Welcome Stefano Gozzi and Philip Nittenberg!

· Posted by peldi in Company and tagged · Add a comment

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

I am really excited to introduce to you the two newest members of the Balsamiq family!

Stefano Gozzi

Stefano is a developer in testing. He is here to help us with all of our testing needs. He's going to focus on testing our plugins and the next major version of our products.

Since he's the third Stefano to join Balsamiq, we're just calling him "Gozzi". 🙂

Gozzi is from Modena, Italy (the land of balsamic vinegar), and plans to work mostly out of our Bologna office.

Philip Nittenberg

Phil is our third Customer Champion, helping our customers with whatever technical need they might have.

He is based out of San Raphael, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which helps us cover EVEN MORE support hours.

We are really excited about having both Gozzi and Phil on board. We are already seeing great benefits for our customers because of them.

Please help us welcome Gozzi and Phil by leaving a comment below.

Peldi for the Balsamiq team

Finding The Human: The Customer Support Starter Pack

I get voicemails.

Now, if you're like me, you read that voicemail message and probably felt a little twinge in the pit of your stomach. Hopefully, you were wiser than me and didn't read it while you were celebrating Taco Tuesday with your wife at your favorite taco stand in suburban Chicago.

It's pretty rare that we see angry voicemails and emails, which is a blessing and curse. On the one hand, almost every correspondence ends with a smile. On the other hand, I was almost completely unprepared as to how to approach this voicemail - and it was all I could think about.

Turns out, reading voicemail transcripts can be an effective way to ruin Taco Tuesday, as hard as that is to believe.

"Yeah I'd like to talk to somebody about your idiotic program but apparently every time I call there's nobody there so thanks so much no help."

So let's try a little exercise. Read that transcript again, and imagine that you had to call this person back.

How do you feel?

Are you uncomfortable?




While you hold on to that thought, I want to shift gears a little bit and tell you about a dude named Patrick - one of our customers.

Patrick is in his late 40s. He lives in middle America with his wife and two high-school aged daughters. For the last 15 years, Patrick has been a software engineer for a farming tools company, but he doesn't really enjoy it anymore. He has had an idea for an app for a long time and is finally ready to start exploring it in the little free time he has. He has already gotten the interest of a couple of investors, and he wants to run a demo for them. He signs up for an online wireframing software suite, sets up his wireframes to demonstrate his app, and then sets off to run the demo for his potential investors.

Except that he cannot figure out how to invite his investors to view his app. He has poured over the documentation and found nothing, and time is running out.

So he calls me and leaves a message.

"Yeah I'd like to talk to somebody about your idiotic program but apparently every time I call there's nobody there so thanks so much no help."

Think about how you felt 2 minutes ago, and how you feel now.


A desire to help?


Why the sudden change in feelings?

Because you've found the human.

We are constantly reminded that our "customers are people too".

Two talks at last year's Elevate Summit in Palm Springs focused on it. Helen Shaw's "Friendzone your Customers" and Michael Labrecque-Jessen's (more directly named) "Customers are People too". Both excellent talks, but the fact that we needed them (and the fact that I felt the need to write this) speaks to the problem: the idea refuses to sink in.

"People" is a weirdly abstract term, when you think about it. There is almost no emotional weight to it - it is a harmless word. For those reasons, I think it is a word that is really hard to empathize with.

I vastly prefer "human". "Human" almost carries the weight of our species. To my ears, the word "human" sounds more complete. A "person" merely exists - a "human" has endeavored. So that's what I try to do with every email: I try to find the human. Once you find the human, customer support becomes a lot easier, much like it did in Patrick's case.

Admittedly, I changed some of Patrick's details because I didn't get his permission for this. But he is based on a real person - an edge case in terms of our normal interactions, but a very real person. You won't get to know all of your customers that well, but that doesn't mean that each and every one of them isn't a Patrick-level human being. They all have a whole world that exists outside of the email/voicemail they sent you. You don't have to find all of it, but finding some of it will help smooth all of your customer interactions.

So how do we go about doing that?

1. Act Like a Human

This is the first step. To find the human in the person you're talking to, you must act like a human yourself. Convincing them that a human being has answered their call for help, and not a robot, will help them open up to you.

Say you're sorry. Fall on your sword, even if it's not your company's fault.

Read their request until you are sure you understand it (or until you are sure you need more information) and then be genuinely invested in fixing the issue.

Lay off the text expanders. My personal rule of thumb is that text expanders should be used for purely informational purposes only. Don't try to bake in any emotion into them - just the facts. When you add a pre-baked emotion to them, you can turn the email into a weird tonal rollercoaster, where your written tone doesn't match the tone of your text expander. Beyond that, and on a human level, emotion should be coming from you, not text expanders. You should be feeling the emotion you're putting into your responses, otherwise it's disingenuous.

On the other side of the text expander sword, try to avoid becoming a text expander yourself. We see so many emails on a day to day basis that it is easy to fall into a pattern of answering them the same way. If you find yourself typing the same greeting every time, or closing out emails the same way, try to make an effort to mix it up. It will keep you feeling fresh.

When I feel my responses starting to feel stale, I often will set up a goal for myself: for the rest of the day, start each email differently. Not only does this help me come up with new ways to greet folks, but it also keeps me present in the emails I am writing. It stops my robot brain from kicking in. After all, if I'm writing the same thing over and over, I should just make a text expander. 😜

2. Use Language That Makes Them Feel Like You're on Their Team

Writing into support is akin to shouting into the void and hoping for a response. Customers write the email, send it, and then hope that someone on the other end is listening - that they will reach out and snatch their message from the ether. It is a lonely process.

One of the best things you can do when replying to support mails is use words like "we" and "us", especially if you're giving your customer steps to walk through.

When you say "Here is something I'd like us to try" (rather than "..something I'd like *you* to try), it makes the customer feel like you are working towards the same goal as they are. They have a teammate, and you're both working to resolve their issue.

3. Above All Else: Do Your Best

Lastly, and most importantly, try and do your best. The amount of tickets I do in a day is going to differ from yours. The amount of tickets I have in the afternoon differs from that in the evening.

Scale is a very real thing for us, and it can be real hard to read "mix up your responses" when you're staring down the barrel of a 30 ticket queue. Don't worry about point 1 and 2 if you're buried in tickets, just worry about trying to do your best. Customers will be able to see that.

Doing your best also means making sure that you are taking care of yourself. Mercer Smith has a wonderful talk on self-care (including a selfcare-pizza) that can help you understand what it means (and what to do) to take care of yourself. It's a lot easier to do your best when you're at your best.

This is just a starter pack of ideas on how to find the human in your customers - you're going to develop some techniques of your own along the way. Some of them will probably be even more effective than the ones we have listed here (so, please, share them with us!) We'd also love to hear your customer stories because it will help us do better as well.

