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Best UX Design Tools for Fast Prototyping and Validating Designs - Atomic.io, Proto.io, UXPin, Maze, Lookback (and more) Comparison

There are a lot of amazing design tools on the market. It’s important to make the right choice and match the tool with the task you want to accomplish to make your client happy. There is much to consider, from the process of prototyping software to choosing the best UX tools for your team. 

This article will give you a comprehensive overview of the best UX design tools currently available. Check out what these UX design agencies have to offer. Enjoy!

Future of design tools

As a designer, you probably use the brilliant combination of Sketch + InVision quite a lot. Great! But there comes a time when you do not need pixel-perfect and visually awesome design as much as a quickly prepared lo-fi UX wireframe ready for testing with users.

You may need:

  • A quick design to illustrate your ideas (e.g. during a PDS workshop).
  • A low-fidelity design prototype with detailed interaction available for testing.

If so, you might find useful some of the tools described below. In addition, there will also be a lot of information about how these tools can be useful for: 

  • Getting help with organizing your user testing sessions.
  • Recording and organizing testing sessions or remote interviews.
  • How to pick UX tools and details on what tools UX designers need.
  • A snapshot of the best design programs and online UX tools.
  • Understanding what UX and UI tools are.

Best UX design tools for fast prototyping

The UX design tools below are presented to give you choices for finding the best rapid prototyping software. All of them offer extended libraries of ready-made stencils, so you don’t have to think and decide about every pixel, size, colour or spacing as much as you would using Sketch. 

They also enable quick prototyping and adding interactions between UI controls without the need to duplicate screens as you would have to do if you were to connect screens in InVision. While many seek out free UX design tools, these professional apps will help you choose from among the top resources for UX designers

When examining UX design tools, open source software is also a popular option, but today we’ve focused on popular and useful services that are worth your time and money. Below is a breakdown of the main advantages and disadvantages of these UX design tools.

Figma

figma logo

Pros:

  • A powerful, web-based vector graphics editor and prototyping application. Figma is also available for the desktop with Windows/macOS applications, alongside mobile versions for iOS and Android.
  • Figma is designed to support the full development cycle of your product with storyboards, UI and UX design, UI prototyping, graphic design, and UX wireframing tools. 
  • With a strong web-based application, Figama is ideal for sharing UI mockups, app mockups, and collaborating across a wide number of projects. It’s meant to be collaborative and to serve as the main hub for designing, prototyping, and then handing off the project to software developers.

Cons:

  • The collaborative nature of Figma can make the version control aspect a bit of a challenge, especially if multiple team members are involved. 
  • When sharing assets with other viewers who are not familiar with Figma, there could be a bit of a learning curve.

Sketch + Sketch Cloud

sketch logo-1

Pros: 

  • Sketch is a well-regarded graphics editor for macOS. The vector editing tool is used to design both the UI and UX for mobile and web applications. Designers use it to create icons, application designs, app prototypes, and a wide variety of other products. 
  • New features include tools for UX sketching, prototyping, and collaborating on such projects with teams.
  • Sketch Cloud is available for sharing Sketch documents and libraries with other collaborators. 
  • There are a large number of extensions that integrate with Sketch to extend the feature set.

Cons: 

  • Sketch only works on macOS, so this could limit the appeal for those who want to work and share across platforms.

Framer

Framer logo

Pros:

  • Among web prototyping tools, Framer is popular for its simplicity and collaboration features.
  • Framer has many resources and tutorials for UX prototyping, including on iOS.

Cons:

  • There can be a bit of a learning curve for those not familiar with the app’s design system.

Webflow

webflow logo

Pros:

  • Powerful CMS, web UX design tools, and no-code resources to create a wide variety of website types.
  • No-code development that opens the door to designers who are just getting started or do not have a strong coding background.
  • Strong UI/UX mockup tools and tutorials that will appeal to varying skill levels. 

Cons:

  • Some reviews have indicated the Webflow interactions process could be more intuitive.

Principle

principle logoPros:

  • Mac-based software for designing interactive and animated user interfaces. 
  • Built for multi-screen app layout design.
  • With iOS and Android UX design tools, the software is used by many top companies for animation and user interfaces. 

Cons:

  • Currently only available for macOS.

 

Atomic

atomic logo

Pros:

 

  • It lets you not only add interactions, but also enrich them with animations in a very quick and simple way so you can easily awe your client.

add animation atomic

atomic add animation
Source: atomic.io
  • It is very easy to learn, especially because of the way the learning materials are organized —  you are encouraged to complete tutorial tasks in practice.

atomic tutorials

Source: atomic.io
 
  • Your interactions can be based on variables you can add yourself or even script if you’re into it —  so you can set some things up even without coding skills, for example an input field with validation for a real password.

 

add variables atomic

Source: atomic.io

Cons:

  • The stencils library is not very intuitive to use (it is not very visual and thus time-consuming —  you need to search through a text list of elements to find the desired one). However, once you create a “component” (an equivalent of a Sketch symbol), it goes to the elements library and is available throughout all your projects.

