I know designers who claim that friends don’t let friends use Balsamiq. I don’t agree with that. I use Balsamiq, I like it a lot, and I recommend it. Read about when and how I use it.

Balsamiq is a rapid wireframing tool. It allows you to quickly create non–committal mockups.

When I was looking for an idea for an article to write in May, I learned that Balsamiq had started sponsoring podcasts. I like this. I like podcasts. I like companies that support podcasts. But I can’t show that I like this move by buying a Balsamiq license—I already have one. So I thought: I’ll write an article. About when and how I use Balsamiq. Maybe someone will be interested.

When I use Balsamiq

Not only at the beginning of the design process.

Sometimes customers ask me to help them solve a problem in an existing piece of software. In an application that looks in a certain way and that uses a particular visual language. Often, the aesthetics of the application is irrelevant to the problem in question. Working on the solution is usually more efficient in isolation from the company colors and iconography, without pixel precision. I can use the time I would spend on exploring 3 approaches in high fidelity to explore 7 paths in Balsamiq.

Balsamiq is an elegant digital napkin for me.

The sketches that I prepared while working with PricePanorama (a product price and availability monitoring tool) look like this:

The language on the wireframes is my primary language — Polish

The customer was satisfied. All the work was done remotely, asynchronously, over email.

How I use Balsamiq

As I wrote above, I execute entire orders in Balsamiq. Some clients have their own visual designers, some have their own style guides, some orders are tiny or conceptual — some customers have reasons to not want to pay me for detailed visualization.

I would not design an application with 10+ views in Balsamiq, but exploring 1–2 views is an excellent use case for Balsamiq, particularly in the context of new clients for whom I have not built prototypes before.

A curiosity:

When I was working on a pro bono project with a non–governmental organization, I needed to visualize the changes I proposed. They affected, among others, the home page.

I needed to show what elements I was going to get rid of and what I was going to change about the layout of the remaining elements.

I knew the proposed changes were huge. I wanted to create a comfortable environment for the stakeholders of the non–governmental organization to communicate to me that in their opinion my idea was bad or that they did not trust me enough to be open to such radical changes.

I didn’t want to intimidate the stakeholders with pixel–perfect visualizations.

In this use case, Balsamiq performs brilliantly.

A mockup mapping of the legacy home page:

The legacy home page without the elements I wanted to get rid of:

The proposed look of the home page:

The above mockups put together side by side:

The result? Easy, effective communication: