If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth millions. It saves you countless hours of describing features and user experiences, and helps turn your vision into reality. Having the right tools during the design phase can help you iterate and fix potential problems before the production phase. And while successful designers and studios use state-of-the-art prototyping tools, there are also plenty of free prototyping tools available if you’re just starting out and don’t want to invest in a costly solution.
Read my reviews to discover the best free prototyping tools for product design in 2023.
What Are Prototyping Tools?
Prototyping tools are solutions that enable you to turn your ideas into a product prototype. Often used by UI/UX designers, they facilitate the design process and allow for a smoother developer handoff. These design platforms let you craft wireframes of your web or mobile app, complete with animations of UI components. They can be used to run user testing before pushing your new product or new UI design live.
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Figma is a design platform that helps you conceptualize, create, test, and deliver prototypes. The solution offers a variety of useful plugins and its collaboration features make it easy to share your workload with your team. One of the highlights of using this app is its community.
You can browse Figma’s community support and find open-source, pre-built components to include in your project file, speeding up your design process. But another advantage of following Figma’s community is that it makes it easy to stay on top of design trends.
There are several threads dedicated to the latest trending components, such as glassmorphism components. Figma integrates with a lot of apps, including Maze, Zeplin, Maker, Axure RP, GitLab, Slack, Notion, Asana, and more.
Figma’s free plan includes 3 Figma and 3 FigJam files, unlimited personal files, plugins, and templates.
inVision is a powerful prototyping solution that’s renowned for its innovative features. The platform was regarded as one of the best prototyping tools and dominated the industry until its competitors offered similar features.
Even though it’s a great all-around prototyping tool inVision excels at interaction design. Its interface makes it easy to design UIs for various mobile devices, whether they use Android, Windows, macOS, or iOS. This allows you to experiment with the front-end UI of your prototypes before implementation.
Another good thing about this solution is that it enables you to share your mockups and prototypes with your team members. You can share designs and workflows and simulate the user’s journey on your digital product.
You can receive comments and feedback, so it’s easy to make all the necessary changes before development. inVision integrates with Asana, Adobe XD, Microsoft Teams, Sketch, Slack, Dropbox, and more. inVision is free for up to 100 active users.
The free plan includes 3 freehands and unlimited public and private spaces.
UXPin is a powerful prototyping tool that helps multiple design team members to work on the same project. The platform has a clean interface and it enables you to create high-fidelity prototypes of that tool and act as the finished project.
One of the things that make UXPin stand out is the way it constructs the designs. The designs rely on a lot of code, so the development team can implement them with ease. On the other hand, this means that the designer has to be a good coder in order to customize the prototypes.
UXPin integrates with a variety of tools, including JIRA, Slack, Storybook, and more.
UXPin offers a free, limited version that includes the design editor, prototyping, merge integration, and collaboration.
Vectr is a free graphics editor platform that helps design teams to create low-fidelity prototypes, wireframes, and mockups. The solution offers a wide variety of free tools, and you can export your creation to high-resolution image formats, such as PNG, JPG, or SVG. While this tool is not helpful for those looking for UI design or UX design solutions, it’s good for those who are looking for a simple web app wireframing tool.
The platform offers all the tools you need to create vector images, from canvas options to grids, vector pens, background removal, and freehand pencil tools. The main advantage of using this tool is that it’s completely free.
While you can’t create complex prototypes with it, it can still work as a great tool for wireframes, mockups, and simple web design prototypes.
Vectr is a free platform, with no hidden fees or costs.
Mockflow is a product design platform with good prototyping features. The software has a bit of a learning curve, but it comes with helpful documentation and tutorials to ease the accommodation process. The great thing about this solution is that it helps you organize your workspace. You can create different spaces for the different processes involved in prototyping, from ideation to feedback and execution.
There are a lot of templates and presets to choose from, so you can build a wireframe or a prototype in good time. You can mock-up user changes in a matter of minutes, and generate HTML to help your developers with the implementation.
Mockflow integrates with multiple tools, including Slack, Google Workspace, JIRA, Trello, Microsoft Teams, and more.
Mockflow is free for one user managing one project of up to three pages.
Justinmind is a prototyping tool that helps you create high-fidelity designs. The software’s extensive library of animations, transitions, and effects, along with its drag and drop editor, enable you to save time when adding real-life elements to your prototype. One of the things that make this prototyping tool stand out from its competition is its interface.
With Justinmind, you can create professional prototypes without writing a line of code. The platform offers a convenient layout and its built-in design elements make it easy and fun to build prototypes. Thanks to its simple interface, templates, and built-in elements, I recommend Justinmind to designers who are just starting out and are looking for a prototyping tool that doesn’t take weeks to learn.
Justinmind integrates with Adobe XD, Sketch, Figma, Hotjar, UserTesting, Crazyegg, UserZoom, and more.
Justmind’s free plan includes unlimited projects and viewers, vector design tools, and basic UI widgets.
Framer is a prototyping tool that helps design teams come together and work on the same prototype. The solution is great at wireframing and prototyping, and it enables you to wire up screens and frames for designs you created on other platforms.
With Framer, you can create realistic animations from scratch, or you can browse the support community to find elements that would fit perfectly into your prototype. The solution makes it easy to edit your HTML and CSS codes, so you can customize your UI and UX to perfection.