Together, we will find the human. 🙂

Brendan for the Balsamiq Team

Balsamiq Raffles: Free Tickets to Great UX Events

We are always exploring new ways to connect with our community and reciprocate their love and support. We give free licenses to educators and do-gooders, we open-source part of our software, we sponsor lots of events in the industry, and much more.

Sponsorships are particularly important to us. They allow us to help the community grow and educate the world on User Experience (UX), which is one of the reasons our company exists.

Occasionally, the events we endorse come with free tickets in the sponsorship package. Since we rarely use the conference passes for ourselves, we've decided to raffle the free tickets to our community as another way to give back.

How We Run our Conference Ticket Raffles

It all starts when we decide to sponsor an event. We ask the organizers if there are free tickets included in the package and if we can raffle them. We get a positive answer almost every time, and most organizers will even offer their help publicizing the raffle.

The next step is to check how and by what date the winner(s) should collect their prize. With that information, we’re ready to create the raffle.

The Raffles Page

Not so long ago, we used to prepare a Google Form to collect the participants’ entries for each raffle. We’d give general information about the event and ask for two pieces of personal data and two feedback questions:

  • Name
  • Email
  • What's the single most frustrating issue you encounter when you use Balsamiq Mockups?
  • What's the most important feature missing from Balsamiq Mockups?

Balsamiq Raffle in Google FormsThis is what our Google Form Raffle used to look like

This quick-and-dirty solution was just that: quick, but dirty. It didn't fit in with our brand.

Also, we weren’t able to add as much detail as we would have liked so that the potential winners could make a well-informed decision about their participation in the raffles.

The form itself also presented some restrictions: we weren’t able to apply some advanced settings like conditional logic to ask customized questions.

Another important drawback was that the forms were not accessible on our website. It was impossible for our visitors to find out about the raffles.

Given all of this, we decided to work on a new strategy to bring the raffles to our site and align them with our brand and company goals.

Now we have a customized, in-house tool that allows us to offer these opportunities to all our visitors. We accomplished the task by employing available resources in a smarter way: Balsamiq Mockups for the wireframes, Google Sheets and Google Drive for the Admin UI and a robust React-powered front-end.

Wireframe vs. Raffle PageFrom the wireframe to the live page

We also made the raffles more inclusive. Before, the feedback questions were only for Balsamiq users. Now we can ask people if they use our tool or not, and ask them more relevant questions.

It’s too soon to quantify the results. However, the changes have already had a positive impact on the quality of the interactions. We have received more and richer replies, whereas in the previous form we got very basic answers or no answers at all.

We Always Have a Winner

Picking a winner is the hardest part: we would love to have tickets for everyone! ?

To choose the person we'll give the ticket to, we use Random.org. This service helps us sort the list of participants in random order. We assign the ticket(s) following the new order of the list.

If the winner is not able to go to the conference, we contact the next person in line. In case no one can go, we give the ticket back to the organizers with the request to donate it in our name to someone they know will appreciate it.

An example of randomized list with raffle resultsAn example of a randomized list

How To Find Out About New Free Tickets Raffles

Each time we open a new raffle, we share it via our Twitter account and our Facebook page. It's also possible to access them directly from our Company page.

We keep the raffles open for at least one month and close them early enough to allow the winners to make arrangements for travel and accommodations, in case they need to. (Travel, accommodations, and workshops are not included in the prize.)

Sounds interesting? Don't wait any longer! Check our open raffles right now, there might be one for that great event you'd like to attend.

Getting Better

Since we started organizing the raffles, we have introduced countless changes with the scope to offer a better and better experience for our participants. Each raffle teaches us a new lesson and helps us improve our products and our internal process.

If you have any tips for us on how to make this kind of giveaway better, we're all ears!

So, did you check the open raffles yet? Go, do it now, and good luck! ?

Remote Work: What's Hard, What's Great, and How to Stay Connected

More and more companies are embracing remote working. For those who are considering it or have just made the leap, there are a lot of resources to learn from, such as the Zapier's Guide to Remote Work.

Here are some of the pros and cons we've discovered in our seven years of being a mostly remote company.

Working from Home Is Hard

We truly love being a remote team. ❤️ But before focusing on the good stuff, I'll warn you: it's not all sunshine and rainbows. And not everyone is cut out for remote work.

We have been a distributed team since 2009; long enough to uncover many problems we face while working from home.

peldi-before-balsamiqActually, we were remote before we even existed! Here is Peldi working on the foundation of the Balsamiq Mockups codebase in Mexico, back in 2007

You'll Get Easily Distracted

Believe it or not, not having colleagues or a boss within earshot and sight of your desk can impact your productivity. For many of us, the hardest thing is staying focused and avoiding the "black holes" of social media, YouTube, online articles, etc.

Moreover, distractions can come at you from different directions. It may be difficult to focus with your family around, because they might think that you are 'free' from work. This is particularly true for those of us who live within commuting distance from Bologna, where we alternate days in the office and days at home. It can be tough for your family to adapt to this non-traditional way of working, and when you're working from home, they may assume you're available or at least not so busy.

Still, you have to work and get things done!

Your Work-Life Balance May NOT Turn out the Way You Think

So there is no external force (like an office routine) to help you stay focused. The flip side is that when the work day is done, it is harder to log off and stop working when you work at home, since your work and home environments are the same. This can impact your family life.

This is much more difficult for those who have trouble managing their time. You'll need a lot of self-discipline to balance work and family time, to keep "work" and "home" environments apart.

You'll Be Lonely

Working remotely can be very hard if you are a people person.

Val, for example, is probably the most social and friendly person at Balsamiq (if you've ever met Val or talked to her, you know what I mean). During her first few years, she struggled with loneliness. She placed too much emphasis on creating friendships with remote colleagues. She set herself up for disappointment. But, with time, she developed a perspective on her boundaries.

Things aren't that easy for introverts either. They like being alone and rarely get lonely, but sometimes they too miss the small talk with colleagues at lunchtime. And nobody likes eating lunch alone.

eating-lunch-aloneWednesday 26 October 2016, Bologna office: Paolo's lunch. Even at our Bologna office we happen to have lunch alone!

And, it can get worse! You might see your social skills degrade if you go too long without leaving the house. Like Stefano said, "Some days I only get out of the house to throw away the trash."

Teamwork Will Be Affected

Working with your colleagues can be a real challenge.

When we talk about remote working we tend to focus on what happens to individuals, on the pros and cons for their life. The truth is that working with people in a far away time zone can be slow and frustrating. Working on the same project far apart is much more difficult than doing it sitting next to each other.

In fact, the greatest challenge in Balsamiq is not remote work, but working in different time zones, as the two things don't have to go together. There are some benefits that come from working asynchronously, but we are challenged with a very minimal overlap between the US and European teams for real-time conversations.

