Prototyping is an essential part of any digital product design process. It helps you build a positive user experience, which can have a significant impact on factors like conversion and whether customers come back to your site.
Software helps you get prototyping right. The best prototyping tools use design features, navigational elements, and interactions to help you create a prototype as close to your final vision as possible. This helps you iron out issues to avoid costly redos during the product development process.
In this article, I’ll introduce my ten favorite tools and explain what I like about each one.
What do I look for when I select the best prototyping apps? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
- User Interface (UI): A clear UI enables your design team to create a prototype with all the features you need.
- Usability: Prototyping tools often have a complex, varied feature set. But they should still be easy for your team of designers to use.
- Integrations: I look for integrations with the other tools involved in the design process. This enables features like importing drawings or exporting code.
- Value for $: Most of the tools on this list are affordable, even for small teams. The cost will increase if you have a lot of users, though.
Prototyping Software Key Features
- Reusable elements: Websites and apps often have similar features. A reusable element library means you don’t have to start from scratch every time you want to build a prototype.
- Interactions: There are many ways for users to interact with websites and apps, from traditional tools like a mouse and keyboard, to touch controls on your phone. A good prototyping tool allows you to create responses for different actions.
- Animations: Some tools allow you to add animations to your designs. For example, the background image could change as you scroll through the page.
- Code export: Some tools create code based on the prototype. Your developers can export this and use it as a starting base when designing their product.
- Collaboration: Prototyping often involves multiple stakeholders. Most of the tools on this list enable collaboration through sharing, notes, and comments.
- Vector creation: This allows you to create scalable images and icons from within the prototyping software.
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Overviews Of The 10 Best Prototyping Tools
Here’s a brief description of each prototyping platform to showcase each tool’s best use case, some noteworthy features, and screenshots to give a snapshot of the user interface.
InVision Studio is a screen design tool with design, prototyping, and animation features. It has an easy-to-use drag and drop interface and powerful responsive features that allow you to adapt your designs for multiple screen sizes.
The tool stands out due to its animation features. It’s easy to create smooth animations that occur as users scroll between screens. You just choose the element you want to move and then decide how it will do so. Meanwhile, advanced design features like vector creation, an infinite canvas, and layers make it easy for UI/UX designers to add the elements they need. There are plenty of collaboration features, too. Anyone in your team can add notes to the design, and it’s possible for multiple collaborators to work on the same file. Revision history settings mean you won’t lose your work.
You can sign up for Invision for free or get access to it as part of Invision’s Pro plan. This costs $9.95 per user per month.
Balsamiq is a wireframing tool that helps anyone create low-fidelity mockups for web, apps, and software. The tool’s focus on the basics means it has a low learning curve and is good for beginners. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface with plenty of editing and customization options.
Because it’s lo-fi, you’ll spend more time thinking about functionality rather than messing around with design features. Of course, you can focus on this later in the design process when you have a better idea of how your product will work. The tool has plenty of features to make the process faster such as the ability to create templates and reusable options. And once you have completed the design you can export them as PDFs, PNG images, or present them via the web.
Balsamiq offers both a desktop app and a cloud version. The cloud version costs $9 per month for a 2-project space with unlimited users and real-time collaboration. The desktop version has a one-off fee of $89 per user. Volume discounts come into effect from five users.
Infragistics is a prototype building software that includes features for everything from prototyping to code generation. The tool uses a drag and drop interface to make it easy to build designs and see them in real-time. And you can use the tool’s large selection of templates and layouts to get a head start on the design process. Anyone in your team can work from within the same editor, speeding up the design process.
The tool has theme-builder functionality, which allows you to create and deploy elements such as colors throughout the entire app, speeding up the UI design process. It’s easy to preview the design in real-time. And the tool also generates code based on the design you can use. Developers can access this to make creating your app much easier. Once the app is finished they can download it and run it in their chosen IDE.
The tool integrates with other design platforms such as Adobe and Sketch, helping turn designs from these platforms into code.
The tool costs $49 per month although you’ll need to pay $149 per month to access the drag-and-drop editor.
Proto.io is a prototyping tool that aims to make it easy for anyone to build prototypes for websites and mobile devices. Central to this is the tool’s large library of over 1,000 templates, 6,000 digital assets, and 250 UI components you can use for rapid prototyping. These are easy to customize to your needs and you can use them to get a jump start on the design process.
Beyond this, the tool has plenty of advanced UX design features. Highlights include nestable and scrollable areas that let you add sections with vertical or horizontal scroll to your design. Or you can use the tool’s micro animation features to add movement to design transitions. You can build all major interactions into your design including pinch, swipe, scroll, clicks, and hovers.
Proto.io integrates with plenty of other tools. For example, you can use it with popular user testing tools to gain quick feedback. Or you can import designs from other tools such as Adobe XD.
Pricing starts at $29 per month for the freelancer plan. You can get a free 15-day trial to test out the software.
Axure RP is a tool built to enable UX professionals to create interactive prototypes. It does this through a suite of powerful design prototyping tools. You can add working forms to create text fields and drop lists, and you can easily create adaptive designs that work on desktop, mobile, and tablet.
The tool has a huge number of interaction events including those caused by touch, mouse, or keyboard. You can also add if or then conditional logic to the design. Once you’ve finalized your prototypes, it’s easy to upload them to the cloud to gather feedback. And you can add notes to your design to give reviewers or developers extra context.
