Choosing the right wireframing / prototyping software tool can be daunting, especially if you are new to this space.
We wrote this quick guide to help you make a decision by giving you a set of questions to think about when evaluating different software. You can also read this article comparing Balsamiq to specific UI/UX tools.
The wireframing and prototyping software competitive landscape is changing pretty rapidly, so we will not point to specific tools other than some big names you might already know, but rather give you a list of lists where you can find out more.
To save you some clicks around our website, we also point out how we're trying to answer each question with our little tool.
Wireframing / Prototyping software can be organized in these broad categories:
Our tool (Balsamiq) is a quick, low-fidelity wireframing tool which can be used to wireframe any kind of software interface, be it for the desktop, web, mobile, kiosks, etc.
We intentionally offer "just enough" prototyping capabilities, but not more. Generic diagramming or image manipulation software will do the job, but it won't be as fast or fun to use, wireframing is just not those tools' focus. We believe that wireframing + fast iterations with real code is much better than prototyping in the vast majority of cases.
If you work alone, you might not need any software at all; a pencil, a notebook and a good set of headphones might be all you need. Similarly, if you and your team all work in the same office, a dry-erase whiteboard might be enough.
If you are building a simple website and everyone on your team (including the business person and the graphic designer) is an HTML+JS wiz, by all means go straight to code, maybe using a framework like Twitter Bootstrap.
If instead you'd like to invest in some software to help you think your ideas through, you need to think of how the tool is packaged and sold:
Balsamiq runs the gamut here. It is sold as a Desktop tool, a subscription-based web app (Balsamiq Cloud), integrated to different wikis and content management systems, and mobile versions are in the works.
We have seen new tools pop up and get abandoned after a couple of years.
A quick way to verify the health of the tool and the company behind it is to look at their blog or Twitter, to verify that the tool is still being maintained, supported and improved. The frequency of releases is also important: if you find a bug, how long will you have to wait to see it fixed?
Balsamiq is alive and well: we are known for releasing very frequently - we shoot for once a month right now, but we have intermediate pre-releases accessible daily.
A pretty website doesn't mean that there's a serious company behind it. Always go visit the company page.
We are building a company we'd like to do business with ourselves. Our company page describes what we're all about.
Balsamiq is inexpensive, yet it generates plenty of revenue to keep us independent and healthy. We've been profitable since day one and have A LOT of customers. We stay very focussed on solving a small problem really well. More features means higher cost and often means worse support. You can see our full pricing information on our buy page.
Last but not least, you should find out what other people like you think about the tool.
A very quick way to do so is to do a Twitter search for the "
Balsamiq: twitter search for "balsamiq wireframes" OR "mybalsamiq" OR "balsamiq", Google search for "balsamiq review".
These sort of lists become outdated very quickly, but here are a few that seem to be well-maintained.
Remember, most software comes with a free trial period, and most companies will be happy to extend your trial period if you need more time evaluating their software. Take advantage of it!
Good luck, and happy software shopping! :)