I was excited when I read about swipr – a little Visio plug-in that allows you to quickly export your screen flows and wireframes into a clickable HTML prototype. “So what?” you might say, “haven’t you ever heard of File – Save As Web Page?” Well, yeah. The real advantage with swipr is that you can integrate multiple files – so if you have multiple sets of wireframes for one project, or if your screenflow is separate from your wireframe screens, you can put them together.
Looking over the site, it looks like it’s been around since around April 2006, and there isn’t much documentation yet, but hey! it’s free (you do have to register with your e-mail address), there are support forums, and it looks like the creator is constantly monitoring the site and updating it with more information.
In addition to the promise of quick-click prototypes, there are a couple of neat little utilities in there, too, that tweak little things about Visio that bug most of us. For example, one utility lets you quickly make a copy of a page, and another lets you specify the zoom size for all pages in your document at once.
So I downloaded it. The instructions for installation were simple. I was able to quickly make a screen flow with links to different pages. I got a ‘Run time error’ the first time I tried to export, but it seemed to work anyway, and it looked like a promising start.
But then I started running into problems. I can’t figure out how to get my hotspots to work, which is…well…kind of the point of the whole exercise. The suggestions in the forum and on the support blog didn’t work, and I quickly became frustrated with having to re-enter the same project and export information over and over again. (Supposedly, you can save your last settings, but even though I followed the instructions from the support site on how to do that, I wasn’t able to.) I spent the good part of the afternoon trying different things to fix my troubles to no avail.
I haven’t given up yet – it looks like a great little tool if I can get it to work (and I admit I haven’t tried very hard yet). I have a feeling that things will improve over the next few months, but right now, it’s wait and see.
(Caveat – you must have Visio 2003, and it looks like it might have compatibility issues with IE 7.)