Wireframes are today an integral part of the UI/UX design process in any software development project. They bring clarity and tangibility to your projects, enabling you to address all the user interactions and layout needs. In other words, the usability of your final product mainly relies on how well you’ve created the wireframe. Certainly, to create one, you need a wireframing tool that suits your specific project needs. While there’s a wide variety of wireframe tools, picking the right one for your project may seem rather challenging. So here is a shortlist of the best wireframe apps to help you find the one that’s best for you.
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What Is Wireframe and What Is It Used for?
The term “wireframe” is a buzzword in the interaction design world. It refers to the rough sketch of a design concept, whether that’s a website, mobile app, software, or landing page. A wireframe provides designers with a visually simple guide to represent the skeletal framework of a page or app screen including interface elements and navigational flows.
You don’t generally include any detailed typography style, color, or graphics in your wireframe but mainly focus on the bigger picture; functionality, behavior, and content layout. You just use basic shapes to showcase text areas, buttons, and images to help you rearrange elements for quick iteration. A wireframe is usually the foundation for crafting a high-fidelity working prototype.
The 5 Best Wireframe Tools to Facilitate Your Design Process
Since 2010, Sketch has efficiently served macOS users with a robust yet lightweight vector-graphic wireframe tool. It’s unquestionably a practical interaction design tool that helps you design anything from wireframes to creative UI and vector icon design on a pixel-based canvas. It has a much simpler and more intuitive interface than other vector heavyweight tools like Adobe Illustrator and Affinity Designer.
Using Sketch, you don’t need to design every element from the scratch. Once you download the app to your Mac system, you can connect to a vast online community of designers who have already created and shared loads of free wireframe design kits. A single click allows you to benefit from a wealth of icons, pictograms, buttons, menus, and other design elements.
Like many other desktop apps, team collaboration on Sketch seems a bit inconvenient, as it’s impossible to allow multiple designers to work all together inside a design project. However, you may sync your design to Sketch Cloud, enabling you to share a link to the latest design version, and collect feedback, with no need to go through a lengthy export process. Besides, you can save your complete designs along with individual components for the design handoff or use the wide variety of integrations built to send your wireframe to the programming team.
Cost: $99/year for standalone users, or $9/month for team members using Sketch Cloud. (After a year, you can still use the app, but software updates are no longer provided).
Although Adobe products seem to be feature-rich and complicated to learn, Adobe XD is the best choice for beginners. It offers an easy-to-use tool for user interface design projects. You can do everything within XD from wireframing to basic prototyping. Compared to other feature-heavy Adobe apps, XD’s straightforward and minimal interface provides a pleasurable, easy-to-follow design process. That is to say, if you are looking for a professional wireframe tool without much former training needed, Adobe XD is the case.
Once you open the app, a suite of interactive onboarding lightboxes guides you on how to use the design tools at your fingertips. It also includes a variety of responsive design aids to incorporate a Bootstrap 12-column grid or a resizing tool to create variations of each UI element. It also keeps track of CSS and HTML for your designs to help you grab the code easily and hand it directly to your back-end team.
In most wireframe tools, you need to export the interface design files into a different tool before creating an interactive prototype. Whereas with Adobe XD, you can craft the wireframe, mockup, and prototype in one single file. This capability greatly saves you the big hassle of integrating multiple tools or re-exporting various files with each design iteration. Finally, you can publish your design outcome, and share the link with other team members for further collaboration.
Cost: Free for 2GB of storage and just one prototype; but the Single App Plan costs you from $9.99/month providing unlimited samples and 100GB of storage space.
Figma is a primarily web-based, vector-graphics wireframing tool with some additional features for Windows and Mac desktop applications. It’s a good UI/UX design alternative to apps like Adobe XD and Sketch. It offers a suite of prototyping and code-generation tools that work well whether you are an individual designer or a member of a team.
The wireframing process with Figma is really simple and effortless. You just need to design your UI elements or add them from a pre-designed kit. It’s very easy to create artboards, add text and shapes. A wide variety of prototyping tools will also give you a better feel of the flow. Figma is also a brilliant tool for responsive design. That is to say, if you choose the Bootstrap grid system, you can apply a column overlay, or you may use the Figma Constraints to make elements responsive to various screen sizes.
Moreover, Figma is a good choice for team collaboration opportunities. As a web-based tool, it allows numerous team members to log in and access the design file, add content, carry on a detailed conversation inside the file, leave comments, and mark tasks as complete. When it comes to the development phase, developers can easily extract CSS code from inside the design file and export it to use as needed.
Cost: Free for up to 3 projects; but the Professional Plan costs you from $12/user/month.
Of all the wireframe tools in the market, Justinmind is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable to use. It’s an easy-to-learn wireframing and prototyping tool apt for building high-fidelity prototypes of web and mobile applications. It’s famed for its capability of rendering realistic versions of an end-user product as well as offering interactive design features.
Justinmind also empowers you to develop a wireframe that can be tested as a functioning prototype from the scratch. It facilitates this by a wide range of interactive prototyping elements, including radio buttons, text inputs, dropdowns, and many more. This is something that sets this app fully apart from other wireframe tools. For instance, on Sketch or Figma, you need to work on three or more screens to set up a working dropdown on a basic wireframe; however, Justinmind enables you to create that with a single effortless click.
Therefore, if you want to get realistic, detailed feedback on your designs much earlier in the process, Justinmind is the best tool to help you save hours of work. Besides, it provides a user-friendly layout; all design elements are arranged on the left-hand side, while organization ones like the list of screens, folders, etc. are on the right.
Cost: The desktop app (Windows, Mac) is free with basic wireframing tools; The Professional Plan costs $19/month providing unlimited samples and advanced features.
InVision Freehand is the best web-based wireframe tool used for team collaboration on a whiteboard-like canvas. It’s the most basic, easy-to-use platform among wireframe tools that allows team members to initiate ideas, co-draw, plan, present, and provide feedback. You and other team members can simultaneously use simple tools such as Draw, Sketch, and Comment to brainstorm and exchange ideas, leave comments, and save your notes for later reference.
Using InVision Freehand, anyone – not only designers – can contribute and revise. You can simply add images, illustrations, and basic shapes to design a wireframe only with your mouse cursor. Thanks to its cloud-based feature, multiple designers and other stakeholders can sign in and work simultaneously on the same project.
InVision Freehand also allows concurrent syncing with software like Sketch and Adobe Photoshop. This capability enables your team to draw and make notes directly on refined prototypes, which makes the iteration design phase much easier. Since it’s part of the InVision suite, your team sketches are stored together with working prototypes for quick reference in the future.
Choose a Wireframe Tool That Complements Your Tech Stack
Although Adobe XD and Sketch are the best-known wireframe tools with UI/UX designers, you don’t have to restrict yourself to those. Decide on software that fits in well with the rest of your tech stack. Initially, think through your design process and analyze the goal your wireframe is meant to realize. For instance, do you need to incorporate responsive elements into your design? Do you plan to work individually or as a team? Do you just want to present a simple wireframe or a high-fidelity working prototype? Who do you intend to present your wireframes to? Your clients, a board of directors, or simply the development team for deployment?
Given that each wireframe tool has its specific capabilities, it’s sometimes helpful to provide a tech stack with various tools on the list. This accelerates your product design process and allows you to move forward more efficiently. We recommend you start with a desktop app, as it generally offers more robust and comprehensive feature sets. Then you can move onto a cloud-based platform to enable your team members to collaborate simultaneously and refine the design project. In short, it all depends on what you plan to do with your wireframe and what steps you need to take afterward.
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