Simprints - Simple Fingerprint Identification for the Developing World

Tristram NormanTristram Norman is CTO of Simprints, a nonprofit that has created a simple, secure fingerprint identification system for a range of projects in developing countries. Tristram calls it "a social enterprise aimed at solving the identification gap in low resource settings." Simprints uses Balsamiq Mockups for quick, low-fidelity prototypes to test the software they develop with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for their fingerprint scanner.

Simprints works like this:
Image credit: Simprints website.

Simprints is "the first fingerprint scanner designed for—and by—frontline workers [in developing countries]." It is rugged, yet affordable and has been validated by use in six countries across three continents in both urban and rural contexts.

One way it's being used is to encourage pregnant women to get pre-natal checkups by making it easier for them to provide proof of identity. You can read about this and other projects on their website.

Tristram was generous enough to answer some questions about his projects and experience. Read on...

Q&A with Tristram Norman

What industry do you work in, and what is your title or job description?

Software and hardware in the developing world. Specifically we build identity solutions for mobile health. I'm the CTO.

What are you working on right now?

We have two big projects currently; one in Nepal and one in Bangladesh. Both projects are working with pregnant mothers, about 30 thousand in each country. The objective is to increase the number and the accuracy of their visits. A pregnant woman is supposed to receive 4 pre-natal visits from a community health worker. They are incredibly important to spot early warning signs with the pregnancy. It's also incredibly important to have the previous records because things like blood pressure change during the pregnancy and you need to rate of change to make an accurate diagnosis.

What challenges do you face working in open source?

We have to think very carefully before we open source something.

Working in open source has many benefits, but it also comes with a large range of challenges as well. For us the biggest challenge is accountability. We have to think very carefully before we open source something about how could it be used for bad instead of good. This year ID4Africa was held in Rwanda to convey a powerful message; Identification is a key bottle neck in allowing people to improve the quality of their lives. But an identification system, such as the ID cards to distinguish Hutus and Tutsis, can be used for malicious purposes.

Simprints MockupsBalsamiq wireframes for the enrollment mobile app.

What challenges do you face working in developing countries with different views and experiences with technology?

Working in the developing world makes you think about technology very differently.

Working in the developing world makes you think about technology very differently. The first thing you notice immediately is that common things that we are used to do not mean the same thing for everyone. For example when we ran our first UI workshops in Nepal the Scanner had a thumbs up for GOOD and a thumbs down for BAD. This meant nothing to the Nepali community health workers.

What challenges do you face working with NGOs and governments?

Working with governments and NGOs can bring a lot of challenges to a startup. With governments/NGOs it's not always about cheaper and more efficient, there are many more factors at play. This makes it necessary to put a fair amount of time into making sure you have aligned strongly with what they are trying to accomplish before pitching or implementing a project. However the exchange here is you get a significant amount of transparency in return.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

Be genuine. It's an industry of people who want to help, but it's easy to lose track of all of that while trying to create a successful business.

What kinds of things are you excited about in your industry?

I am excited about the wide range of open source tools that are becoming available to the developing world.

Why and how do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

The key is to spend as little time as possible creating a wireframe so we can have a quick feedback cycle.

We use Balsamiq Mockups to rapidly prototype wireframe for tests. The key here is to spend as little time as possible creating a wireframe so we can have a quick feedback cycle before creating a rough draft of the screen itself. We use Balsamiq because it is one of the easiest wireframe tools we have found!

Do you have any feature ideas or suggestions for how we can improve our product(s)?

Yes. Balsamiq is great, but it's confusing having a web version and a native version. And they don't seem to link up so it took us a while to figure out who was working on what. The UI is amazing though. [Editor's note: We're working on it; not too much longer!]


Thank you, Tristram, for taking the time to answer our questions and share your lessons learned. We wish you continued success!

Are you a Champion who wants to be featured on our Balsamiq Champions blog? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!

