Home > Development > Review: Balsamiq Mockup For Desktop

Review: Balsamiq Mockup For Desktop

 Yesterday I received a license for Balsamiq Mockup For Desktop. Thanks a lot for that Peldi! As creating mockups is an important part of a functional analysis / workshop, I figured I would give it a try and see if it fits my needs. As you launch it you get a nice interface, and honestly, in less than 5 minutes I created a standard SharePoint Team Sites mockup. Cool! 5 minutes later I had the mockup of two of my SharePoint Pages, and a little later the InfoPath form design was done as well. Great! Fast! But now what? I got my mockups, I can talk about it with the customer, change it and finalize it. Or even better, you give your customer a license of Balsamiq and send him the files for verification, adaptation and approval. No need for Visual Studio, Visio, … This is a great advantage of the product. Instead of sitting in your ivory tower designing everything, sending it back, receiving it, sending it back again, you can INVOLVE the customer in the creation of the screens. And at the end, when the screen looks exactly as they designed it, the satisfaction will be there as well. Due to the basic look and feel of the controls in Balsamiq, you can easily separate the logical design of each page from the sexy webdesign that you need to provide as well. You define what is displayed on each page, and where it is displayed. And up till here, all is great in Balsamiq world. And in my opinion, this is where the tool should be used for, to sit in a meeting or a workshop with the customer, and decide what we are gonna put where on each page and give them the possibility to make minor improvements in the design themselves.  After this phase, I found Balsamiq quite lacking, but in my opinion the potential is there. You got the concept all worked out, and now you can go into your Visual Studio or SharePoint and do the exact same thing, again? That is what struck me as rather odd. Yes, Balsamiq mockups are xml files, and you could write atool to to read the xml from the file and convert that into a WinForm or a WPF Form. But why not provide that functionality out of the box? I mean, the program IS great, sometimes a little bit sluggish but that might be my pc, how insane would it be if you could select : Export to WPF, .Net WinForm, Java Form, PHP, ASP, … No matter what technology you are developing in (idealism striking again 😉 ),  you could use one tool to design your screens and export them to your development environment.

You would be able to create your mockups easily, and just have it exported into code in your project. Right now, although Balsamiq is great, doing the mockup in Visual Studio from the start onwards will still save me time. The workshops will be going a bit slower, but I won’t have to do the design twice. (Note: this of course depends on the project/customer as well. There will be a point where you had to make so much changes to your design that making use of Balsamiq may have been the better choice) In case of paper mockups it is of course better to use Balsamiq during the workshops as it will save you quite some time. So, on to a little wrap up:
  •  Fast mockup design
  • Basic layout completely ignoring the graphical aspect of a website/application
  • Mockups are XML Files
  • Low license cost, easy to provide to your customer and have them collaborate on mockups
  • Low complexity, easily useable by business users
  • Did I mention you can create mockups fast?


  • No real export functionalities : would be nice to be able to export to WPF, WinForm, ASP, ASP.Net, PHP, …
  • No possibility to add your own controls (in case of custom webparts/controls it would be nice if you could create your own mockup control)
  • No hierarchy in mockups (workaround through folders possible) 
  • No possibility to add your own controls (in case of custom webparts/controls it would be nice if you could create  your own mockup control)

Last but not least I would like to stress that I tested the Desktop version of the product, I have no clue if certain functionalities that are now lacking are available through the JIRA integrations or other integrations. Will I use Balsamiq Mockups for functional workshops. Yes I will, depending on the type of project. Would I use it if the export stuff was there? Yes, but then for each project.

Link : Balsamiq Mockups

Categories: Development Tags:
  1. July 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. July 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Koen, thanks for the great review!

    Re: code generation starting from a mockup. It’s actually a quite complex problem to solve, bordering on “black magic”, to use a technical term 😉

    There are far too many languages and variations for me to attempt to export to all of them, or even a subset. Not all languages support all the UI controls that mockup supports, so it would be extremely tricky to code.

    That said, I do export as an XML file so that other people smarter than me can build their own XSLT transformations to their language of choice…already there’s a team building a Mockup->Velocity translation tool.

    On the other hand, I wonder if it’s worth the effort at all: laying out a UI in Flex Builder or Interface Builder or any modern IDE is not the hard part of coding, and it doesn’t usually take very long, assuming you have already a clear idea of what you want your UI to look like (which is what Balsamiq really is for).

    Regarding hierarchy: the ability to group mockups into an interactive “low-fi prototype” is on the roadmap, no timeline on it yet

    Regarding custom controls: I think that this could be achieved via the upcoming “Image Upload” feature: I have just started thinking about the feature now, and I’d love your input! http://getsatisfaction.com/balsamiq/topics/help_me_design_the_import_image_feature

    Once again thanks for the review and the feedback!

    Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni
    Founder, Balsamiq Studios, LLC
    ph: +1 (415) 367-3531, Skype, GTalk, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed: balsamiq

  3. August 15, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  4. February 25, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    We use it on a daily basis in our project. It’s quite cool:


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