20 best UI de­sign tools

If you’re look­ing to de­sign the per­fect user in­ter­face, you need to make sure you choose the best tool for the job. And now more than ever there are pow­er­ful ap­pli­ca­tions avail­able that cater to ev­ery need

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We now de­sign in a world with an abun­dance of tools that can fit al­most ev­ery de­sign process and meet your creative re­quire­ments. There truly is a so­lu­tion out there for every­one and the pos­si­bil­i­ties are in­cred­i­ble. It’s such a great time to ex­plore new tools and see what’s avail­able to de­sign and show­case your amaz­ing projects.

The big chal­lenge is 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 the rise of other tools has of­fered com­pet­i­tive fea­tures and op­tions. There has never been a bet­ter choice out there, so we thought it was a good time to have a closer look at some of the best.

Wire­fram­ing Mock­Flow

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.

Bal­samiq

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

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.

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

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.

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!

Proto.io

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 hand­drawn style, then work them into wire­frames and fin­ish off with a high­fi­delity 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.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD of­fers the best en­vi­ron­ment for dig­i­tal projects un­der the Adobe Creative Cloud col­lec­tion

Proto.io is an in­cred­i­ble con­tender for cre­at­ing pro­to­types from rough ideas right through to fully fledged de­signs

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 some­what of 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.

Mar­vel

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 that you can in­sert your de­signs into your project work­flow.

Figma

Figma is an­other de­sign tool that 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. A fea­ture such as 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.

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 are 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 it of­fer­ing UI as­sets and kits.

Flinto

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.

Prin­ci­ple

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.

Atomic

An­other in­ter­ac­tive de­sign tool but what sets Atomic apart is the abil­ity to cre­ate form el­e­ments that you can ac­tu­ally type into. There is also a use­ful fea­ture that en­ables you to im­port data

UXPin

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

This tool 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.

Justin­mind

This tool 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.

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

You can look at in­di­vid­ual as­sets and how they in­de­pen­dently an­i­mate, right down to tim­ings and eas­ing

dif­fer­ently be­cause of some­thing else? There’s an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a trueto-form pro­to­type with Origami but it is very tech­ni­cal and re­quires some learn­ing. Per­fect for de­vel­op­ers and de­sign­ers work­ing to­gether.

Fluid

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.

Hand-offs Zeplin

Zeplin is not nec­es­sar­ily a pro­to­typ­ing tool but it very much fits in that post-de­sign and pre­de­vel­op­ment 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.

Above: Bal­samiq uses a drag-and-drop sys­tem that en­ables you to quickly build lay­outs

Left Used by a num­ber of trusted brands, Proto.io of­fers an end-to-end de­sign work­flow

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