As I run my own technology company (www.zerobluetech.com), when I buy/get software I try to make sure I get the best bang for my buck.
I use a lot of software that was developed by independent development houses, such as DrawIt for drawing vector images or DomainBrain for managing client websites login information from FTP to CMS. When I needed an application to create mockups, I did a research and I came across Balsamiq Mockups, which is now one of my favorite apps. It is so easy to use that you could sit down any 2-year old in front of it and tell her to make you a web site.
I m not one of those to read manuals. But for some things you have to refer to them. Not BalsamicMockups. You open it up and you can start dragging elements right away; no configuration needed. You don’t even have to draw things on paper beforehand. You can build out your vision by dragging web elements, like drop-down menus, buttons, containers or text. All of this you get from the built-in, searchable UI Library that you can hide for a clutter-free look.
Here is a mockup I created for a client for web to FileMaker connectivity.
Mockups are for sharing, and BalsamiqMockups excels at that. Once you’re done, you can export all your mockup screens at once to a PDF that you can navigate. Of course this requires that your mockup be built with navigation in mind. Configure your buttons (menus, radio buttons, etc.) to take you to another mockup screen. Mockups are a great way to collaborate with the client from the beginning, saving you tons of time and effort. You can have a screen-sharing session and create your vision together.
The software is very simple, easy to use and it generates a mockup that is very similar to something you’d sketch out by hand, which some people might not be into, but I like it.
The idea phase of development is not to be taken lightheartedly. It’s the time when you grab the mug, put your headset on and tell the dog to go elsewhere: you have to think. Visualizing what you want to build is important and I can’t find an easier tool to use then Balsamiq Mockups.
The price is right, it’ll only cost you $79. It fits in nicely with those other apps you own under a 100 bucks each.
Disclaimer: Balsamiq provided me a free license key to use the software, just because they were nice. So, to return the favor, I wrote the blog post, after I used the software for awhile.