A well-functioning pattern library is a beautiful thing. It is a powerful resource that you and your entire team can use to efficiently create consistent user experiences for your website or service. It cuts out repetitive design work, allowing you to focus your energy on creating new user experiences; and it creates a common UI language for your team, reducing communication issues and keeping everyone on the same page.
But to many designers, creating a pattern library can feel like a daunting academic pursuit, or simply useless overhead documentation. To make matters worse, getting consensus on which technology to use and how to get started is hard. After experimenting with various options, our team has found that using Evernote to house our pattern library of Adobe Fireworks PNG design files has proven to be a winning combination. We’ll outline how you can use Evernote and Fireworks to easily build your own pattern library and reap the benefits mentioned above.
As a platform, Fireworks gives its users a lot of freedom, when it comes to extending it. Because of that, Fireworks has a thriving ecosystem of add-ons (extensions) that add a lot of valuable functionality with newer options.
In this article, I'll try to list some of my top extensions for Fireworks. These are not necessarily the most complex or powerful extensions, but rather those that have helped me be more productive with my Fireworks workflow over the years. Also, all of these are free to test and use, so you can even try them right away!
One of the visual effects that is a mainstay in my Web design toolkit is the letterpress effect. Used properly, it’s a quick way to make text blend better with the layout, as if it were machine-stamped onto the background. Think of what a home appliance marquee or a professional business card looks (and feels) like, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Letterpress is a venerable technique of printing that involves “pressing” a plate of movable type onto a sheet of paper to produce an effect that is impressed (where the text is pressed down onto the paper) or embossed (where the text is raised above the surface of the paper).
As interface designers, we’re often required to demonstrate the look and feel (and interactions) of the interfaces we design. We often begin with a series of flat images, and while these may be pixel perfect and show some amazing detail, they lack the context of the user experience.
Without context, it would be difficult for your clients to understand the flow of an app or website in the way you originally planned it. The best way to introduce context is by adding interactivity. By providing an interactive prototype (or interactive mockup), your clients can play around with it to their hearts’ content to get an idea of how the app will work and to test the interactions.
Whilst designing for screens—including Web, mobile and RIAs—you often need to create a prototype to see whether the application works properly before moving onto the development stage. Prototypes are also essential in Web projects.
For example, when you plan an online ordering process, you have to be sure that every step is correct and that no critical elements are missing. Usually, you would create different screens for all pages of a website, ordering process or application workflow, and then describe the connection between them.
Every designer has their own workflow when starting a new project, even if it’s only loosely defined in their head. A typical Web project goes through a variety of steps from inception to launch, with a lot of moving parts throughout the cycle. Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks and even Web browsers themselves are available to aid us in our work. But with so many choices, how do we determine the right tool to move from concept to functional design?
Over the years, I have come to rely on Adobe Fireworks as the main workhorse among my design applications. It’s built from the ground up to create screen-ready graphics; it’s object-oriented by design; and it’s lightning fast for creating UI elements. While Photoshop has made great strides lately by adding some vector support, it simply has not been able to match the speed and reusability of Fireworks for production work. Read on to get a glimpse of my project workflow (sketches → wireframes → graphic comps → export) and to see how Fireworks fits into these different stages.
There is an aspect to Web design that no one likes to talk about: spec’ing. We all do it, we all hate it, but we also understand that specs are vital to both designers and developers.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term in this context, “specs” is short for specifications—in the case of design, they are instructions that specify colors, fonts, sizes, spacing and so on, just like a blueprint. Specs are a crucial part of the design and development process for companies with big teams and for small companies that have to outsource some of their development.