Lately I’ve been using an excellent web/desktop application, Balsamiq, for creating interactive mockups. It can be used to create a screen-by-screen overview of a proposed mobile, desktop, or web application. Recently I mocked up a 30+ screen mobile/web client then exported it to PDF to share with a client.
In addition to exporting your designs to PDF, you can launch an interactive prototype via a web browser. This can be shared with anyone on the web or you can invite users to add comments or even collaborate.
Steps for Mocking up a Software Solution:
- Establish Requirements: list the system’s business requirements.
- Create high-level use cases: list the main actions a user will take. It’s best to write use-cases or tasks from start to finish. For example: Log into system, go to settings, update email, save, log out.
- Create template: creating a basic template for your application will save on re-work. Every application generally has a framework of common elements. By creating a template you can ensure you have one standard look/feel/functionality throughout the application.
- Create your mockups! The exciting part is putting all the pieces together. I advise going through the list of use-cases and creating them one at a time. By the end you should have all required screens setup in a very user friendly fashion. By focusing on use-cases instead of requirements, you’re forced to focus on user experience. Good software is intuitive and quick. Common tasks should be no more than a few clicks/taps away.
- Run your prototype: once you have created a few screens and links between them, you can run your prototype in your browser. Although it won’t feel the same as an actual application, you start to get a really good idea of the system.
- Share your mockups! Sharing is easy. You can either copy the prototype URL (which are public by nature but nearly impossible to guess) or export the PDFs. I recommend both.
If you’re looking to get some software developed, I strongly recommend playing around in Balsamiq and getting your ideas “on paper.” By putting your ideas into an interactive medium, it’ll be easier to imagine the final product.