Balsamiq for Google Chrome

If you work in an agile environment you’ve probably heard about the practice of “designing in the browser”. It’s a great way to design where you pair a UX and visual designer and let them execute their ideas directly in code to instantly see what it looks on any device.

Wireframe Created with the Balsamiq Chrome Extension
Wireframe Created with the Balsamiq Chrome Extension

Well here’s a way you can wireframe in the browser. Balsamiq Mockups now has an extension for Google Chrome that lets you build sketchy wireframes in the browser and save them to your Google Drive. You can also share them with other Google Drive users and edit them collaboratively.

You create your wireframes using the familiar Balsamiq widget set; you just do it the browser. Mockups can be saved to Drive as BMML or PNG files. Both can be downloaded, and the BMML files can be edited in your Balsamiq desktop software.

The extension is available in the Chrome Web Store. It comes as a 30-day free trial and you can get a single-user license for $5 a month or $50 a year.

While the Chrome extension is a useful tool for small teams and academic groups, you may need the more robust features for project management and collaboration offered in the myBalsamiq web-based product. But the Chrome extension is a great example of Balsamiq’s flexibility and shows how Google is turning the browser into a robust application environment. Enjoy!

Cars.com Agile Transformation Webinar Notes

I participated in my first webinar recently, sharing some learnings from the Cars.com agile transformation. The webinar was sponsored by consulting firm ThrivingOrg and focused on what we learned during a 10-week series of pilot projects undertaken by several product teams. Here are some notes I prepared:

  • Transition from waterfall to agile was difficult at first for user experience team members because most of the techniques used by classically trained user experience people came from the waterfall world. Things like wireframes, a fully designed user experience and flow, and pixel perfect Photoshop comps don’t work well within the context of two-week working sprints.
  • Our profession needs to get better at using Lean UX approaches and shifting our work product to sketches, prototypes that can be used for documentation and user testing, and more lightweight guerrilla usability testing.
  • Interactions between agile product team members are very different than in waterfall project teams. Developers and UX people are working much more closely and more often now (and that’s a good thing).
  • Dedicated team co-location is essential. Having the product manager, UX and visual designers, and developers and testers near each other fosters frequent informal collaboration and reduces the number of structured meetings you need.
  • Daily standup meetings and co-location should drive greater appreciation of the other roles on the team and the constraints they are working under.
  • Failing is good. It shows you your limits and helps teach that an agile product team rises or falls together.
  • When first transitioning to agile, start with easier to implement features or even a backlog of defects. This allows the team to learn the process first without also having to worry about designing and developing complex functionality.

If you are new to agile software development and Lean UX, these resources can get you started:

Cars.com Agile Transformation Webinar Series

Cars.com product development team members recently took part in a series of three webinars sponsored by ThrivingOrg in which we discussed the different phases of our on-going transformation from waterfall to agile software development methodologies. The three webinars focused on three different phases of our journey, which is still under way.

I took part in the Phase II webinar, in which we discussed how we implemented a set of pilot projects to help us define an agile framework that would work for Cars.com. The pilots lasted several months and helped inform how we approached the later transition of all software development to the first iteration of our agile framework. An audio recording of the webinar is available through the ThrivingOrg website.