A while back Download Squad had brief post on Balsamiq Mockups. It caught my attention because I both have some limited experience in interface design (from past job) and needed some layouts done for my current programming stuff.
It turned out to be real gem for interface sketching, although stuck somewhere between freeware and shareware in status.
What it does
Mockups is editor (or more like sandbox) for interface sketches. It provides library of numerous interface elements that can be combined, resized and mixed as you want to create sketch in minimum time.
- Find element in library.
- Style and resize it.
- Drag into place.
Process is very fast and easy, while subtle snapping and centering of elements makes it all line up pretty. Graphical style is mostly colorless – focus on layout and skip small details.
Overall it is closer to constructor than to image editing. Perfect for people like me who completely cannot draw. :)
Needs and wants
Snapping of elements is done nicely but at times it is hard to understand what logic makes it snap to where it wants instead of where you want it to be. Option for more defined and visible grid could be nice.
Also it could use a bit of actual drawing. I did diagram sketch and combining parts with numerous pre-made arrows felt slightly unnatural.
I fail to define something-ware category Mockups fall in. So I’ll just list variations it comes in:
- online version (powered by Adobe Flash) – free, has some functions (like image import) disabled, can save mockups, nags every five minute about paid version;
- desktop version (powered by Adobe Air) – fully functional, but cannot save mockups (just screenshot them :) ) and also nags;
- paid license – desktop version without limitations and numerous ways to simply get it for free listed.
So it is something like nagware/shareware. Those who need to sketch daily may consider buying and rest would be fine using it as needed for free.
Excellent and easy to use software that really tries to nag you into paying for it. Very polished user experience, integration with other products (like Dropbox), open formats… It’s good.
Online version http://www.balsamiq.com/demos/mockups/Mockups.html
Community blog with additional components http://www.mockupstogo.net/
Disclosure. I was provided with free license to fully evaluate app before review – without any restrictions on review type and content, which had left my opinion completely untouched.