Is Flash a good rapid prototyping tool for UX?

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  • depends on what you are prototyping. If you are prototyping a Flash app, then it's perfect! – DA01 Apr 5 '11 at 21:37
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    Okay, I'm really sorry but I need to say this. Flash is not a good tool for anything. From past experience, it encourages poor coding standards, increases user-frustration and is no match for <video> - Anyhow, I just found this link: adaptivepath.com/ideas/rapid-prototyping-tools It seems to have a pretty good list, however I'm not sure which ones are Flash-based. – J.T.S. Apr 6 '11 at 3:48

10 Answers 10


A lot of effort small reward. You can port vectors from fireworks to flash if there's a chance you'll end up in flash world or not but I think fireworks is better than flash if rich prototyping is what you're after http://www.guuui.com/posting.php?id=2112

  • That might be true for certain sites, but I'm willing to bet that it takes less time to build a prototype of an AJAX interface using Flash Catalyst than creating the visual components in Fireworks and then coding the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. – Lèse majesté Jan 26 '12 at 20:08

Flash is a great prototyping tool, if you're producing a Flash website.

If you're prototyping a HTML website it is less effective because you're presenting a model to the stakeholders that can't be realised in practice.


  • That's only true if either your site isn't an AJAX site or the person designing the prototype doesn't know the limitations of AJAX from that of Flash. There's enough of an overlap between Flash and AJAX that Flash or Flash Catalyst would be an acceptable tool for prototyping many web apps. – Lèse majesté Jan 26 '12 at 20:01

I think Flash IDE is great for prototyping. Not wireframing but prototyping. It is especially good for prototyping ajax like interactions. Even though they might be implemented in HTML/JavaScript later on. Flash IDE could help you to visualize inline interactions so the stakeholders and developers could understand how it works. If you need to create a user scenario/flow you could use insitui.com it is an online tool that will help you dump your thoughts on a serious of linked screens and it will help the team to understand user flows before you get into the details.


If you're following an agile methodology and looking for a quick hit, why not consider some of the products that allow some level of prototyping to be built along with wireframing your application/site?

On Mac, Omnigraffle has some crude clickthrough capabilities in presentation mode, even allowing the loading of canvas layers to mimic states for the same page. Or you can build very solid rapid prototypes using Axure, which comes in Win and Mac variants.

There are also several online applications that do this to one degree or other. Take a look at Balsamiq, iPlotz as starters. Still others like Creately work pretty well too.

As for Flash, why on earth would you even consider that when you are looking for 'rapid' ... won't even go into the usability issues.


The Flash Builder IDE is one of the most painful environment I've ever had the displeasure to work on. I would suggest anything, but. I find Java Swing in Eclipse very simple to throw some simple together with.

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    Interesting. I've used Flash Builder pretty extensively and haven't run into many issues personally. I would be comfortable using it. – Jason Towne Apr 5 '11 at 22:01

If you are looking for something to create highly interactive prototypes with you might also want to check out LiveCode by RunRev (http://www.runrev.com/products/livecode/). It supports delivery on a wide-range of platforms, including Mac, Windows, Web, iOS, and a very early beta for Android.

The programming language is fairly user friendly, and the storyboard (card) metaphor works very well for the purpose of building scenario-based prototypes.

  • LiveCode seems to have a similar design goal to Appcelerator Titanium. Have you ever compared the two? – Lèse majesté Jan 26 '12 at 20:13
  • I did also look at Appcelerator Titanium, but it seemed to have a steeper learning curve for what I wanted to use the tool for (occasional interactive prototypes). – Paul Hibbitts Jan 31 '12 at 1:42

This is like asking if a piano is good for a musician to write songs with. The answer is, "It depends if they know how to play piano." If they are a guitarist, the answer is no. If they are writing a song for the harp, the answer is no. If they need to do it while flying on an airplane, the answer is no. If they don't own a piano, the answer is no.

Flash is a tool. If you are proficient in it, and the output is Flash, and you have a copy of it on your computer, and you think it's a good choice, then sure, why not.


If you're just looking to create wireframe mockups for your UI, I would recommend one of Balsamiq's tools.

If developing a Flash/RIA site, Flash Builder isn't too hard to work with in my opinion. I wouldn't use it to mock up a regular HTML web site though.


Depends on what you need to prototype and also your production environment and workflow. If you need to prototype with high visual fidelity, require animations or video (or more generally speaking: a cinematic feel), do not need to handle very complex structures and don't know how to code basic Javascript, than Flash Catalyst(!!!) might well be amongst the better choices. If you need to prototype Flash websites (cough…), Flash kiosk systems or Air RIAs, than of course, the Flash IDE or respectively Flash Catalyst are probably ideal. Personally, I try to avoid especially the hostile UX hell of the Flash IDE (and of Adobe's buggy bloatware in general) as well as I can, but tastes may vary…

For websites in general I would definitely NOT recommend it in any case, though – native is most often best. For mobile and tablet apps, Webkit kicks quite some ass, and for anything that requires more advanced capabilites (e.g. exhibition installations), I would highly prefer to use e.g. Processing or openFrameworks.


Wow. Quite a lot of anti flash-sentiment here. The answer is that it depends on your skill resource, if they are any good then they can present behaviour in flash to mimic any environment very quickly.

Axure and the like are very limited to present hi fi solutions for user testing for any projects aside from next page functionality.

SO the answer is theortically its a brilliant option if you have access to the skillset, if you dont, then dont.

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    It's not anti flash sentiment. It's anti "using a different medium to prototype the medium you are actually trying to build". It's not a skillset issue...it's an issue of prototyping in the the context of the actual product. – DA01 Jan 26 '12 at 20:22

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