Looking Back at 2015
Hello again friends of Balsamiq!
As usual, this is going to be a very long post.
We continue to truck along nicely, executing on our vision one step at the time. As usual, a large part of our efforts happen behind the scenes, both in product development and in general company growth. Revenue-wise, 2015 was yet another record year for us, with sales passing $6.4 million. We continue to grow organically, just the way we like it.
In 2015 we released Balsamiq Mockups 3, a MAJOR update to our product. In many ways, it's the product we should have built from the beginning. We also worked on bringing the new version to our different products, and will continue that effort in 2016.
2016 is going to be another very exciting year for us, with the native version of Mockups we've been working on for years finally being released, at least in our browser-based products.
Interested in all the details? Let's dive in!
After about a year of incredibly hard work, in March we released Balsamiq Mockups 3 for Desktop. It added native support for projects, a more modern and professional UX, easier to use symbols and assets, new icons, a new fullscreen mode, built-in support for "branching" via alternates, a trash bin, and even background music to help you focus.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on what we added to Mockups in 2015. Take a look at these release notes for all the details:
- [Release] Balsamiq Mockups 3 Public Beta!
- [BIG Release] Balsamiq Mockups 3!
- [Release] First batch of Balsamiq Mockups 3 bug fixes
- [Release] Second batch of Balsamiq Mockups 3 bug fixes
- [Release] More bug fixes and optimizations!
- [Release] More Little Improvements!
- [Release] Balsamiq Mockups 3.1! Alternates, new Google Drive Plugin, Background Music, and much more!
- [Release] Resizable left panel, new Export to PDF / Print dialog, and more!
- [Release] New Calendar Control, Better Font Size Support and TONS of bug fixes!
- [Release] Non-Image Assets!
- [Release] Multiple Selection, 66 New Icons, Horizontal Site Map and lots more!
- [Release] FontAwesome in myBalsamiq, Drag+Drop of Symbols, and more!
- [Release] Mockups 3.2: a whole new way to wireframe!
- [Release] A nice little bug fix release
- [Release] A bit of bug-squashing
- [Release] Mockups 3.3, Another Big Step Forward!
We also wrote a bunch of automated tests for the new codebase, and are always adding more.
If you still haven't updated, you're really missing out. Just head over to our download page to get your free update!
The themes for myBalsamiq in 2015 were: security, yearly plans and switching to native.
We did a lot of work with security researchers to make sure your data was as secure as it could be. We did twenty-five (25!!!) zero-downtime, invisible-to-you releases in 2015, and are very happy with where we are right now. We will of course continue to work with security researchers and follow industry best practices to keep your data safe and secure (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get involved).
After a lot of under-the-hood refactoring, we were able to finally ship annual plans for myBalsamiq, which are especially useful for our large enterprise customers, but convenient for all (annual plans get 12 months for the price of 10).
Another big focus for myBalsamiq has been to bring the new editor features to it. Because our native HTML/JS editor is coming along very nicely, we've decided to use it for the next major update to myBalsamiq instead of trying to cram the old Flex-based one into it. For our myBalsamiq customers, this means having to wait longer, but we think the new stuff will be worth the wait.
We also did a couple of small releases to lower the pain of those of you who work both with myBalsamiq and Desktop 3, by integrating the FontAwesome icon set in the "old" myBalsamiq editor.
We also continued adding lots of automated tests, so we can all sleep better at night.
In 2015 our users added 24,000 projects to myBalsamiq, which is now hosting about 140,000 projects. Sweet!
2015 was another record year for our plugins as well.
We released a new version of Mockups for Google Drive, which is now at feature parity with Mockups 3 for Desktop. We also started migrating our customers from the PinPayments payment processor to Stripe.
On the Atlassian plugins front, we updated Mockups for JIRA to make it compatible with JIRA 7, and Mockups for Confluence to make it compatible with Confluence 5.9. We also added the FontAwesome icon set to them.
We also worked on (and released in early 2016) a new version of Mockups for JIRA for Atlassian Cloud customers, which also brings it to feature parity with Mockups 3 for Desktop, and is sold only via Atlassian Marketplace.
We are working with Atlassian on a new version of Mockups for Confluence for Atlassian Cloud customers, which will be released in 2016.
Mockups 3 for Google Drive and Mockups 3 for JIRA Cloud use a new collaboration server we made which provides real-time collaboration, so that multiple people can edit the same project at the same time.
We attended AtlasCamp in Prague and sponsored Atlassian Summit in San Francisco. Our commitment to the Atlassian ecosystem remains strong.
The Long Road to Native
We continued to invest a significant amount of effort in our "going to native" project. This means effectively rewriting our 7-year-old codebase in a way that will enable us to deliver our product as a native application, both on the Web and in all major desktop and mobile platforms.
We started the year by building a proof-of-concept application on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and HTML/JS. This little project taught us a lot about possible performance issues and other "gotchas", and informed our architectural decisions for the main Mockups editor project.
