Styles in Axure RP are a way to centrally manage the look and feel of pages and widgets across your entire project. Think of it like styles you use in Microsoft Word, or CSS for HTML in code.
Using styles can save you a lot of time when updating the visual design of the project. They can also help you standardize or unify contributions from multiple team members. Having a consistent style can also help define and reinforce your brand look and feel and add professional polish to wireframes and prototypes.
When to Use Styles
There are several situations where styles can come in handy.
- Large Projects: Styles are most helpful when you have a large project and need your deliverables to have a consistent look and feel.
- Multiple Contributors: They can also be useful when you’re working with a team, and you need everyone’s contributions to look consistent.
- Longer-term Projects: If you plan to maintain and update your documents throughout the project, styles can save you a lot of time.
- Custom Widget Libraries: Using widget styles in your custom widget library makes it easier for the users of your library to update the look and feel.
There are also times when you don’t need to think about styles at all, such as when you are making a quick prototype that you know will have a short lifespan.
But for project files that you know will live on for a while, it’s good practice to start using styles early. You’ll get the benefits sooner and won’t have to update your project after it’s grown larger.
Creating and Updating Widget Styles
In Axure RP 7, when you drag a widget from the Default or Flow library, it will have its “Default” style applied. In Axure RP 8 (currently in Beta), the widgets will have a widget style applied such as “Box 1” or “Image”. When you add a widget to your project, the widget style will automatically be imported. (If you want to learn the basics of widget styles in version 8, head over to this article.)
After you make a change to a widget’s color or font, you can decide whether to update the current style, create a new style, or leave the styles alone. If you think you’re only going to have one widget with that formatting, then you don’t need to reach for the Widget Style system.
If you want to use the new formatting repeatedly, use the style system. You have two options: update the current style, or create a new one.
- Update the current one if you want every widget that already has the style applied to get the new formatting. If you update a style that came from a widget in a widget library, that widget will now have the new formatting when added to your project. For example, if you update the “Heading 1” style, future Heading 1 widgets added to your project will have the new formatting.
- Create a new one if you don’t want the new formatting to affect other widgets. I usually create a new style when the intent of the widget has changed. Say, for example, you used a Heading 3 widget to make a caption. Rather than update the “Heading 3” style, create a new “Caption” style.
In version 7, updating and creating widget styles is all done in the Widget Style Editor (“Project > Widget Style Editor”). In version 8, there are new Update and Create buttons in the Inspector that make it much faster.
Here is a picture of the Update and Create buttons in 8.
Keep it Clean
When there are a lot of styles in a project, it can take some time to manage and apply them to a widget. Before making a new style, check if there is already an appropriate style in the project and try to only create new styles when you are confident you’ll be using them again.
Also, try to only override the properties in your widget style when they are different than the Default property. For example, if your style has the same font as the Default style, you don’t need to override it. That way updating the Default font will update the font in your style as well.
Widget Styles in Custom Libraries
Using widget styles in custom widget libraries makes it easy for the people using your library to update the formatting of the widgets in their projects. When a widget from a library is added to a page, the widget styles used in that widget will be imported to the project.
It’s good practice to name the styles in a way that lets folks know which library it came from. For example, if your library is called FlatUI, consider adding prefix like “FUI Primary Button” for example, to differentiate it from styles from other libraries.
Another important thing to keep in mind when creating your custom widget libraries is to avoid modifying the Default styles (which has been simplified to just one Default style in 8). That’s because the changes you make to the Default styles in the library will not be applied when the widgets are used on a project.
The picture below shows the Widget Style Editor in the Axure RP 8 Beta.
Apply Widget Styles using the Format Painter
You can use the Format Painter to copy the formatting of a widget and apply it to others. If “Base Style” (or “Widget Style” in 8) is checked in the Format Painter, it will be applied to the selected widgets when you click “Apply”.
Use Widget Styles for MouseOver
You can also use widget styles to centrally manage the MouseOver, MouseDown, Selected and Disabled formatting on widgets. In the “Set Interaction Styles” dialog, check the “Base Style” property (“Widget Style” in 8). Then, select the widget style. Updating that style will now automatically update the interaction style on all of the widgets using that style. You can learn more in this tutorial on interactive buttons.
I hope this article gives you a few new ideas for working faster and more efficiently with widget styles. One of the goals for Axure RP 8 is to make it easier for you to take advantage of the style system.
If you have other topics you’d like us to cover in the Axure Best Practices series, please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.