package up a brief and send it to another user via a variety of methods, including email and Messages. The recipient will be able to open the resulting file on their copy of Briefscase and take full advantage of its interactive features to experience the brief on their device. As you can imagine, this is perfect for sharing your work with other stakeholders on the project and collecting their feedback regardless of where they are.

Exporting
Once everybody is satisfied with a mockup, Briefs allows you to export the individual assets so that they are ready for a designer's final touches, or for a developer to use directly in the app.

Most importantly, the editor has a special "blueprint" mode that, as its name implies, provides detailed information about the position, size, and content of each asset, thus giving everyone involved in the project a detailed set of technical specifications from which to work.

This should be helpful in preventing what I like to call the "pixel mambo"—the curious phenomenon sometimes encountered in projects where developers accuse designers of slicing assets in all the wrong places, and designers accuse developers of butchering their work by placing elements off out of position, or in the wrong size.

 

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