Recently I’ve been working on a project that involves a lot of data visualization, with a lot of non-technical stakeholders. I needed a way to both play around with the ideas in my head and convey these ideas to non-technical colleagues.
I’m not a fan of HTML prototyping, since I find it takes too long and results in too much detail work, and Photoshop seems like overkill. Luckily, I follow Hacker News religiously, which had a few links to the Balsamiq blog over the last few months. So I gave Balsamiq a try, and boy was I impressed!
Balsamiq is, in its simplest form, a drag-and-drop board with a bunch of UI elements. But the incredibly simplicity of it really works, as it gets you down to the basic components of a page. My only gripe is that this does get frustrating for customized uses. For example, I wanted to show certain types of charts, but instead had to settle with doing funky things with their “progress bars”, which only matched the shape of my desired elements. I’d really like to have the ability to add my own UI elements. Also, pulling images from the web reloads them constantly instead of just downloading the image locally.
All in all, one of the few applications that I would be willing to actually pay for. Also, a great demo of what can be done with Adobe Air, and actually makes me want to poke around with Flash for the first time in years…this is an entirely new niche for Flash.
Full disclosure: Balsamiq gives away licenses to bloggers, so I didn’t actually pay for it, but I was on the verge of pulling out my credit card when I saw that exception.