Balsamiq Review

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Balsamiq Reviewed

Editors' Review by the Mockup & Prototyping Software Review Team

Balsamiq is a low-fidelity rapid wireframing solution designed to combine the comfortable and simplistic experience of traditional paper sketching with the convenience and power of digital technology.

A Balsamiq UI wireframing tool attempts to reproduce or replace the experience of sketching wireframes on paper or on a whiteboard, using an application in a desktop computer or a mobile device like a tablet or even a smartphone. It is designed to allow users to focus on content and structure, rather than wasting their time discussing colors and other details that should only come later in the process. The wireframing tool is meant to be fast, giving users more time to generate more workable ideas and concepts.

Balsamiq’s wireframing solution is designed so it’s easier for project managers and teams to work, modify, test, share and obtain accurate feedback from testers and customers. The mockups resemble traditional sketches to make sure stakeholders and clients can easily comprehend the design and focus on what is important, instead of getting distracted by minute or inconsequential details.

This wireframing tool earns its value during the initial stages of the design process, i.e. in the early phase of designing a brand-new interface. Balsamiq offers an intuitive UI mockup solution, giving users a real-world sense of sketching with pencil on paper of similar speed and that rough feel that you get when you’re sketching using pencil and paper. The main difference, however, is that with a digital medium, you can effortlessly rearrange and resize elements using a drag-and-drop function. You can easily make changes when necessary, without having to start your work over.

Balsamiq is the kind of software solution that UI project teams often turn to for quick and easy sketched style wireframes creation. Since the software is designed as a rapid low-fidelity wireframing tool, it enables users to quickly put together a number of design variants for comparison. In the hands of an experienced user, this process will only take minutes to accomplish.

Balsamiq Features

Balsamiq is equipped with some of the more basic features that can help you with organizing objects within a wireframe space. The object layering function enables you to send or bring objects at the forefront or at the back, move them forwards or backwards, while the lock controls function fixes the objects in place.

The wireframing tool also allows you to group objects, or crop them to hide some aspects of the design. A smart guide function is also available to help you place objects evenly in relation to each other. Finally, alignment tools help you align objects in different directions.
The following are some of the key features of Balsamiq that make it one of the most efficient and easiest to use IU wireframing tools in the market:

Limited yet highly efficient design tools

Balsamiq is primarily designed for low fidelity wireframes and mockups. Because of this, the software solution doesn’t have a broad selection when it comes to design options, unlike more comprehensive software design applications and prototyping tools. However, this doesn’t mean it has no design possibilities at all.

What Balsamiq offers is an efficient approach to rapidly and effortlessly designing wireframes. You can play around with your wireframes by switching the background or the border color themes, changing the opacity of objects, as well as adding images and icons.

The convenient quick add tool

This feature enables you to find the control you want, fast. You just have to open the drop-down menu and select the control name and it will instantly appear in your wireframe. The tool also allows you to easily transform specific icons, combine them or completely replace them. Speaking of replace, the quickest and most efficient way to replace objects in your wireframe is to select that object and use the Ctrl+T shortcut. You can then find the replacement object in the pop-up list or you can perform a quick search using the search field provided.

Text control tools and features

Some of the controls that come with the Balsamiq UI wireframing tool include text that can be easily modified or edited via a double-click function. The software also provides special text controls such as Block-of-Text and Line-of-Text. These special text controls can be quite useful if, for example, you require text fields on your wireframe but don’t have text content yet. You can simply change it with real text content later.

The Lorem Ipsum generator is also in the wireframing tool because of this particular reason. All you need to do to apply it is to click on the text area and type “Lorem” and the application will generate the full text automatically.

Markup capabilities for annotations

Wireframes are essentially simple sketches, so they might require marginal notes or additional designations. This is where Balsamiq’s markup feature comes in handy. While there are default markups available, the tool does have a Treat-as-markup function for any control, allowing users to effectively hide controls as needed.

Another markup feature gives users the ability to add notes or comments to wireframes. To use this feature, all you have to do is click anywhere on the canvas while in inspector mode and just write the note or comment you wish to add. However, the notes or comments you add are not visible in presentation mode.

Alternates functionality

This particular feature is for creating alternate versions of wireframes without adding them to the project itself. This means you can have multiple wireframe versions of the same page for comparison purposes. This is quite a useful function, especially if you’re looking to compare different concepts and ideas within the same page. With the Alternates function, you can easily switch between different versions, modify or edit the primary/prime version, merge multiple versions into one or even build an entirely new mockup based on an alternative version.

Balsamiq Benefits

Balsamiq offers a number of benefits for all types of users, whether you’re a freelance designer, part of an independent design team or are working for a company. The following are some of those benefits you can expect from adopting Balsamiq into your design process:

It truly shines in the ideation stages of a UI design project.

Balsamiq refers to itself as zenware, which means it works to help users get in the zone, get there quick and stay there. The primary goal of this UI wireframing tool is not only to provide assistance to professional designers, but to provide it in such a way that the people using it don’t even notice it’s there at all, or at least forget about the software as they’re using it to do their work. It’s like Instagram features that you don’t notice until they’re gone or modified into something else.

It’s designed to eliminate or minimize the learning curve.

As implied by the preceding paragraph, Balsamiq is designed with ease-of-use in mind. It helps to eliminate, or at least minimize the learning curve for newer users. While the software is indeed user-friendly, it still has the functionality and the feature set that any professional designer of any skill level needs to come up with great designs and do their job properly and efficiently. One of the biggest reasons for Balsamiq’s user-friendly design is the drag-and-drop functionality. Users can easily assemble elements, make changes or modifications to objects and add new components to their wireframe with ease.

It is designed to encourage more collaboration.

Balsamiq is designed to increase collaboration among software teams, from the product managers to the developers and the user experience (UX) designers. Software teams can indeed rally together around the right UI design using the Balsamiq wireframing tool. Product managers are given the tools they need to easily share ideas and concepts with the stakeholders and clients. The UX designers appreciate the familiar keyboard shortcuts to make their job easier. The development teams like how quick, easy to use and powerful the tool is.

Balsamiq Pricing

There are three versions of Balsamiq to choose from, if you’re interested in what the software product has to offer. There’s the Balsamiq Cloud, which is a web-based application; Wireframes for the Windows PC and Mac; and the integrations with Google Drive, Jira or Confluence. You can choose which version of Balsamiq you need for your projects and start from there.

Balsamiq Cloud is charged per Space and for each individual Space, you will have three pricing plans to choose from. There’s a plan for two projects priced at $9/month or $90/year. This is ideal for smaller teams that manage no more than a couple of projects at a time. The package includes the auto-hibernation function.

The next pricing plan up the ladder is one that is good for up to 20 projects at a time. This package costs $49/month or $490 when billed annually. This is the more popular package among companies and teams. The third plan has a maximum of 200 projects on a single Space. It is priced at $199/month or $1,990/year. This package is best for bigger teams that regularly manage more than 20 projects at a time.

All pricing plans come with unlimited users and unlimited wireframes. A 30-day free trial is available through their website. You may also visit the vendor’s website for pricing information on the Balsamiq desktop version and the available integrations.

Conclusion

Balsamiq offers the most basic functions of a feature-rich wireframing tool to ensure it performs well with little to no learning curve. The app is good and easy to use. It is great for creating quick design sketches and low-fidelity mockups. It has more use during the earlier stages of the design process rather than the later phases.

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