Proto.io

proto.io logoPros:

  • It has an extended library of elements, including a ready-made VR pattern.

proto.io VR pattern

Source: proto.io

 

  • Adding interactions is taken to the next level - there are a few ready-made interaction patterns with built-in animations for the most common behavior types, so you don’t need to build them from scratch.

proto.io carousel

Source: proto.io


  • You can also build interactions the traditional way - they are organized in an intuitive way, with many different types of triggers (variables too) and possible actions (sound effects included) that you can add to different screen states and then add and edit animations using a timeline.

proto.io build an interaction

proto.io build an interaction 2proto.io build an interaction 3

Source: proto.io 

Cons:

  • The styling of library elements is not always perfect and you might want to spend a little time tweaking them if you want to make a stunning visual impression.
UXPin

UXPin logoPros:

  • UXPin is a powerful tool offering a wide range of ready-made libraries of elements.
  • You can build complex state-dependent interactions of elements or groups of elements.

UXPin build complex interactionsUXPin build complex interactions 2

Source: uxpin.com

  • The collaboration feature is strong, so it is easy to work on a prototype with other team-mates if that is what you need.
  • It offers the option to build upon an existing design to create a responsive version of the prototype for other platforms.

Cons:

  • Not all libraries are up-to-date and therefore don’t make the best visual impression.
  • Adding interactions is definitely time-consuming and sometimes buggy.
  • The app is subjectively less intuitive than others and may require some persistence in overcoming the high entry threshold.

All of the above tools

You can also have a look here to explore further tools if you still haven’t found what you were looking for. There are a number of options available for designers familiar with coding, those who don’t code, as well as for more experienced professionals who are looking to branch out.

User testing tools

As a bonus, here are several amazing tools you may find helpful if you need to test your prototype with users and have a moderated remote testing session to find out about the “whys” behind the clicks.

FullStory

fullstory logo

FullStory is a platform for analyzing and understanding the efficacy of the digital products you create. With FullStory, your team can uncover friction in the experience and the impact on any conversion funnels. FullStory also provides diagnostic tools for mobile interface performance and helpful UX research tools.

Marvel

marvel logo

Marvel is another popular UX analysis tool that examines prototypes, designs, and other key elements to ensure they’re user-friendly. Ensure your GUI design is making an impact with a particular emphasis on how the experience will impact customer loyalty. 

UserTesting

user testing logo

UserTesting describes itself as a “human insight platform,” with several UX testing tools that can provide analysis about how your product is engaging users through marketing and product insights. Specific mobile testing is available for analyzing what drives app engagement and why users may be abandoning apps you’ve built.

Maze

maze logoMaze is a platform where you can easily create usability testing tasks with prototypes you have prepared in InVision, Marvel or Sketch. The tasks are called missions and they are presented to the user in a friendly way by sharing a link with them.

maze testing a prototype

Source: maze.design

You can set up the expected click-through path for each of the tasks and the platform will provide you with statistics of success rates, time on task, etc. for single sessions as well as aggregated results. It will also present testers’ behavior patterns with the use of heatmaps. Moreover, testers can leave comments about your designs.

maze heatmaps

 Source: maze.design

Maze is very simple in its structure and feature offering, but at the same time it is a great way to organize your testing sessions and gather all data in one place with hardly any hassle.

At the moment, the platform doesn’t offer hiring testers, but it is a prospective feature.

Lookback

image8

With Lookback you can also organize user testing. It is mostly focused on recording testing sessions. Thanks to recording user sessions, you can make sure nothing escapes your attention, which means that you can focus on talking to the user instead of taking notes.

There are 3 types of recording modes which Lookback helps you facilitate:

  • Live moderated testing - where the user performs tasks and comments on the prototype in real time under your guidance.
  • User self-testing sessions - unmoderated tests, where the users perform the task themselves at a convenient time.
  • In-person mode - which you can use if you happen to perform a testing session with the user in person.

lookback in-person mode

Source: lookback.io

All 3 modes have a dedicated onboarding for the user with clear step-by-step instructions on how to install the necessary apps on their phone or computer, so it shouldn’t be problematic to connect with you as a researcher.

 

lookback clear instructionslookback step-by-step  instructions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lookback easy install processlookback easy instructions

Source: lookback.io

This is probably the kind of tool you would like to use for a bigger research project, where there is a large number of users or they are not available to meet in person for the session. It’s also a good choice if you wish for other team members to be a part of the research - they can view the session recordings live or after you’re finished.

All the recordings you make (or get from your testers) are organized in a dashboard, where you get a clear overview of what’s going on - how many users have participated, if there are any comments from other teammates, or if there are any live sessions going on at the moment.

lookback dashboard overview

Source: lookback.io

Summary

So, if you’re looking for aid in drafting up quick designs to picture early-stage ideas, impress the client with the visual quality of your prototype and, at the same time, have an easy way to test complex interactions and have your user testing sessions organized, our list of the best UX design tools may be helpful.

Just remember to adjust the tool selection to the outcome you are looking for. If you are into design, you can also glance at our ebooks for designers. Good luck with your design adventure!

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