Review: Balsamiq – For creating mock ups

What’s a mock up?
A mock up is exactly that, it’s a mock used to give an idea of how a project may look and function. To me it’s the transition of ideas in my head to ideas on a page.

Why should I create a mock up?
I find mocks ups allows me to convey an idea in a more structured and visualised manner, which can help others to conceptualise an idea as a real life product. I believe it to be especially beneficial when pitching an idea to non technical people as they often need a visual representation of the idea.

Creating a mock up
I used to create my mock ups on paper or in Photoshop and this seemed like a perfectly viable way of doing things until I stumbled across Balsamiq. Ever since I’ve been desperate to give it a whirl, my degree coursework has given me just that opportunity.

Balsamiq
Balsamiq is an easy to use mock up desktop application. It allows you to create mock ups using pre designed components. There are a wide range of components that you can use for web, desktop applications and even IPhone applications. You are also able to customise many of the components. For example, if you have a menu bar in your mockup you are able to add exactly the options you wish to show, or you can add hyperlinks to buttons that will link to the relevant mock up or webpage. There is also a presentation view, this allows you to show the mockup in full screen with a large arrow to point out features and notes if you wish, this comes with an option to show and hide any comments you may have placed on the mockup.

Mockup of winform app

Mockup of winform app

Favourite Features

  • Quick and easy to use – After just 10 minutes I had the front page of my app mocked out. It would have taken me a good 40+ minutes to get something similar done in Photoshop. I probably could have created it on paper within an equal time span but the reusability of a paper mock up is far less than an digital copy.
  • Quick Add – This allows you to type in the name of component, and add it by just hitting the return button.
  • Alignment – I was really surprised that I had this functionality available to me, it’s something that I’ve always found incredibly useful in Photoshop and Illustrator so to see it there delighted me! I do tend be rather fussy about alignment so this might not excite everyone quite as much ;) .
  • Presentation View – Perfect for presenting your mock up. The large blue arrow fits nicely in with the overall look of the mock up, it also rotates around the mockup depending on where you place your mouse. You also have a choice to show or hide your comments.
  • Download more controls – Under the help menu you will find “Download more controls”, you’ll be redirected to mockupstogo.net where you are able to download open source mocksups created by other people. So anything you can’t find on Balsamiq you can probably find there.
Balsamiq Presentation View

Balsamiq Presentation View

Features I’d like to see added

  • Export to html – It would be great if this could be exported to html, that way you could just upload it and send the URL to a client to take a peak and it could be available for them to revert back to after a presentation.
  • Layering – Although you are able to push components backward and forward I think I’d really like to be able to select layers and move components around like that. Although I fear this may then over complicate such a simple easy to use product.
  • File Management – From what I can see the only way you can flick between files is through the tabs and the bottom, this could get difficult to manage if you had a number of mockup pages open at one time, so it would be nice to see a better way of displaying the files.

Overall I think Balsamiq is an excellent product and if you need to create mock ups on a regular basis I would strongly recommend it. It may also be a useful tool to encourage and introduce the use of mockups. They do a free trial, it doesn’t have all the features but it does have enough to give you a taste, so go on give it a try!

S :)

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2 Responses

  1. Peldi Says:

    Hi Sara, thanks for the review!

    For export to HTML, take a look at http://www.napkee.com, it’s awesome.

    Layering – we’re thinking about it, but you’re right it’s hard to do without complicating the product, we’ll see…

    Dealing with many files: we’re working on it, it’s a feature we call “Projects”. It’s coming soon!

    Thanks again for taking the time to write about us,
    Peldi

    Posted on December 7th, 2009 at 14:29

  2. Cristian Says:

    Hey, Sara!

    FlairBuilder is a prototyping tool that integrates nicely with Mockups. It lets you import a set of mockups into single project, with masters/layers support.

    You can also give your clients/peers your projects so they can view it in the free viewer with all interactions enabled.

    Give it a try and let me know what you think!

    Cheers,
    Cristian

    Posted on December 12th, 2009 at 21:02

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