Gret Glyer of DonorSee

Gret GlyerGret Glyer is the founder of DonorSee, an app that greatly simplifies and personalizes charitable giving. He used Balsamiq Mockups for the first draft of his app and agreed to share some of his early wireframes with us. I also got to ask him some questions about the origins of DonorSee and what makes it unique.

For a more complete overview of DonorSee, listen to Gret describe it in his own words:

You can also check out DonorSee on Facebook and the Apple and Android app stores. Read on for our interview...

Q&A with Gret Glyer of DonorSee

What industry do you work in, and what is your title or job description?

I'm the CEO and Founder of a new app called DonorSee, which is revolutionizing online giving.

What's the story behind DonorSee? How did you come up with the idea?

How cool would it be to start the Uber for charities?

It just came to me one day. I always thought about starting a tech company, and then one day I was having a conversation and I said, "how cool would it be to start the Uber for charities?" And then the idea flooded into my brain.

How does DonorSee deliver donations to recipients and how did you make that happen?

Aid workers living abroad in different countries post projects, and the money goes to their bank accounts. Then they get the money to the field.

What's your background? What was your path to your current role?

It's a long story. I've been living in Malawi for 3 years, and crowdfunded a bunch of stuff, like this girls school:

How is DonorSee different from what else is out there?

It's basically a crowdfunding app, but we're better because we show people where their money is going.

What challenges have you faced? Have they been mostly technological or other?

A lot of technical challenges, since I am not technical.

Why and how do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

Balsamiq gave me an easy way to talk with developers.

I used them to make the initial design and think through the process of how users will use an app that was, at first, just an idea in my head. As someone with no technical background, it gave me an easy way to talk with developers, and explain what I wanted.

DonorSee Wireframes Made with Balsamiq
Some of Gret's early wireframes for DonorSee

What do you like most about what you do?

I'm excited that DonorSee is one of the most obvious ways to make a tangible impact on the world. When you take part in helping a boy get a wheelchair, or a girl get hearing aids, you get to really see and appreciate the work that you are doing.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

Persevere and listen to mentors.


Great advice and a powerful story. Best of luck to you, Gret!

Are you a Champion who wants to be featured on our Balsamiq Champions blog? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!

Ankit Bhangar: Wireframe Specialist

Abigail RumseyWe were flattered to receive an email recently from Ankit Bhangar praising our little tool. Ankit is a UI/UX specialist currently working for inoltrotech.com. He is a long-time Mockups user and has used it for over 40 projects large and small in scope.

Ankit meets our "Champion" criteria both because of his expertise in using our product and because, as he put it, he has "convinced a lot of my clients to use it as well." Word of mouth is our primary marketing tool, so we are proud that Ankit has felt compelled to recommend Balsamiq to others.

It was also gratifying to hear Ankit talk about Balsamiq Mockups not just as a design tool, but also an ideation and communication tool, which is how we describe and use it internally.

Here is Ankit's list of things that you can do with Balsamiq Mockups:

  1. Turn your imagination into visible form.
  2. Convince investors to fund your project.
  3. Explain to your designers/developers the “things” inside your head.
  4. Collaborate with colleagues and your development crew to create or update existing products
  5. Flowchart a system that you want to develop.

He sent us some great examples of screens and flow diagrams that he has designed (shown below). We followed up with him to find out more about what he does and hear some of his first-hand stories.

Q&A with Ankit Bhangar

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Ankit Bhangar, and I am a wireframe UI/UX specialist.

I have now been in the business of wireframing for 4+ years, working on both simple and complex applications. My role varies and often takes me in to the depths of the user experience.

I love what I do, it's a fantastic job and also a career that allows me to earn a comfortable living as a virtual freelancer. I have worked for both small and large corporations assisting with UI/UX improvements and redesigns.

We are developing a whole division for wireframing and prototyping.

Currently I am with a team at inoltrotech.com which is a Branding, Marketing, and Web Development company. We are developing a whole division for wireframing and prototyping due to our belief that the UI/UX industry is becoming a key role in the IT field; particularly for small start ups and entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping their way to the top.

