What’s a good wireframing tool? Part 2: Balsamiq Mockups

It can be really tricky to find the right wireframing tool with all the options out there, and many times it depends on your personal preference or the requirements of the project. In this post however, we’ll solely take a look at Balsamiq Mock-Ups.

CROSS-PLATFORM COMPATIBILITY

As one of the view tools, Balsamiq is great when you are in a team working on both: Mac and Windows. It really saves headaches, when it comes to collaboration.

Collaboration, Online Account

Speaking of collaboration: The creators of Balsamiq work in a distributed development fashion, with team members in several parts of the US, and within Europe. Now with that in mind its self-explanatory that Balsamiq designed it’s tool for remote collaboration among PMs, Designers and Developers.

They go even a bit further: The company offers an online version of their software for a flexible and fairly low costs subscription fee. That’s great if you want your clients to comment on wireframes you created.

If you rather prefer integration with your google drive and google docs, than you can choose that as option. In Chrome browser, go to the web store and add Balsamiq to your apps. The integration will cost you as well a small subscription fee, but it’s nice to have all in one place, and keep track of everything.

No matter whether desktop or online version, you can try out for free and are given enough time for evaluation.

It also seems that Balsamiq offers integration into intranets and websites. If you head over to UX StackExchange you’ll notice that Balsamiq is integrated into the site, allowing users to collaborate on wireframes.

Sketching and Low Fidelity Wireframes

The charm of the software lies in the sketchy appearance of your wireframes. The built in components which you can access through the software’s library look as if they have been created with a marker. That helps a lot, because you focus on the structure and interactions of what you are designing and not its looks.

Another good point for low fidelity wireframes is that it helps you manage expectations with customers, and get faster to the point, as you won’t waste any time discussing formatting of your designs, which is something that belongs in the last phases of a project.

Besides the neatly organized and integrated library of stencils and interface components that Balsamiq ships with, you can find a community around the tool with people creating extra library elements and lots of other stuff.

BUDGET VS. SOFTWARE CAPABILITIES

Considering what you get for your money, Balsamiq comes for a fairly low price. Besides the product itself, there is plenty of contribution from the community around Balsamiq.

SUPPORT & COMMUNITY

Support is great! Since the team of Balsamiq is located in different parts of the world, there is always someone available if you run into issues.

Community contributions that extend the functionality of Balsamiq range from free UML Diagrams, to UI Patterns, free Icon packs, and a tool called Napkee, which is not free, but a very interesting extension for Balsamiq, that allows you exporting your wireframes into code for interactive prototypes. Definitely worth a look at!

FEATURES

Here are the features that I find useful in my day-to-day work:

  • Working with built-in UI templates
  • Modifying the contents of UI elements works like a dream! It’s super quick, easy, and it just works.
  • Layering UI controls
  • Presentation Mode
  • Project Asset folder keeps everything together
  • Each screen is one file, and all files can be accessed through the tabs in the bottom
  • Adding interactivity to elements
  • Annotating wireframes has never been more fun
  • Export to PNG and PDF, along with naming conventions that organize your last files in the order it is supposed to be reviewed
  • Modifying data grids is super fast and easy

What bothers me a bit is that I like to keep track of different wireframe version and provide upgrade information along with it.

Sometimes the low fidelity seems too much of low fidelity, but that depends on the type of project you are working on.

HIGH FIDELITY VS. LOW FIDELITY

By default everything looks like it’s been sketched with paper and sharpie pen, and that’s definitely nice, But you can create also your own stencils and templates in higher fidelity if that’s your thing.

OVERALL

A great tool for wireframes and annotations on Mac and PC. With almost no learning curve it’s super easy to jump right in and get things mocked up fast and quickly. I definitely recommend it for any Product Manager, who wants to have an idea worked out in more detail by a designer. There is a low barrier to get started with creating anything in Balsamiq. It works quick, fast and is super easy for anyone who knows how to use a computer.

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