Another 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 called Jumpchart. In response, a reader pointed out Simunicator to me, and after giving it a try, I’m impressed.

Simunicator, like Jumpchart, is not intended to be Dreamweaver. Rather than functioning as the tool you might use to finalize and beautify a site, Simunicator is for prototyping a site, and in particular, sharing your prototype with collaborators online. It’s a free, on-demand application.

In Simunicator, you can capture feedback with your site collaborators and even get e-mail alerts about milestones you identify during your collaboration. You can create templates making use of CSS, Javascript and HTML, or there are auto-templates available in the application.

One big difference between Simunicator and Jumpchart is that Simunicator provides a WYSIWYG HTML editing interface, while Jumpchart is reliant on Textile Markup Language. The WYSIWYG interface in Simunicator lets you go right to the actual look and feel of the site you intend to create, so someone you’re collaborating with can get strong visuals.

Are you planning on building a database-driven site, such as an online store where you’ll need to track inventory? If so, you’ll appreciate Simunicator’s embedded database, and data tables are simple to create.

Jumpchart has a few advantages, though. Simunicator limits you to only two projects for a free account, after which you have to start paying to use it. Jumpcharts gives you ten pages for a free account, which is typically enough to do a basic prototype of a small or medium site. The application also has a very neat and tidy feel, making it easy to collaborate with someone else on a web project. I wish both applications provided more resources with a free account.

For now, I’m using both Simunicator and Jumpcharts to experiment with prototypes for a couple of sites I’m building. They’re both on-demand web tools, and neither requires a software download, so people should try both of them.

Next on my list of collaboration tools to try is Basecamp. It’s not strictly for web site prototyping–more for collaboration of all kinds. But it does appear to allow easy file sharing, sharing of to-do lists and other things that could be useful when working with others on site designs.

Do you have any good tips on web site prototyping applications? Any free tools?


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