Originally written in January 2011 (updated Jan. 2013).
We’ve been in business long enough (since June 2008) that we think we have learned enough about ourselves, our product, our customers and our competitive space to be able to put a stake in the ground and tell the world what we’re about. This document is the result of that thinking.
Mockups really shines during the early stage of designing a new interface.
Mockups is zenware, meaning that it will help you get “in the zone”, and stay there. Our aim is for you to forget our software is there at all.
Mockups offers the same speed and rough feel as sketching with a pencil, but with the advantage of the digital medium: enlarging containers is just a drag operation, rearranging elements doesn’t require starting over, and your wireframes will be clear enough that you’ll be able to make sense of them tomorrow.
Mockups should make work fun.
Mockups also excels as a communication tool, a way for the whole team to come together around the right design.
Mockups intentionally makes your wireframes scream both “This is not final!” and “I just threw this together“, eliciting honest feedback, which results in better wireframes, which results in easier to use features, which results in happier users of your software or website, which is what it’s all about.
We realize being “the in-between tool” is a hard balance to strike, but we think we’re doing a pretty good job at it and we’re committed to it. It’s why we created Mockups in the first place.
The first impression you might get with Mockups is a bit disorienting: why should I pay money for a blank canvas? There are barely any interface elements on the screen. Start exploring though, and you’ll find out that Mockups is filled with powerful yet only-visible-when-you-need-them features. Try resizing a browser window control for instance: you’ll notice an overlay showing you the control’s size, but only as you’re dragging, and only past a certain size, only when it matters to you. Or try typing “lorem” in a paragraph of text control. Mockups will fill out the rest for you automatically. Or try typing [x] or (o) and see them transformed into checkboxes and radio buttons automatically. Double-click on a group of controls to dive into the group and edit its contents directly. Use Quick Add to add controls to the canvas at the speed of thought. Pick a dark background color for a button, and we’ll make its label white automatically.
We sweat every detail of the app so that you won’t have to worry about it, so that it will conform to you instead of forcing you to learn it. That’s why you’ll see very few dialog boxes interrupting your flow, why you won’t be asked to choose between different options all the time: it is our job to figure out which default is right for our users.
Think of Mockups as pen and paper. Sure it’s a medium with lots of limitations, but you can still get your point across with it.
We consciously decided not to let our users specify interactivity other than the ability to link wireframes together into a storyboard.
You can read more about this topic on Mike’s excellent blog post about it: Why We Aren’t Doing Interaction in Mockups. and you might want to know that there are lots of quick and easy ways to specify interaction in Mockups already. If you’re curious to know more about where Mockups fits into the UX Design process, check out our site for new UX Designers at UX Apprentice.
We know that there are a few cases where a prototype is the only way to go. The good thing is that there are lots of good prototyping tools out there: we’ve heard good things about Microsoft Sketchflow ($599), Axure RP ($589), or more generic tools like Adobe Fireworks ($299) or Omnigraffle Pro ($199.99). If you need to build highly interactive prototypes, you should try them. You will notice that they are all much more complex to learn, are slower to use and cost a lot more than Mockups, and are backed by large companies. They have to be; the problem they’re trying to solve is much much larger than ours.
Because the problem we’re trying to solve is so focused, our feature-set is naturally limited.
Fewer features means fewer bugs, means less support burden, means less staff for us to support, means less cost for you.
We also know that Mockups works best when everyone on your product team has a copy, so we want to keep it affordable even at volume prices (our $379, 5-user license is our best seller).
Being low-cost doesn’t mean we’re cheap. We put our heart and soul into making Mockups the best quality software we possibly can. We embrace rigorous software quality assurance practices; we test early and often, both manually and with code. We spend days on performance improvements, platform-specific bugs and tiny little things you’d only notice if they were broken. We release often—about every 2-3 weeks—to get those bug fixes in your hands as fast as possible. Then we follow up each release with fanatical customer support.
We take pride in our software’s quality and customer support, it’s something we like to compete on. Obviously no software is without bugs, and we have our share. Our difference is that we make it really easy for you to submit your feedback, we treat your bug reports seriously and your feature requests with an open mind, and we’ll do our best to work with you to solve your problems in a timely manner.
photo (c) Martin Cathrae
We have learned that building a product is a lot like cooking a stir-fry: you have to add the different ingredients in the right order and at the right time, or the dish won’t come out right. So if we don’t add your favorite feature right away, don’t be discouraged, it simply means that it’s not the right time for the product or that we’re not ready as a company for it. But do not fear, if we tell you that we’ve added something to our TODO list, it means we’re serious about building it. You can rest assured we’ll get to it some day.
