Startup preps Web-based prototyping service

A new service that allows drag-and-drop prototyping for Web applications is due for release next month and promises to streamline project management by displaying the desired result in real-time.

Developed by Sydney-based Web design company, FreshWeb, Insit-UI allows an interface to be prototyped by creating linked components in the browser.

Freshweb managing director, Ben McGrath, said a common problem with Web development projects is the business leaders only become familiar with a concept when they interface with it.

“We wanted a rapid prototyping tool with controls native to the browser you are using,” McGrath said.

“People get it faster and you are forced to make smarter design decisions as they preview it. It forces you to be smarter with the design from the get go so you end up with a better product.”

The name Insit-UI is a play on the Latin In situ for “in place” and user interface (UI).

Insit-UI is now taking beta trial registrations and will formally launch as a SaaS offering at the end of July.

“Most prototyping is done out of the browser or, if it is in the browser, they are trying to communicate the objective of the tool without the exact UI,” McGrath said. “Here the prototype is what they will see in the product.”

Insit-UI is developed in Adobe’s Flex with a .Net backend, but the final product does not have to be Flash and can HTML or Ajax.

“It took four solid months of development, but the concept has gone through multiple iterations over three years,” McGrath said.

“Eventually something like this could be done in HTML5, but it’s too far off and to do it in JavaScript would have been horrendously complex. Flash was the best tool for rapid prototyping, but internally we are technology agnostic.”

Insit-UI can be used as a testing and content gathering tool and supports 'editor' and 'reviewer' modes.

“You can give editing powers over to copy companies who would type in live into the system for an idea of spacing, which avoids using Word documents and sitemaps,” McGrath said.

“It features version control and client feedback. You keep versions and can roll forward and back between them and the logic stays. For example, you could be on version eight of the home page and version two of the about page. So you can keep track of the changes made.”

McGrath said developers can take an idea from the working prototype then re-create it on an existing backend.

“By far the longest part on any project is feedback and getting content to you,” he said. “We were working on a project for a Sydney hospital and had to build Web site CMS and had sign off from the committee in 48 hours, whereas it would normally take four weeks.”

“The benefit for us is it allows backend and front end developers to start working on the business logic and interface at the same time so they meet in the middle.”

Insit-UI won the “Best Australian App” award at the recent CeBit Webciety event in Sydney.

McGrath said Freshweb does most of its business with large enterprises and a tool like Insit-UI will appeal to CIOs and project managers as it can be used as a focused tool or a broader concept tool.

“For example, if a CIO wanted to focus on usability – if they had a transition portal and wanted to make sure people weren't leaving it – they could prototype some part of the Web site for rapid testing,” he said.

“They could have real customers interact with that before they have even built it to get insight as to how their products should work.”

“Another big benefit for CIOs is you never had to build a backend,” he said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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