Balsamiq: The Solution for Creating Quick Lo-Fi Wireframes
May 16, 2019
Balsamiq: The Solution for Creating Quick Lo-Fi Wireframes
Score 8 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Balsamiq
Currently, we use Balsamic to quickly create wireframes that “feel” like wireframes. In other words, we use Balsamic to create designs that communicate the idea of a design to stakeholders without presenting a design that looks “finished.” The benefit to this is that our stakeholders don’t get too tied to what a potential finished design may look like, so they can contribute big-picture feedback that helps us create a high-fidelity wireframes that answer their needs. When we offer stakeholders more polished designs earlier in the design process, we find that they get too wrapped up in the details and end up offering feedback that is less relevant to solving the design need.
- Low-fidelity wireframing—Balsamiq offers tools to create lo-fi wireframes without the messiness and confusion that often comes along with other types of lo-fi wireframing (e.g. hand-drawn wireframes). This helps us avoid the need to heavily “translate” our designs to the people we’re showing them to.
- Easy-to-use interface—We have never had to spend time training anyone on how to use Balsamiq. Drag, drop, arrange—that’s it! This is helpful in getting non-designers and less experienced designers to communicate their ideas of what the finished design should sort-of look like without asking them to spend a lot of time learning a new tool.
- Ability to convert a design to a PDF—This is definitely a plus! Whereas other design tools require stakeholders to log into a design tool account or view designs on a web page, Balsamiq makes it really easy to just download a design as a PDF and hand/email it to a stakeholder. Lots of our stakeholders don’t want to deal with visiting a website or logging into something. However, they’re typically happy to receive a PDF and not have to ask questions such as, “How do I access that?” and “What’s the password again?"
- The Sketch-like style can be off-putting to some stakeholders, and it’s not initially very clear that there is the option to turn this “off.” While I do think there is benefit to the default style, knowing from the start that this flexibility existed would have helped us be able to use this tool more often in the past and in different situations.
- There are very limited collaborative functionalities. When it’s early in the design process, it’s often really helpful to have a number of people in the design to offer in-app feedback so the designer doesn’t have the burden of collecting feedback from many disparate sources in order to incorporate the feedback.
- There are limited UI elements. As design evolves, there are more and more UI elements to consider, and many to stop using. Our Balsamiq wireframes would be a lot more effective in communicating design ideas to stakeholders if there was a wider range of UI elements to choose from.
- Ease of use—We have saved time and money by quickly onboarding new designers and non-designers to Balsamiq. The tool is extremely easy to use, so we can spend our effort and time in a more productive way than training someone on yet another tool.
- The ability to quickly create low-fidelity wireframes that look very Sketch-like have led to the ease of communicating design ideas with stakeholders in an efficient, productive way. By communicating to stakeholders that a lo-fi design is “just an idea,” we’ve been able to have a lot of productive conversations that lead to solving design issues before we’ve spent a lot of time creating more detailed wireframes and prototypes. By that, we’ve saved a lot of cost in having to redesign things by catching issues early in the design process. In creating more polished designs, we’ve wasted a lot of time having stakeholders nit-pick about the fine details of a design. Balsamiq helps us avoid that wasted time and resources.
- Again, ease of use has led to considerable ROI in many ways. Another way that its ease of use has benefited us is that we’ve been able to quickly iterate upon initial designs in a very fast way. Instead of taking weeks to begin and end a feedback loop, we can quickly hop onto Balsamiq, make quick edits, receive feedback, and integrate them within a day or two. For example, if a stakeholder says they want a design to look completely different from the initial version, it’s no big deal because Balsamiq makes it easy to do that. With other tools, creating a brand new design can take hours and hours, while Balsamiq has typically enabled us to create designs in less than an hour or two.
While I love these other tools for many different reasons, Balsamiq is the tool I use for low-fidelity wireframing every time. It’s the most simple and easy-to-use out of the bunch, and it gets the job done without a ton of effort and time required. In the early stages of design, our team does not want to spend a ton of time using a complicated tool to create a design that is likely to change a ton anyway. Balsamiq enables us to quickly design and iterate so we can move onto the build phase fully informed and prepared with plenty of feedback.
Balsamiq is excellent for creating low-fidelity wireframes where the designer is trying to communicate a general, loose idea of how the design should look. Because of this, it should be used early in the design stage, when there are still many decisions to be made about how the final design should look like. However, it is less suitable for situations where one wants to communicate a more final-appearing version of a design. There are limited functionalities (which appear intentional, as the Balsamiq website says that the tool "has 'just enough' prototyping capabilities, but not more”). Because of this, it is likely wise to choose a more high-powered tool, such as Axure, to create a fuller design toward the later stages of the design process.