Workiamo: Heads down in UX at Balsamiq

It's been a little quiet on this blog. I'm sorry about that. The time between my last post about balsamiq.com getting relaunched and now has been rather busy. Mostly, we've been heads down making progress all over the place.

We had some important releases for Mockups, Paolo and Louanne joined the company to push us forward faster and better, and we've been closing the gap to get myBalsamiq into your hands. On top of all that, Marco's family, and my family had babies born in December. As always, along the way, we've been making incremental improvements, squashing bugs, and attending to the questions, feature requests, and problems you experience.

So where are we in terms of user experience at Balsamiq?

Products

Mockups got symbols with 2.0 and a bunch of features that make our lives more convenient as wireframers have made their way into the product. Most notably, PDF export options, continued improvement to our in-app notifications, and the new handling of markup visibility toggling.
Every little efficiency counts.

myBalsamiq has also been poking up from being hidden in the long beta period while we pivoted to make the web views a bit more usable. It's been an awesome experience, and our beta testers have really kept us in check. Last month I wrote our help docs and did a little intro screencast for new account owners. If you're curious check it out.

  

(BTW, I hate listening to my voice, so I apologize in advance. Focus on the pictures!)

Point is, that the beta group is growing as we begin to test with a larger number of users, and we're feeling like this baby is ready to be born.

Testing and Support

The addition of Louanne to our team came just at the right time. Not only do we now have a leader in place to QA all of our products, but we have another usability champion. Some rigorous testing processes are getting put into practice so I don't feel like we're putting features out without solid QA. It's awesome feeling assured of that.

To make things even better, Louanne is handling a huge part of the load in support to make sure bug reports are prioritized and contributing to the effort to focus on continually improving the experience with all our versions of Mockups.

More eyes to monitor user issues is essential as our user base continues to grow. This did really feel like it happened at the right time. There's nothing like feeling more secure knowing that we're doing the right things!

Documentation

I feel like every free minute that we're not spending on designing or building is spent on customer support. I hope you feel it too, because attentiveness and responsiveness is what we do. In fact, I think it's what I do better than anything else—better than design, better than front end development, better than public speaking for sure!

Spending a few hours every day answering questions makes it easier to see where our interfaces are lacking in terms of learnability, or where advanced features need to be documented. So the documentation for Mockups has improved so that we can point you right to the right paragraph showing you where to get answers.

We also see repeat questions where people want to add a lot of features that are outside of where we want the product to go. I'm happy that Peldi posted the Mockups Manifesto because I think it expresses clearly where we stand philosophically, in terms of the kind of product we create and the kind of people we are. We're giving you software that expresses a pretty strong opinion. Have you read it? It's not long, and I think it says a lot about what we're trying to do.

Community

Lastly, we have the pieces in place to really take the concept of learning from other people's Mockups to new levels. Mockups To Go is a useful repository for components, but I'm very interested in doing something I approached Peldi about maybe a year and a half ago. I've talked to a bunch of my friends about this idea in the past too, even years ago when I ran the blog iaslash.

We're going continue using Mockups To Go in a new capacity as a component sharing resource, and eventually as a design pattern library. But we're also going to turn it into a community for critiquing and sharing interface ideas. It'll be simple, and it'll be useful. It won't be a social networking site. It'll be there to help you get work done.

More to come. Andiamo.

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Comments (2)

  1. Hi Mike,

    mybalsamqiq feels very polished and well thought through. I especially like the collaboration features: proposing an alternate version; see to which version a comment belongs to; promoting alternate mockups.

    This has the potential to hit yet another sweet spot, congrats!

  2. I’m pumped you are back blogging! Thanks for the kind words about testing. I’m so happy to be filling this need at Balsamiq. Focusing on one company with a few products is an amazing experience. I think I’m gonna get good at this. 🙂