Working from Home Is Awesome

OK, we've scared you enough. ? It's time to talk about the benefits!

You'll Be Free - in Many Ways

As Peldi said, "The ability to work from anywhere is something I will never want to give up."

working-from-the-hotelThere's nothing weird about working from a hotel, while waiting for your flight

You'll be able to organize your time at will. You can work from a waiting room while they're changing your tires or from the gym where your son is training.

You can wear comfy clothes. ? By the way, we are always looking for the perfect outfit for “office-less” workers: comfy but not too pajama-y. (Any suggestions?)

virgin-remote-workingVirgin's summer office in Biscarrosse (France)

Last but not least, working remotely allows you a great deal of freedom to pick where to live.

leidenRemote working with a view. Stefano and his family moved from Italy to Leiden, Netherlands

No More Commuting!

Stuck in traffic or on the bus with seemingly the entire city going to their offices? Not anymore!

Besides the fact that you'll be more gentle to the earth due to a smaller carbon footprint, working from home leaves you time to enjoy your hobbies and take care of the house. For example, Natalie puts that extra time into caring for her little farm, and to approach life in a slower, more present way.

sunset-farmLovely sunrise from Natalie's farm in California...

love-cucumber...and the lovely products of her land!

Shorter commuting also means it's easier to keep in touch with your family. Agnese, who lives across the yard from her grandparents, can check on them if no one else is at home.

At Balsamiq, those of us who decide to commute (because we live near the Bologna office) are free to choose off-peak traffic times or take a nice walk or bike ride to make the travel more pleasant.

Your Work-Life Balance May Be Better Than You Think

As Val said, "I have been remote since 2009 and love it. I'm completely in charge of my daily schedule, allowing me to fit in personal commitments and professional deadlines. I've kept my gym schedule, regularly spend time with my kids after school, and have been able to adopt a couple of dogs who keep me company during the quiet hours." What more could you ask for? ?

cousteauPets like Cousteau, Natalie's cat, can ease loneliness

agnese-catAnd you can take care of your little friends while working! (If they let you use your computer, unlike Agnese's cat...)

You can organize your time and day, and be close to your family and small children. "They feel that I'm 'always there', and that's priceless." (Stefano)

You Are Responsible for Yourself

You won't feel like you have to "look busy" all the time, which can actually raise your productivity. But this benefit could sound bittersweet to some; it's certainly not for everyone.

The bright side is that you can do whatever makes you feel more productive, even if that's just staring out the window or taking a break to do the dishes.

Jess, for example, starts working early in the morning. She feels more energized, focused, and it's better for her family in general. "Those free hours I get in the evening are the best to share with the kids. You can work some more later, if necessary. But the heavy lifting will be done by then."

Tricks We Use to Work Better from Home

Here are some tips and tricks from your friends at Balsamiq on how to work from home without going insane or becoming an anti-social zombie ?

  • Make the bed before you start working. More points if it's the first thing you do in the morning. You've already accomplished the first task of the day! Well begun is half done 🙂
  • Make sure you have a dedicated space that you (and the rest of your family) can call "the office", away from distractions. That door is what defines the boundary between being "at work" and being "at home". (You can't use the couch.) (Ok, only sometimes...)
  • Keep your desk as free from stuff as possible.

leon-deskLeon's desk (Richmond, CA)

  • Tell your family to act 'as if' you were somewhere else and that you will act accordingly (e.g. not even answering the door bell).
  • Turn off as many notifications as possible on your phone. When it's time to get real work done, quit HipChat / Slack / Basecamp / email / etc., put headphones on, and knock the project out of the park!
  • Take a lot more time away from your computer than you think you should. You think better when you're not staring at a screen.

Advice for Remote Workers

I asked my colleagues what's advice they would give to someone who was just starting to work from home.

Here are their answers:

  • Make sure you include some group social activities in your life: yoga, Zumba, lunch with friends. Humans are social animals!
  • Know how much willpower you have, because you'll need all of it! Monday is still the first day of the week and you will be all alone, nobody will help you get the day going. You will have to keep yourself in check. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not.
  • Work out a schedule and stick to it. Build a habit and be strong when, sometime between the first and second year, you'll feel alone. You'll get over it.
  • Trying to keep work contained can be a challenge when you don't have an office to leave at the end of the day. To do that, keep quite a lot of structure in your work hours and keep your work time focused. At the end of the work day you'll feel content with your productivity, and very easily you'll leave the office behind you (even though it is right there in your living room ?), by shutting down all the work tools you use.
  • Keep a good to-do list going, because obviously there are times when you're not inspired during your work day to move on to some big or unpleasant project. Keeping a list of articles or videos your colleagues have suggested to read will help you break up your day, but still feel productive and happy at the end of it.
  • Be kind to yourself, especially when you've had an unproductive day. It's easy to forget how much time you used to spend commuting and talking around the water cooler. Don't expect to be productive for 8 hours straight just because you're working at home.
  • Working from home is not your only option. Go to a co-working space or a coffee shop or a library. You don't have to be alone!

stefano-coffee-shopAn old-fashion coffee shop, Stefano's temporary office

What We Do as a Company To Stay Connected as a Team

  • At Balsamiq we are optimized for working remotely. This is true even for those who live in Bologna, where we have our office. No one goes to the office five (or even four) days in a week, and that's fine. Super fine, in fact!
  • Communication is crucial for a remote team. We've spent quite some time looking for the best toolset for our team, because we have to rely on it. We currently use Atlassian Confluence for the internal wiki while HipChat is our little digital office space, but we've recently tested other tools, such as Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Basecamp, with more to come.
  • We get together once a year for a week for the annual Company Retreat. The main goals are to strengthen the bonds between the Balsamici, make shared memories and recharge our emotional batteries. And we always have a ton of fun!
  • We also have mini retreats, because sometimes it's more efficient to get a few key people in a room together for a period of time. We could do some much faster training, or attack a tough project together, or couple it with a conference and learn more about a new technology together.
  • We have a budget for Get Togethers. There might be times when we feel the need to spend some in-person time with some colleagues. Not for any particular project, but just to bond and avoid the loneliness that happens when working from home for months at a time. The budget varies depending on the employee's location.
  • We recently set up a software tool called Know Your Company, which helps you uncover insights into your company that you didn't know before. The tool sends us an interesting email twice a week. Questions can be very profound ("Have you ever felt like doing the right thing for a customer would be seen as doing the wrong thing for the business?" or "Do you think the company is the right size?" or "Have you ever been afraid to suggest an idea at work because you thought someone might shoot it down?") or about lighter topics ("Got a favorite recipe to share?" or "Have you ever met anyone famous?"). Answering is always optional. Know Your Company shares the answers with everyone at Balsamiq or just with our CEO, if we prefer. Every week we find out something new about our colleagues and uncover topics we could (or even should) discuss. So far we love it!
  • Another thing we've recently started is "Friday funtimes", which are 30-minute casual meetings with 4 or 5 randomly-selected Balsamici, to freely talk about whatever we want! It's a new way to foster communication and feel connected (smile) (this is an idea stolen from Trello's CEO Michael Pryor.)

