Scott McDowell has written an article for Boxes and Arrows called Visio Replacement? You Be the Judge about tools for prototyping rich interaction designs. We recently adopted Axure here at Extractable and we’re very jazzed about the way it’s enabling us to do IA work and interaction design and tie together wireframes with sitemaps and process flows and then export them all as a clickable HTML prototype (even if the HTML is still spaghetti).
In this article Scott compares Axure with a number of other products, all of which he calls simulation tools (comparing them to aerospace simulations):
User experience professionals who leverage simulation technology are able to visualize projects much earlier within the development life cycle, while producing requirements that are much clearer than those generated through traditional requirements gathering processes. In fact, two of these packages, iRise and Serena, were actually created to help business analysts visualize requirements when they didn’t have access to user experience professionals for that part of a project!
One key feature that static wireframes lack is the ability to interact with the interface; by using a simulation tool, this limitation is removed. Software interactivity and ease-of-use, in addition to the portability and re-usability of the simulation, are key points to consider in choosing the right simulation software for your company. The next several years should be quite interesting as each of these products continues to improve, adding new features and offering tighter integration with third-party products.