Review: Balsamiq Mockups
Back at my previous job, I was using a piece of software called “Axure” to generate mockups of web applications. When I started at the new job and they asked me what software I needed, I suggested that one. I nearly had a heart attack when I realized it’s $600 for a single user license! That’s nuts. So I started looking around. I toyed with the idea of using Visio (it’s just so clunky!) before somebody recommended Balsamiq Mockups to me. It looked like just the thing I needed, and the license is only $70. I was debating on buying it when I noticed that they offer free licenses to “do-gooders” and bloggers. I sent them an email, and they wrote back with a license the very next day! I was floored by the business and I hadn’t even started using the software yet. Of course, I wasn’t going to give them a glowing review for nothing. I’ve spent the last month or so putting Mockups through its paces.The software: I was a bit dubious about this whole “Adobe Air” thing, but the installation proved painless. (I tested it on both PC and Mac.) Within 10 minutes of launching it I was generating mockups for both web pages and mobile phone handsets. I wasn’t sure how technical people would react to the deliberately hand-drawn look of the diagrams, so I showed it to a couple developers for their opinion. They all liked it and said it was more fun than getting a PowerPoint or Visio drawing. I’ve been using it extensively for a few weeks now and I’ve got zero complaints. (The only bug I found was fixed a few days later.) It’s so quick to create something from scratch, and changes take hardly any time at all. People have literally stopped by my desk to point at what was on my monitor. This app makes you look like you spent a lot more time/effort than you really did!
The business: Like I said, I was predisposed to like them just because they sent me a free license. Still, I’ve been hugely impressed by how the husband-and-wife team support and promote their software. Releases are free and having been happening every week or two. (The most recent one has custom iPhone interface elements, which will be *very* useful to anybody doing mobile stuff.) They’ve got a blog that gets updated frequently, and the developer is a frequent Twitterer. I really can’t say enough good stuff about them. If you find yourself trying to figure out what a website should look like, you should definitely try this one out. (And I think they’re working on an online version soon…)