Want to Learn More about Remote Working at Balsamiq?

I hope you'll find this useful!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave us a comment.

Francesca for the Balsamiq Team

How and Why We Give Away Swag

Giving gifts is a win-win situation. You make customers happy, cultivate loyalty, and get good marketing results simply by being generous and grateful.

Today we want to share our experience about how to and why we give away swag, in the hope that what we’ve learned will be useful to you.

Our Swag Story

Since Balsamiq launched, we've enjoyed offering tokens of gratitude.

We’ve been distributing stickers, pins, and sharpies mostly at the conferences we've attended. It always works as a good spark to start conversations with our fans.

Nevertheless, we wanted to do more to show our appreciation.

Our very first attempt at giving gifts was sending out little bottles of balsamic vinegar by mail, with handwritten notes, to a dozen of our clients.

A bottle of Balsamiq's balsamic vinegarA bottle of Balsamiq's balsamic vinegar

Later on, we've made it more scalable and started designing some t-shirts: less fancy than the balsamic vinegar, but surely a more sustainable way to thank all the love and support our Community's had for us.

And since nothing beats the sentiment of happy customers wearing our tee, it's become part of our way of building and nurturing our relationship with them.

In the meantime, we've kept on crafting a lot of swag apparel and accessories just for us, on special occasions like our annual company retreats.

part of our 2016 Retreat Swag, a bagOur 2016 Retreat Bag

Trying to excel at customer service is our way of doing marketing. Massively distributing company-branded articles wouldn't fit very well with our culture. But here's what happened: after giving away a few t-shirts, people started asking about them, so we decided to make them available at cost, without framing it in a marketing strategy. That's how the Balsamiq swag store was born. Yay!

Who Gets Balsamiq Swag

Our intention is to show how grateful we are to those that go above and beyond as members of our community. We want to keep it unique, and we give away swag only as a form of recognition of something someone did for us that was special, for example:

  • They helped us debug a tough bug.
  • They consistently report bugs or help others in our forums.
  • They gave us great ideas for new features.
  • They are Balsamiq Champions, sharing good practices and knowledge in general about UX.
  • They are do-gooders.
  • They were excellent candidates we met when interviewing for new job positions.

You get the idea ?

We also do it to welcome new hires or just craft new shirts for no particular reason other than our love for our company.

Here are pictures of part of our newbies' gear. Getting them makes us feel special and part of a great company since day one.

Swag for new hiresPart of our welcome swag

How We Send Swag

Joy, our does-it-all COO, buys discount codes in advance from Spreadshirt, the company that makes our swag. When we want to give someone a gift, we just need to tell Val, the heart and soul of all the swag-giving Balsamiq does. She will then email the codes to our recipients so they can choose what they’d like best from our store (design size, color...)

Every shirt, tote bag, or water bottle is a custom order. In this way, our supplier doesn't have any "stock" sitting around waiting to be sold, and we don't have to worry about what size or color the customer prefers.

Our provider sells through two online stores, one for the US and the other one for Europe. The distribution for the rest of the world could be a problem sometimes since it can cause an extra shipping charge to our recipients. But we don't want our friends to put their hands in their wallet to receive a gift! So, if you happen to know a better way to handle it, we are all ears. We'd love to get suggestions to smoothen out this part of the process.

Speaking of Spreadshirt

We like to do business with companies similar to Balsamiq in size and values, and Spreadshirt is a perfect fit. They produce high-quality items, crafted with responsible and eco-friendly practices by people who care about each T-shirt or accessory they manufacture.

They're focused on an excellent customer service, handling every interaction painstakingly with great empathy.

A quick story: on May 2nd, 2016, a sad day for the music world, we ordered new coupon codes under the name PAISELYPARK. It was a very unusual word, definitely unrelated to Balsamiq. Still, that confusing request didn't stop them from making us look awesome. They read our minds, and created the right codes under PAISLEYPARK; they'd understood we wanted to pay a little tribute to Prince using the name of his record label.

In addition to their great products, service and company culture, they're always going the extra mile with every purchase. They handle all the shipping and customs which makes the process cost-and-time efficient for us. They make sure our customers receive their personalized piece, timely and frictionless.

Take a look at how they print your t-Shirt!

They're awesome!

How Much It All Costs

The truth is, we don't know. We have all the data to calculate it, but we believe there’s no point in squeezing those numbers to get more information. We just have to make sure not to break the bank. ? However, if you’d like to know even a tiny bit of hard data, we pay an average of $25 for each item we send as a gift. If someone buys a tee directly from the store, we don’t get a cent.

Why Would Anyone Want Balsamiq Swag

You may ask.

We hope it’s because they love us ?

We make the designs cool and close to our personality without a pushy branding agenda behind them. You can see the Balsamiq Mockups' smiley face, our tagline, and other witty messages, but the focus is never on the name of our company. We'd love that those who wear our stuff feel like insiders, not promoters.

It’s great to recognize each other as Balsamiq lovers and share this sense of belonging.
Besides, who doesn’t love a cool tee? ❤️

Take a look at our store. There's a bunch of goodies, from t-shirts and hoodies to aprons and baby onesies.

Return on Investment

If we don’t quantify the investment, we can hardly talk about a return. Yet, we have qualitative proof that this effort is worth it.

It pleases our customers and strengthens the relationships with our community. On top of that, we’re cultivating arguably the most optimal marketing method of communication, which is word of mouth.

People would most likely talk about us when we reciprocate on their awesomeness. With that gift, we’re giving people a story to tell, online and offline. It doesn’t matter if they are just a handful out of thousands.

We’re trying to do business the most human possible way. This happens in the small honest personal interactions that allow us to build trust. Have you ever read The Thank You Economy?

dominik wearing his balsamiq swag

A mug, a sticker or a pin are a perfect trigger to remind people about our little tool. Who knows? Maybe one day they will suggest Balsamiq Mockups to one of their friends. It’s a simple fun way to go from top-of-mind to tip-of-tongue. Have you ever read Contagious? ?

#balsamiq #prototype #ux #mockup #stikers #good #stuff старая школа ?????

A photo posted by Andrey Zaytsev (@nabash2) on

We’d love to hear your story: what do you give? Or what did you get? What could we do better? Leave your comment below! ?

Jess for the Balsamiq team

Welcome Drew Lafferty and Lizelotte Green!

Hello, friends of Balsamiq! Our not-so-little-anymore team keeps on growing!

Today I would like to introduce to you our two new team members: Drew Lafferty and Liz Green!

