Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Last talk about the new look ... OR .. How did you do that thing you done did?

Before I start I'd like to thank Blogger personally for losing this entire post from last night.  Good on ya Blogger! I just love retyping an entire post from memory after my brain has already flushed.  Sheesh.

So moving on.

As I mentioned the other day, my blog has underwent a little makeover.  I love to do layout and design for user interfaces.  It's kind of a big part of what I do as a computer programmer in my day-to-day job.  So I had to take a shot at blog design.  The idea had been rattling around in me noggin for a long time, I had scrawled ideas on bits of paper, listed ideas on Google docs, written in my notebook, etc

Then I found this little number for doing mockups of software.  It's called Balsamiq Mockups.  It allowed me t to get those ideas from paper into something more usable.  A mockup.

If you're interested in a little review of Balsamiq Mockups and how it helped me with my site design, read on true believers ...

After the easy-peezy download and install process I dove right in.  The software came up very quickly and I was off and running.  I'm more of a tinkerer than a "follow the steps kinda guy" when it comes to stuff like this so I just played with the sofware until I figured it out.

It didn't take long.

After very little noodling on my part, I was able to come up with the mockup you see below in way less than an hour of tinkering.

This was really easy.  I just took different parts from their easy to use library and dropped them onto design area.

Mockups even let me use my own graphics and insert them right into the design.  Then as a bonus it even let me squigglify them so they match the "penciled look" it has built in.  Very cool.

Balsamiq if you're reading this, the term "squigglify" is all mine.  I want royalties if you use that one :)  haha

The user-interface for Mockups is very well done.  You simply point and click, dragging and dropping everything into place.

It's like you have a way to take your mental jig-saw puzzle and just put it right down on the screen, no issues.

I found Mockups very powerful yet simple to use.  Since the symbols of each part are so easy to identify it really felt like I was using building blocks to make my site design.  And that was important to me for one big reason.

The tool I was using to create with didn't get in the way of my creativity.

Nuff said?

If you've ever scrawled on paper, or God help you, used Visio to layout a site ... give those up right now and try this.  Why?  It's simple.

Mockups is better than paper.  Changes are way easier to make than on paper.  I mean you're pulling parts from a big parts bin, essentially just snapping the pieces together.

Also Mockups is MUCH simpler but still MORE powerful than tools like Visio.  And yes even Visual Studio doesn't compare to this tool.  I've designed quite a few interfaces in VS and the biggest risk you run there is that most folks end up using their "mockup" and turning it into an application.  Those apps usually turn out pretty bad too for usability when that happens.

Plus VS is big, slow and expensive.  Mockups is powerful, agile, and easy on the pocket book.

Lastly, with Mockups you can separate the design process easily.  You can make your designs, and if you're in the corporate world, you can even use the software's presentation mode to show your clients your design.  Very slick.

I highly recommend this to everybody who is doing design work.  If you're a blogger, designer, or programmer ... or like me, you're all three .. you need to get this tool in your game.  Check out some examples of what others have done with Mockups.

This made design fun for me again.  And that's what it's all about.


BalsamiqVal said...

I love that

a. I copied the word squigglify into my clipboard
b. The next sentence I read was that you own squigglify. :-)

So glad you found the fun in your work again. (Our not-so-little secret: we found the fun in our work, too!)

Heather said...

Awesome post! I'm so sorry you had to write it twice. :( The tools you find and use are great, thus the wonderful new look. Going to have to get you to help me 'update' mine.

'Squigglify' - I love it, lol.

Rob said...

@Val: Hey your comment finally posted! Woot! And here I thought it was lost in the nether.

Thanks again for stopping by and thanks for Mockups! It's great!

Rob said...

@Heather: Thanks dear .. yeah I couldn't believe it when I got up this morning to post that and the draft only contained like the first paragraph - gah!

Shaddy said...

You've done a squigglerific job with your beautifullerous blog. You are so totally intelligentious and creativose.

Goooooood Daaaaaaaaay,

Rob said...

@Shaddy: LOL - great comment!