There seems to be a prototyping software for everyone these days. Some designers need a platform to keep up with how fast they think, so for them there’s easy-to-use, intuitive prototyping tools. Other designers prefer to hammer out the details for each element before moving on, so there’s prototyping software that offer more options but takes more time. The question is, which is right for you?
Today, we take a look at two powerful prototyping tools — Axure and Mockplus — and see how they stack head-to-head. Rather than go through each feature and issue, we’re going to focus on the nuances of how they deal with the Table function. You can tell a lot from how a prototype tool handles a specific function: How long will tasks take? How steep is the learning curve? Does the usability match your preferences?
First we’ll examine how the user can interact with the table itself on each platform, and then we’ll compare the actual features.
One of the first things to look for when choosing prototyping software is how you interact with elements. Drag-and-drop? Code? WYSIWYG?
Axure and Mockplus are similar in that they both allow designers to move the elements freely with their cursors. This gives designers more control over their layouts, allowing them to position each element organically on the screen. It also leaves room for experimentation and testing different positions — like hanging a picture on the wall.
It’s the nuances of the UIs that reveal the discernible differences between Axure and Mockplus, so let’s take a closer look…
For determining the size of the actual cells, Axure sticks with a traditional method reminiscent of Excel. Users simply pull the borders to wherever they want. This is the same usability spreadsheets have been using for decades, so it’s familiar to most users. However, there are no guides aside from the naked eye, so it’s difficult to get a precise location or an exact size.
Mockplus follows the same principle — dragging the borders with the cursor — but gives it a modern update. So much of UX has to do with the tiny details and microinteractions, so Mockplus adds a few more little perks. Namely, Mockplus corrects Axure’s misstep by providing a bright red guide line, so users can set more accurate sizes, right down to the pixel. This guideline also allows for a better comparison with the original size; you can see both the original and the new cell at the same time.
Axure requires the user to hover over the border until the icon changes before they can drag and move the entire table freely. While this satisfies the basic need of moving the table, the line of the border is a narrow target; designers have to apply extra effort to positioning the cursor just right.
Mockplus completely circumvents the issue: you can click anywhere on the table to move it. This lets designers work faster and more naturally without hesitations or distractions. It also encourages more experimentation because tables can be moved back and forth without consequence.
Axure has no change in the hover state over a cell, except that the cursor changes to a plus sign to indicate the user can interact with cells.
Again, Mockplus accounts for the tiny UX details. Their hover state includes a slight red outline on the selected cell. This may not seem like much, but can be a lifesaver when dealing with large tables containing dozens of cells.
Next, let’s look at what each prototyping software can do. These are your functions, features, and options. What actions can the user perform? How much can they customize? How easy are the tasks?
Axure allows users to add cells by clicking the respective icon in the side menu (pictured above), as well as an option in the right-click dropdown menu.
Like Axure, Mockplus allows users to add cells as an option in the right-click dropdown menu. Unlike Axure, Mockplus offers an additional option for adding cells by clicking the + icon at the ends of first column and row. Aside from being faster, this also enables batch adding.
In Axure, users can add interactions through the “Add Case” option in the right side menu. One of the biggest advantages Axure has over Mockplus is that it allows users to set interactions in each cell independently.
In Mockplus, interactive elements are added just like every other component: drag-and-drop. The WYSIWYG approach appeals more to designers who prefer speed and simplicity. The downside is that you can’t add interactions to each cell individually as Axure can (although they’re working on it, so it should be available in a future update).
If you’re dealing with tables in prototyping software, there’s a good chance you’re also working with Excel. Rest assured, both Axure and Mockplus allow users to copy-and-paste text from Excel, and vice-versa. The only difference worth mentioning is that Axure has some difficulties with copying Asian language text into Excel; it appears as garbled code.
Like we said in the introduction, there is no best prototyping software, just the one best for you. As we can see by the table function, Mockplus has a better understanding of UX and the minutiae of usability concerns. Their UI is more streamlined, faster, and easier to use. Axure, on the other hand, seems better equipped for longer projects, and has some extra features like individual cell interaction.
To put it poetically, Axure is like an elephant, bulky but powerful, and Mockplus is like a gazelle, not as powerful, but far nimble and quick. Interested to give it a try? Test the new features of Mockplus yourself.