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Ubuntu Uses myBalsamiq for Community Designed Mobile Apps

Ubuntu weather app
I recently came across a blog post by Jono Bacon of Ubuntu called "Community Driven Ubuntu Phone Core Apps". It describes the Ubuntu for phones project, which, in the spirit of Open Source, invites community contributions from not only software developers, but also designers. For the design of their core apps, they are using myBalsamiq, provided free as part of our free for Open Source projects program.

His article talks about all the various pieces in the Ubuntu for phones project and how they all fit together. The last piece of that puzzle is the designers themselves, whom he is reaching out to in his post.

Jono writes:

So, we have a good set of developers assigned for each app, but we would like to invite our community to contribute design ideas for each of these apps. We have already defined a set of user stories and functional requirements, and for each app we have also defined a set of the core screens and functionality that we will need design for. We would like to invite you wonderful designers out there to contribute your design ideas, and these ideas can provide food for thought for the developers.

myBalsamiq works for this project because it provides the ability to contribute designs as well as track feedback and revisions. Ubuntu already has a set of app design guidelines and most of the visual design is provided by the SDK, so what's primarily needed is design at the wireframe level. myBalsamiq makes it easy to flesh out the design concepts before they ever get to code. Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth, has also been a long-time promoter of Mockups and has several designs done in Balsamiq Mockups on his own blog.

This project is the stuff of Champions because it is open and generous, and it allows people of all backgrounds to participate and work together. It also exposes a process that is often hidden from view for the betterment of anyone who's interested. And, just like Open Source code contributions, it breaks down barriers in that it doesn't matter where you live, who you work for, or what your business card says you are (if you even have one). Anyone with ideas is welcome. There are even roles for non-designers. Using comments in myBalsamiq, anyone is invited to give their feedback on the designs that are submitted.

The comments reveal the design process as it happens. For example, here's a snippet from the comment thread on the weather app:

Mitu replied 4 months ago, re: Sergey's Version 8 from 4 months ago
On the panel with today's weather I would suggest not to use the word "Today".

It would be nicer to place the date on the upper right or under the city name (using a litlle smaller font). And next to the sun image just place a short "Sunny" form.

I would prefer an option to turn off the indicator.

Sergey replied 4 months ago, re: Sergey's Version 8 from 4 months ago
@Mitu, You are right, when i removed word "Today" i got some free space in right region.
I added date under the temperature.
I added option to switch off\on weather indicator:

Homero replied 4 months ago, re: Sergey's Version 11 from 4 months ago
Good concept, simple to use and understand. For the top bar indicator, what do you think in putting only the current temperature?

e8hffff replied 4 months ago, re: Sergey's Version 11 from 4 months ago
If the clock, tasks, calendar and alarms, were all brought into a time-line chart, then the weather also could be mapped over the day periods of the time-line chart.

Sergey replied 4 months ago, re: Sergey's Version 11 from 4 months ago
@Homero I think it need option to configure information in indicator, becouse one user want information about temperature, but second user want only information about weather(sun, rain, etc)

This is interesting (to me, at least) because it provides a window into how a lot of software development is done these days - non-co-located people communicating asynchronously, using tools optimized for this way of working. You can actually watch the design improve (and get refined) as more people get involved. It's a victory for ideas over ego in design.

And, in the true spirit of community, this project is not only a way for Ubuntu to get awesome designs from a disparate collection of passionate designers. It reciprocates by allowing those designers to work together, practice their skills, and learn from each other.

Awesome stuff, Ubuntu, we're happy to support it! You guys are Champions!

Check out their myBalsamiq Ubuntu Phone Core Apps project site.

Do you have a story to share about the awesome things you do with Balsamiq? Send an email to with your stories or blog posts!

Leon for the Balsamiq Team

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