January 28, 2019

UX Prototyping Tools: Balsamiq

As part of my UX Design course with CareerFoundry, I wanted to use the opportunity to "check out" as many prototyping tools as reasonably possible. In this post I wanted to reflect on my "checking out" experience so far and hopefully help anyone who is also planning to dip their toes into UX software.

In the previous post, I looked at the Adobe XD, so continuing alphabetically, today is all about Balsamiq.

As a reminder, my criteria (or context) for tool evaluation are:

  • quick to learn or at least to start using
  • sufficiently long trial period
  • easy to use across 3+ devices
  • Windows-compatible
  • preview your work on a mobile device
  • convenient (or at least usable) for user testing, including remote test

Balsamiq

Free plan: no :(
Trial: 30 days (longer or CF students)
Runs on: everything, including your browser

Early wireframes for my course project 

Balsamiq is a rather special product for creating early low-fidelity wireframes. Essentially, it can replace sketching and would be ideal for those who think they can't sketch. Or for those who can, but desperately miss the copy/paste function, like I do.

What I liked 

  • Extremely easy to learn. Essentially, all you need to know is how to drag and drop, and resize objects. That's pretty much it. 
  • You can download/export your stuff once your trial version runs out. 
  • Perfect for early stages of stormforming. 
  • You don't need to endlessly copy-paste "Lorem ipsum" for placeholder text, just use a squiggly lines asset - this was hands-down my most favorite feature of Balsamiq. 

What I didn't like

  • It was a bit annoying to find assets in the browser-version, as you have to either use a keyword search or scroll horizontally through one-line menu of assets. 
  • While it was extremely easy to paste together a wireframe from existing elements, once you want to make something special, Balsamique becomes a bit more limiting and thus complicated, as you have to get even more creative.

Overall, it fits the purpose and I could definitely see the benefit of using it at the very early stages. As a designer, you don't get distracted by all the possibilities that actual development tools throw at you and can focus on the idea, rather than on its surface features. Same goes for any stakeholders or reviewers. The "sketchy" style of the wireframes clearly communicates that what they see is temporary and represents a concept.

In short: consider if it you're unsure about sketching or if you need to have a convenient way to share sketches digitally. It is a very convenient tool and I would recommended it. However, if price is an issue, you can definitely go with the more common low-tech solutions.

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