There are many options for rapid prototyping these days. There are the old stalwart standbys like Visio, InDesign, and even PowerPoint. I’ve been using Visio for years, but decided to step out of my box and see what else was out there for user interface design prototyping tools. Here’s a bit of what I’ve found.

Balsamiq Review

Balsamiq creates interfaces that look like they were sketched by hand. This is both a pro and a con depending on your point-of-view. On the plus side, no one will mistake your mockup as representing the finished product. On the downside, if you want a more hi-fidelity looking prototype, you can’t get it with Balsamiq.

Pros:

  • Drag and drop
  • Great widget library with 75 widgets
  • Import your own images or get images from an avid community of other Balsamiq users
  • Android, iPhone and iPad widgets are available
  • Export to PNG and PDF
  • clickable prototypes
  • Cheap at $97

Cons:

  • I feel limited by the rough, sketch like feel of the output, but I suppose you could make your own widgets and add them

Go Mockingbird Review

Go Mockingbird seems to be a great tool for prototyping web based applications and web sites. There are no widgets specific to mobile or iOS. But it’s cheap, fast, relatively robust, and since it’s a web-based tool, it’s easy to collaborate in real time over the Internet.

Pros:

  • Drag and drop
  • Lots of predesigned widgets
  • smart text resizing
  • Exports to PDF and PNG
  • Creates clickable mockups
  • Cheap!┬áPrice goes up based on the number of projects, but entry price is only $9/mo.

Cons:

  • You can’t import your own widgets
  • No real support for mobile

Axure Review

Axure is a powerful user interface design prototyping tool and is probably the Cadillac of UI prototyping tools

Pros:

  • Drag and drop
  • Ability to make global changes
  • Creates sophisticated prototypes that are more capable than what most tools can output with options for onMouseOver in addition to onClick
  • Integrated user interface specifications and prototypes

Cons:

  • more complicated than the other tools listed here
  • Pricey at $580 for a single license
  • No Internet collaboration

If I was working with people face-to-face and could budget it, I’d pick Axure for its robust feature set. But for working with remote clients, some of these other options may be better.

 

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