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12 Design Tools We Absolutely Love

12 Design Tools We Absolutely Love

Colin Pace
January 5, 2021
5 minutes

Choosing a design tool is quite similar to selecting a car! You must consider multiple use cases, price, and your current skill level. Sometimes, you might even need more than one. 😏 We collected our favorite design and prototyping tools that you should absolutely check out. Enjoy!

#1 Balsamiq

Balsamiq Studio has its unique sketchy style that is hard to mistake with anything else. If you're searching for a rapid low-fidelity prototyping tool that you can learn in no time, explore no more. The first version of Balsamiq was released in June 2008, and now the tool comes in 3 versions — as a plugin and web and desktop apps.

Balsamiq Studio offers 75 UI components and 180+ icons that designers can arrange with a drag&drop editor to build basic wireframes. More importantly, you can link screens and present a simple live prototype to your team before rushing into development. Balsamiq Studio doesn't have a free version but offers a free 1-month trial.

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#2 Axure

Axure is an interaction-centered tool, heavy-loaded with capabilities. Despite its substantial price ($300-504 yearly), many designers consider Axure unparallel when it comes to wireframing and prototyping.

In contrast with Balsamiq and other prototyping tools, Axure handles even the tiniest interactions that make the experience delightful for users. It allows you to create everything in one place: user flows, customer journey maps, storyboards, sitemaps, information architecture, wireframes, and complex prototypes.

#3 Figma

When Figma came along, the battle for the title of the best graphics editor between Sketch or Adobe XD started to heat up. At first glance, Figma simply looks like another alternative design and prototyping desktop and cloud-based tool. However, it's one step ahead of others in terms of grid flexibility, a vector tool, symbol library, or style guide.

Moreover, Figma offers a seamless experience when prototyping, presenting designs, and gathering feedback from teammates and clients. With its collaboration features, it's an ideal design tool for remote teams.

#4 Marvel

Released in the year 2013, the Marvel app is a counterpart of the Invision App and has already attracted over 2 million users worldwide. How does it work? After you upload or integrate designs from Photoshop or Sketch, you can build micro and screen interactions to create real-life desktop and mobile prototypes for user testing.

Marvel is a top choice of startups that need to coordinate their processes fast and easy. User experience shows that Marvel requires less effort and thought in contrast to InVision.

#5 UXPin

With UXPin, you get the best of two worlds - powerful interaction and collaborative capabilities. First off, it provides regularly updated libraries of iOS, Material Design, and Bootstrap components and icons and allows importing designs from Photoshop or Sketch. You can animate states and page transitions and add rules for conditional interactions.

Second, UXPin is an overall fantastic real-time collaboration tool that allows co-designing, leaving notes and feedback, and assigning comments to teammates.

#6 Framer

Framer is a spanking new tool for designers who believe static screens don't provide developers with the whole picture of how the app should actually work. Originally, Framer is a code-based tool for creating prototypes, but it's been growing design capabilities. It allows creating intricate high-fidelity prototypes that go beyond simple screen transitions and animates data inputs or media player.

With its seamless usability, collaboration and design features, and short learning curve, Framer has everything it takes to become the leading design tool.

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#7 Justinmind

Justinmind goes head to head with UXpin as it also contains features for drawing, drag&drop designing, prototyping, and creating your own design system library. What makes it stand out is the possibility to create adaptive and responsive designs and a wide range of tutorials for beginners. If you're still on the fence, consider that Justinmind is free for life. Once the free trial ends, you get a free version with some limitations.

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#8 Adobe XD

An entire generation of designers grew up using Adobe Photoshop — and we all can agree that it wasn't hardwired to create UI. In 2016, Adobe released its all-in-one solution for designing wireframes, screen layouts, and interactive prototypes. A great plus is a smooth integration with other Adobe products, like Photoshop, Illustrator, or After Effects.

In comparison to its competitors — Sketch and Figma — Adobe has an edge on prototyping. In 2018, the company launched a voice toolset that allows designers to use voice commands in their interactive prototypes.

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#9 InVision

InVision started as a tool for solving several problems: turn static Sketch and Photoshop designs into dynamic prototypes, share them with teammates and clients, and get feedback and insights. Over the years, it grew and added new creative features such as mood boards, brand boards, galleries, and style guides.

With the release of InVision Studio in 2018 — a standalone product for designing and animation — it became even easier to keep everything in one place. Keep in mind that InVision Studio is in its early stage and still has areas to improve.

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#10 Sketch

Sketch is one of the turtles on which the design world stands. Over a decade, this traditional desktop-based tool has helped people design, prototype, and collaborate with team members. When it comes to integrations, Sketch has no rival, and there's literally nothing that you can't design in it — provided you have the right set of plugins.

In 2018, Sketch introduced prototyping tools that are developing at a quick pace. The bad news is if you don't own a Mac, Sketch is out of your reach.

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#11 Proto.io

A variety of design tools exists to help you find the one that works best for your project's needs. Proto.io is another design and prototyping tool that has some unique tweaks that might capture your attention.

First off, it allows creating lifelike designs and vector animations with an easy-to-use timeline. Secondly, with Proto.io, you can generate mobile and web prototypes and conduct full-fledged user testing with live recording, tasks, and surveys. Rich libraries of UI components, icons, animations, video, and most importantly, VR components are a cherry on top.

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#12 ProtoPie

ProtoPie might not be that popular, but it has features that set them apart from other prototyping tools. It allows you to master intricate interactive prototypes without coding skills with its extensive collection of formulas, variables, and conditions.

ProtoPie is cut out for mobile apps and supports multiple smartphone sensors. For instance, the proximity sensor allows users to turn off the screen when they bring the phone closer to their ear. Plus, you can test your ideas with the ProtoPie Player app or in mobile browsers, or even save prototypes on your device.

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