UX-FlowMobile app flow (click to enlarge)

What kinds of things are you excited about in your industry?

Great programming needs to be complimented with simple design and flow.

The depth of new concepts, but also the simplicity of applications. I am fortunate enough to be exposed to a number of brilliant projects, many of which I create rapid prototypes (wireframes) for. The UI/UX industry, I think, is finally receiving the credit it deserves. Great programming needs to be complimented with simple design and flow.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

Practice, and form good partnerships. Creating high level wireframes is a tough job, but it is rewarding. What is even more rewarding is continuing the journey with a team and watching things come to fruition. I work with a great team of freelancers who have come together to create inoltrotech.com so I am lucky.

To practice I suggest downloading apps and reviewing websites and then wireframing them your way, trying to simplify the process, reduce steps, and minimise potential errors,

To practice I suggest downloading apps and reviewing websites and then wireframing them your way, trying to simplify the process, reduce steps, and minimise potential errors, particularly in this mobile responsive age. This needs to be taken into consideration for a quality wireframe specialist - what will it look like on mobile.

What's challenging about your job and how do you deal with it?

The most challenging part is understanding the exact requirements of a project, covering all use cases, and then depicting them using Balsamiq. A simple list page can have 7-8 variations based on the UI/UX needed and at the end you go with the 9th one!

Why and how do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

I use Balsamiq as my livelihood to mockup projects for clients to understand their projects better, and to help my development team as well. I also use it for my team to convey any messages from clients, to show their exact needs and limit errors; I have found this reduces the turnaround time for the project.

What has been your experience showing your mockups to other people, for instance team members or clients?

The experience has been overwhelming. The interactive mockups give a clear view of how things will go ahead with the project. I can create mockups quickly, so clients are impressed with the outcome and they end up taking the time to understand how Balsamiq works. 🙂

Some of Ankit's work (click to enlarge)

Can you tell me about a specific project or projects where Balsamiq was especially useful?

Well there are a lot of projects where Balsamiq has been useful but one particular project was a mobile application where the client found that creating sketches was simply just time consuming. So he put up the job on Upwork and I took it. I showed him some mockups and told him about Balsamiq and how to use it. After few days he got used to it and was very happy that he met me and got to know Balsamiq.

Do you have any feature ideas or suggestions for how we can improve our product(s)?

  1. I would really love to see Balsamiq integrate with InVision or provide transition effects like InVision does. (Editors note: Not currently planned. Native apps are our top priority right now.)
  2. Many of my wireframes span up to 70 pages, so a search will be great. (We're working on it!)
  3. The rounded rectangles; When I fill in the colors the edges are not fully filled. Is that something that can be fixed? (We'll look into it. Thanks!)
  4. BMPR support in myBalsamiq (our online version).(Coming. See this blog post.)
  5. Pinch-to-zoom support for Macs. (It's on our list.)

Do you have any Balsamiq Mockups tips or tricks or anything else that you'd like to share?

  1. Use shortcuts as much as possible, it speeds up work by a factor of 2.
  2. If you create a lot of different projects, create a base project with all assets imported and just start editing that.
  3. Use Symbols for repeated assets, so that you just need to change things in one place.

Lastly I thank a special friend, Balsamiq, my clients, my family and friends for supporting me to become a champion 🙂


Thanks, Ankit, for the good work you do to rid the world of bad software!

Are you a Champion who wants to be featured on our Balsamiq Champions blog? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!

Wayne Chen on Avoiding Common Mobile Product Mistakes

Wayne ChenOur latest Champion is Wayne Chen. He wrote an article recently that caught my eye called "Top 10 Mobile Product Management Mistakes And How To Avoid Them (Part 1)".