When that was done, we started working on the editor in earnest, replicating the existing features of Balsamiq Mockups 3 one by one. We still don't have too much to show you publicly, but we're super-excited about it, and are shooting for doing a private beta of a new version of myBalsamiq that uses the web client sometime mid-2016. Stay tuned here for updates.
In the meantime, you can get a taste of what's to come by using the native HTML/JS viewer in Mockups 3 for Google Drive, or the newly released Mockups 3 for JIRA Cloud.
This is going to be our biggest project of 2016. It'll be great.
Operations is often the unsung hero of the story: if things work smoothly, no-one notices! 🙂
As always, we did a lot of ops work in 2015, including migrating the myBalsamiq mySQL version from 5.5 to 5.6 (harder than it sounds), we moved the build archives from an old Rackspace account to AWS S3, we did several updates to our build machine and Jenkins, we reserved AWS instances and regularly reviewed AWS Trusted Advisor for security and other improvements. We also added DKIM/DMARC to our domains to ensure a more secure and reliable delivery of our emails.
Here's a Pingdom report for all of our monitors for 2015.
As always we could do better, but we're pretty proud of all those 100%s!
Sponsorships and Philanthropy
- As usual, we donated 3% of our 2014 profits to different non-profits!
- We sponsored 85 new events in 22 countries!
- We gave away over 306 months of free myBalsamiq service!
- We raffled off tickets to 6 different conferences and events!
- We gave away 781 free licenses to do-gooders of all kinds!
- We gave our employees lots of free time to volunteer, and organized a few volunteering company outings.
— Black Girls CODE (@BlackGirlsCode) June 21, 2015
It feels good to be a good citizen! 🙂
Marketing and Website Updates
Now that we have a product we're proud of and a great organization to support it, we started pushing on marketing a bit more.
- We balanced out the US and European SWAG shops.
- We submitted an update to our Wikipedia page, now waiting for approval.
- We opened an Instagram account, check it out!
- We've started to use our company page on LinkedIn.
- We've started to use the UX Apprentice Twitter account.
- We create 3 curated Twitter lists to benefit our community: User Research Tools, Usability Testing Tools, and Actively Maintained Prototyping Tools.
Support, Docs & Sharing What We Learned
Support from @balsamiq is stellar as always: our problem was solved within 30 minutes! No reason to try other software mockup tools 🙂
— Logit (@logithr) July 10, 2015
- We started giving Tech Support via phone, and added toll-free numbers!
- We added a lot of docs about Balsamiq Mockups 3.
- We created a whole new Documentation portal.
- We created a whole new Support portal.
- Leon's published two guest blog posts on the Treehouse blog: 3 Steps to Better UI Wireframes and Soft Skills for UX Designers.
- We created two online courses about wireframing with Mockups: Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups on Udemy, and Rapid Wireframing: Finding the Right Product Design on Skillshare.
- We published the following posts on our UX blog:
- Improve your myBalsamiq Prototypes with UsersThink (guest blog post).
- Mockups To Go, Ready To Use: Captcha, Password Strength, Calendar.
- How We Got Here: The Road to Balsamiq Mockups 3.
- Creating Polished Wireframes.
- UX Apprentice - now in multiple languages!
- Tips for Presenting Your Wireframes.
- Free Course on Rapid Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups on Skillshare.
- Docs.balsamiq.com: Our New Static Documentation Site, Powered by Hugo.
- Tips for Creating Great Screencast Recordings.
- We published the following posts on our Life @ Balsamiq blog:
- Balsamiq, the secret sauce.
- Looking back at 2014.
- Tips for Customer Support.
- Professional Development at Balsamiq.
- Volunteering at BOSS.
- 2015 Balsamiq Retreat in the Loire Valley.
- On Working from Home, Better.
- Peldi's 15 Tips For Public Speaking.
- Company Policies: Time Off to Exercise.
- Welcome Brendan, Virgin and Stefano!
- A Season to be Thankful.
- We interviewed the following Balsamiq Champions and shared their stories:
- John Bethke on Process Before Product.
- The Most Important Skill of the Decade: Jeromy Wilson on Prototyping Techniques.
- Jay Bennett Uses myBalsamiq for Video Game Prototyping.
- Plantwise: Using Wireframes to Test Software for Farmers in Developing Countries.
- Danelle Bailey: Using myBalsamiq as a Project Hub.
— Yvonne Thevenot M.Ed (@experentiadocet) October 22, 2015
- We switched balsamiq.com, support.balsamiq.com, docs.balsamiq.com, blogs.balsamiq.com, forums.balsamiq.com and uxapprentice.com to HTTPS. It's more secure, and Google likes it better.
- We made all of our websites responsive, so that they look great on tablets and phones.
- We switched our site search provider from Google Custom Search to Swiftype. Try it out, it's awesome.
- We improved our product comparison page.
- We improved our company page and added a little easter egg to it (click on the team photo!)
- We improved our What should I make for dinner? page and published 12 new video recipes.
- We changed how we build our balsamiq.com website, from grunt to gulp + webpack.
- We created a new React-powered contact form to help us skip a few steps when giving people support.
