Layers in Pidoco are a fantastic way to save time when creating and adapting prototypes. Many already know layers from software programs like PhotoShop. Pidoco features a similar concept that allows users to group and re-use elements, but with one crucial difference: Layers are global in Pidoco.
Global Layers are templates that can be reused within a prototype. You can hide and unhide them on any page of a prototype. This means that a layer can be created for the menu bar and website navigation and subsequently be used on all pages with one simple click. This way parts of a website or a web app that appear often do not have to be recreated for every page. In addition, different sections of a page can be compartmentalized into different layers in relation to tasks. An example of this is a webpage with different panes.
Layers in Pidoco are global meaning that any edits made to a layer while on a particular page will affect the layer on all other pages of the prototype where the layer is activated. This is a very handy feature when it comes to adapting a prototype or trying out UI design alternatives: Simply make a copy of the prototype and change the original layer to reflect the new concept. Or create an alternative layer in the same prototype and unhide the original one on those pages where you want the changes to be effective. So here’s how it works.
Creating Global Layers in Your Prototype
Layers can be created easily within a prototype when you are in the Page View, i.e. after opening any page of the prototype. To create a new layer in your prototype simply click on the “Create” button in the My Global Layers panel on the right hand side of the screen. Voilà! Doing so will generate a new global layer that will appear as a new entry at the top of the list of layers in My Global Layers. To rename the layer double click on it in My Global Layers and enter the desired name in the text field that appears.
The new layer will automatically be shown on the page you have opened and will be pre-selected so that you can start editing the new layer right away. Layers can be edited in the same way that you would edit the page: Simply drag the UI elements (stencils) from the Stencil Palette on the left hand side onto the layer. You can group them, align them, change attributes, or link them up with other pages. Once you’re done editing the layer, simply switch back to the page by selecting the page above the My Global Layers list.
By the way, you can edit any layer that is part of the page you’re on by selecting it under My Global Layers. If you want to edit a layer that is not active on the opened page you have to first display it by selecting the checkbox or switch to a page where it is already in use. At this point it is good to remind yourself that layers are global and that any change will affect all pages throughout the entire prototype on which the layer is displayed.
How to use layers
Let’s say you’ve just created a few new layers, for example for the main navigation of your website or the utilities. You can now use them on any page of your prototype without having to redo the work. To display (or unhide) and use a layer on a page, open that page in the Page View and select (activate) the checkbox of the desired layer. Doing so will make the layer visible on that page.
All layers that are visible on the page are marked by a check in the checkbox in the My Global Layers list. Hidden (inactive) layers appear without a check. To hide a layer from a page simply do the reverse: Open that page in the Page View and deselect (deactivate) the checkbox of the desired layer in My Global Layers. Doing so will make the layer invisible on that page. Remember you cannot edit a hidden layer.
This of course also works not only for the navigation of a website, but also for footers, side menus and various other items that you want to re-use. Layers can also be used to model various states of the same page. Say, for example, you wanted to distinguish between the homepage of a web portal before and after the user has logged in. Simply create two layers for the different states of the utilities and/or navigation and duplicate the homepage. Display one layer on each page. Since the links on your layers are also global, you can even include different navigation paths using this method.
All layers available in a prototype are listed in My Global Layers panel on the right-hand side of the prototype while in the Page View. There is no natural hierarchy among layers, but you can order them by dragging them to the desired position in My Global Layers with your mouse.
The top layer in the list will be displayed on top of all others, and so on. Note that the page entry above My Global Layers is not a layer, but represents the page you are on. Elements contained directly on the page will be displayed on top of all layers.
So, this gives you a brief idea of what layers can do for you. Have you tried the layer feature yourself? We’d love to hear about your experience.
About Feature Snapshots: Feature Snapshots address topics that are essential in the daily work of interface designers and all those using wireframes for professional purposes. As such, they are intended to help you learn how to tackle such challenges using Pidoco. One of the key benefits of prototyping is the possibility of working with design alternatives to find out which best suits business and user needs. This particular Feature Snapshot is about working with layers in Pidoco and how it can support the iterative design process.