He introduces his article by saying that there's no magic formula for success in the mobile world, but "there are a few mistakes that almost certainly guarantee failure." To start, innovative products don't come from marketing and sales teams, he says. "Even smart customers don't necessarily know what they want...As an innovator, that's your job"

He continues:

"Top product managers often combine engineering and business backgrounds. When they see an unmet need, they can envision new and innovative possibilities. Meanwhile, product marketing should communicate what the product does to the target market, and support sales with the tools to sell effectively."

On the other hand, Wayne's advises product teams against "innovation for innovation's sake." We've all seen products with plenty of sizzle and good execution that failed in the marketplace because they didn't solve a real problem or meet a need better than what people were already using. He warns that "Passion when not directed properly becomes a pitfall" and says that "innovation needs to happen in the context of a vision and printed strategy."

Similarly, many products are doomed from the start because they try to do too much ("boiling the ocean" in Wayne's words). He suggests a lean approach by keeping the scope small, wireframing at a low fidelity, and starting with one platform or version before expanding to others.

Another common problem he mentions - and one that can't be repeated enough, in my opinion - is to avoid saying yes to every customer request. Granting that this is much harder than it sounds and that it can often lead to customer frustration, he says "Listening to customer pain points and seeking to understand what drives their behavior will go a long way to alleviate those situations and find a solution that doesn’t compromise you but still keeps them happy." He also suggests addressing rejected customer requests directly by explaining why you aren't adding the feature, or at least why you're not doing it right away.

From a process perspective, Wayne provides some ideas for keeping things moving and staying on track. His recommendations:

  • Start with a fixed timeline and stick to it
  • Make resource and task assignments clear
  • Agree on a common format for documents and assign one person to incorporate the final changes
  • Have a daily scrum meeting
  • Over-communicate when time is short

To see all of what Wayne has to say, read his article here.

I've seen many of the mistakes Wayne mentioned in my previous positions, so I truly enjoyed reading his strategies for preventing them. I reached out to Wayne, who happens to be a big fan of Balsamiq Mockups, to learn more about the experiences that have taught him these lessons.

Q&A with Wayne Chen

What do you do and how do you differentiate yourself?

I run Pocket Square Media, a mobile product and digital consulting practice. I split half my time turning napkin ideas into pilot or commercial-ready products for small and Fortune companies.

On the other end, I help treat struggling apps with new product, user experience, and marketing strategies. Many mobile companies and software shops practice the software development lifecycle, but often forget or fail to incorporate a strong marketing strategy to win and engage customers. I evaluate, design and guide clients through user acquisition and engagement, which is critical to their overall mobile success.

What trends do you see in your role or industry?

Mobile app marketing is becoming a high priority for many companies, product managers, and developers. Getting downloads used to be easy but those days have faded. To be competitive in a red ocean, managers must have a clear product and marketing strategy that meet app discovery, engagement, and loyalty standards of their target audience.

What tips do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

Be willing to listen. Many of us think that our idea, design, and app are perfect. Reacting well to constructive criticism can therefore be tough if not welcomed. While becoming defensive is easy, it is important to take a step back and see if there is a grain of truth in the opinions of others. Obviously, not everyone gives good advice, but some feedback can add value and insight to your product strategy. By actively soliciting feedback, you also show humility, which is a greatly underrated quality.

What's challenging about your job and how do you deal with it?

The top two challenges that I have learned from my agency and start-ups include the stakeholder buy‐in and staying focused on value-driven activities. I believe these are fairly common and here is how I deal with them:

  1. Customer / Stakeholder buy-in: Getting stakeholders’ buy‐in for your product is nearly impossible if they don’t see what’s in it for them. Overcome this challenge by understanding their pain points and craft your initiative to benefit theirs. Then communicate this information clearly and consistently. Remember, your success isn’t just about the product launch or numbers, but about the people who back your endeavor and how you treat them throughout the process.
  2. Value-Driven Activities: Collaborative teams can spend a great deal of time brainstorming in meetings, but they are counter productive if no one acts on the action items. Challenges arise when the teams spin their wheels on technical or even design activities, which devour precious time from the overall delivery and cost. Try to move the team to the state of action and reflection by posing the following questions:
    • Does the activity directly meet the need of the current objective or goal?
    • Is there an alternative solution that will do the job?
    • Will it affect the end‐user if BLANK feature slated for another release?
    • Do we have the time, resource or budget to solve this now or later?

