Mockups with Balsamiq

Mockup creation is an extremely important part of how I start a new project. I usually work on paper or a whiteboard for this part of a project. This time I decided to give Balsamiq Mockups a try.

Balsamiq Mockups is an Adobe Air based app developed by a dude that used to work for Adobe in the US (now in Italy working for himself). There are several versions of the app but I opted for the desktop version as I’m a small one-person company right now.

I won’t go into the details of how it works, you can check out the demo video or just do a search on Google for a billion results to choose from. I will talk about my experience using Mockups.

My start was a little rough in that I kept encountering what I think is a bug in Mockups. Another issue I encountered was that it crashed on me when reopening a recent mockup — after which I couldn’t open up the application.

The maybe-bug I encountered I still have to report, and I’m hesitant to call it a bug until I get confirmation that I’m not doing something wrong. The crash was solved by deleting my preferences folder for Mockups. It hasn’t happened since so it looks like it was just a fluke that could’ve been caused by an Adobe Air update I ran when installing the app.

One thing I’ll say is that when my problem occurred, I emailed Peldi (the dude from Italy) with the Apple diagnostic error information. He replied back immediately. The guy is fast. I’m not kidding when I say fast. I think I had a reply back before I hit the send button. I can see why there’s so much positive talk about Balsamiq support. For a moment, I thought he might be using Google’s April 1st gmail service or something.

So now that I’ve been using it, how is it?

  1. It’s fast. Extremely fast. I’m actually more productive using it than when I use paper or a whiteboard. Drag and dropping entire controls is a timesaver.
  2. I love being able to reuse my mockups. Can’t do that on paper.
  3. Works great for web design projects. You get browser window you can slam down (that’s what I do) on the canvas. It’s awesome.
  4. The interface is great. Not the biggest fan of the horizontal navigation but everything else works smoothly.

Any complaints?

I don’t really demand much from a tool like this since it’s meant for quick pre-project work so I don’t have much to complain about. If you do any type of web design work, you really need to give Balsamiq Mockups a shot.

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Peldi (the dude)

Hi Ruben, thanks so much for the review and the kind words. I appreciate you talking about the ups and the downs of your experience with Mockups as well. I am working with the Adobe AIR team on the crash report, as an AIR app should never under any circumstances crash the AIR runtime (it would be like a java application crashing the JVM), and I’ll report back in what I find out.

What was the bug that you encountered…it probably IS a bug…in fact, the fact that you’re not sure it’s a UX bug in itself! 😉

Thanks again,
Peldi

ruben

>> What was the bug that you encountered…it probably IS a bug…in fact, the fact that you’re not sure it’s a UX bug in itself! 😉

That’s an excellent attitude to take toward user interface design!

What happens is that sometimes when I click on a control and mess with it for a while (move it around, resize it, etc.), I seem to not be able to click and select a control. None of them, not the one I’m working on or any of the other ones on the page. I’ve tried hitting escape but nothing happens. I usually break out of it by dragging a new control on to the design board. At that point the controls become clickable again.

Unfortunately I don’t know how to reproduce it. Just that it happens from time to time.

ruben

Also, I’m with you on the Adobe Air runtime issue. Hasn’t happened again but hopefully Adobe can shed some light on the situation.

And thanks for commenting!

Peldi (the dude)

Ha! I think I know the bug. When that happens, try hitting the ALT or CTRL key. If it fixes it, it’s the same bug I’m hunting right now. In fact, let me look at it one more time. 🙂

ruben

Sure thing, I’ll give it a shot! I’ll let you know if that works, tomorrow I’ve scheduled some more time for mockup creation.

Efraim

I love Balsamiq mockups! Use it almost weekly!
However, software UI tools don’t seem to solve the ‘first ideas’ or ‘napkin drawings’. For some reason, I can’t bring in software until the idea is a little more clear, since all UI software (incl. Balsamiq) only allow pre-set controls.

To solve the early stages, I use:
http://www.MockupMagnets.com
Very fun magnetic UI widgets for prototyping on a whiteboard. You should try them!

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