Happy Birthday, dear Axure book
Five years ago today I released a small e-book on the Amazon Kindle platform called Axure for Mobile. At that time Axure 6.5 was just released, offering quite a few enhancements for mobile prototyping (swiping events, the mobile settings panel, etc.). My book described these new features and offered quite a few hacks which made mobile prototyping way easier.
The book was the result of me tinkering with Axure ever since I started my job at Deutsche Telekom in 2009. Back then the Nokia S40 and S60 platforms were still alive and kicking, Microsoft had Windows Mobile, Samsung did their own OS, and Android and iOS were still new and their future was uncertain.
At Telekom user interfaces were documented in wireframes and flows using Illustrator or Visio. Prototyping was a task done by developers or creative coders (but that term didn’t exist yet). Some high-end devices had Flash installed and that was our de-facto prototyping platform. Building a prototype took several weeks and that was by no means rapid or iterative.
But when more and more manufacturers replaced their WAP browsers with “real” web browsers I started to look for a way to create HTML prototypes to speed up our process. And that’s when I found Axure. It kind of offered the features of Visio, it created HTML, plus it had the (still) underused feature of creating documentation on the fly. I was excited (which I am quite easily when it comes to technology) and I started to test how we could utilize Axure.
This was the beginning of the book, even though I didn’t know it back then. I documented my findings in a presentation and the slide deck kept growing and growing. Eventually I decided to write things down and maybe turn this into a series of blog posts. But after I had written more than 30 pages, and still had a long list of things I wanted to mention, I realized that I maybe have enough material to write a decent book on the topic.
First, I had to make up my mind how to get it published. Do I look for a publisher? (How does one look for a publisher, anyhow?) Or shall I try to do it by myself? Kindle self-publishing was all the rage and I thought, let’s give this a try. That meant that I had to do a few additional things, like: find a writing tool and a process for creating an e-book, get someone to proof-read and review the content, find someone to write a foreword, talk to Axure to get their general approval, get a decent cover image, build an audience, market the book, set a price, talk to the IRS about taxes, etc.
So that’s what I did.
It was an overall rewarding and interesting experience. Research and perform all the tasks surrounding the e-book was as interesting as writing the book itself – which sometimes became a chore.
In the end I uploaded 213 pages to Amazon’s Kindle platform and after a few clicks (their marketing was generally correct) I was an author.
Two years later I decided that the book needed a small update. A new Axure version was out, plus I found some new things to put in the book. I decided to maybe rewrite some small sections. I reread the whole thing with a red pen (which was quite painful – reading your own stuff always is, I guess) and started the rewriting process.
Along the way I realized I was changing quite a few things. The book was turning into a completely new and revised edition. But I liked writing, so what the heck.
But if I do a new version what about a printed edition? Learning how to write and structure a “real” book was the next side-task I gave myself. Which was also fun, only relayouting the physcial book was really cumbersome.
In March 2014 I released the e-book version. The printed book followed in May. About 70% of the content was new or rewritten.
If I look at the book’s content today, quite a few things are now outdated. With the AxShare app released in May 2015, putting your prototypes on a mobile device suddenly became easy. In April 2016 Axure 8 was released which also introduced quite a few enhancements and changes.
I actually started rewriting the book when the Axure 8 beta came out. But I never got around to finish it. I wanted to try another medium and expand the scope of the book. So I recorded a (German) video tutorial about Axure with video2brain, (now) a sub-division of Lynda.
But for more than four years the book did quite well. During that time I sold about a book a day. Which still astonishes me and makes me quite proud. Its sales are (understandably) now declining. But, as I mentioned, I learned a lot of things, not only about Axure. I got in contact and met with people from all over the world, and had the chance to attend a few conferences to talk about it as well.
So if you stumble over an issue you think other people might have as well, I can only encourage you to write a few sentences about it. You never know where it might take you.