Drew Lafferty

Drew is a jack-of-all-trades Developer / DevOps, based in Chicago, Illinois.

Drew Lafferty

He loves working full stack and diving into both front-end and back-end code, as well as learning about new web technologies and anything Ops related.

His main responsibility is to be the lead developer of Olio, our home-grown CRM web app.

On top of that, he's something close to an "IT guy" for us: if anyone has a technical question or needs some programming help, Drew's there to help.

We received over 200 applications for this job position and met some great people in the process. After three rounds of interviews, it became clear that Drew was the one who had the right combination of experience, skills, shared interests, location and culture fit for this particular job position.

Drew is already becoming an integral part of our team. It's such a luxury having him around!

Lizelotte Green

Lizelotte goes by Liz, and her job title is "Tier 2 Sales Support and Product Manager for CRM". It means that she's going to become our in-house expert on how we sell our different products, and work with Drew to make Olio as powerful and easy to use as possible for our sales support team.

Liz Green

Again, we received over 200 applications for Liz's position and met some really great candidates, who we hope to cross paths again with in the future.

We are ecstatic with having chosen Liz, though: she's smart, detail-oriented, enthusiastic, warm, driven and independent. She's also based out of Chicago, which gives her ample time to overlap with our CET and PST sales support team members.

You can find Drew and Liz's contact info on our company page.

Please join us in welcoming them to the Balsamiq family by adding a comment below!



P.S. BTW, we're not stopping here. We'll have more hiring-related announcements in the future, stay tuned here and keep checking our jobs page regularly!

Balsamiq Summer Camp: How We Planned Our 2016 Retreat

Annual retreats have become an essential part of working together at Balsamiq. From our first gathering as an entire company in 2010, we realized seeing each other face to face is an essential part of building awesome relationships in our distributed team.

This year Joy and I had the absolute pleasure of planning the retreat in Sonoma County, California where I live. Judging by the smiles on our co-workers' faces, we're pretty sure it went well!

We'd love to share some of the things that went into planning it, some things we loved, and of course what we learned from the experience. We hope you find our ideas (or lessons learned) useful in planning your company retreat.

Balsamiq Team in costumes

Find the Right Location

Location is by far the most critical part of the retreat. We've chosen the general location in different ways. This year was based on a contest we had in 2014 where we submitted proposals, like Olympic Games bids. France won for 2015, but second place was Sonoma County.

There is a lot of logistical information to consider when choosing the location:

  • How much travel time is involved? (This includes getting the team there but also travel to get to activities. We learned in 2012, that we didn't want to spend too much of the retreat in the car).
  • What kind of housing is available? (The two most essential elements are decent Internet and comfortable sleeping arrangements, but after that, there are a whole variety of pros and cons to consider for each housing option).
  • What is there to do and eat in the area? (New experiences are of course important elements to any retreat, as well as good eating!)

We already had a retreat in California in San Francisco in 2013, but after visiting the beautiful countryside together in Le Marche, Italy in 2011 and 2014 I was enthusiastic to show off some beautiful landscapes here in California too.

I chose Guerneville, CA, which is nestled in the redwoods in the Russian River Valley. It's near the ocean, the oak woodlands, and the many vineyards of Sonoma County; it's a tiny town, with some great restaurants, and having been a vacation resort area for over a hundred years, still offers some quirky old California charm.
A view of Guerneville
For housing, we've enjoyed staying away from more corporate style resorts or hotels. We like the family atmosphere, but at 21 people, we have pretty much outgrown large homes (and even the castle last year had some housing issues!)

Luckily after a lot of Googling, plus the benefit of doing a few site visits since I live nearby, we found Fern Grove Cottages, which worked fantastically. With 21 cabins built in the 1920's which have a total of 24 bedrooms, we had the entire little village to ourselves, and plenty of personal space too (most of the cabins have private decks, a separate living room, and fireplaces, and few have small kitchens.)

Ferngrove Cottages

The owners Jenny and Sherman made the experience very personable, which is something we love. We know finding something like this is going to be a challenge as we grow. We may have to jump to a regular hotel next year, but we hope even then to maintain the cozy, family feeling we've grown to love. (If you know of a great place with a family-like spirit that has rooms for at least 25, please let us know!).

The actual location was just perfect for us: we had all the space, not disturbing anyone (except probably the owners), each of us had our privacy, but there was also space to spend time together.- Anna


Listen to Everyone's Needs

Another thing we've learned over the years is having a large number of people actively planning the details of the retreat can be difficult. Making decisions can take a long time in particular, so in the last few years, we've had a very small team doing the actual organization. However, we don't think that means the entire team can't be involved in the process.

Here are some ways we incorporated our team's ideas:

  • Old feedback: Joy and I looked at previous years' feedback. We collected it for a reason, so it's good not to forget to look at it!
  • Ask for new ideas: We asked team members to comment in our wiki at least six months before the retreat to give ideas of things they'd like to happen this year - housing, food, activities, pace, whatever! This was pretty close to feedback from the prior year but was kind of a chance to take a fresh look.
  • Workshops! We started teaching each other random skills in mini-workshops in 2014 and have continued this practice ever since. But this year, asking people to sign up to teach a workshop, actually gave us some group activities for the main schedule and even a meal. (Thanks, Brendan for the excellent instruction on how to make a Chicago Style Hot Dog!)
  • Meal Planning: This is a tricky one. Planning meals for 21 means we can't cater to everyone's specific preferences without making ourselves crazy, but I felt it was important to try to find some manageable way. I made a chart with rather ridiculously detailed categories for people to fill in their food requests.

Food request

Provide Information before and during the Retreat

We provided a wiki page some weeks before the retreat so everyone could have time to pack (and purchase things if needed). This included:

  • General advice on weather and clothes
  • Specific items to bring based on planned activities
  • And general advice on what to pack, and what not to pack.

We've learned over the years some common questions that come up with packing, so this list is pretty easy to organize. We know, for example, whether or not a hair dryer is present on site is critical information for some of us.

The other advice not to be left out each year, is a reminder about leaving space in your luggage for gifts. We always have a few retreat goodies (ok, more than a few), and figuring out how to bring them home has made for some creative packing.

Advice to pack light really saved the day for me.- Luis

After posting the packing list, some of our team members asked Joy or me some specific questions (like is there a place to do laundry nearby?). Instead of just answering the one colleague, we added details to the information page, just in case it could be useful for all.

We also created a page in our wiki for each day with very specific details for the day. Our hope was it broke the information up, so people had an easier time finding out what they needed to know or wear for a specific day.

Because the Internet wasn't always as fast as we'd like, and because we encouraged people to be less digital during the week (since we had the once-a-year chance to be non-virtual with one another!), we also posted a paper copy of some key schedule times in the main breakfast room.

Our schedule for Day 4

Get a Theme!

