I’ve been using Balsamiq Mockups to make wireframes for my current project and it’s been great. There are a lot of tools for doing this kind of thing, and I’ve tried several of them (OmniGraffle, Visio, plain old Illustrator, etc.). It’s not perfect, but I’ve had a better experience with Mockups than anything else I’ve tried so far. Some perks:
- at USD$80, it’s pretty affordable.
- all the drawings have a deliberately “lo-fi” look. this helps keep you (and your client) focused on wireframing the ideas and not getting bogged down in nitty-gritty design stuff
- the library of pre-built widgets is fantastic and pretty easy to configure. there’s also a website where you can download additional widgets that people have made.
- the quick-search bar is fantastic for adding widgets quickly; hit the “/” key, type a few letters to select a widget, hit enter, and ZAP! the widget you want is added. much faster than using a mouse to find the widget you want and drag it on screen.
- you can insert drawings from other files into your current mockup; changes to those drawings will show up in your mockup, too.
- if you need to “override” a drawing that you’ve linked to, no problem. you can make one-off changes to that symbol without affecting the original.
- you can make a collection of your own widgets that show up in a library for your current project, or across all projects.
Those last three points are huge. For example, I’ve downloaded a few standard widgets that I want available all the time (Mockups calls these “Account Assets”). But I also have the ability to see a library of widgets just for one client or project (Mockups calls these “Project Assets”). I can re-use any of those widgets and if I change the original file those changes are reflected everywhere else–this is a boon to anyone who has copy-pasted widgets around only to find themselves re-copy-pasting changes to that widget later. Lastly, if you reuse a widget somewhere but need to tweak it a bit for that one usage, you can do so without affecting the original. Awesome.
There is a small learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to work with groups, assets, and editing an original widget that you’ve linked to vs overriding it, but after a couple of hours of poking around and watching some of the video tutorials you’re pretty much ready to go. Also, it runs on Adobe Air which might explain while it’s a little less-than-snappy with some operations like switching between files. But on the upside, you can run it on almost every platform. And although there may be times when you crave a more traditional “drawing” app if you need to mock up a really complicated/custom widget, you can usually find a way to get the job done in Mockups.
In summary, it’s not perfect but it’s probably the best wireframing tool I’ve used so far.