Laura blogged about Balsamiq on the News Blog, but this is just too cool not to share here on Dev Blog. New Atlassian partner, Balsamiq, has released an amazing new tool called Mockups: it’s a flash-based drawing tool that is built specifically for designing software GUIs.
Lots of designers preach the value of designing paper prototypes before you start to code a feature. And we do it ourselves for much of our feature design. Some of the most productive design sessions I have involve nothing more than the whiteboard. But as fast as it is, there are still some shortcomings. But what happens when you need to have a design session with someone seven thousand miles away? Or what happens when you need a record of what you just designed? (I can’t count the times I’ve taken a digital photo of a whiteboard but then never managed to get the photo uploaded to the right spot.)
And besides, we make a wiki! We’ve moved beyond static Word documents — God forbid we regress all the way back to paper!
Fortunately, Balsamiq mockups solves exactly this problem. It’s a collaborative design tool that works right in your browser. Which is great, but what makes Balsamiq really stand out is how tightly focused it is. Everything is geared toward imitating the experience of designing on paper: the whole app even looks like a sketch pad.

Across the top, you’ll see some of Mockups’ huge library of GUI elements. You can drop and drop, resize, re-title, and reposition inside your design. But they looks like they were drawn with a felt tip pen — you can’t get too caught up in making things pixel-perfect, or worrying about color and fonts choices. Paper prototyping is way to early in the design process for those decision. By enforcing some of the same constraints as paper, Mockups forces you to get down to the real task of design, and prevents you from being distracted by visual styling.
Check out this 2.5 minute video to see how it all works:

And you can do an amazing amount of design with these simple elements. Check out the example gallery.

Mockups is super-easy to use: it’s all drag and drop. You can use Mockups in Confluence or to enhance design or requirements documents, or Mockups in JIRA to illustrate tasks or bugs. Find out more about mockups, including licensing and price, on the Balsamiq site. Go try it out!

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