What other tools do you use for your job?

I have worked with many tools over the years, some are good, but there are a few that truly standout and make a difference in the overall product and project development cycle. In addition, many of these tools are free, inexpensive and/or time‐savers. Here are the tools that I have found most useful.

  • Basic Mockup & UX: Balsamiq, Omnigraffle and Paper Pad!
  • Testing & Management: TestFlight, UTest, and Jira
  • Mobile Advertising: mMedia, TapJoy, and JumpTap
  • Project Management: LiquidPlanner, OmniPlan, Google Drive, and BaseCamp
  • User Engagement: Social Networks and App Growth Engine by Hook Mobile.

What do you like most about what you do? / What inspires you?

I love solving problems, especially if it involves working with talented individuals toward a shared vision or dream. One of the best things about working in mobile is that it allows me to apply my creative ideas and structure to improve the lives of people and organizations. Many people working in start‐ups probably share that passion: we all want to make a difference, such as volunteering at a veteran’s hospital and helping them transition from the military to the civilian world.

Why do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

Whenever Balsamiq is not used, clients waste tens if not hundreds of hours of work by going over little details before agreeing to the final work flow and then coming back to change it.

I've used Balsamiq Mockups regularly since early 2009. It is a rock solid product and saves my team time, which is critical in getting the work done in the world of mobile. Today, I use it primarily for mockups and workflows, which many designers and customers struggled with conventional design tools and iterations. As consumers and owners, we expect to see everything in pixel perfect layouts. Unfortunately, this creates bottlenecks in project delivery and stakeholder buy‐in.

Whenever Balsamiq is not used, clients waste tens if not hundreds of hours of work by going over little details before agreeing to the final work flow and then coming back to change it.

The product shines when it comes to agile development and communication, it cuts down time and forces the customer and developer, product and design team to look and feel the app purely from the user experience perspective. Most end-users will care more about your app experience than about the background’s hue.

Anyone who knows how to use PowerPoint can be a Balsamiq Rock Star in minutes.

Balsamiq is also great for those who are not Photoshop or Illustrator experts; anyone who knows how to use PowerPoint can be a Balsamiq Rock Star in minutes. In fact, I actually make it an effort to get non-technical or design stakeholders to experience the creation of a simple wireframe in five minutes via WebEx or in person.

Overall, it is a super useful tool for anyone who wants to envision the final product. In my start up days, I have seen angels and investors pitched solely on their Balsamiq designs. Can't disclose who but they are doing well. ;‐)

Can you tell me about a specific project where Balsamiq Mockups was especially useful?

I was already knee‐deep in three mobile projects when we won another project for a well‐known Fortune firm asking an aggressive schedule. I could not afford to lose the client; mobile engineers suggested Balsamiq. I checked out the product and was quickly amazed at the rapid UI wireframe features and how easy it was to use for web and mobile.

After the project ended, I conducted a project review and noted that Balsamiq reduced our overall design efforts by 60 percent, which I was very happy about on the project profitability end. The client was equally thrilled when they saw how good the app wireframe without spending weeks perfecting the wireframe and graphic design when using mainstream design tools. In fact, the VP of Engineering loved the tool and mandated all internal designers and product managers to use it moving forward.

Thank you, Wayne, for sharing your insights and recommendations. You are a Champion!

Interested in hearing more of what Wayne has to say? Follow him on Twitter @WayneChenNY or @MobiWayne, or on his website pocketsquaremedia.co.

Are you a Champion who wants to be featured on our Balsamiq Champions blog? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!

