Axure vs Balsamiq

An important component of my role as UX Designer and Project Manager at Enzyme IT involves prototyping application concepts for clients, as well as in-house product ideas. Over the past year we’ve reviewed multiple products, and have gravitated toward two which offer a brilliant feature set at a very affordable price: Axure RP Pro and Balsamiq.

Axure RP Pro

  • Price: USD$589 – Single User License (Discounted to $539 for 5+ Licenses)
  • OS Compatability: Windows 2000, XP, 2003 Server or Vista

Balsamiq Mockups

  • Price: USD$79 for desktop
  • OS Compatability: Uses Flash, so cross-platform compatible – Windows, Mac, Linux

Having tried and tested both applications on different project requirements, I can say that each has application certainly has its place.

For instance, Axure allows the tagging of elements with functional specifications, which is excellent when a wireframe itself will not provide adequate information to allow a programmer to code the feature. Having said that, a programmer will normally prefer to receive specifications whether they be tagged to an element or written in a wiki, rather than code based on an interpretation of a wireframe.

Balsamiq on the other hand allows the wireframing of user interfaces, with notes that can be input on the wireframe as well. If you have a detailed wireframe with lots of notes, things start to look messy. Hence I prefer to use Balsamiq for UI designs which do not require extensive notes or specifications which would compete with the UI elements for space.

I could go on for pages about what each product does or does not accomplish, but in summary and as a point of reference for those of you who undertake UI/UX and prototyping tasks:

Use Axure when you’re planning a medium to large scale application which requires documentation (Axure exports all tagged specifications into a neatly laid out document – a big time saver!), functional specifications and HTML prototype (Axure will generate an HTML prototype for you – another time saver, however if you take a look at the code you’ll realise that there is no way it could be used as a basis for the actual production application. Use the prototype to display UX concepts and provide clients with a realistic and tangible model for feedback.)

Use Balsamiq when you’re wanting to quickly wireframe a feature or story, using elements which are tailored toward web applications. You can export your designs in image format, and collaborate with colleagues on designs even if they do not have Balsamiq Mockups installed (they can use the free web version).

Personally, I use Axure more regularly than Balsamiq because the majority of our client projects are medium to large scale, and require enough information to accurately quote a project’s cost and duration, as well as provide our programmers with the specifications they need to start coding. Both solutions are very easy to use and become familiar with, and having now written this post I’m quite sure that either could be utilised effectively for any project with a little forethought. Balsamiq mockups could very easily be coupled with specifications in a wiki. In fact, I’ll try that on the next iteration for a project that we’re working on here, and see how it runs……. sounds nice and agile.


  1. Iain Lowe

    Thanks for this comparison.

    I use both Axure RP and Balsamiq (desktop). I find that balsamiq fits the bill really well for early concept sketching and getting the initial idea across.

    Once the initial idea is baked, I move into Axure to flesh it out, particularly complex interactions that are relatively easy to replicate in Axure RP.

  2. I like that approach. Each application has it’s place. Axure is worth it’s weight in gold in my mind. Great value for money, and I haven’t (yet) been unable to prototype a feature requirement.

  3. Hi,
    we have developed a solution to add functionnality to Axure like add comments to pages and administrate the prototype online with registered users: ax-admin

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences. We’ve been using Balsamiq and it’s been great to brief programmers, as well to present wireframes to clients. Who seem to love when they see it.

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