Which Tool Should we Use for User Interface Mockups?

When I read Heiko Tietze’s quite good introduction to Balsamiq Mockups over at the user prompt blog, I was reminded that I had considered introducing it as a tool for interaction design (not visual design, it’s not made for that) in KDE at some point.

What Heiko doesn’t mention in his blog post is that Balsamiq Mockups is free for open source projects. It’s possible to get individual licenses for Balsamiq Desktop for anyone contributing to open source software. However, the cooler point is that any open source project can get a free instance of myBalsamiq, which is the Software as a Service version of Balsamiq Mockups. The nice thing about it is that – like we’re used to from other SaaS solutions or from the awesome KDE Telepathy Collaborative Text Editing – multiple people can edit the same mockup collaboratively.

The downside, of course, is that it’s free-as-in-beer, but not free-as-in-speech. This was also the reason why it wasn’t really welcomed when I introduced it as an idea to the community a while ago. A free-as-in-speech alternative, as Heiko already mentioned, is Evolus Pencil. The downside of that is that it doesn’t support live collaborative editing (unless someone writes a Telepathy Tube for XUL applications) and it offers way less ready-made widgets than Balsamiq.

Having a standard tool for mockups within KDE would have the benefit that everyone could learn to use it and mockups could be shared or collaboratively edited in its format.

Since it would mainly be designers who would work with a mockup tool, the question is: What do you (interaction or visual) designers think? Would you prefer a quite mature, free-as-in-beer tool with collaborative editing, or a free-as-in-speech tool with less capabilities (but still good!), or do you prefer to use Inkscape for everything, even though it is much less comfortable to use for creating draft-level wireframes? Or do you use another tool which you think would be useful in general? Please name only tools which are at least free-as-in-beer and available on Linux.

 

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Researcher on usability / usable security / user experience Volunteer KDE usability consultant Open Access / Open Science supporter

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6 comments on “Which Tool Should we Use for User Interface Mockups?
  1. Are there any good tutorials about using Inkscape as a mockup tool? So far I only used Balsamiq (which works ok)

  2. When I work on Android, I tend not to mess with tools. The development in itself is extremely hard work and I do not want to get stuck because of the limitations of the platform and tools. My pragmatic answer would be to use the best possible tools available.

    I voted for Balsamiq but I wish we could bring Inkscape for up to the task including both training folks and also improving existing tools to better suit the task. Like Eclipse is bundled into Android Developmental Tools or IntelliJ is packaged as Android Studio which reduces the work that incoming and new developers would face if they have to start from scratch.

    • Also investing in even free-as-in-beer software is risky because there will always be restrictions like regular re-licensing from Balsamiq and what and what you can’t do with it.

  3. […] Which Tool Should we Use for User Interface Mockups? […]

  4. jospoortvliet says:

    I can’t judge what is good or bad, but I do want to share my opinion on the free vs gratis: we are a pragmatic community and that is valuable, just like our fondness of Freedom. We should not artificially hamper our ability to reach our goals by using inferior tools out of some misplaced principle. If a equivalent Free tool is available (or even if it is slightly worse), use that. But of the closed solution is clearly superior, remember: our goal is to make KDE rock. We can’t take up everything at once.

    (example: I introduced the use of Google docs in KDE promo. Once etherpad was mature enough we moved to that but many articles were written on the Google servers and I sure do not regret that. We got shit done and that is what matters. Morale: don’t let some extremist block progress please. Tell them to either put up (fix the Free tools) or shut up.)

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