Every change you make has a direct impact on the live project, so you can make changes in real-time. The prototyping platform has a slight learning curve and designers who are not good coders may find it more difficult to use.
Framer integrates with a lot of tools, including Mailchimp, Hubspot, Typeform, Calendly, Google Optimize, and more.
Framer is free for up to 2 editors, handing up to three projects. For teams, their paid plans start at $30/editor/month.
Webflow is a visual web development and prototyping platform that enables you to design, animate, and launch apps and websites. With Webflow, you can switch and mix code-heavy and no-code elements to create the perfect prototype. The highlight of using this software is that it has a clean interface.
This makes the solution friendly toward inexperienced users. And if you want to customize your prototype with code-dependent elements, you can contact the platform’s community where users answer questions and offer advice.
Webflow offers a vast set of features that can help you build a prototype in good time. Their templates have complex layouts and animations, and you can customize them to ensure quick turnaround times.
Webflow integrates with a lot of tools, including Shopify, Zapier, Arengu, Shippo, Google Analytics, Drift, and more.
Webflow is free for one user managing two projects.
Origami Studio is a free prototyping tool available for Mac users only. The tool is great at creating micro and macro interactions, and it enables you to wire up flows in a visual manner, by connecting different patches with cables.
One of the great things about this tool is that it offers great support for mobile operating systems, such as device orientation, camera, vibration, gyroscope, microphone, and haptic feedback for iOS.
With the help of Origami Live, you can test the prototype you built on a Mac directly on your mobile device, so you can see how it performs before the development stage. Origami Studio integrates with UserTesting, Validately, Lookback, and more.
Origami Studio is a free tool, with no added costs.
Proto.io is a prototyping tool that has a smooth learning curve and is easy to use. The solution offers an extensive library of templates and UI elements, making it ideal for rapid prototyping. This tool helps design teams to present their prototype to stakeholders and make changes in real-time.
The platform creates a shareable live preview of the prototype, so you can show off your website or mobile app while implementing feedback and recommendations. Thanks to the variety of tools included in the free version, you can display all sorts of interactions, create events or dependencies, and offer guidance to programmers during the development phase handoff.
Proto.io integrates with Figma, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, Sketch, Google Fonts, Trello, JIRA, and more.
Proto.io costs from $29/user/month and offers a 15-day free trial.
For designers who follow the latest trends
Free plan available
For great interaction design
Free plan available
For designers who love to code
14-day free trial + free plan available
For fast, low-fidelity prototypes
For designers who want to speed up the development process
Free plan available
For beginners looking for a solution with a lot of templates
Free plan available
For realistic animations
Free plan available
|From $10 /site/month||Website|
For complex layouts and animations
Free trial + free plan available
For Android and iOS prototypes
Free to use (open source)
|Free to use (open source)||Website|
For rapid prototyping and real-time modifications
15-day free trial available
Here are some more options if the above reviews didn’t catch your eye.
- Marvel - No-code design and prototyping tool that uses preloaded backgrounds to speed up the wireframing process.
- Moqups - Visual collaboration tool that’s great for mockups, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes.
Selection Criteria for the Best Free Prototyping Tools
Here are a few of the top factors I took into account when I was researching the best free prototyping tools for this list:
At their core, prototyping platforms are a type of product design software that should help you build and iterate on your digital product. I looked for platforms with design tools that can help you with ui prototyping and general web design.
These are a few of the top features I looked for in these software:
- Rapid prototyping: The ability to quickly and efficiently produce low-fidelity prototypes helps your design team get the ball rolling.
- Drag-and-drop editor: This can also speed up prototyping, and facilitates real-time collaboration among team members.
- Interactive prototypes: Especially for high-fidelity prototypes with UI elements to be tested, tools should go beyond a static design.
- Wireframing: A wireframing tool allows your product designers to craft a mockup of a web app, mobile app, or other digital product.
- Testing: Ideally, you want a tool that can test your prototype across android, iOS, mac, windows, or specific web browsers.
The best prototyping software will come with a minimal learning curve and be accessible to beginners. Features like templates, tutorials, and a drag-and-drop interface make it easier for design teams to create with the software. But these features also make it easier for stakeholders to review the work, and support a better handoff to the development team.
How a new tool fits in with your existing tech stack is always something to consider before purchasing. Some of these platforms have plugins and widgets to connect other apps and tools. Many also have APIs that can be used to build custom integrations. I’ve provided details on the integrations available for each platform.
Of course, because I was looking for free options, I was checking out the price point of each tool before including it on the list. To qualify for my ‘free’ list, I was ideally looking for software with a free plan. That said, some options with generous free trials also made it onto my list. Paid plans tend to range between $7-$30 per user, per month.
What is the role of prototyping in product design?
What is the difference between a wireframe, prototype, and mockup?
Turn Your Ideas Into Reality With Prototyping Tools
“A prototype is worth a thousand meetings”. This is the motto of FirstBuild, a state-of-the-art microfactory and co-creation community that’s changing the way products come to market.
A good prototype simulates the future digital product, so it can help you attract customers and investors. In addition, prototyping results in a faster design cycle, making it easier to identify and avoid potential problems.
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