Building Mockups of Computer Programs

Whether you’re a user interface designer, a programmer, or even a customer just trying to convey what you want done, Basalmiq’s Mockup is the best tool I’ve found for mocking up what a screen or web page needs to look like. Every once in a while I need to come up with a user interface design that I know will change the moment a few of us get into a room and start to talk to each other. I’ve done this on whiteboards, in Photoshop, on paper and even using real code. I’ve even tried software like Visio, and a freeware program called Denim to do these mockups. Each of these has its downsides, but most of all I end up thinking more about the tool than the design I’m trying to work on.

Luckily, I discovered Basalmiq Mockups which makes the design process as easy as drawing on a whiteboard. Actually I take that back, Mockups is easier than drawing on a whiteboard because you have to erase parts of a whiteboard drawing to change it and you have to have some art skills to boot.

Mockup UI
Mockups uses a sketch book metaphor and uses graphics that resemble rough sketches. You may be put off by the hand drawn look of the designs, but this is done on purpose so that it conveys the idea of a concept drawing and doesn’t confuse anyone with a notion that the software is done. You may laugh at this but a long time ago I did a mockup using Delphi, and had the client ask me how much longer it would take to build the software since the program looked “done”.
Mockup Example
Mockups is written using Adobe Air so its can be used on the Mac, Windows XP and Vista, and on Linux.

You can download the program for free, but some of the features that you really want, like saving, are disabled unless you buy the license key. The software is fairly reasonably priced at $79. One use and you’ll get your money’s worth from this. The $79 also entitles you to lifetime updates and email support. The email support is incredibly responsive. While using Mockups, I noticed that there wasn’t a groupbox element. I wrote a feature request email to Basalmiq and within 12 hours I got an email response pointing me to the beta of the next version which now has them. I’m very impressed!

Comments

  1. Interesting. Seems certain needs are universal. I do the same thing of mockups using Scribus a desktop publishing application. Screen sizes are represented as custom paper sizes to manage maximum layout size. I have predefined images for certain content like menus, tabs, etc. I mock up content using the Scribus tools. I can even apply the anticipated font face and style to the mockup. Anything I don’t have as a predefined widget I can create pretty quickly in a image tool. For UI layouts it goes pretty quick.

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