Sketchnotes from Mobile UX Summit 2013

Hi, all. Ben here again with more sketchnotes! (Here is a link to the first set of sketchnotes I posted.) Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Mobile UX Summit, put on by Environments for Humans and Rosenfeld Media. It featured a fantastic lineup of speakers, all focused on the nuances of designing for mobile experiences.

Industrial-Designers One of the biggest takeaways for me was from Josh Clark's talk. He pointed out that touch devices have fundamentally changed who we are and what we do as interface designers. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are also now industrial designers. Ergonomics is a huge part of what we do, and must be taken into consideration when we craft our designs.

Fonts-have-voice Another main point that resonated with me was from Jason Teague. He made it clear that we have to elevate the importance of typography. In many mobile designs, the typography and layout are some of the only design considerations you can impose on an interface to make sure that it convey the proper emotions to your users. "Mobile first" has become a cultural buzz-phrase, but we should perhaps start with typography first before tackling more of the visual design.
Typography-first

User-testing Finally, from Theresa Neil's case study, it was clear immediate user testing is an absolute must. This is something that we really care about here at Balsamiq, and want to make as easy as possible. We have recently added some features to make this easier, and have even more planned. I loved hearing about designers getting users to interact with their wireframes before even moving on to visual design. Taking an approach like that will save you incredible amounts of time and money down the road.

There was so much more in this conference that I loved, and hopefully my full set of sketchnotes will help you to benefit from it as well.

(Click to enlarge; ← and → to move through the images)
Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-1 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-2 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-3 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-4 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-5 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-6 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-7 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-8 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-9 Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes-10

And here is a PDF with the entire set: Mobile-UX-Summit-Sketchnotes.pdf.

How has your design process changed as you have focused more on mobile experiences? Let us know in the comments below.

JR Harrell on the State of Design in 2013

· Posted by leon in Case Studies and tagged , , , , , · 1 Comment

JR HarrellJR Harrell is a Denver‐based UI/UX designer. He regularly uses Balsamiq Mockups in his design workflow. He contacted us by email and wrote:

As a UI/UX designer, I have used Balsamiq as my wireframing tool for a couple of years and am amazed over and over again at how flexible it is! Trends come and go, but Balsamiq is here to stay in my box of design tools.

Lately he has been using Balsamiq Mockups to create "flat"-style wireframes. Here are some examples:

Sign up page
Samples from JR's dribbble site (click to enlarge)

JR's website is drawnn.com. I interviewed him recently to learn about his process and the secrets of his success, and to get his perspective on the state of digital design in 2013.

Q&A with JR Harrell

What is your title or job description?

UI/UX Web & App Designer

What industry do you work with?

It varies quite a bit. I have worked with startups at Y Combinator, techstars, Startup Chile and other ambitious startups as well as medium to large sized organizations that have been featured on TechCrunch, Mashable, ABC, FOX, NBC, USA Today and more.

What interesting trends do you see in your role or industry?

Undeniably, the world is moving towards 'mobile first' design as Luke Wroblewski so famously said. Depending on their needs, I am suggesting to more and more clients that we start our Balsamiq wireframe workflow with a mobile-centric mentality.

Interestingly enough, starting our UI within mobile screen sized constraints actually yields better website results. I believe the reason why (as Luke also argues) is that this forces you to make important (and often tough) design decisions up front regarding what you can do away with and what you must keep.

Also, flat design is a huge trend. I will talk more about that later. [Editor's note: JR's thoughts on flat design are featured on here our UX blog.]

Almost everyone is asking for responsive design even if they don't know exactly what it's called.

As far as trends go, responsive design has to be right up there with flat design. Almost everyone is asking for responsive design even if they don't know exactly what it's called. Clients often articulate it to me something like this: 'the website design needs to automatically change its shape and content based on which device my users are on or which way that they turn the device.'