This was a new element to our retreat this year, and by its popularity, I don't think it will be the last. Joy, Mike, and I met for lunch to do a site visit in Guerneville a few months before the retreat.

After seeing the town, and the great 1950's cowboy décor of the cottages at Fern Grove, we decided we needed a theme, and it was going to be summer camp. Ideas and images like those from the Moonrise Kingdom soon flew in a private HipChat room. It was a little creative burst that was very enjoyable for us to design together, made the entire week more fun to plan, and I think made the retreat even more memorable for all.

And so, after our site visit, Camp Paciugo, Guerneville, CA was born.

Our "Camp Paciugo" swag for the retreat

A little bit of back story: paciugo (“pah-choo-go”) is an Italian word for a nice mess; for example, when you eat an ice-cream in different flavors and mix them all up, you are creating a paciugo. Paciugo is also the name of the most used chat room in Hipchat, our remote office.

Our theme permeated our week:

  • we designed a camp logo (thanks, Mike!)
  • our gifts were all summer camp supplies:
    • a forest green camp t-shirt
    • a metal water bottle
    • a canvas messenger bag
    • embroidered camp patches
    • a Pendleton trade blanket embroidered with the Balsamiq logo
    • a five-in-one utensil set
    • a flashlight
  • each cabin was given a name: Wild Turkey Lair (Sax), Baby Deer Hollow (Paolo & Marco), Sparrow Nest (Joy), Bobcat Den (Stefano), Peregrine Falcon Rookery (Brendan & Virgin), etc.
  • and the general theme helped as we decided on what activities to do during the week.
I loved the Camp Paciugo theme, it reminded me of my Boy Scout days. The blanket is best retreat gift ever, I use it all the time now.- Luis
I really liked the theme of the "camp" and it had a warm/cozy feeling.- Anna

Planning Activities and Free Time

There are often many great activities to choose from, so one of the biggest temptations in planning is to put too much on the schedule. This year it looks like we got it just about right. Here were some of the things we considered while planning:

  • People have come a long way, so we do want to make sure they get out to see the area.
  • We've also come to see each other, so chose activities that provide time for interaction and talking (not too many tours).
  • Make sure there is some unscheduled time each day (we aimed for at least 50% planned and 50% unplanned).
  • Since we still have to answer customer emails, provide time each day where the support team can do that without having to stay up until 2 am.
  • Pay attention to how long it will take to get to the activity. Is it worth the trip?
  • Provide options for easy free time activities (we had five bikes from Fern Grove, pool, public tennis and basketball courts nearby, a couple of puzzles ready to be made, and a variety of board games)

Happy tennis players

And of course we also chose things that seemed to be suited for Camp Paciugo! Here they are:

Loved being able to walk to many things or take only short drives.- Michele
Well balanced in the time spent for activities and to hang out together. I really loved how I had the occasion to speak and to bond with everybody.- Paolo

Go Green

During this retreat we tried to find ways to make our carbon footprint a little smaller by reducing waste. We didn't have a dishwasher available to us, so for the meals we ate at Fern Grove we found a few solutions:

  • Beverages:
    • Individuals used their refillable camp water bottle for tap water.
    • Wine and other glasses were provided in each cottages, and everyone was responsible for taking care of washing and keeping track of their own.
  • Flatware: was provided as a gift and like the glasses, we each washed our own.
  • Plates and napkins: washing is too much because of our facility limitations, so we bought a compostable kind. I made separate garbage for them and brought them back to my compost.

Personalized glassesWine glass markers were expensive, and didn't come in packs large enough for 21 different glasses. But these vinyl children's stickers were very inexpensive and helped us keep track of our glasses!

We Got Our Groove On

Music played a big role this year. Thanks to a disco ball speaker my aunt gave me, our communal Honey Badger Lodge (cabin 7) was transformed into a place for a private Karaoke practice.

It ended up being a great ice breaker for the week, and we continued our singing at a Karaoke night in town per a workshop activity suggested by Francesca. The balsamici practiced for months for this night, and I hope the locals enjoyed our performances, though I'm pretty sure we should probably keep making software.

Val also led us in a Hootenanny by the campfire. Joy purchased various kazoos, triangles, and other musical instruments, and we sang acoustically before, of course, making s'mores.

Campfire time was simple and yet perfectly beautiful. It was nice to just be together with a glowing light, blankets, and some singing.

Embrace the Unpredictable

There is a lot of unexpected magic that can happen if you don't plan out every moment. Instead, create the space, and the amazing people you are with, just by being together, will make some very memorable moments.

We had two great unexpected ones this year.

We like to set some time aside each retreat for team reflection, and this year Luis led us all in a process called Case Clinics. One member of each group of 5 or 6 people was to give a "case" or an issue that they were struggling with at Balsamiq or just personally, and the other people in the group would "coach" them by listening deeply and asking questions. Many of us weren't sure what to expect out of the process. Would it work? Would it be awkward? Would it be beneficial to the coaches or just the case-giver?

After the 60-minute exercise we all gathered to hear how the experience went for people, without sharing anything in particular about the case itself. I think the most beautiful takeaway, was it seems the process of deeply sharing and deeply listening, brought each group together in a very special and intimate way that we hadn't anticipated.

And the second experience was at our final dinner together in the stunning Grange loft of SHED.

Last dinner at the SHED

Towards the end of the meal, someone started teasing Stefano Brilli that it was a tradition for the newest employee to give a speech. (There, of course, is no such tradition). He, in good faith, got up and gave a touching speech about what it meant for him to join the company. And soon after, Brendan stood up and did the same, and then Virgin. And then one by one, in order of being hired at Balsamiq, we all spoke with much laughter, warmed hearts, and even some tears.

What started as a joke, ended in one of the most magical evenings we've had at any retreat.

Probably my favorite moment was the last dinner. You were all there, so I don't need to say much. But things like this just happen once, you know. I'm just glad I was there.- Stefano M.

And When It's All over, Enjoy the Memories!

We shared a million pictures with one another, which meant we could laugh and talk about the experiences all over again after we had packed our bags and taken our cars and flights back home.

If you'd like to see a few photos from our week, we've posted an album on our Facebook page.

It was a wonderful experience for Joy and me to plan the retreat and even more to watch our colleagues experience it. We collected feedback, good and bad from this year, so next year's team will be ready to go!

Our newest ideas are: have someone specifically in charge of the Internet connection, who can come prepared to MacGyver solutions onsite, and schedule non-support people in advance to help at meals to make it easy on the retreat organizers.

We hope one or two of our ideas have inspired you in your retreat planning. Our team is already looking forward to the 2017 Retreat. We're not sure where it will be, but I can't wait to hear the theme!

Natalie for the Balsamiq Team

Tools We Use for Social Scheduling

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

This is the last installment of our 5-part mini-series of posts about how we do marketing.

