There are a lot of tools out there for creating wireframes or user interface mockups, some of which are both feature rich and fun to use. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Balsamiq Mockups, Adobe Fireworks…I could go on for a while. However, there are also several reasons that may impact why an organization may not adopt these use-specific applications, including: licensing costs, training needs, support requirements, or the need to reuse the product for other diagraming purposes. In these cases, I may recommend using Microsoft Visio Professional (or Premium), especially for businesses that have already invested in Microsoft’s Office product line.

I am often asked why I use Visio myself compared to some of these other products. It actually has nothing to do with Catapult’s Microsoft consulting focus, but rather I have tried many of these other products and truth be told I can get the job done more effectively with Visio. For me:

  • It is a tool that has a high level of adoption with my clients, which in turn allows them to more effectively collaborate with me during the requirements process;
  • It provides the majority of the features that I require;
  • It has range and can be used to create a variety of diagrams from process flows to mind maps to cause and effect diagrams;
  • It’s built in templates and shapes provide a quicker path to completing my work; and
  • As a Microsoft product, it is a tool that provides a familiar framework which reduces my need for specialized training and improves my efficiency when working within the application.

Some of my favorite features in the Visio 2010 product are:

  • Process map templates and shapes, including cross-functional flows (i.e. swim lanes)
  • Web site mapping, including auto-generation of web site maps
  • Wireframe diagrams
  • BPMN, Six Sigma and ITIL compliant shapes and rules
  • Ability to associate data attributes with my shapes to provide more detail in requirements gathering, such as listing system properties in a context diagram shape
  • Ability to save in a variety of accessible formats, including PDF, XPS and web pages
  • Real-time, web-based sharing and collaboration with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and 2013
  • Variety of other Office integration features

For my developer friends out there, Visio also offers a variety of templates and shapes for entity relationships, network and engineering diagrams and more. All in all, it has many uses for a variety of business applications.

As part of this series, we will focus on one specific application: the wireframe diagram. In my next post, we will start with a walk through of how to create a basic wireframe file using Visio 2010. From there we will progress to using specific features of Visio to reduce your overall effort and make changes easier.

Stay tuned for more!