Which Tool Should we Use for User Interface Mockups?
When I read Heiko Tietze’s quite good introduction to Balsamiq Mockups over at the user prompt blog, I was reminded that I had considered introducing it as a tool for interaction design (not visual design, it’s not made for that) in KDE at some point.
What Heiko doesn’t mention in his blog post is that Balsamiq Mockups is free for open source projects. It’s possible to get individual licenses for Balsamiq Desktop for anyone contributing to open source software. However, the cooler point is that any open source project can get a free instance of myBalsamiq, which is the Software as a Service version of Balsamiq Mockups. The nice thing about it is that – like we’re used to from other SaaS solutions or from the awesome KDE Telepathy Collaborative Text Editing – multiple people can edit the same mockup collaboratively.
The downside, of course, is that it’s free-as-in-beer, but not free-as-in-speech. This was also the reason why it wasn’t really welcomed when I introduced it as an idea to the community a while ago. A free-as-in-speech alternative, as Heiko already mentioned, is Evolus Pencil. The downside of that is that it doesn’t support live collaborative editing (unless someone writes a Telepathy Tube for XUL applications) and it offers way less ready-made widgets than Balsamiq.
Having a standard tool for mockups within KDE would have the benefit that everyone could learn to use it and mockups could be shared or collaboratively edited in its format.
Since it would mainly be designers who would work with a mockup tool, the question is: What do you (interaction or visual) designers think? Would you prefer a quite mature, free-as-in-beer tool with collaborative editing, or a free-as-in-speech tool with less capabilities (but still good!), or do you prefer to use Inkscape for everything, even though it is much less comfortable to use for creating draft-level wireframes? Or do you use another tool which you think would be useful in general? Please name only tools which are at least free-as-in-beer and available on Linux.