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Designing User Interfaces and Interactions With OmniGraffle

Designing User Interfaces and Interactions With OmniGraffle

    One of the hardest things to do while creating any new system or software is to make sure that the user interface and design is easy and intuitive for users to understand and use effectively. Coming from a development background, this type of design and attention to detail that is needed to ensure that the software, web site, or system you are creating is usable is probably the the most important part of any software development project.

    The problem is that most times designing user interfaces is awkward, time consuming, and hard. But, with new tools it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

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    Enter OmniGraffle

    OmniGraffle by the Omni Group is a graphic and visual document creation app for Mac and iPad that allows you to create diagrams, process charts, page-layouts, user interfaces, or even web-site wireframes quickly. In fact, if you get really good at OmniGraffle you can make just about anything that you can dream up graphically.

    I’ve been using OmniGraffle for about a year now and it is a great tool for creating diagrams and user interfaces that I can use to design the “real thing” later. It’s also awesome for spitting out designs quickly so I can run them by end users.

    But, I don’t use OmniGraffle like Nick Finck does. Not even close.

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    Using OmniGraffle

    Nick Finck is the User Experience Director at Deloitte Digital and primarily uses OmniGraffle to tackle this complex problem of user interaction. The Omni Group (the company behind OmniGraffle) has posted a video Crafting Interaction that looks at how Finck users the portableness of OmniGraffle for the iPad to quickly draw up sketches and mockups of interfaces and then translate these designs into full blown interfaces. I highly, highly suggest checking out this video over at Omni’s site.

    Finck talks about how using OmniGraffle can be a bit of a challenge at first, but once you get “in there” and learn how to use the app (iPad and Mac), the possibilities of what you can create are endless. I have direct experience using OmniGraffle for Mac and iPad and I can concur with Nick’s assessment; the tool is so powerful that for it to be completely simple to understand and use out of the box probably isn’t possible. The good part is that the Omni Group has great support and documentation to get you started, plus their Support Ninjas are top class.

    One key feature of OmniGraffle is the ability to create stencils and templates in the app to modularize different components so they can be reused in multiple projects. Not only do these features save you time when designing, they allow you to have standard controls across all of your projects which can be a good thing if you are trying to design a “suite” of different interfaces that work together.

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    Graffletopia for OmniGraffle

    Speaking of stencils, another great tool that Nick mentions to use alongside OmniGraffle is Graffletopia, a site that is dedicated to OmniGraffle stencils that you can download and start using immediately. And these aren’t simply user interface stencils. You can find different stencils for creating complex network diagrams, flow charts, and other complex visual components.

    What’s awesome about this site is that you can start from a “baseline” of an interface or component and start building from there. This allows you to spend less time creating components and more time creating ideas on how an interface or diagram should look. For someone like me this is an excellent addition to OmniGraffle because even though I have an eye for design, I definitely wouldn’t call myself a “designer”. I can leave the creation of the visual components to the professionals and I can concentrate on how those components fit together. This can make iterating on a design extremely fast and effective.

    Iteration on design

    Finck talks about how OmniGraffle allows him to create interfaces quickly and keeps him out of the “nuts and bolts” of the software (although he can tinker with the nuts and bolts if he wants to). Instead of trying to figure out how how to do something in OmniGraffle, he can concentrate on putting interfaces together and iterating as fast as possible. This rapid iteration leads to a well designed and useable user interface because of the ease of changing the design to meet the user’s needs.

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    Quality software for Mac and iOS

    The one thing that I personally like about OmniGraffle (and all Omni Group products) and something that Finck doesn’t completely touch on, is just how high quality they really are. Some people complain about Omni’s “premium” prices for applications, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for. I’m an OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, and OmniOutliner user on both Mac and iOS and I have easily gotten my money’s worth over the last couple of years.

    The Omni Groups tools are so powerful and versatile that I can’t think of any other productivity tools that I’d rather use. Even Microsoft Office products don’t compare to some of the aspects of what Omni has to offer.

    Nick Finck’s experience with designing mobile user interfaces with OmniGraffle and the ever growing Graffletopia is a testament to just how powerful and effective Omni’s tools are. OmniGraffle can be used to create a quick and dirty UI idea on the fly on the iPad which can then eventually translate into a full blown user interface design that is used directly in an iPhone, Android, or even mobile web applications.

    OmniGraffle can be the one tool to get this user interaction and design done. Now that’s productive.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

    How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

    Achieving personal goals deserves a huge amount of celebration but setting these goals in the first place is a massive achievement in itself.

    While the big goals serve as a destination, the journey is probably the most important part of the process. It reflects your progress, your growth and your ability take control and steer your life towards positive change.

    Whatever your goal is, whether it’s losing 20lbs or learning a new language, there will always be a set amount of steps you need to take in order to achieve it. Once you’ve set your sights on your goal, the next stage is to take an assertive path towards how you will get there.

    The aim of this article is to guide you through how to take action towards your personal goals in a way that will help you achieve them strategically and successfully.

