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A huge part of building or improving any web site comes in the site mapping stage. I’m always amazed at the varying kinds of tools that web workers use to do site design, and I even know one top designer who does all his prototyping in […]

A huge part of building or improving any web site comes in the site mapping stage. I’m always amazed at the varying kinds of tools that web workers use to do site design, and I even know one top designer who does all his prototyping in Excel—because he likes it. I have a new favorite tool for site mapping, and it’s Jumpchart. The best news of all is that you can use Jumpchart for free, and there isn’t even a download required.

Jumpchart is hosted on the web, and it’s intended to be easy to start using instantly, because a great application for it is to invite, say, a client you are building a site for to jump right into your site prototype, helping you to design and edit. Once you go through a quick signup you have a free account and can start mapping out sites. My main complaint about Jumpchart is that you only get 10 pages to use for free, after which you do have to pay, but for prototyping relatively simple sites, 10 is enough.


It’s important to understand that Jumpchart is not the tool you reach for to beautify and finalize your final site design. Instead, it’s intended for quick mapping and prototyping. In the application, you begin by giving a project a name, and then you find yourself right in the middle of a sample web page. To the right of the web page are Textile Markup Language choices you can use on your page, for bolding elements, adding web links, etc. Even if aren’t familiar with Textile Markup Language, the tools and commands you need are always right in front of you, and they’re easy.

To add a sub-page to your prototype, you simply use the Add a Sub-Page tab. Jumpchart also has a nice feature called Snippets. This lets you specify a recurring type of content—such as a page header you’ve designed—so that you can invoke it on any page whenever you want. It’s a big time saver, and if you change your snippet, all instances of it in your site prototype will globally change.

When you’ve arrived at a design that you like, which is a lot like working in site building software, you can create a preview version of it that can be sent for clients to look at. Or, they can go right into Jumpchart and help with design elements along with you. This collaboration opportunity is one of the best aspects of the product—a very different proposition from, say, sending someone a site prototype you’ve put together in Dreamweaver and expecting that person to be a Dreamweaver expert if they’re going to work with you on changes.

I wish Jumpchart provided more pages with a free account, but it seems very logical to me that designing a site should be collaborative, and that someone without a lot of web design skills should be able to collaborate with people who are skilled. For that application, Jumpchart stands out.

Do you know of any good tools for collaborating on sites?

By Samuel Dean

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  1. [...] post by Samuel Dean highlights an online prototyping tool called JumpChart. You can sign up for a free account with [...]

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  2. Even better is Simunication (in my opinion). Free, web based, flexible, & slick tool that lets you incubate your web apps.

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  3. I don’t really see this as being a useful tool. I think it’s great that you can collaborate with clients or other colleagues, but as a basic editor without much styling at all, I don’t see it filling a huge need for developers. I like the idea and how the entire app functions, but have seen more full packaged collaboration tools out there.

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  4. @Brett, that’s exactly why we like it. As much as I would like a full featured application with all the bells & whistles, I can’t get my colleagues to use those kinds of sites. This and Basecamp are perfect for us because they are so simple, and so straightforward.

    I only wish there was some way of marking which pages have been approved and which are still in the process of being edited. I’d also like some rudimentary versioning so we can see what was there before making changes. But otherwise, it separates presentation from content which is exactly what we want.

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  5. [...] Approach to Free, Collaborative Site Prototypes In a recent post I described some success I’ve been having doing prototypes of web sites with an application [...]

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  6. I do like the Textile formatting. We use Basecamp and are already very accustomed to working with Textile.

    But with our own FolioPress development environment (heavily customised WordPress) is it really worth going through an extra stage. We can swap templates, move pages around, customise navigation, the works – and we are on our way to a finished website.

    I also think the page limit is too low for the free project. A bit of a joke really. And I wouldn’t want to be paying for a maximum of 25 pages per project. Perhaps 125 pages per account.

    Thanks for pointing Jumpstart out though.

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  7. I think the biggest advantage of this webapp is to shield unethical clients from easily taking your basic model during Phase 1 of the development process. For example, a basic proposal mockup…

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  8. [...] is from the same folks who brought us Jumpchart which we also reviewed favorably. While still currently in private beta, I encourage you to take a tour and join their mailing list [...]

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  9. merci pour ces info, et tous cela poura m’aider .

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