My favorite responsive design platform by far is Twitter Bootstrap. It's fast, fluid and fun. Beautiful apps and websites can be built with it versus traditional approaches. I can only hope that amazing apps like Jetstrap will eventually offer a Balsamiq Mockups extension whereby users can import their .bmml files to create turnkey Twitter bootstrap CSS & HTML. I would love that. I would go crazy over that. Responsive design makes me want to delve deeper into front end development. Maybe I will.

Also, regarding shifts in what clients are asking for, as of two weeks ago, I started getting new and existing clients asking me to take existing designs and make them into a flat design. I am even redesigning my own iPad app called Showboat (which hit #23 in just 2 days in the App Store) into a flat style design.

What suggestions do you have for someone looking to succeed in your role or industry?

First things first: it's all about audience. If you don't have access to or if you don't build an audience, you simply won't have the kind of leads that you want and you simply won't thrive.

If you don't have quality leads you can't even begin to think about all the other things that come after that.

If you don't have quality leads, and an ample amount of them, you can't even begin to think about all the other things that come after that like optimizing your design workflow, setting up efficient invoicing methodologies, focusing on customer satisfaction and so forth.

Let's talk about audience. There are three ways to gain access to an engaged client audience. One is to buy it. The second is to earn it. The third is a combination of the initial two. You must have all three in order to be successful.

Sortfolio is, in my experience, the best way to buy access to a captive web and app design customer audience. The quality and quantity of the click through traffic and leads are excellent. The site is laid out nicely so that it's sticky. It has lots of credibility with customers all around. It offers the best bang for your buck when you are looking to buy access to a client audience in this industry.

Secondly, you can earn an audience through portfolio sites like Behance. If you can score a coveted dribbble invite, it can serve as a magic carpet ride towards building an audience as a designer if you work diligently at it. Also, I can't emphasize enough the importance of a well diversified, well managed and well earned social media presence. It probably goes without saying, but, I would also classify repeat business and referrals as part of your earned audience too.

Lastly, you should be constantly improving on your wireframes and designs that you post on all of these sites or you just won't earn the leads that you truly want from the first two audience channels.

Work on all three audience approaches every day if you can. Then gather metrics on it and repeat the process until you are booked solid with good work and stay that way consistently.

What sets you apart from other people that do what you do?

Hopefully, my portfolio work first and foremost. I want it to be able to stand on its own and serve as that bridge to me for my audience.

Regarding my portfolio, people tell me that they love seeing my before and after wireframe to Photoshop designs the most. My before and after Balsamiq wireframe drawings are designed to put a handle on concepts that are otherwise quite difficult to grasp. They give folks something solid to grab onto.

Balsamiq wireframePhotoshop compBalsamiq wireframes to Photoshop (click to enlarge)

Balsamiq wireframes and the experiences that I can depict with them to potential clients are a huge part of what attracts the audience, builds the bridge and then generates leads for me.

After that, what sets me apart is my self developed engagement and design workflow that I have spent five years refining. It's streamlined, comfortable and just simply works. I take the same workflow approach every time and then tailor it to the project's specific needs. This approach has been well received across many disciplines, cultures and organizations of varying shapes and sizes around the world. This approach allows customers to bolt me right onto their existing organization with ease.

I typically start delivering work for folks within one or two business days after our initial contact. Most of the time, the initial work involves Balsamiq Mockups wireframes of some sort.

Why do you use Balsamiq Mockups?

I use Balsamiq Mockups for three reasons: it's accessible, flexible and extensible.

As I mentioned before, Balsamiq wireframes are very accessible and easy to understand. They give my potential clients something that they can grab onto and bring to me in one way or another to help build a bridge when we first talk.

For my existing clients, it provides a consistent approach for me to quickly take their verbal and written ideas and turn them into wireframes, user interfaces and user experiences in a way that they are very comfortable with and understand.

Balsamiq Mockups is very flexible because I use it in so many ways to visually convey so many things. It's an all in one tool that I can use over and over again to draw sitemaps, wireframes, workflows, you name it. That's incredibly valuable to me.

