Tools We Use: Principle
Feb 3, 2016
In this post, though, I’m not going to discuss any of those tools, because, well, that’s a post for another day. I’m going to go off the beaten path and talk about a different prototyping and animation tool that’s recently become a mainstay in my workflow, Principle.
What is Principle?
Principle is a tool that makes it easy to:
- Animate interactions in your prototypes<
- Design new interactions and reimagine existing interactions without being limited to pre-defined transitions
- Build multi-screen flows that incorporate new interactions and animations
It’s easy to quickly and precisely illustrate the ideas in Principle. Through the timeline UI, you have total control over how elements bounce, ease, and pop. The interface felt incredibly familiar to me the first time I used it—getting my ideas onto the screen was easy.
You can design totally new interactions or replicate and rethink old ones. Principle doesn’t limit you to pre-defined transitions, you can experiment with any interface element. It’s totally imagination friendly.
Designing multi-screen flows is also really easy. The process similar to the way that you would design an user flow with artboards in Sketch. Each artboard has a different screen and you animate layers between each art board based on gestures (swipe, tap, etc.). The first time I designed a multi-screen flow in principle it felt much more real and fluid than anything I had been able to accomplish previously.
Familiar Workflow and Easy on the Wallet
Principle’s interface felt immediately familiar to me. If you’re a Sketch user or if you’ve worked in a program that uses layers (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.), the workflow will probably feel familiar to you, too. It’s tough to articulate how to animate an interface element without actually watching somebody do it, so just watch this demo.
So maybe Principle sounds like a pretty cool tool right now—well I’ve got more good news. It’s $99. Of course, your Mac is probably pretty pricey, and Principle only works on Apple computers. Windows fans, if you’re out there, sorry—there aren’t any plans to release a Windows version.
Ok, so we’ve got the basics out of the way—let’s get down to the brass tacks. I’m a huge fan of Principle because it’s affordable, easy-to-use, and it allows me to design things exactly as I imagine them. Being able to animate an interaction allows me to explains my ideas in a way that I can’t with words.
Visualization is the fastest way to certainty.*
–Aarron Walter, Director of UX at MailChimp
*I stole that quote from InVision’s MailChimp customer reference.
Pro #1: Easy to Use for Lovers of Layers
If you’re a Sketch, Photoshop, or Illustrator user, working with artboards and layers in Principle will be really easy. Plus, if you’ve ever prototyped something in Keynote then the animating with the timeline will feel really similar—think magic move.
Pro #2: Active Community
There’s a really great Principle community—it’s active and a lot of members post their prototypes and share their files so you can learn from their techniques. I learned a ton the first day I downloaded Principle just by scrolling through the group seeing what other people were doing.
Pro #3: Responsive Team
The Principle team is really responsive—they’re all over the Facebook group helping users figure out how realize ideas through Principle and troubleshoot bugs. Plus, their documentation is an excellent companion to the tutorials they have available.
Pro #4: Already Fits in Your Workflow
I’m a Sketch user, and I love Keynote and InVision. Those tools all make my life much easier, but Principle still makes up for the big deficiency I had in my workflow—being able to animate interactions.
Con #1: Not Great for Usability Testing
The reason that I still love InVision is because it’s excellent for testing prototypes with users and sharing large prototypes with clients. Currently, you can’t send Principle prototypes to people that don’t have Principle installed on their computer. You can only export gifs and video files—which look awesome in presentations, but aren’t great for testing.
Con #2: We Don’t Know What the Roadmap Looks Like
The other big con is that Principle is a pretty new tool—we don’t know what the product roadmap looks like, or if the tool take off (personally, I think it will!). There are a lot of unknowns with new pieces of software like Principle, which could make it slightly less attractive for some designers and teams.
Why I Love Principle
Concepting and Experimenting
I use principle to concept and experiment on projects. With Principle, Sketch, and InVision it’s a lot easier to push through the messy process of moving from an idea to creating something useful because I can express almost any idea visually.
It’s Easier to Build Consensus
When I show Principle prototypes to people I get a lot of really enthusiastic, “that’s really cool!” comments. It’s easy to build consensus when you can show clients exactly what an interaction will look like in the finished product. Animations in client meetings are worth way more than a thousand words.
Workflow is Blazin’ Fast
I can work really quickly in Principle, and it’s not because I’m particularly good at using Principle. This is software that just works. The controls are simple and you can create beautiful high-fidelity prototypes and basic low-fidelity prototypes in the same space.
You’ll Love Principle if…
You Want a Tool with a Low Learning Curve
If you’re looking for a way to start animating your prototypes quickly, and you have a basic understanding of how layers work in tools like Sketch, Photoshop, or Omnigraffle then definitely download the free trial—you’ll be up and running in no time.
You Love Prototyping in Keynote
I started out animating interactions in Keynote, and when I started using Principle everything about it felt really similar. So, if you’re a fan of prototyping in Keynote and you want a little more control, Principle could be a really nice option.
You Don’t Like Origami and QC
I really wanted to love Origami and Quartz Composer, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the interface. Principle’s artboard-centric interface totally matched the way that I think, and I can recreate a lot of the same interactions that I’ve seen come out of the Origami community pretty easily.
In the past two months Principle has become a workhorse in my design and ideation process. If you’ve read this far (or scrolled ahead without reading), give the free trial a shot and let me know what you think.
About Joe: I enjoy Seinfeld, Biscuit (my dog), and living in the City of Oaks. I love designing things for our clients and Centerline lets me design lots of things. Give me a shout on Twitter at @byjoebond.