Lars Damgaard
strategic user experience designer
January 12th 2014

Lightweight team projects: Axure custom libraries and Dropbox

When designing in Axure, I often need to collaborate with other designers. Until recently I would achieve this by creating a team project in Axure and place the working file on a shared drive or in a cloud based repository. In my opinion, this approach has some severe limitations and annoyances though.

The tedious workflow of getting and sending changes

One of the most annoying things is the process of “checking in” or “sending changes” or the corresponding process of checking out or getting changes. It has its roots in version control and basically lets multiple people commit changes to the project and even roll back those changes if desired.

It probably works well for developers (though I’ve heard that the cool guys prefer git nowadays), but from my experience, it doesn’t work very well for designers working in Axure. People (including myself) tend to forget to “check in” their work, steal each other’s checkouts and so on.

Furthermore, the process of checking in and out (or getting and sending changes) is painstakingly slow, especially when using a cloud based repository, but also when simply working on a shared folder on the same network.

The better lightweight alternative: custom libraries and dropbox

Recently, I asked people on twitter how they handled shared projects and @futureshape pointed me in the direction of using custom libraries, which I had used a little bit before, but never as a way of sharing design components with other people. It turns out that it works just great, especially if you are working on a modular design that has the fundamental styling already and doesn’t require every box and arrow to be designed meticulously from scratch.

How to do it

Follow the guide below to try it out for yourself.

  1. Create a library. Use the burger icon in the widget panel to the left and click Create library.
  2. Save the library to a shared Dropbox folder, or any shared folder for that matter, it doesn’t need to be Dropbox.
  3. Load the library into your project file. Use the burger icon in the widget panel to the left and click Load library
  4. Tell your co-designers to load it into a project file too.
  5. Let each other know when you have made a change to the library and successfully saved it to the shared folder.
  6. Refresh the library whenever you or your colleagues have made changes to it. Use the burger icon in the widget panel to the left and click Refresh library.

It might not work for everybody, but for me and my colleagues, it works really well, especially due to the simplified workflow.

What is your preferred way of sharing Axure designs? Let me know on twitter.

Thanks for reading.

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