Lastly, Balsamiq Mockups is extensible. I use the Mockups output for video walkthroughs, user acceptance testing and for many other use cases.

A video walkthrough using Balsamiq Mockups

Which Balsamiq product(s) do you use (Mockups for Desktop, myBalsamiq, etc.)?

I use Balsamiq Mockups for Desktop on my dual screen iMac and Thunderbolt display setup.

What other tools do you use for your job?

I skin my Balsamiq Mockups drawings in Photoshop. I also use Illustrator quite a bit. I collaborate on Balsamiq wireframes with my clients using Basecamp, Skype and iPhone. I have an entire box of tools that I use side by side with Balsamiq and Photoshop. The tools that I use daily are Slicy, ColorSchemer, LittleSnapper, Screenflow, Candybar, Preview, Photobulk, Fontcase, Analog and, most recently, Coda.

What is your favorite Mockups feature?

The humble geometric shape tool is my most used Mockups feature nowadays.

With flat design becoming ever more popular, the humble geometric shape tool is my most used Mockups feature nowadays. It allows me to create mockups that are an unbelievable facsimile of what a final flat design will look like. I have even begun to post my flat design wireframes as standalone portfolio pieces thanks to this feature and the flexibility of Balsamiq.

What has Mockups allowed you to do for your customers that you were not able to do before?

Mockups has allowed me to be able to quickly and consistently transform even the faintest of notions into tangible frameworks that are designed with all of the respective project stakeholders in mind.

These stakeholders can be developers, marketers, sales people or even C Level people. Each stakeholder has specific goals in mind. Mockups empowers us to all literally get on the same page and meet the project goals.

I have gone around the wheel with a number of mockup tools, but none of them hit the sweet spot for me or my clients the way that Balsamiq Mockups does. It allows us to get to a meaningful, honest 'yes' sooner than later.

What has been your best experience using it?

My best experience has been designing a mobile first app called TrainingAlone for Sue Aquila. Sue is a world class Ironman competitor, Triathlete, USAT Certified Coach, USA Cycling Coach, and successful restaurant chain entrepreneur.

She wanted to develop a web based app that would help prevent tragedies like the well known Aron Ralston story that was depicted in the movie "127 Hours" featuring James Franco.

The app runs on the Ruby on Rails platform and has an incredibly robust, smooth and intuitive Twillio SMS integration.

Designing the experience and interface for that app was my best Balsamiq Mockups project yet not only because of how great it is to work with Sue, but because I believe that it will help so many people in so many ways to prevent tragic, unnecessary outdoor training accidents.

What has been your experience showing your mockups to other people, for instance team members or clients?

As mentioned earlier, Balsamiq mockups are often my best sales tool.

Balsamiq wireframes do a lot of the talking for me before I ever even speak with a potential client. They help frame the initial discussion.

Balsamiq wireframes do a lot of the talking for me. They help frame the initial discussion.

When most folks contact me, you can literally hear the relief in their voice that they have found not only the right person for the job, but also the right tool for the job through Balsamiq. Once we get into the project, I often get feedback like "amazing, splendid, just what I was hoping for, it's spot on,'" and so forth regarding the Mockups. It feels so great to hear that.

Do you have any Mockups tips or tricks that you'd like to share?

I create a huge workspace from the start so that I can give my ideas plenty of room to run. I typically add a geometric shape, select the square shape and then size it to 4000px X 4000px. That way I have lots of space to design with.

Do you have any feature ideas or suggestions for how we can improve our product(s)?

It would be amazing to be able to group drawing sets from my 4000x4000 screens into individual PNG outputs with preset pixel space sizes.

Example: Highlight drawing bits > group as an export set > file > export all sets > Balsamiq exports 5 individual PNG files all optimized for 1024px x 600px in landscape and / or portrait.

Thank you, JR, for sharing your insights and opening up your design process! You are a Champion!

Are you a Champion who wants to be featured on our Balsamiq Champions blog? Send an email to champions@balsamiq.com with your stories or blog posts!