• Jadyn Teo

10 Powerful Prototyping Tools for UX Designers to Communicate Ideas and Collaborate

We pull together the top 10 list of prototyping tools for UX Designers. Find the tool that works for you and the needs of your organisation. These are great design tools that enable designers to collaborate, build interactive code-free mock-ups, and facilitate a smooth developer handoff.



What’s the best UX design and prototyping tool out there? Which tool should I use?


These are some questions a beginner UX designer might be asking. Tools such as Figma and Sketch are gaining traction among designers. But popularity aside, let’s look more into whether the tool is right for you.


In this article, we break down 10 prototyping tools to help you decide which tools are most suitable for your needs.


Before you start, consider these 3 key questions:


1) Have you had previous experience with design software?


If this is your very first adventure into design software, welcome! You can consider Figma, Adobe XD, Marvel, and Sketch as a first step. The beginner-friendly interfaces and features help you get the hang of how typical tools work to make shapes and components.



2) What is the level of complexity of the project you are working on?


How many screens will you use? Will you be keeping micro-interactions simple, or intricate?


Tools such as Framer X, Origami studio, Flinto, and Proto.io have interaction design and motion capabilities to create higher fidelity prototypes. They give you more control to make the prototype look closer to the real thing and respond to user interactions just the way you like it to.


Check them out if you’re not that familiar with using motion yet! Level up from working with static visuals and common page transitions to using moving graphics to tell the story. Motion can be used to guide users through the app and communicate intention at a more dynamic level.



3) Who are the other stakeholders in your workflow?


If you’re handing off to a team of developers who will code your designs into the real thing, check out Zeplin, Origami Studio, and InVision. Stay away from communication mishaps and tedious back-and-forth with these tools that are built for collaboration.


For working in a larger team, including Product Managers and other Designers, Figma and InVision are great tools for teamwork.




Sketch


Video source: Sketch


Great for: Large teams of mac users who need to integrate other software into the design process


First launched in 2010, Sketch is known as the classic design tool that offers great functionality. Designers work within an infinite canvas, adding artboards, drawing using vectors, deploying replicable components to craft prototypes. You can also add animations and preview your designs.


The biggest draw for Sketch is the huge library of plug-ins. It’s been around so long that developers have had the time to play around and add just about any plug-in you can think of. For example, you can use Zeplin’s sketch plugin to smooth out the developer handoff (ask any designer, that’s usually where the snags happen). You can also create a design system and keep your style guides all in one place with zeroheight.


Available on MacOS


Price: Free trial, $99 one-time payment






Figma


Great for: Designers who have to collaborate and share their work with other designers and clients.


Figma is the up-and-coming design tool in the industry, and it’s best known for one thing: teamwork.


As the first browser-based design software, “Figma wants to do for interface design what Google Docs did for text editing”. You can simply send a URL that enables others designers, stakeholders, clients, and developers to hop on to the live file and start viewing, commenting, and editing.


Dylan Field, Figma Co-founder and CEO says, “Design is undergoing a monumental shift — going from when design was at the very end of the product cycle where people would just make things prettier to now where it runs through the entire process.” Figma is here to enable seamless collaboration between stakeholders of the design process.



Available on: Web, Windows, and MacOS


Price: FREE starter plan






Adobe XD


Great for: A designer who has an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, or works within a team that uses the Adobe suite of products.


Adobe XD was released in 2016 by the industry giant Adobe, and has since grown to become a promising contender. This prototyping tool is among some of the most comprehensive designing software out there. Apart from designing static mockups, you can add another dimension to your work using the Auto-Animate feature. Duplicate an artboard, change the object property (e.g. size, rotation, etc.) and Auto-Animate can be applied to the set of artboards to create movement.


Alex Poterek, a senior experience designer at Adobe, explains, “[Motion] can be used to help a user create a mental model of where content is moving to and from... In some cases it’s a way of creating a visual hierarchy, maybe a call to action or a temporary message that fades in and out of the screen. Motion can be used for an even more basic reason like creating a pleasant and less robotic experience for the user.”


Animated demo of how adobe XD works
The Drag, Navigate, and Time animations easily achieved in Adobe XD (Source: Adobe)

The biggest perk of Adobe XD is the access to Adobe’s ecosystem. You can integrate work from Photoshop and Illustrator, and access the Adobe Design Library Manager to keep branded assets on-hand and consistent.


Available on: Web, MacOS, iOS, and Android


Price: FREE starter plan






Framer X



Great for: The Designer who wants to make high-fidelity prototypes for rigorous advanced-stage user testing, code-free!


Framer X is a more advanced tool that takes you that much further beyond all-rounder design tools such as Figma and Sketch. You can have control of the UI without having to key in any programming language.


Its predecessor, Framer, was a code-based tool. “Framer X opens up that same level of high-fidelity interactive design to everyone by eliminating the need for code.” There are ready-to-use tools that allow you to create real UI & interactions just by clicking and dragging.


You can preview your prototype with the built-in preview panel, or quickly share the prototype by generating a QR code.


If you are a designer who is currently learning or has some knowledge of HTML/CSS or basic Javascript, put that to good use with Framer X.


This tool is also for designers who work closely with developers and need a common ‘source of truth’ that is more code-based. Framer X helps bridge that communication gap around the production code.


Available on Web, MacOS, iOS, and Android


Price: FREE






Origami Studio