Balsamiq - Simple Wireframes
May 29, 2018
Balsamiq - Simple Wireframes
Score 5 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Balsamiq
Balsamiq is primarily used by our UX department to wireframe concepts prior to design.Creating wireframes in black and white before moving into the design phase helps us (and our clients) focus on the user flows and the on-page content rather than colors and graphics. We find that this leads to more thoughtful, effective final products. Balsamiq is also a great way to create quick mock-ups of existing pages to facilitate problem-solving conversations with clients.
- Ease of use: Balsamiq is the easiest wireframing platform I've ever used. You will be able to learn how to work with the drag-and-drop interface in less than a day. Use familiar resizing controls (click and drag) to control elements. Familiar keyboard shortcuts for grouping, duplicating, undoing, and more make the platform incredibility intuitive.
- Cartoony: I think Balsamiq's intentionally "cartoony" style is great. Again, this helps clients focus on the "what" on the page without spending too much time worrying about the actual look. We have a content-first approach. We always want to nail down the user-flow first before we delve into graphics.
- Symbols: The symbols library did not exist when I first started using Balsamiq 7 years ago, but it's a great addition. Assign design elements to your symbols library within a project for easy re-use throughout multiple pages. This is a great way to maintain consistency in your design and reduce re-work. For example, if you copy-paste a footer on each page of your 10 page design, you will need to go back and update all 10 versions if you make a change. If you use the symbols library, you would only need to update it once.
- Presentation: Presentation mode allows you to display a full-screen presentation. This is extremely helpful when walking through mocks with clients.
- Linking: You can link elements of pages in a project together. This can help you illustrate functionality.
- Transition to design: In recent years, we have started to move away from Balsamiq to do wireframes in Sketch. By using Sketch for wireframes, we can establish our design patterns and symbol library early. When it's time to add colors, graphics, fonts, and more, our designer simply layers on top of the wireframes. This saves the design team a lot of time. We still use Balsamiq for quick mock-ups, but when building from scratch, we typically use Sketch. If there were some kind of easy way to transfer the Balsamiq symbols library to a design platform like Sketch, we might use it more often. Sadly, I think Sketch makes Balsamiq a bit irrelevant for experienced designers.
- Rulers: The lack of rulers in Balsamiq is very frustrating. The design does have a "snap to grid" as well as arrangement features like horizontal and vertical distribution, but this is NOT enough for my perfectionists out there.
- Icons: The icon library in Balsamiq is pretty limited. We typically use font-awesome to source icons for design projects. It would be great if Balsamiq tied in directly with font-awesome to offer a more complete set.
- Opening projects: Balsamiq changed it's software significantly a few years ago. Previously, each page of a project was saved as a .bmml. Now, each PROJECT is saved as a .bmpr, and can have as many pages as you want. This means in the past, you might have 10 separate files for a single project, and now you only have one. This is definitely a change for the better; however, I find that it's way too easy to accidentally save pages to the incorrect project. Why? Because when you open Balsamiq, it loads the last screens that you were working on rather than a blank new project. To me, this is confusing.
- Balsamiq saves us time by allowing us to create quick mock-ups that address client needs as they arise. We don't have to spend hours in a more complex design software like Photoshop to answer a simply question.
- Balsamiq has a very easy learning curve. This allows us to free up design resources. We don't want our designers focusing on simple landing page mockups or display ads. Interns can easily use Balsamiq to create mocks for quick client approval without disturbing our more expensive employees.
- Balsamiq helps our clients focus on user flows and contents rather than graphics, which often leads to better final designs.
Creating digital wireframes in Photoshop is a nightmare. Photoshop was not really designed for this purpose. It doesn't have good collaboration options and it doesn't allow pattern libraries, which are essential for consistency and efficiency. We use UXPin and Axure for some time, but found that these platforms were a bit bloated. Balsamiq is much simpler than any of these options. It's a perfect wireframing platform for non-designers or for designers that want to focus on content and element-placement prior to design.
Balsamiq is great for non-designers or less-sophisticated users. It's great for creating quick mock-ups, and it's great for focusing on user-flows and content prior to the design phase. However, I think that most designers will find this program too elementary for their needs. In my opinion, there's not a compelling reason for a skilled designer to use Balsamiq over Sketch for wireframing, since Sketch can so easily be parlayed into a complete design whereas Balsamiq cannot. If you need a software for creating quick mockups and you are not a designer, Balsamiq is for you. If you're a graphic designer, go somewhere else.