Wireframes help create, document, present and validate smart and interactive designs for complex websites, mobile phone apps, TV apps, enterprise software applications and everything that runs on a device with screen interface, without the need to write a single line of code.
Back in time, UX designers used to create paper wireframes that evolved to digital sketches, to interactive wireframes and finally to fully functional design prototypes. However, the art of Wireframing has evolved over time and so have the wireframe tools.
Whether to create a wireframe or not is no longer a questions. Wireframe is a must for reduced development time and higher adoption by end users. Wireframes help capture user feedback earlier in the design life cycle and safeguards designers against the unexpected costs that might occur for revising the fully functional product.
There are many sophisticated tools out there in the wild that help create simple static wireframes, high fidelity wireframes as well as fully functional design prototypes.
Which Wireframe tools are good for you?
It is always a good idea to try out a few tools that meet the basic requirements, and then finalizing on to the one that fits your budget, liking and long term goals.
Axure, Proto.io, UXPin and JustInMind for example are wireframe tools that are packed with features and can be used to create hi-fidelity fully functional prototypes of websites, web apps, mobile apps and everything else that needs a user interface. Product managers, UX/UI designers and business analysts can create fully functional prototypes that represent the UX/UI and interactivity of the envisioned end product.
Aforesaid tools present great option for big projects and offer enterprise grade features like version control, feedback and comments tracking, project tracking, SSO integration etc. Other similar tools include names like FluidUI, Invision and Mockflow.
Wireframe.cc on the other hand is a simple wireframe tool that lets you create design wireframes to validate design in the early stages of design lifecycle. It offers minimal user interface, almost zero learning curve, options to annotate and version control etc. Another good tool that goes a little beyond wireframe.cc is Balsamiq, which offers sketch like representations and interactive wireframing. These tools do not put much focus on fully functional and interactive end product representations but on sketch like wireframes. Moqups is another good tool in this category.
While most of the tools are commercial and comes with a price tag, there are few open source free wireframes tools available as well, like Pencil project. These tools may not provide elegant interface and enterprise grade features out of the box, but offer enough features for creating interactive wireframes and prototypes, and can be extended with use of custom plugins.
In this article, we will look at the 10 best wireframing tools available in the market that offer modern set of features, intuitive to use, offer drag and drop tools for rapid iterations and are used by Individual designers, design houses, UX experts and product managers across small and large enterprises.
UX PIN is one of the most sophisticated wireframe software available in the market as of today and is trusted by big companies like HBO, Sony, NBC, Red Bull, USA Today and many more.
UXPIN started back in 2010 in Poland and started creating paper prototypes, in 2012 it launched as an online app to help create digital wireframes. Ever after its release as an online wireframe tool, its popularity grew rapidly and as of today it is giving tough competition to the long time market leader Axure.
UX PIN comes packed with features that help create wireframes, prototypes and mockups an absolute breeze. It comes packed with thousands of ready to use design elements to create smart and interactive wireframes for web, desktops and mobile applications.
UXPIN offers features for individual designers, design teams working in collaboration as well as mid and large scale organizations. Some of the basic features are as listed below -
- Seamless import of Photoshop and Sketch files.
- Libraries for Android, iOS, Bootstrap, foundation and other development frameworks.
- Illustrations using images, icons and other UI elements.
- Ready to use transitions, hover effects, drop downs, typography, background, grids, guides, snapping,layers management and other UI elements.
- Version control and option to go back to previous iterations
- Adaptive breakpoints covering iPhones, desktops and other standard screen sizes.
Apart from the features mentioned above, UXPin offers many more features that make it a true Enterprise grade wireframe tool, these features include Slack integration, Team comments tracking, project status reporting, Organization SSO integration, User permissions etc., to name a few.
UXPIn comes with a trial period of 30 days where you can try out the Pro Version of UXPIN and explore all the features. There are four paid options labelled as Basic, Pro, Team and Enterprise in order of increasing number of features.
Read more about UXPIn here at - UXPin wireframe tool
JustinMind is another sophisticated commercial tool to create great looking and fully functional prototypes for mobile apps and websites.
JustInMind has a big market share and there are more than 20,000+ companies across the globe that use JustInMind, at the time of writing this article. When it comes to big logos in the list of customers, JustInMind doesn't fall behind UXPIN or Axure, and boasts customers like Google, Dell, Siemens, NASA, Cisco, Paypal and many more.
The key features that make Justinmind a great choice for enterprises include - user permissions, roles, LDAP integration, testing tools to gather feedback, UI assets library, requirements management, version control, VIP support, training options and APIs access for customization.
