Few companies have created more interest in recent times than Balsamiq, a young company headed by the charismatic and like-able Peldi. Their first product, Balsamiq Mockups, has grown to be the wireframing tool of choice for a great many professionals around the world.
More recently, work is nearing completion on myBalsamiq, a cloud-based, collaborative sister product to Balsamiq Mockups, and a product which is creating a bit of a buzz out there in prototyping land.
Because people are, of course, much more interesting than software, we thought we’d take some time to put a few questions to Peldi about the Balsamiq road-map and his thoughts on running a successful software company.
You’ve seen great success with the app version of Balsamiq Mockups. What were your motivations for moving it to the cloud?
First of all thank you John for the interview and congrats on creating softwareprototyping.net. I don’t think myBalsamiq, our web app, is about moving Mockups from the Desktop to the cloud, but rather augmenting our offering with yet another version (myBalsamiq will be our 7th), to fit how people like to work.
Given that you have a large installed user base with the ‘app’ version Balsamiq Mockups, how do you plan to get these users to move ‘up’ to myBalsamiq?
I don’t really plan to move anyone anywhere…we like to give people options so that they use the one that suits their needs better.
If someone is a Desktop customer and wants to also benefit from myBalsamiq, we have a feature in the web app where you can enter your existing license information and we’ll add 50% of that value as a subscription credit for the web app. So if you bought a 5-pack for $379, we’ll credit your myBalsamiq site $189.50 towards any myBalsamiq plan.
It goes the other way too: if you sign up for myBalsamiq, you’re able to purchase the Desktop version for $40/user, roughly 50% off the full price.
Basically we envision a world in which people use both apps, and they sync seamlessly between them. We have a bunch of code to write to make that happen smoothly, but even in v.1 with project upload and download, the two versions play nicely together.
You’ve added a lot of the features that previously had to be done manually, such as versioning and project workspace management. Was the decision to include these features made based on feedback from the Balsamiq community or were they just ‘eureka’ moments from the team?
We did have a couple of eureka moments here and there, but most of what we do is heavily influenced by our wonderful community.
Balsamiq always strikes me as the most ‘purist’ of the wireframing tools. For instance, it doesn’t try to reproduce the look of the web, beyond the ‘sketchy’ style. Do you feel any pressure from the competition to offer a ‘more authentic’ web look?
No. I believe an authentic look is absoutely counterproductive at the early stage of a design, it’s a distraction.
MyBalsamiq is clearly a big step in a new direction for Balsamiq – will you be continuing the development of the existing ‘app’ version?
Absolutely! We don’t see it as a big step, and the mockup editor, the core of our offering, is still 90% shared between all of our versions. We will certainly keep improving it, we have lots and lots to do still!
What do you think marked Balsamiq out for success, when there are at least several other competitors who haven’t had the same level of success or recognition?
From day one I wrote on our website that we like to compete on usability and customer service. If someone else offers a product that is easier to use and offers better customer support than we do, they deserve to win.Some competitors fail to realize that features are not the only reason people buy software from you. Coding is by far the easiest part of our job.
It’s clear to me from reading your blog that the team dynamic and sense of family is really important to the continuing success story of Balsamiq. Is this something you actively chose to do or did it just happen naturally?
I think it just happened. Or to put it another way, I wouldn’t know how to run a company any other way. The people I look up to are those small, often family-run businesses who do great work and provide great service to their customers, generation after generation. I always joke that I’m trying to build a little top-quality Italian restaurant on the web.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out today (as an entrepreneur)?
Heh. That’s a great question to ask, but a hard one to answer for me. I’ve only been an entrepreneur for 3 years, well below the 10,000 hours needed to be good at it. I don’t feel like my advice is worth much at the moment. Ask me again in 7 years?
And do you have any things you wish you’d done differently (or not done)?
Making mistakes is an integral part of being human, they can’t be avoided.
One thing I do not do is to dwell on them. The formula I like is to recognize the mistake, learn from it, fix it and move on quickly. Over-thinking “what should I have done differently in the past” is not a good use of my time, I’m too busy with building my future!
MyBalsamiq is due to be launched later this year. It brings cloud-based collaboration, versioning and project management features to help support the modern trend for distributed design teams. We’ll be reviewing myBalsamiq as soon as Peldi gives us the nod of approval