Great apps have great designs. There’s no way around it.
And “great”, in this case, doesn’t mean just cute logos and attractive transitions, but intuitive navigation and smooth user flows as well.
And now it’s time to look at the tools of trade – prototyping tools.
Why You Should Create an App Prototype First?
Behind each great app design stands a great product prototype aka the skeleton of your product outlining the information and user flow architecture.
As user interfaces are becoming more and more involved, simple display screens or heads down data entry are no longer the primary ways of interacting with many devices. Designers must now consider ergonomics more than they have in the past. They must also create products that users can interface with via touch, speech to text, and other methods as well as accommodating a variety of screen sizes.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure that the final product works for users is to include users in the design process. Create a prototype, give it a test drive with your target audience. Note what works for them and ditch the rest.
The Best Prototyping Tools For UI/UX Designers
It took us awhile to go through all of the pros and cons, however we were able to narrow things down eventually. The following is a list of seven best prototyping tools for mobile apps and web solutions that have shown the most potential for 2017.
Overview: This tool perfectly combines prototyping with collaborative functionality. This includes the ability to create multiple prototypes for different types of devices, share them in a few clicks with clients/team/users and gather feedback. The tool also contains shareable folders so that multiple team members can contribute to the creation of the prototypes being presented to clients.
- Allows creating mockups both for mobile devices and wearables.
- Animates static prototypes in a few clicks.
- Great file management system.
- Simple functionality for creating GIFs and animations.
- In-built UI testing.
- Apart from web app, the tool is also available as an Android, iOS and Apple Watch app.
Special Note of Interest: Mockup.io is free for everyone. It is also an interactive prototype tool that is clearly on the leading edge and designed for emerging technologies.
Overview: This is a comprehensive online platform for designing, prototyping, testing, and launching websites. Apart from the design tools, Webflow also features CMS and hosting functionality. While it doesn’t have the collaborative capabilities of Mockup.io, it does provide the type of sand box that a trained web designer can appreciate. This makes even the most mundane project a bit more interesting.
- Generated code can be exported for use outside of the tool. This means that developers who truly want to get into the nitty gritty of the code can do so, while those who prefer to keep things at a higher level have that option as well.
- You can build attractive animations and interactive elements without writing a single line of code.
- The CMS allows designing hundreds of website pages at once.
- Great functionality for creating landing pages.
- Visual interface that eliminates the need to work with code and neatly auto-generates all the styling for you.
Special Note of Interest: All pricing tiers include client billing capabilities.
Overview: Sometimes speed matters. This is where InVision shines. Using this tool, you can quickly create prototypes that users can test, and you can get those prototypes up and running ASAP. When landing a client is on the line, getting a working prototype out to them can get you must closer to yes than sending out screenshots and image files. This tool could come in very handy for a fledgling freelancer who is seeking out a client to hire them and help them to build both a reputation and a client base.
- InVision smoothly integrates with JIRA for bug tracking and collaboration.
- And it also integrates with Slack.
- All the prototypes are embeddable.
- Great project management section and functionality.
- Version history and auto-syncs.
Special Note of Interest: Versioning is available with this tool. This means that custom prototyping can be segregated by client, designer, or release.
Overview: While it doesn’t have the intuitive interface of Mockup.io or Webflow, UXPin is still a very useful tool for creating prototypes and wireframes. It is particularly a great for those who are most comfortable using a drag and interface to create working prototypes of their designs. The tool also comes equipped with several dozen libraries all of which contain assets that designers can use to quickly create prototypes and wireframes. It works well for both desktop and mobile app prototyping.
- Over 1.000 built-in elements for web, mobile and desktop products.
- Eye dropper tool, which allows matching any color on your screen, both inside or outside UXPin.
- You can add unlimited elements to a single interaction.
- 80+ free icons for web and mobile apps.
- Photoshop & Sketch plugins.
Special Note of Interest: The most popular ‘PRO’ version of the tool starts at around $30 per month. Enterprise pricing is customized.
Overview: POP stands for prototyping on paper and is part of the popular Marvel suite of design and prototyping tools. You can use the camera on your smartphone to capture designs that you have sketched out on paper, or you can use the sketchpad that comes with the app to create your designs and gain instant prototyping functionality without the extra layer of complexity. This tool is perfect for capturing on the moment design ideas and sharing
- Super fast picture import and cropping.
- The tool comes with 5 types of transitions and a number of common user gestures for animating your app.
- Multiple sharing options and great collaboration mode.
Special Notes of Interest: A new level of team based pricing will soon be available. In addition to this, users can begin to look forward to using Marvel’s robust support services in the near future. Finally, unregistered users should hurry and sign up so that their existing projects are eventually moved over to the Marvel Platform.
Overview: This rapid prototyping tool seems built for large workloads, which often makes it the tool of choice for enterprise design and prototyping solutions. In addition to this, Axure is a full life cycle development tool. This means that its prototyping and annotated diagramming functions can be used from the point of planning and throughout the project up until the point of implementation. Unlike other tools where prototyping functionality is quite limited. Axure allows test cases to be set up that are driven by data. This means designers can build prototypes that closely resemble real life test cases.
- Supports dynamic content and conditional flows.
- Allows creating prototypes with data-driven interactions without a single line of code.
- Apart from wireframes and prototypes allows creating customer journey maps, idea boards, predictive user personas and pretty much any types of diagrams with annotations.
- Real-time multi-user collaborations on files.
Special Notes of Interest: Anybody looking for a tool with a proven, enterprise track record need look no further. Over 85 percent of the companies on the fortune 100 use Axure in some capacity.
Overview: This is a low fidelity tool that can be used to turn your mockups into prototypes. These prototypes can be used as a simple yet effective means of conveying your ideas to both clients or other team members. If you are testing out multiple design ideas, the tool allows you to compare different versions of the same design screens side by side.
The only downside is that there isn’t a means to actually create the screens themselves. Instead, you have to create the screen design elsewhere, and then those must be imported into the tool. However, if designers already have a chosen tool for making image files, this is still a great tool for prototyping interactive user interfaces.
- You can interlink different images and create hotspots in a few clicks.
- Multiple feedback options (comment, problem, idea and suggestion).
- You can create a link template for frequently used hotspots.
- Side-by-side image comparison.
Special Notes of Interest: The comment functionality goes above and beyond what is normally offered on basic UX prototyping tools. This is great for teamwork and collaboration. It also helps to facilitate communication between designers and users.
While a few of them do have some weak points, this list of seven includes the best app prototyping tools for 2017. The price is certainly on point when it comes to finding a tool for startup design firms or companies who are trying to manage cost in an effective manner.
Whether your interests are strictly desktop-based UI prototyping tools, you are interested in mobile prototyping tools, or you are interested in learning to make prototypes for wearables or IOT, you can probably get your feet wet with a tool from this list!