Here's the full list:

  1. The Balsamiq Mantras
  2. The Balsamiq Marketing Checklist
  3. Tools we Use for Brand Monitoring
  4. How We Do Content Discovery
  5. Tools We Use for Social Scheduling.

Today's topic is Social Scheduling: how to share interesting content with your community without going crazy logging in and out of all of your social media accounts.

Social Scheduling

Scheduling your social accounts' activity is crucial if you manage a bunch of them and want to have a steady and consistent stream of updates.

Finding out a good tool to do the job is vital if you don't want to do it manually. We used to manually post messages on our different social accounts, but it was way too time-consuming.

Even if there are a lot of tools out there, we still haven't found "the perfect tool" we're looking for: a solution that works well with all the major social media platforms and provides extra features, such as analytics. That's why we currently use 3 different tools for social media scheduling over our main social accounts.

Buffer (and Hootsuite and Facebook)


Balsamiq has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin (Company page and Balsamiq Lovers group), Google+, Instagram - and more will come.

For Twitter accounts and Google+ we use Buffer. Buffer is like a big 'tank': the first step is to predefine posting schedules for every day of the week - this is its biggest timesaver feature. After that, you just have to write your tweet or message, attach a link (images are optional) and put it into Buffer. When the time comes, Buffer takes the oldest tweet/message from the tank and shares it.

You can also decide to schedule a message on a particular day and time, if you want - I have a hybrid approach to it, depending on the content I'm sharing.

You can also drag and drop messages if you need to switch the schedule around.

What We Like About Buffer:

  • Thanks to the posting time feature, you can schedule posts for weeks in advance (we recently did it to cover our company retreat period) so that your accounts are active and you don't have to think about it. But be careful and check on them, because they are still there and keep going! You may run into a flame or an #epicfail without realizing.
  • It provides easy analytics for every post: this helps us find out the most favorite tweets and what our community likes the most, so that we can share them again after a few weeks for those who missed them the first time:
  • It comes with 5 flexible payment plans, and one of them is free!

What We'd Like to See Improved:

  • The way Buffer shares content on Linkedin. One year ago I was struggling with Buffer and Linkedin a lot: when I shared a content (consisting of a link and a short comment about it), it ended up with something weird on the Group page: a Linkedin conversation without a title (that means without a URL) and other visualizations outliers.
    As they emailed me, they were aware of the problem, which depends on the limited access they have to Linkedin's API.
    I must say things have improved since then, but there is still room for improvement (this is why I've started using Hootsuite for sharing on our Linkedin Company Page and Group).

Apart from that, Buffer is great for scheduling. 🙂

For sharing on Facebook, we still prefer to use its own built-in scheduling feature: it works very well, and I believe it’s nice for people to see that we use Facebook from the “inside" (if you use an external tool, they can see it). More than that, sometimes Facebook messes with metadata and your update ends to be published with a weird title or image, or nothing at all:


and you have to add them manually. So at least at the moment, the only way to be sure it will come out right is to do it all within Facebook.

Repost App

We recently opened an Instagram account with the aim of showing people's wireframes to our Community.

We rely on Repost to post our favorite sightings and properly mention the authors.


What We Like About Repost:

  • It keeps improving and becomes easier and quicker to use. We don't mind "poor" customization, and we definitely don't want to get rid of the repost mark (but you can, with a small fee): in fact, we regard as important and essential to give credit to the original poster.

Nothing to say about improvements: Instagram is relatively new to us. Moreover, unlike other social networks, it doesn't have a lot of features - and that reflects on third party apps like Repost.


Speaking of Social Scheduling, I thought it might be useful to add a reference to our blog scheduling calendar.

Trello is a project management tool with many potential applications, but we started using it for a small task: keeping a well-organized blogs calendar.


We run 4 different blogs; there are 5 of us as main authors, but other Balsamici write blog posts, from time to time, and requests to write guest blog posts are growing. We felt that our old calendar (a simple Google spreadsheet) was too rigid and poor in features.

Now when we open Trello we can see all the details at a glance: what the next scheduled blog posts are, who's in charge of them, how the month is going, etc.

In our Trello Board, each column represents a month and every scheduled blog post has its own card.

For every card, we provide:

  • a colored label for each blog, and a special color for guest blog posts we do on other blogs
  • one or two members: people who are in charge of that blog post
  • a due date, which is the day the blog post is planned to be published.

After the blog post is published, I move its card to the Archive.

What We Like About Trello:

  • It strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and richness of features. What we like the most is that we can keep all the stuff about a blog post in its Trello card: messages, images, draft URL, comments... so that we don't have to look for them here and there.
  • We love tools that are quick to use, and this is why we especially like the quick edit feature on Trello cards: you can add/change label, members, due date in no time.
  • Thanks to its flexibility, you can use it basically for everything and not only for work.
  • It's free, and they promise it will stay that way: "Trello is free forever. We may add pay-only features in the future, but everything that's free today will be free tomorrow and forever."

What We'd Like to See Improved:

  • We'd like to see simplified the access to the archived items, because I often have to go there to grab the list of the most recent published blog posts.
  • I'd also like to invite contributors to join a card without making them members of the Trello board. I don’t want to bother my colleagues with signing up for the umpteenth tool, if it's not strictly necessary for them to have Trello in their toolkit.

So, these are the tools for Social Scheduling we use right now. Maybe some of them will be replaced - we tend to adopt the most effective tools we can find on the market and the ones which fit our needs better.

And what about you? What kind of tools do you use? Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂

-Francesca for the Balsamiq Team

How We Do Content Discovery

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

This is part 4 of our 5-part mini-series of blog posts about how we do marketing.

Here's the full list:

  1. The Balsamiq Mantras
  2. The Balsamiq Marketing Checklist
  3. Tools we Use for Brand Monitoring
  4. How We Do Content Discovery
  5. Tools we Use for Social Scheduling.

Today's fun topic: Content Discovery!

Content Discovery

Content Discovery usually refers to platforms and algorithms to help you discover content you or your community may enjoy.

Most social media platforms these days offer integrated features for content discovery, such as the "suggested posts" on Facebook or Twitter.

We tend to use a broader definition of Content Discovery: for us it means all the activities we do related to finding excellent content, no matter the tool or channel.

A big part of our mission to help rid the world of bad software is to help people learn how to make better software. Consequently, a lot of what we look for and share is about user experience (UX). We also share about other topics that our community cares about: entrepreneurship, working remotely, and others.

In the past, we used to share content we randomly found on the web as we found it. Recently, since we hired our new community manager Jessica, we've been able to better organize our work and look for interesting content to share almost every day.

Newsletters, websites, blogs, etc.

To help us "see what's new", we created a page in our internal wiki, containing a growing list of sources to look at: websites, blogs, newsletters, Twitter accounts, Facebook groups, online communities, etc.


