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Kicking iPhone App Tires For Better Requirements

The Studio MX visualization product for building iPhone app prototypes has been released to private beta this week by its maker iRise. A drag-and-drop UI allows users to assemble "realistic" iPhone screens with working controls and basic navigation, while more tech-savvy users can incorporate interactivity, business logic, and sample data.

While iRise's "democratizing of development" catch line may cause a little recoil with development purists who see dumbed down application controls being put in the hands of laymen (and laywomen), there is an argument here suggesting that users could be encouraged to "kick the tires" on new iPhone apps, make suggestions, and give feedback long before a single line of code is ever written — a process which could (arguably) reduce the pains and stresses of poorly requested requirements in the first place.

"As we've learned in the desktop world over the last 10 years, static screenshots don't uncover the design flaws, requirements gaps, and usability errors that an interactive prototype can highlight — and with mobile apps, the user experience is everything," said Maurice Martin, iRise COO and founder.

"With more than a decade of experience creating the category of enterprise software visualization products and services, we quickly discovered when the iPhone was introduced that lots of people have great ideas for new apps, but few of them can put together a coded app in a few hours that looks and feels good enough to 'sell' others on their ideas," says Emmet B. Keeffe III, CEO and cofounder of iRise.

Studio MX is the latest addition to the iRise family of products. It is a free graphical tool that sports many features that help app creators design mobile experiences that end users enjoy. The tool benefits new apps as well as existing ones that need a mobile interface. Studio MX prototypes are completely self-contained and can be shared via email or local network. Prototypes run in the browser inside an emulated iPhone, complete with virtual keyboard and momentum scrolling.

Highlights include a full set of drag-and-drop iPhone user interface (UI) elements and controls, such as the barrel spinner and the on/off switch, and help app creators to assemble new prototypes rapidly, sometimes in the course of a single meeting. All elements comply with Apple's iOS UI Element Usage Guidelines, for simulations that look "almost indistinguishable" from the real thing.

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