The best UI design tools can fit almost every design process, and hopefully meet your creative requirements. Now is such a great time to explore new tools and see what's available to design and showcase your projects.
With so many UI design tools out there, though, which ones should you use? Over the last few years, the combination of Sketch and InVision has been a popular choice for many designers, but other tools have offered competitive features and options. There has never been a better selection of prototyping and wireframe tools out there, so we thought it was a good time to have a closer look at some of the best.
For more general tools, see our web design tools roundup.
MockFlow is a suite of applications that are very helpful for a number of tasks in the typical project process. Primarily, the WireframePro app is a good alternative prototyping tool for you to use, especially if you're testing out some new ideas.
If you just need to create wireframes, then take a look at MockFlow. It's great for working on initial ideas and enables you to build basic layouts quickly, which is sometimes all you need to get thoughts into a presentable form.
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If rapid wireframing is what you're looking for, then Balsamiq is a strong suggestion. You can quickly develop structure and layouts for your projects with ease. The drag-and-drop elements make life easier and you can link buttons to other pages. This means you can quickly start to plan your interfaces and then share them with your team or clients.
Axure has always been one of the best wireframing tools on the market and is great for more complex projects that require dynamic data. With Axure, you can really focus on mocking up projects that are more technical and require extra attention when it comes to structure and data.
04. Adobe Comp
Adobe Comp is a nice addition for those that find themselves creating and conceptualising on the go. Got a tablet with a smart pencil? This will be worth the download just in case inspiration strikes for developing a new concept for a layout when you are away from your main workspace.
UI design and prototyping
Sketch is a very popular tool within the design community that enables you to create hi-fi interfaces and prototypes. One of the great features is Symbols, where you can design UI assets and elements for reuse. This helps create design systems and keep your interfaces consistent. From there, you can easily export your design into a clickable prototype. If you are an InVision user, make sure you check out the Craft plugin (more on that below)
06. InVision Studio
Many UI designers' dreams are about to come true with InVision Studio. Still in its early release, this tool will help you create beautiful interactive interfaces with a bucket load of features. You can create custom animations and transitions from a number of gestures and interactions. To top that, you can stop thinking about creating numerous artboards for multiple devices because responsive design can be achieved within a single artboard. This saves loads of time, so you can think of more ideas.
If you use Sketch or Photoshop for UI design, you need to be using Craft. This plugin does everything, seamlessly syncing your files with your Invision prototypes, and populating your mock ups with real data and stock photography.
Proto.io is an incredible contender for creating lifelike prototypes from rough ideas right through to fully fledged designs. The tool also provides a lot of possibilities for your projects, including detailed animations and custom vector animations too. You can start by developing initial ideas with a hand-drawn style, then work them into wireframes and finish off with a high-fidelity prototype. The Sketch and Photoshop plugins really help if you want to design using other tools but Proto.io does handle the end-to-end design process well. Other features like user testing will also help validate your designs. This is an all-in-one place solution with a great number of trusted brands already using it.
09. Adobe XD
Adobe XD offers the best environment for digital projects under the Adobe Creative Cloud collection of design tools. If you're a keen Adobe user and new to XD, you may not find the interface very Adobe-like to begin with – it is a jump if you've been designing in Photoshop for a while. But it does stack up to the other leading tools out there, and is worth it if you are a big Adobe fan.
Also check our recommendations for Adobe XD plugins.
Marvel is another prototyping tool that's a great choice when it comes to producing quick ideas and refining an interface. As with many of the other applications of this type, Marvel offers a really neat way of building pages and enables you to simulate your design through a prototype. There are some wonderful integrations with Marvel, which means you can insert your designs into your project workflow.
Figma enables you to quickly compose and design interfaces. The Figma platform prides itself on being a collaborative design tool whereby multiple users can work simultaneously on a project – this is very effective when you have multiple stakeholders in a project that are involved in shaping the outcome. This is the kind of tool that would be ideal if you have a live project where a developer, copywriter and designer, for example, need to work on something at the same time.
12. Framer X
Framer X is a really exciting new design tool that is certainly worth a look for experienced UI designers who want more from their tools. Prototyping and creating interactions is really easy. If you're a big React fan, then look no further as you can design and code in sync. Besides being a great tool, there's a strong community of designers behind Framer X offering UI assets and kits.
Flinto is a nice and simple design tool that enables you to create unique interactions within your designs. You can utilise a number of gestures and create easy transitions by designing the before and after states. Flinto simply works out the differences and then animates for you.
Interaction design is what Principle excels at, especially when it comes to mobile applications. Tweaking and getting animated interactions just right is a breeze with Principle. You can look at individual assets and how they independently animate, right down to timings and easing.
Described as the 'end-to-end' UX platform, UXPin is essentially another design tool but with a powerful ability to create design systems. UXPin serves larger design teams that need to work off the same styles and guides, saving time with product development when collaboration plays a large part.
ProtoPie enables you to create quite complex interactions and get pretty close to how you would want your design to work. Perhaps the most standout feature is the ability to control the sensors of smart devices in your prototype, such as tilt, sound, compass and 3D Touch sensors. Depending on your project, this is a great tool for encompassing native app features. It's easy as pie with no code required.
This tool, Justinmind, helps with prototyping and integrating with other tools like Sketch and Photoshop. You can choose your interactions and gestures to help put your prototype together. It also contains UI kits, enabling you to put together screens quickly.
18. Origami Studio
Given Origami Studio is built and used by designers at Facebook, you might assume this must be a great tool. And you'd be right. There's a wonderful amount of features with Origami, including adding rules and logic to your interactions. How many times have you wanted a button to display or behave differently because of something else? There's an opportunity to create a true-to-form prototype with Origami, but it is very technical and requires some learning. This tool is perfect for developers and designers working together.
Fluid is an intuitive tool to build rapid prototypes and work up designs. It packs some nice assets out of the box to get you going with rapid prototypes and, once you've upgraded, it's easy to assemble your own symbols with your preferred UI assets.
As well as being a great tool for creating presentations, Keynote – specifically its Magic Move transition – is one of the ways to rapidly animate your designs and communicate your ideas.
Other UI design tools
21. Golden ratio typography calculator
Stuck deciding heading sizes? The GRT Calculator uses the science of the golden ratio to generate out a typographic scale that can be used in your interface designs.
Zeplin is not necessarily a prototyping tool, but it very much fits in that post-design and pre-development stage alongside prototyping. It enables you to take your design and prototypes, hand them over to developers and make sure that your ideas are executed well. You can upload your Sketch, Photoshop, XD and Figma files to Zeplin and it will create an environment for developers and designers to hand over the project, without the tedious task of creating guidelines. However, it's worth making sure that you need it first.