Basically, we’re good people, and we care.
There are a number of companies in our space that are clearly doing it for the money. Use their products or interact with their support team and see for yourself.
None of us needs to do this: we all had successful careers before joining Balsamiq, and could go back to them or start new ones easily.
We’re doing this because this is our passion, our motto is “Life is too short for bad software!” and believe it deeply.
Software that is not well made keeps you at work late and makes you fight with your loved ones when you get home. Software that “just works”, on the other hand, simply stays out of your way and helps you get your job done quickly. It’s the difference between frustration (see video below) and love.
If, at the end of our lives, we will have contributed to improving the world’s software usability, even by a little bit, our lives will have been well spent. We think it’s that important.
Mockups is just one way we’re trying to solve the problem. We also sponsor events and publications dedicated to teaching the world about good UX, we publish a site with resources for people new to UX Design, we publish tutorials, and give our software away to UX teachers. We also partner with other companies that are trying to solve the same problem.
We even rejoice when our competitors are successful: anything that helps people build better, more enjoyable software is a good thing in our book.
We have a hard time using the words “customers” or “users” to describe the members of our community. Better words might be friends or peers…or maybe even peeps? ;)
We’re all part of the same community of people who care about good usability and care about creating products people love to use. The only difference between us and others is that our way to help is to do what we know how to do best: build and support Balsamiq Mockups.
A lot of you use Mockups more than we do ourselves. People like Michael Bourque, Jenni Merrifield, Adam Wride and dozens of others are absolute experts in using it. It only makes sense for us to listen to your feedback and to incorporate your ideas into the product over and over.
Whenever we have an idea for a new feature, the first thing we do is to mock it up and post the wireframes on our GetSatisfaction forums for review. The feedback we get there is invaluable, Mockups truly is the result of a community effort. We can’t think of any other way to build it: since you’re going to be using it: of course you should have a say in how it should work! :)
Software is never truly “done”, and Mockups is certainly far from being “done”, or even “implemented to initial vision”. The vision is also constantly shifting a little bit, but we’re getting close to the initial vision. Here’s what’s missing:
That’s it! We hate bloatware and never add a feature unless it provides real value to the majority of our users. We also try to make each new feature “invisible” as much as possible, so that it’s not in your face at all times.
We hope you’ll want to stick with us and help us shape our future together. It will be fun! :)
Our goal since day one has been to create a little boutique shop software company, something that feels like your favorite little restaurant, where you get to know the owners and staff personally, and they never disappoint, year after year.
Focusing on a small problem allows us to keep our company size small, and we love it.
Since Peldi started Balsamiq in June 2008 on his own, we have grown to 11 full-time employees.
What that means to you is that you can get to know us by name. Have a sales-related question? You’ll likely interact with Valerie or Natalie. A technical support issue? Florian can answer it, or at least direct you to Marco, Paolo or Luis, the developers who wrote the feature in question. Have an idea for a new feature? Mike and Leon will be happy to chat about it with you. And Peldi‘s inbox is always open for anything and everything, of course.
We’re located around the globe for two reasons:
We’ve been bootstrapped and profitable from day one. We turn away external investors every week and have turned down serious, multi-million-dollar acquisition offers, because we believe it’s the right thing for us and for our community.
Outside investors or being part of a larger organization have their advantages, but it also means having people breathing down our necks, worrying about revenue projections, internal company politics…yuck.
We’d much rather spend our time in the company of our customers, innovating and making everyone’s lives a little better, one small release at a time.
We’re making plenty of money to keep us going, and are putting a lot of it away for a rainy day.
We want to stick around and be here for you, simple as that.
We are trying to build a company we’d like to do business with ourselves. As an example, our licensing terms offer you free updates forever on Mockups for Desktop and give you the freedom of installing the application on any computer you own and use. Who only works on a single computer these days? :)
If you have an hour to spare this week-end, maybe watch Peldi’s talk at the Business of Software 2010 conference video below. It will give you a better idea of what we’re all about.
Since we started we have donated millions of dollars worth of our software to non-profits and do-gooders of any kind. It’s simply the right thing to do.
We donate 2% of our profits to various charities each year.
We also like to support other corners of the Internet that have nothing to do with wireframing, or even share our own dinner recipes with you. We just like awesome people who help the world and want to help them stay awesome. One day we hope to be big enough to sponsor NOVA and Wait Wait Don’t Tell me! :)
Thank you for reading this far. If anything above rubbed you the wrong way, don’t be shy and tell us! We’d love to chat about it. firstname.lastname@example.org