    1. Get Very Specific

    When it comes to setting your personal goals, honing in on its specifics is crucial for success.

    It’s common to have a broad idea of where you want to go or what you want to achieve, but this can sabotage your efforts in the long run.

    Get clear on what you want your goal to look like so you can create solid steps towards it.

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    Say you have a vision on retiring early. This goal feels good to you and you can envision filling your days of work-free life with worldly adventures and time with loved ones.

    If retiring early is a serious personal goal for you, you will need to insert a timeframe. So your goal has changed from “I’d like to someday retire early and travel the world” to “I’m going to retire by 50 and travel the world”.

    It may not seem significant, but creating this tweak in your goal by specifying a definite time, will help create and structure the steps needed to achieve it in a more purposeful way.

    2. Identify the Preparation You Need to Achieve Your Goal

    It’s easy to set a goal and excitedly, yet aimlessly move towards it. But this way of going about achieving goals will only leave you eventually lost and feeling like you’ll never achieve it.

    You have to really think about what you need to do in order to make this goal possible. It’s all very well wanting it to happen, but if you just sit back and hope you’ll get there one day will result in disappointment.

    Self-managing your goals is a crucial step in the process. This involves taking control of your goal, owning it and making sure you are in a great position to make it happen.

    In the early retirement example, this would mean you will need to think about your financial situation.

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    What will your finances ideally need to look like if you were to retire early and travel the world? How much money will you need to put into your retirement fund to retire at 50? How much extra savings will you need to support your travels? You could also start researching the places you’d like to travel to and how long you’d like to travel for.

    Outlining these factors will, not only make your goal seem more tangible, but also create a mind shift to one of forward motion. Seeing the steps more clearly will help you make a more useful plan of action and seeing your goal as a reality.

    3. Breakdown Each Step into More Manageable Goals

    The secret to achieving your goals is to create smaller goals within each step and take action. Remember, you’re looking for progress, no matter how small it may seem.

    These small steps build up and get you to the top. By doing this, you also make the whole process much less daunting and overwhelming.

    In the early retirement scenario, there are several smaller goals you could implement here:

    • Decide to make an appointment with a financial advisor asking what financial options would be available to you if you were to go into early retirement and travel. Get advice on how much you would need to top up your funds in order to reach your goal on time.
    • Set up and start to make payments into the retirement fund.
    • Research savings accounts with good rates of interest and commit to depositing a certain amount each month.
    • Make sure you meet with your financial advisor each year to make sure your retirement plan remains the best one for you. Research new savings accounts to move your money into to reap the best returns in interest rates.
    • Start investing in travel books, building up a library that covers where you want to go.
    • Think about starting a language course that will help you get the most out of your travel experience.

    4. Get Started on the Journey

    Creating a goal planner in which you can start writing down your next steps is where the magic happens. This is where the real momentum towards your dream starts!

    Create a schedule and start by writing in when you will start the first task and on which day. Commit to completing this small task and feel the joy of crossing it off your list. Do this with every little step until your first mini goal has been reached.

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    In the early retirement example, schedule in a meeting with a financial advisor. That’s it. Easy.

    As I mentioned before, it may seem such a small step but it’s the momentum that’s the most important element here. Once you cross this off, you can focus on the meeting itself, then once that’s ticked off, you are in a position of starting a profitable retirement fund…and so the momentum continues. You are now on your journey to achieving your dream goal.

    5. Create an Annual Review

    Taking a step back and reviewing your progress is essential for keeping yourself on the right track. Sometimes you can be moving full steam ahead towards your goal but miss seeing the opportunities to improve a process or even re-evaluate your feelings towards the goal.

    Nominate a day each year to sit down and take a look at your progress. Celebrate your achievements and how far you’ve come. But also think about changing any of the remaining steps in light of new circumstances.

    Has anything changed? Perhaps you got a promotion at work and you feel you can add more to your monthly savings.

    Do you still feel the same about your goal? It’s normal for our desires to change over time and our personal goals need to reflect this.

    Perhaps you’d like to take someone new with you on your travels and you need to take this into account regarding timelines. Are there any new steps you want to add as a result?

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    Remember, reflection is a useful tool in realigning your goal to any changes and it’s important to keep on the right trajectory towards it.

    Strive to Become the Best Goal-Setter You Can Be

    Having personal goals gives you purpose and the feeling of becoming a better version of yourself.

    But it’s the smaller steps within these big goals that the growth and achievement really lies:

    • Whatever your goal is, make sure you get specific on when you want to achieve it. This helps you focus on the necessary steps much more efficiently.
    • Research the actionable steps required to get to the end result and…
    • Break these down into smaller, manageable goals.
    • Create a daily or weekly schedule for these smaller goals and start the positive momentum.
    • Reflect each year on your goal journey and purpose, readjusting steps according to changes in circumstance or desire.

    Keep going and always have the end goal in sight. Remember the ‘why’ behind your goal throughout to keep you motivated and positive.

    More About Setting & Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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