Wireframes and the adblocker guilt trip

Creating wireframes is an essential part of architecting any major website project. As we all know, architect is even less of a verb than impact.

Creating wireframes is an essential part of architecting any major website project. As we all know, architect is even less of a verb than impact. And as some of us will know, finding decent prototype/GUI Free Software to create these wireframes has been a bit of a challenge.

I had been using the Draw component of LibreOffice but good though it is, it's not really built for the task and is a bit clunky.

And then I chanced across Pencil Sketching Tool, a Firefox 3 browser addon and a standalone XUL app for Windows and Linux.

A bit of a hiccup trying to install it on Ubuntu but I remembered the alien, which converts RPMs to DEB files.

Sweet. And wowsa.

Pencil has a suite of ready-made elemental widgets for placing on the page, and supports multiple pages and linking between (though only using the Basic Web Elements > Hyperlink as far as I can see).

As well as Basic Web Elements, the other widget collections include Native UI, Sketchy GUI, GTK and Windows. The real bonus is that you can create and import your own collections.

Inter-page linking in Pencil
Inter-page linking image courtesy of the Pencil Project website

On the export side, it will support HTML pages as well as PDFs and PNGs, though as I have yet to use it on a full-blown project I don't know how it measures up in terms of functionality with the proprietary Windows Axure or the as-used-by-Mark-Shuttleworth Balsamiq Mockups.

I nearly forgot about the guilt trip. I came across Pencil via the alternativeTo website in my search for an alternative. As all sensible people do, I have Adblocker installed (if you hadn't guessed, this blocks ads).

But oh no, there's a proper guilt trip message.

“Hi! For some reason we can't display an ad here, probably because of an ad blocker. If this ad is not displayed our design gets screwed up. We have full respect if you want to run an ad blocker but we would appreciate if you add us to your white list or consider donating via Flattr or Paypal. The free web is dependent on ads to continue to be free. Thank you, and we hope you find a great alternative!”

Oh dear, time to dip deep into the PayPal pocket...

The same is true on the Linux Mint forums, where the message is a little more succint:

“Linux Mint is funded by ads and donations.”

If the advertising doesn't get you, then the guilt vibes will.