GuiMags are a new concept, taking the idea of designing on paper down an innovative route. They comprise a set of magnets, created to stick to a whiteboard, made of material which allows you to write on them with dry-wipe markers.
I have been trying out a sample of these for a few days and am going to share the aspects I feel that work well, and the areas that still need improvement.
Why is this a good idea?
When designing a mockup, I work differently depending on who the site is for. If it is a personal project, working on paper and then Photoshop is perfect. If the design is for a client, commonly there is a need to express ideas in a collaborative environment. This could be done with a projector/laptop, whiteboard or a flip-chart. These all work well, but a common problem is that when using a whiteboard you find yourself drawing and re-drawing common components of a site (form fields, tabs, buttons etc).
GuiMags solves this problem, allowing you to focus on designing the structure without worrying about the small fiddly pieces. Designing forms, in particular, becomes a much more enjoyable process.
These are the various magnets available, comprising a selection of most common website components:
There are two main problems with GuiMags which could stop them being an overnight success. Firstly is the fact that you need a magnetic whiteboard to use them. From my experience, the majority of whiteboards I have used are non-magnetic and wouldn’t work with these gadgets. To be truly practical, they need to work at every client’s office – professionalism takes a hit when you have to start hunting round the whole building for an appropriate whiteboard.
The second issue is the design aesthetic of the magnets. Whilst the chunky look and feel is certainly appropriate, the choice of blue as a background limits the ability to use them in any mockups which illustrate colour. Future possibilities could be to offer a range of colours, or provide a black and white set to ensure they don’t over-power any other colours on the sketch.
Designing mockups and prototyping alongside a group of people has always posed a challenge. GuiMags goes some way to solving the problem, allowing you to create sample designs and forms with greater speed and ease. However, at $100, these magnets don’t come cheap and you may also find yourself requiring a new magnetic whiteboard (anything from $20 to $100 depending upon size). They are a great concept and a forward thinking idea, but some of the initial drawbacks need to be addressed before they are versatile enough to become a dominant tool in my design workflow.