Danelle Bailey: Using myBalsamiq as a Project Hub
"Our team uses myBalsamiq a lot," writes Danelle Bailey in her blog post "How our Design Team uses Balsamiq as a Project Hub". But rather than showing off her team's design work, she describes how myBalsamiq has become a central repository for a variety of common project artifacts.
A typical myBalsamiq project for her team will start with an overview page created in Mockups describing the project and listing the other assets in the project folder. Think of it as the cover page and table of contents in one. It then progresses deeper into specifics, from user flow diagrams, to UI wireframes, and finally architectural and database details relevant to the developers.
We are often asked about the difference between Balsamiq Mockups for Desktop and myBalsamiq. Our short answer is usually that the first is installed locally on your computer and the other runs in a web browser, but Danelle's blog post highlights how the built-in collaboration features of myBalsamiq can be used to make it more than just a tool for wireframing. It's a great case study and we're thankful she took the time to write it.
Q&A with Danelle Bailey
What industry do you work in, and what is your title or job description?
I work on the Blackboard Community Engagement solution for K-12. I’m a Sr. UX Designer in our Product Design and Innovation Team. I have been designing on the web for 12 years and for the past few really focused on mobile. I am passionate about designing experiences that integrate seamlessly into everyday life.
What kinds of things are you excited about in your industry?
Within the design and technology field, I’m excited to help push technology into becoming a truly helpful enabler of daily lives outside of highly technical users. When I focus on how many don’t have high speed internet and just need to get simple tasks performed, automated, or enabled, I think there is so much opportunity to innovate using common sense backed with technology. It’s a matter of being better informed, which I’m learning to do better myself.
Within the education technology space, it’s awesome to see how learners are expecting to guide their own educational pathways. This expectation raises the bar for not only design, but for content providers and learner results. One thing we want to facilitate is strong support of learner organizations. When these organizations are enabled to their potential, everyone wins. To get there, it helps to think about the end goals which can be higher learner output, or as simple as more time with family. Using technology by deeply engaging community and families can change our future.
What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?
Learn ways to research users. Listen. Try out new tools constantly. Listen. Learn to learn, and network. Think of design as more than simply visual design. Listen.
How do you envision the future of K-12 education? Is it radically different than today, or is it a series of gradual changes?
Education is typically slow moving when it comes to changes in methodologies and technology. I think consumption of learning material is already changing drastically (on demand), but there is also much room for community engagement innovation. Whether that is facilitating conversation about changes or simply being involved and aware of student success, that's where our team focuses.
Why and how do you use Balsamiq Mockups?
Our team uses myBalsamiq online because we have a lot of remote collaboration and cross-platform sharing that needs to happen on a regular basis. As a visual designer, I really like the simplicity of the low fidelity tools. It’s easy to convey designs and interactions without getting caught up with the width of a line, or specific typographic hierarchy early in the process. Further, it helps everyone to focus on how a design works.
Another way we use this tool is as a project hub. You can read more here, but basically we have a method (by modifying reusable Site Assets) that promotes consistency across designs. This allows engineers and stakeholders to know what to expect and where to find what they need for their part of the project. The elements we provide each time is ever-evolving as process and business needs change.
While each project is different, these are the different types of models we use over again:
- Overview: Contains information on the "why" and goals of a design and links to assets and specs. Also important notes.
- User or App Flows: Sometimes we pull in more detailed diagrams that were created in other apps or teams.
- Interactive Mockups: These are the designs that allow users to interact with screen and complete tasks.
- Business Layer: Architectural explanations of underlying technical frameworks, libraries and functions needed to achieve functionality.
- Data Layer: Database and storage details needed to deliver functionality.
Do you have any Balsamiq Mockups tips or tricks that you'd like to share?
- Import your own assets sparingly. Once you come up with a system, you can reuse many pieces without having too much to sort through.
- For now, I suggest color coding projects by project phase using the cover customizations in myBalsamiq.
- Keep as much history available as possible. Use the Propose Alternate feature to prevent overwriting potential winning ideas down the road. After you test, you may find an original idea works better.
- Use the Prototype link when sharing outside of your team.
Do you have any feature ideas or suggestions for how we can improve our product(s)?
I am involved in the Balsamiq forums regularly, pushing for ideas to help shape the future of this software we use as such an important piece of our process. A few ideas we have submitted and are eager to see facilitated in the online version are:
- More robust options to organize projects
- Quick access to frequently used assets (cross-project as well as inside projects)
- Small, but it would be really nice to auto-remove users from projects that are archived
You mentioned on your blog that you've been inspired by the book "The Best Interface is No Interface" and the the #NoUI mindset. What is it and what excites you about it?
Basically, this book points out how too often, we designers think about solving problems using apps. It encourages the reader to think about problem solving from a wider mindset and not to use the screen for the sake of making a "cool interface" or "having an app". There is so much we can leverage with technology that our device already know abouts us. Apple Pay is an example of this and I hope to see more of it as a consumer and in my own work where it is the best solution.
I also read on your blog that you own a 1968 Chevelle. Do you have any photos of it to share?
Thanks, Danelle, you're a Champion! Thanks so much for sharing your process.
Do you have a story to share about the awesome things you do with Balsamiq? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories or blog posts!