- We also created other React-powered forms, for applying for a sponsorships, free software or a job at Balsamiq. These forms integrate directly with Desk.com (our help desk service) and Confluence (our internal Wiki).
- UX Apprentice is now translated in 6 languages (English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish), and we added a useful resource page to it.
- We added a curated press list to our site.
- We created a new page for our talks and interviews.
- We updated our brand a bit: gone is the sad old dark red, welcome the new bright red! 🙂
Admin, Finance and More
Making sure a 20-person geographically-distributed startup runs smoothly is no small task.
We hired 4 people, in 3 different countries: as you can imagine, that's a lot of paperwork. 🙂
In 2015 our friend Ben Norris left us to follow his dreams - we miss you Ben! 🙂 - so we decided to leave the state of Utah and instead establish a nexus in Illinois, where Brendan lives.
We also organized a company retreat in a castle in the Loire Region of France, which was amazing.
We hired an intern (Alain) to work on an exciting new feature of Mockups, coming soon.
We continued to improve our local benefits packages, by offering food vouchers for our Italian employees, adding a pension fund in Germany, better medical support in the Netherland, introducing 401(k) matching for our US employees, added a $250/mo co-working allowance for everyone, and more.
We also changed our vacation policy from being "unlimited" to "minimum expected days", which is more effective in encouraging employees to actually take vacation. We got written up about it on CNN Money, which was pretty cool. 🙂
As usual, we worked with our accountants and lawyers and investment bankers, to make sure we're doing everything right. 🙂
We also raised the price of Mockups for Desktop for the first time in its history - from $79 to $89 for a single license - and extended the trial period from 7 to 30 days.
Here are the revenue figures for 2015:
As you can see, revenue is a healthy $6.4M, up 4.87% since 2014. Nice and steady growth, just the way we like it.
The two charts above show that people continue to gradually migrate from Desktop to SaaS, in line with the whole software industry. This is lovely for us, as SaaS revenue is super-predictable, and recurring! 🙂
The chart above is also very similar to last year's. As always, Australia is over-represented in this chart because that's how we track sales that happen via Atlassian Marketplace (Atlassian is based in Australia, but the customers really come from all over the world).
Our shopping cart handled over 123,000 transactions in 2015. Solid! 🙂
Profits remain very healthy. We won't have the exact figures for a few months, but we suspect they'll be over 30% again.
Conferences, Interviews and Press Mentions
We attended the following conferences (bold means that one of us spoke at the event):
- DotJS Conference Paris
- UserConf 2015 San Francisco
- Atlassian Summit San Francisco
- Code Mesh 2015 London
- Storytelling and Social Media Workshop Bologna
- ReactJS Day - Verona
- Newsletter and Email Marketing Workshop Bologna
- Business of Software Boston
- CITCON - Helsinki
- Software Circus, Programmable Infrastructure, Amsterdam
- Microconf Europe Barcelona
- Madison+ UX Conference
- ReactEurope 2015 Paris
- AtlasCamp Prague
- NSConference 7 London
- Google+ workshop's Bologna
- World IA Day Bologna
- IXDA San Francisco
- Interaction 15
Press mentions around the web are too many to list, but here's a little sample of some of the most interesting articles:
- 13 Awesome Prototyping Tools for Designers - UsabilityTools
- My Process and Tools for Rapid Website Prototyping - Awwwards
- The 14 Best Tools For Evaluating User Experience on Your Website - Digital Telepathy
- Mocking up the Plantwise Knowledge Bank - PlantWise
- The Best Mockup Tool Orga.Zone
- THE PERFECT TOOL SET FOR WEB DEVELOPMENT: FROM MOCKUP TO APP IN 7 EASY STEPS - UserSnap
- How Sesame Street Revolutionized Product Development - SocialRank
- Creating nice mockups with Balsamiq - Mobility Services Lab
- Rapid Front-End Prototyping With WordPress - Smashing Magazine
How to Choose the Right Program - Designation
- 5 tools every web developer should be using - Prototype Interactive
- Web Design Wireframes - Digital Marketing Madness
- Wire framing with Balsamiq - Dunstan Thomas
- The best prototyping tools Order Group
- A master list of free tools for lean startups - YourStory
- Learn How to Wireframe - Backing America's Backbone
- Complete Beginner’s Guide to Interaction Design - UX Booth
- User Experience Design Testing Tools for Websites - CEOWorld Magazine
- Save $$$ on your app development through Balsamiq, a pretty good wireframing tool - Space 0 Digicom
- Don’t Build It, Fake It First – Prototyping for Mobile Apps - Interaction Design Foundation
We're very excited about the year ahead. We are already working on some highly requested features, and the "going native" project is really coming along well. Our plugins will get a full revamp, we'll continue to invest a bit more in marketing, and we'll probably hire a couple more people to help us go even faster.
As always, we hope you'll want to come with us in our journey.
Thanks for reading this super-long post.
If anything in this post surprised you or sparked your interest, don't be shy and add a comment! I'd love to answer any questions you might have.
We hope 2016 brings you and your families health, happiness and success.