I spoke in the past about the importance of UI mockups. I consider them an essential part of software design. It is often much easier to gather requirements when you are talking in concrete terms about how the software looks like.
It is important to note that I do not care about the look and feel of the mockup, in fact, I don’t want it to look good, it should have a drafty look that would make it clear that this is just a mockup. It is a communication tool as much as anything else. It just allow me to talk about things in concrete terms.
A while ago I found Balsamiq, and I was happy. Balsamiq does just about everything that I want from a UI mockup tool.
Except, it doesn’t do Hebrew :-(.
That prompt me to start looking at several other UI mockup tools, to see if there are any that do support Hebrew and that I can tolerate them.
My test scenario was this UI (in Hebrew):
This is Balsamiq mock, which took about 3 minutes to build, the first time I used Balsamiq.
I could get it in Mockup Screens after about ten minutes of playing with the options to get it working. Mockup Screens is nice, but it is giving me too many knobs to turn. I felt it especially when I tried to do the table. I had to specify columns & rows, and specifying the data was done in a separate dialog.
It works, but it is awkward.
The next one I tried is Blend’s SketchFlow. I heard a lot of excitement about it, so I tried to give it a spin. A Silverlight 3 SketchFlow project simply does not support Hebrew. A WPF SketchFlow does, and that exposed me to a very nasty surprise. I was expected a way to easily build sketches of the screens that I was interested in.
Basically, something similar to what Balsamiq gives me. What it turns out is that there are a few simple controls (check box, drop down, etc) and everything else that you want you need to actually sketch. That is, sit down and draw it.
The problem is that this take inordinate amount of time. Especially if you are actually trying to do something like the screen above. I just wan’t a stupid table with some data, but this was way too hard to do in SketchFlow. If I am reduced to literally drawing on the screen, I might as well draw it on paper. It is about as easy to manipulate, at that stage.
In the end, I think that what I’ll end up doing is using Excel or Word as the mockup tool. They both have good Hebrew support, and they can do things like tables, drop downs and checkbox easily, which is pretty much all I need. It also make it perfectly clear that this isn’t something executable.
And if you don’t care for Hebrew support, go and use Balsamiq, it is awesome.
And once that is done, it took only a few moments to handle this:
Now, it does suffer from all the usual RTL problems, but it is working, and it is still by far the best one out there.