Chris Kranky

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Web mock-up software

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Working on yet another start-up idea for an on-line service offering. The service obviously will have a web pages with different elements, static pages – providing you information, sign-up – so you can sign up and give us your money and finally a dynamic user portal – where you’ll manage your account. Been done 5 million times, so nothing horribly new here.

But the process of developing and more importantly what would be on each webpage elicited quite a bit of vocal opinions from my business partners. We initially just started with a textual representation of what each web page would do or have in terms of content. Arguments immediately ensued about how the information would be presented and what the exact flow would be between the various pages and windows. Thus the question arose how to quickly mock-up a web site. Off to Google I went with a few simple searches found a handful of suitable solutions from companies like Protoshare, Mock Up Screens, iRise and Balsamiq. All had either online demonstrations or you could easily  download a free trial. I played with them all, feeling a bit like Goldilocks, each had their plus’s and minus’s. My goal though was to with minimal fuss mock-up or rough-in perhaps might be a better term, our various webpages.

Balsamiq In the end I liked Balsamiq the best. It was easy to visualize what you were doing, drag and drop standard web elements on to your page and click-thru capabilities allowed you to “test” how your web site would actually work. I never needed to refer to any instructions to use the program either, it was that easy. Balsamiq purposely uses cartoon like hand drawn web elements, they look a
little rough, but that was by design, this is after all a rough-in of the web site. I found this focused my various reviewers on the high level details and not get focused on the little stuff (“why don’t we use a 4 pixel frame instead of a 2 pixel one”).

Balsamiq wasn’t perfect. My biggest complaint being it was hard to navigate around the various web pages being mocked-up. It’s features are fairly limited, so it’s not adequate for a full test design. But for our first storyboard effort, Balsamiq worked fine.

There is certainly a place for other mock-up software if you are looking for more precise control and don’t simply want to start using Dreamweaver as your starting point.