We browse these sources and carefully read and vet a lot of articles. If we're not sure, we ask our teammates if something is worth sharing or not.

It's a very time-consuming task, but we want to be very sure that the content we are about to share is worth of our Community's time.

Another source of links to share - my favorite - are my colleagues. Thanks to Balsamiq's Professional Development Policy, a lot of us spend quite a bit of time studying and reading, so it's common for us to discover amazing resources and read extensive articles on what interests us.


Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker is a story-based project planning tool quite popular among Agile development teams. We mainly use it as a bug and feature requests tracker to develop Balsamiq Mockups.

Since we had already adopted the tool for other teams, we decided to create a new Pivotal project to keep track of all the shared content, and where we shared them. Serving as social shares repository is not Pivotal's primary use, but I found a way to adapt it to our needs as Community Managers.


Whenever we find an article we'd like to share, we add a story to Pivotal about it, including the following information:

  • the title of the article
  • its URL
  • where we want to share it ("big4" stands for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin)
  • the author's Twitter account (we like to @-mention them on Twitter, they deserve the credit)
  • the short message(s) we'll use to share the content

If our Twitter followers seem particularly delighted with a certain piece of content, we'll also add the label "Recurrent" to the story. In this way, we are able to quickly find and tweet it again after some weeks or months.

Each story has a little table at the top with "story type", "points", "state" of the story itself, etc. It's something very important when it comes to tracking bugs and feature requests, but we don't use it for our marketing purposes.

What we Like About Pivotal Tracker

  • It does its job: once you get used to it, it's very quick and smooth.
  • Collaboration is one of its strengths, and it's showing now that the team grows.
  • It has a free option, and the paid plans are very affordable. Here's the full pricing info.

What we'd Like to See Improved

  • Pivotal Tracker is kind of rigid tool: it has default settings, prebuilt workflows and specific language and concepts. Which is perfect for a team of developers but it doesn't work so well in other, hybrid contexts. We'd like it to have more flexibility so that we could enjoy it more in a context different to software development.
  • Another problem is, whilst it gives me a very granular view of all the tasks on a specific content, I find it hard to get the overall view of the Content Discovery's state of play.

As you can see, Content Discovery is simple: it just requires a lot of reading and a simple tracking tool. 🙂

Do you have any advice for us? How do you do Content Discovery at your company?

Next week we'll wrap up the series talking about Social Scheduling. See you soon!


Tools We Use for Brand Monitoring

Hello friends of Balsamiq!

We're back with more from our 5-part mini-series of blog posts about how we do marketing.

Here's the full list:

  1. The Balsamiq Mantras
  2. The Balsamiq Marketing Checklist
  3. Tools We Use for Brand Monitoring
  4. How We Do Content Discovery
  5. Tools We Use for Social Scheduling.

The next 3 blog posts are going to focus on which marketing tools we use in Balsamiq, and how we use them.

We hope this will be useful in your daily work. Let's get started!

Brand Monitoring

Brand Monitoring is scanning the web to find out what is being said about your company, your product, your service or anything else connected with your business.

Knowing what people say about us is crucial to identify opportunities for engagement and put our Mantras into practice.

One very important channel to monitor is obviously Twitter. We've used it since day one - actually, two months before day one 😉 - and we receive a lot of mentions there. But a lot of people are talking about us outside of Twitter.

In the past we used to use RSS for this, but since it pretty much died when Google killed Google Reader, we've had to look for other ways to monitor our brand.



We decided to use Mention to track any mention of our brand across the web.

We check Mention weekly for "Balsamiq", "myBalsamiq", "UX Apprentice", etc.

We also discard a bunch of links that we don't care about: license key cracks, job postings requiring Balsamiq as a skill, fake blog or twitter spam...

Going through Mention is also a great way to discover new potential candidates for the Balsamiq Champions blog.

What we Like About Mention:

  • It finds a lot of content everywhere, even articles where Balsamiq is misspelled or not explicitly mentioned (for example, a short-link to our site).
  • It sometimes finds out old articles, and this helps us fill in some blanks in our records.
  • You can also "teach" Mention to block some sources for the future, in case they're not interesting at all.
  • The UI is pretty nice and it's enjoyable to use both from desktop and tablet or phone.
  • It's not free! This means they'll stay in business! 🙂 Here's the full pricing info.

What we'd Like to See Improved:

  • We'd like to turn off alerts for our own social profiles. We don't need to see our Facebook updates, tweets or Instagram pics in our own Mention stream.
    UPDATE: we can do that! In alert settings, we have the option to exclude our own social post. Thanks, Mention!
  • Sometimes Mention shows the same link again some weeks or months after it was published, which is confusing.


It doesn't matter if you are a social media marketer, a business owner, or a student. Sooner or later, you will face this problem: where can I collect and archive articles and links?

There are a lot of solutions to this problem; I have to admit I used to send myself emails and put them in folders (true story). Lucky for us, Peldi started to use a nice "social bookmarking" tool since the very beginning.

Back in 2008, we used del.icio.us. When Yahoo pretty much killed it, we switched to Pinboard, and we couldn't be happier. Incidentally, Peldi is a big fan of Maciej Ceglowski, the 1-man-band behind it.


We have a huge, public repository on Pinboard, where we catalog links we've discovered thanks to Mention or here and there during our working days. Each element gets neatly categorized: reviews (even the bad ones), comments, videos, tutorials...all out in the open for the world to see.

For example, you can see all the Balsamiq Sightings we found on the web, or have some fun with this list of people who misspell the balsamic vinegar as Balsamiq, or look at our growing golden puzzle collection (more on the golden puzzle at minute 31:00 of this talk).

We also browse our Pinboard links looking for the best reviews when we need to update our Press List.

What we Like About Pinboard:

  • It's simple to use thanks to its Chrome extension.
  • It can be used by multiple people, without creating link duplication.
  • It's ugly minimalist on purpose, to make the design light and the information density high.
  • We especially like that we can add notes. We use them by copy-pasting some text: it's an easy way to keep some nice words alive, even if their web page won't exist anymore (it happens all the time.)
  • It's not free (good), and it's really cheap (very good). Here's the full pricing info.

What we'd Like to See Improved:

The Tag Autocomplete feature in the Chrome extension has an annoying usability issue. When I "pin" a link and want to add a tag, I usually type some letters and choose the right value using the arrow keys, as you can see below:


But when I press "enter", Pinboard creates a new tag "balsamiq_p" instead of assigning the selected one. As a result, I unwittingly create "monster" tags and have to clean up my Pinboard account periodically.
UPDATE: this is a user setting, you can change it. Thanks, Pinboard!

So these are the two simple and affordable tools we use to Brand Monitoring these days.

What tools do you use?

I'll show you some Content Discovery tools next week.


Next Page »