Axure has plenty of plugins to help it integrate with other design tools. You can import design features from Figma, Adobe, and Sketch. Other integrations include Slack, Teams, Jira, and Confluence.
Pricing starts at $29 per user per month for unlimited prototypes. You can get a 30-day free trial to test the software.
Figma is a prototyping tool with plenty of design and collaboration features for the entire design workflow: from whiteboard to creating high-fidelity prototypes. Creating a prototype starts with the FigJam whiteboarding tool. This is a brainstorming tool that helps your team work together to share ideas about your product. It comes with note-taking, sketching, and user flow creation features to help you build designs, as well as commenting, audio notes, and emojis for collaboration.
The main design feature-set is in Figma, and it has all teams need to create prototypes using these notes. Both notes and designs are held in the same place so it’s easy to switch between them during the design process. There are plenty of tools to help designers save time, including an auto-layout feature that automatically resizes components, and integrations with third-party tools such as diagrams or stock imagery so your team doesn’t have to leave the app when creating.
Pricing starts at $15 per month for unlimited projects, although you’ll have to pay $5 per month extra for FigJam. There’s also a free version that lets unlimited collaborators work on up to three files.
Where the other tools on this list focus on creating prototypes, Usabilla makes it easy to get feedback on your designs. You can use it for web design and apps, as well as other assets like emails.
It works by letting you add questions to your app at specific points during the user journey. This can help you get feedback about specific parts of the user experience. It’s easy to seamlessly integrate these questions within your products, which can increase the likeliness of customers responding. Once you have feedback, use this insight to influence prototypes of your latest product versions.
Usabilla integrates with plenty of popular tools. You can increase the relevance of the feedback by integrating it with Google Analytics. Or you can send feedback directly to help desk platforms like Zendesk.
Usabilla doesn’t advertise pricing online. But you can contact the sales team via the website.
Framer lets customer experience design professionals prototype websites, apps, and individual components. The drag-and-drop interface is easy to use and there are plenty of editing and customization options to make the design you need.
The tool has a large library of existing components, visual assets, and layouts that you can use to save time when building designs. Framer also has a training library and a large Discord customer community to help newcomers learn the product.
There’s even a mobile app so you can see how your final product will look on iOS and Android.
One new feature I like is Sites. This lets you take your Framer designs and then publish them directly to the web. It’s perfect if you want to create beautiful sites without having to hire a developer.
Pricing for the Pro plan is $20 per editor per month. There’s also a free plan for up to two editors and a custom enterprise option.
Sketch is a tool that handles all parts of the prototyping process, from creating designs and artwork to handing off the product to developers. It has a desktop app for Mac users, as well as a web app for Windows and Linux users.
The tool has plenty of design features, including vector editing, pixel-level editing, and powerful resizing features. Teams can also create reusable elements to save time. Meanwhile, the “styles” features help teams stay on-brand and consistent. The tool has plenty of real-time collaboration features. Multiple team members can work on a single design in real-time to finish projects faster. And you get access to a version history so you don’t have to worry about losing work. You can share prototypes with other people to test your designs and collect feedback. Developer handoff is easy too. Your team can view and measure designs, export production-ready assets, and see color values to speed up the process.
The standard Sketch plan costs $9 per editor per month. You can grab a free 30-day trial to test out the software.
Adobe XD is powerful prototyping software that lets you create designs for websites, apps, games, and brands. The tool has a ton of features to ensure you can create designs exactly as you like them. You can add 3D effects, create reusable design elements, and include animations and videos. There are also features for creating responsive designs so you can easily modify design elements for different screen sizes.
Adobe XD is an obvious choice for creating prototypes if you already work with other Adobe Creative Cloud apps—and you can import designs directly from Illustrator and Photoshop. All designs are saved to the cloud, while shareable links and comments simplify collaboration. The tool also has a large library of official tutorials to help beginners get to grips with the tool.
Beyond Creative Cloud products, Adobe XD integrates with tons of third-party tools including Slack, Jira, and UserTesting.
Pricing is $29.99 per month for small and medium-sized teams or $79.99 per month for access to all Creative Cloud programs. You can grab a free 7-day trial to test it out.
The 10 Best Prototyping Tools Summary
Free version available
|From $4.95/user/month||Visit Website|
30-days free trial
|From $7.50/user/month||Visit Website|
|From $49 per month||Visit Website|
15-days free trial
|From $24/user/month||Visit Website|
30-day free trial
|From $29/user/month||Visit Website|
Free version available
|From $15/user/month||Visit Website|
|Pricing Upon Request||Visit Website|
|From $20/editor/month||Visit Website|
30-day free trial
|From $9/user/month||Visit Website|
7-day free trial
|From $9.99/user/month||Visit Website|
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Here are a few more that didn’t make the top list.
- UModel - Design apps and generate code
- Avonni - Design and prototyping for Salesforce apps
- Marvel - Prototyping tools with user testing features
- PDS Services - Prototyping and product manufacturing company
What are prototyping tools in product management?
Prototyping tools allow teams to design representations of apps and websites without using code. They let designers add both visual and navigational elements to the app to give people a better idea of how the tool will work.
Many of these tools include collaboration and feedback features that let multiple people work on a project at once. The major benefit of a prototyping tool is that you can create the design and iron out any issues before handing the project off to a developer.
What do you think about this list?
The above list contains some of the best prototyping tools available. Each of them has unique features and is likely to appeal to a different set of users. The good news is that almost all of them offer free trials, so it’s easy to test one out to see if you like it.
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