Balsamiq Mockups is a great design tool!
A few weeks back I noticed that Alec Saunders had some great things to say about Balsamiq Mockups, a UI design tool that makes it very easy to create mockups of web and PC user interfaces. We had a big web redesign coming up, so I decided to take Balsamiq for a spin…
The app is built using Adobe Air, which means it is cross-platform and works great on both Windows and OS X. Installation is painless on both platforms. And, it really opened my eyes to the power of Adobe Air (I had pretty much thought all it could do was host web pages outside a browser…)
The app is a riot to use. There’s a large ribbon across the top that contains all the UI elements you can use. Drag ’em onto the canvas, and build a UI in a few minutes.
One of the app’s features is a hand-drawn look – which means you can avoid focussing on the nitty gritty details of the design, and instead get the overall layout right. You don’t spend hours wasting time on pixel by pixel spacing, and whether some text should be bold, or a different font. It’s like you’re working with a talented artist who can throw together really great sketches very quickly.
And, the app is smart too. The table layout tool is particularly nice – you just type a few rows of text, and it automatically lays it out in a nice table – and automatically converts things like [ ] into checkboxes. Nice.
The app is keyboard friendly as well. It’s not obvious, but there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts such as typing “/” to get to a text box where you can simply type the name of the UI element you want added to the page.
The developer is extremely responsive to user requests, making extensive use of the GetSatisfaction.com site for user suggestions, soliciting advice for how to implement new features, and responding to any issues.
The app is missing a few things, though enhancements are in progress… The app can’t save “projects” of multiple pages. You have to load each page of your design one at a time (although multiple pages can be viewed in the tabbed interface). You can’t add links or automation to your pages – so clicking on things never actually jumps to the new page (like working with a real paper mockup, you just flip to the next page), and you can’t add your own custom elements to pages. One feature I’d like to see is some UI elements for iPhone applications. Many of these features are in development now.
Balsamiq Mockups is a highly recommended application!