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Iterative prototyping with Kirby CMS and Gridset

By John ~ Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely excited on finding new tools to help me do my job better but Kirby and Gridset are two such tools.

Software aside for a moment the people behind the products are as important as the software for me.

Bastian Allgeier creates a wonderfully warm and inspiring atmosphere on the Kirby site that gives a real sense of this product being cared for and loved and the tutorials hit the mark every time; he knows his audience and tutorials are written accordingly and stuff just works. On purchasing Kirby I got a personal reply from @getkirby with an email address should I need any help, I liked that. I feel like I can trust this software to help, not hinder.

Gridset’s creators, I am sure, need no introduction but it is a key reason I signed-up for 12 months. There are plenty of tools out there for creating grids, most of them free, but what Gridset gives me is a little piece of the minds of Mark Boulton Design and I am willing to pay for that. Gridset for me is more than just a tool, it’s a practical way to learn more about grids as you work and it’s so very simple to set up and use. I’ve never used Compound Grids in my work before but here I am using them and considering how they can be applied to smaller screens. You don’t get that from your tools very often!

Iterative prototypes

The challenge I am faced with on the Rationalist Association project is probably familiar to many. Using Agile we are sprinting our way towards minimal viable product and we need to deliver code to the developer as quickly as we can and communicate the desired interactions. Add to this the requirement for a porous paywall (which in short means the content is always available, we’re just going to ask that you consider supporting the association if you’re not a logged in as a member, and you’ll occasionally bump into the paywall when try to use the more useful tools such as search and browse) and it’s obvious that the bulk of design needs to be done directly in the browser.

I’ve always used PHP includes when prototyping and avoided content management systems because of the database issue but I’m not very good at PHP so showing interactions and functionality even at a basic level can be a challenge. Kirby solves that beautifully. The lack of a database means the whole system can sit easily in a GIT repository and Rach and I can work together on the prototype. Uploading from localhost to a demo URL is easy too, it just works, no dicking around with config files.

Additionally, the separation of the content from the presentation templates means that hopefully the developer will have an easier time unpicking the bits he needs.

Kirby also comes with an optional Kirby panel and this is really interesting. I haven’t started yet but it seems like a tool I can pass to the clients and get them involved in the creation of the prototype.

Somewhere amongst all this we have to jam in some usability testing and in within just a few days of setting up Kirby I am very close to having a prototype I can take out on the road and test and it will feel very real.

The recent addition of front end authentication is the key to it all. I can now build prototypes that show and hide bits of content based on a users logged in state and with a little tweaking get redirects working on login and fake expiring free trails and memberships (possibly basing that on the authentication group they are in).

There’s no looking back for me. I can’t imagine going back to the clunk of my crappy PHP includes when I can use Kirby and get everyone involved in the creation of prototypes.

Add Gridset into that mix, particularly the ability to use the link attribute to connect your prototype to the app itself, and you add the ability to very very quickly build a prototype that is responsive, so opening up the opportunity to perform usability tests on any device the user may have to hand.

I also love that I can mess around with the grid on the fly, without having to worry about the numbers. Adding or removing grids, even trying out a whole new grid system is a matter of minutes not hours. Also, did I mention Compound grids? What a revelation!

So in summary then. Kirby + Gridsetapp = Joy. Thank you both!