- 1. Figma — Best for planning and prototyping
- 2. Invision — Best for powerful animation features
- 3. Mockplus — Best for advanced team collaboration features
- 4. Balsamiq — Best for creating quick, lo-fi wireframes
- 5. Infragistics — Best for turning designs into code
- 6. Framer — Best for direct web publishing
- 7. Usabilla — Best tool for gathering feedback
- 8. Adobe XD — Best for Creative Cloud users
- 9. Proto.io — Best for extensive asset library
- 10. Sketch — Best for vector editing and reusable elements
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 return visits to your site. The best prototyping tools for product managers use design features, navigational elements, and interactions to help you create a prototype as close to your final vision as possible.
Prototyping software helps you iron out issues to avoid costly redos during the product development process. These tools can increase productivity, enhance collaboration, and improve user experience.
In this article, I’ll introduce my favorite tools and explain what I like about each one.
What are prototyping tools?
Prototypes give teams the opportunity to fine-tune a product before it's launched. They help design teams communicate to stakeholders exactly how an idea will work in the context of real life.
Prototyping tools allow teams to create shareable, visual representations of apps and websites without having to use code. Within these interactive prototypes, users can collaborate on iteration, provide feedback, and iron out any issues before the project is handed off to a developer.
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.
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.
Mockplus is a prototyping tool that allows product managers to create interactive and high-fidelity prototypes for websites and mobile apps. Users can test their prototypes on different devices, screen sizes, and platforms. The software lets them easily create clickable, navigable prototypes without coding. Mockplus offers team collaboration features, allowing multiple users to work on the same prototype simultaneously, making it easy to share designs and gather feedback.
It features a drag-and-drop interface that lets users add elements, connect screens, and add interactions. Mockplus includes a library of pre-built components, which can be used to create navigation menus, forms, and other common UI elements. This makes it easy to create complex prototypes with multiple interactions without starting from scratch. The software lets users efficiently manage the states of components and pages to keep track of changes and see how they will impact the overall product. Mockplus' design systems help users maintain consistency across products by providing a central repository for all design elements, including colors, fonts, and branding standards. This feature ensures uniform product design, so end users have a cohesive experience.
Mockplus allows users to easily organize pages into various categories to find what they need. Page layers are particularly helpful when working on large projects with multiple stakeholders because they let users keep track of all the moving parts. Mockplus’ version control feature lets users revert to previous versions and see who made what type of changes, providing transparency and accountability within the team. Mockplus helps product managers translate static images and artboards into testable, clickable virtual products using lifelike interactions like animations or time-based transitions for an authentic experience that works on any device.
Mockplus offers a free version of its software with limited features for up to 10 users. Premium pricing starts at $12.95/user/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.
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 $30 per user per month. There’s also a free plan for up to two editors and a custom enterprise option.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Need expert help selecting the right Product Management Software?
With my background in product management, I’ve chosen this list of the best prototyping tools. These tools help your team communicate product vision and streamline workflows.
Best for planning and prototyping
Free plan available
|From $15/editor/month||Visit Website|
Best for powerful animation features
Free plan available
|From $7.95/user/month||Visit Website|
Best for advanced team collaboration features
Free plan available
|From $12.95/user/month||Visit Website|
Best for creating quick, lo-fi wireframes
30-day free trial
|From $9/month||Visit Website|
Best for turning designs into code
Free trial available
|From $49 per month||Visit Website|
Best for direct web publishing
Free plan available
|From $10 /site/month||Visit Website|
Best tool for gathering feedback
|Pricing Upon Request||Visit Website|
Best for Creative Cloud users
7-day free trial
|From $9.99/user/month||Visit Website|
Best for extensive asset library
15-day free trial available
|From $29/user/month||Visit Website|
Best for vector editing and reusable elements
30-day free trial
|From $9/user/month||Visit Website|
How I Picked The Best Prototyping Tools
My process began with creating a long list of the most popular prototyping tools based on user ratings. I then assessed each platform’s website in fine detail to ensure their software covered all the basic features that a product manager would need.
Next, I turned to my selection criteria below to help me make my final selections. Using these criteria as a framework, I was able to compare each prototyping tool to see how it stacked up to the rest of the software. And then I finalized the shortlist you see here.
What do I look for when I select the best prototyping companies? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
User Interface (UI)
A clear and user-friendly UI enables your design team to create a prototype with all the features you need. In my opinion, a powerful prototyping tool is one that lets you focus on your interactive design workflow and all of those micro-interactions in a UI that makes good use of white space and does not visually overload views.
Prototyping tools often have a complex, varied feature set. But they should still be easy for your team of designers to use. Therefore, I look at all the ways in which you can learn to use it.
I look for ways in which the tool connects with other web-based tools. I also look into cloud-based third parties that offer a catalog of connections, like Zapier.
Landing on the right prototyping tool can be a matter of money. Especially for small businesses. Most of the tools on this list are affordable and I show the price per month when available. I also look for free trials and free versions of the software.
What are prototyping tools in product management?
What is the difference between low and high-fidelity prototyping?
What are the key features of prototyping tools?
You should definitely read our Design 101 article. You can learn about design iteration and other steps that lead to accurate UX prototyping. If you want something more advanced, we have 7 tips on how to get stakeholders on your side when you are in a digital transformation environment.
Related tool lists:
If you work in product management, consider signing up for the newsletter. Each week we send out insight and articles from experts in the space. Click here to sign up.