Thursday, November 06, 2008

Balsamiq Mockups...A Very Cool Tool For Building Prototypes

As long-time readers know, I'm somewhat of a zealot when it comes to singing the praises of low-fidelity prototyping. Over time, I've found that it allows me to get to the best possible user interface faster than any other method. While I love breaking out the crayons, markers and paper, I do admit that it sometimes becomes more time consuming than I'd like if I have to keep redoing a certain screen. This is where I see a computer-based tool being very helpful.

In a past post, I introduced you to using electronic tools to build a prototype. Thanks to an e-mail I received from a reader (Cheers, Miguel), I've found another prototyping tool that I think could be *the one*. From what I've seen, it's full featured, very easy to use and allows you to create interface mockups in a flash. It's got a funny name, but the story behind it makes it quite apropos. Check it's called Balsamiq Mockups

Balsamiq Mockups...check it out

I'm not going to go into details on the features here, since the elegantly designed Balsamiq website already does that. I do, however, want to point out some things that make it killer:

* It's got a web UI as well as a desktop counterpart if you want to do offline work.

* The hand-drawn elements are well done and plentiful. There's a control, window or container for almost every UI situation you can think of.

* You can export the end result as a PNG or XML file.

* It just works.

If you've ever considered building low-fidelity prototypes but were put off by the idea of using analog tools, I'd definitely recommend giving Balsamiq Mockups a try. You can use the web interface directly from the site. Hopefully, I'll have the opportunity to test drive the desktop based version soon. If so, I'll be back with an updated review. what are you waiting for. Go forth and draw! :-)


Tony Palmer said...

I saw an article on Ajaxian yesterday that covered some more aspects of prototyping, it also included a few links to other tools similar to Balsamiq

YeloCAB said...

This is great. One layout feature I like is that 'alignment lines' appear when you drag an item near the horizontal/vertical axis of other items on the page. This is very helpful when trying to align items. (Apple's interface builder has/had a similar feature).
I think if IBM really stepped up Designer's layout tools it would really help non-designers build better forms more easily.

Anonymous said...

The desktop version is a bit expensive. 79$ is not something you can call trivial if you do 1-2 user interfaces per year.