In my mind software wireframing is an art form.
It’s the art of expressing design and interface intentions to a user or client without actually creating anything.
Often when creating website or application mockups people will become obsessed with the inconsequential minutae. They fuss over colours and content ignoring the actual feel, flow, and usability of the proposal.
Often the easiest way around this is to draw wireframes with pencil and paper. It’s a quick and easy way to take the focus off of the colours and place it on the actual structure.
Personally I’m not that keen on using pencil and paper for this. It’s fine (great even) for personal projects but when working with others, in particular those abroad, it gets akward. You have to start scanning things in and don’t get me started on editing and backups.
This is where software like Balsamiq Mockups come in.
Balsamiq Mockups is a wireframing tool that is designed specifically to mimic hand drawn designs whilst giving you the quick easy to update properties of programs like Microsoft Word.
The application is entirely drag and drop and all of the popular widgets and interface controls are already created (more can be downloaded here) which means putting together simple wireframes is quick and painless.
The software uses a flexible hand drawn style to render the different elements.
It’s been made in Adobe Air which means installation and updates are simple as can be. It does cost some money to unlock the full version but I think it’ worthwhile, and there’s a free demo so you can always give it a go before parting with any cash.
Mockups is updated weekly (simply go to the website and reinstall) and there are a number of free to download, user created, extras which makes things even quicker to sketch out.
Whilst the Balsamiq Mockups is great for user interaction design it does lack a little in it’s own aesthetic sensibilities. It is easy to use but as a very visual person I find the interface a bit of a turn off.
I would also have liked to have seen more widgets that scale without degrading. A number of the elements are simple bitmaps and when scaled look less than steller, but these are minor niggles.
Balsamiq Mockups saves time and increases productivity, it does exactly what it needs to do, and that’s all that matters.