The best thing I like about Justinmind is the pre-installed UI libraries, plus custom libraries that can be downloaded and installed. Some of these libraries include UI Kits for iOS, Android, Android Tablet, Google Glass, Apple Watch, iOS8 icons, Android icons, Windows 10 icons, Apple Watch UI Kit, Bootstrap, fonts awesome, Charts, Facebook widgets and many more.
Like UXPin and Axure, Justinmind also offers a 30 days free trial for evaluation purpose. One key difference is that Justinmind is desktop based application and does not run in the browser. You can install Justinmind on Mac or Windows desktop and go for either subscription based licensing model or buy perpetual licenses per user.
Read more about JustInMind here at - Justinmind Wireframing tool
Axure is in the market of wireframing tools for last 14 years and provides most modern set of features, tools and design elements required to create complex websites, iPhone apps, iPad apps, Android apps, TV apps and everything else that needs a graphical user interface.
Axure is a clear market leader in terms of adaptation and customer base with more than 80% of the fortune 100 companies as their customers. Some of the big names include Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce, Audi, Apple, eBay and Cisco.
Axure’s clear focus is large scale enterprises and big design houses, and for that reason, it provides features, deployment model, support plans, and documentation required for a true enterprise grade product.
With its drag and drop features, dynamic content, animations, math functions, conditional logic and data driven interactions, Axure gives power of creating app wireframe and prototypes in the hands of product managers, User experience professionals and Business Analysts. There is no need to write a single line of code or learning graphic designing.
Axure also makes it easy to share work with others with click of a button, the wireframe or prototype gets published to “Axure share” which can be accessed using web browser and iOS/Android mobile apps.
Team collaboration is at its best with built in SVN client to check in and check out files in the central repository with version control.
Axure RP trial version is available for free use for 30 days, post which one can choose to purchase cloud or on-premise version of Axure. Axure also offers free licenses to students and teachers for classroom learning.
Read more about Axure here at - Axure
Moqups intuitive user interface lets you get started with your design project within no time with almost zero learning curve. It may not be offering all the features and tools to build high fidelity prototypes but it is best at what it does – interactive wireframes.
Moqups wireframe app offers free version for students and nonprofits and also offers free access to everyone else with limitation of 1 project, 300 objects and 5MB of free storage.
Some of the key features of Moqups premium plans include –
- Unlimited number of team members
- Collaboration in real time
- Privacy settings and access control
- Master pages and templates
- PDF/PNG Export
- Integration with Google Drive
- And Tech support
Read more about moqups here at - Moqups Official Website
Balsamiq is simple, low cost and no-frills wireframe software for designers that helps create wireframes faster and smarter. Like Moqups, Balsamiq is also fast and intuitive with very low learning curve and focuses more on the needs of the UX designer rather than the needs of the Enterprise, although the features it offers for enterprise level collaboration are nothing less than any other top class tool.
Balsamiq brings the whiteboard sketching experience on to the computer and focuses on sketch style wireframes to encourage brainstorming. Sketch style app wireframe can be used to run online user tests and get feedback quicker and reduces time for design revisions.
Balsamiq can be integrated with Atlassian Confluence Cloud, confluence server, JIRA Cloud, JIRA Server and Google Drive.
Balsamiq has made its own place in the market of wireframe tools and is used by many organizations including Apple, cisco, Tesla, Adobe, Skype, Sony and EA.
Read more about Balsamiq here at - Balsamiq Wireframes Tool
FluidUI is another great tool for creating high-fidelity wireframe and prototypes. Headquartered in Ireland, FluidUI is the creation of Dave Kearney and was officially launched back in 2012 after successful private beta release in 2011.
FluidUI makes creation of multi-screen prototypes an absolute breeze with visual linking and screen flows. UX designers can easily link pages visually and see how the navigation shapes up. The visually connected screens can easily be shared across the entire team for feedback or presentations.
Like UXPin, Azure and Proto.io, FluidUI wireframe app is also web based and there is no need for installation or setups on the machines/servers. Subscription plans include 30 days free trial, Solo, Pro and Team subscription options.
Read more about FluidUI here at - FluidUI - online wireframing tool
Invision is a complete design platform and provides great features to create wireframes, prototypes, team collaboration, experimenting with designs, user testing, feedback collection workflow and much more.
One of the cool features of Invision is its “real time in-browser presentation tool” using which one can create guided tours, launch meetings and present designs with elegance and ease.
Read more about Invision here at - Invision wireframing app
Mockflow is one of the UX/UI design products from the house of by A Produle Systems (P) Limited and offer powerful features for creating high fidelity interactive wireframes and mockups.
Mockflow modules include “Wireframe Pro” for creating user interface mockups, Design Collaboration for review and approval of designs, “Website Pro” for creating and publishing websites, “Banner Pro” for making animated ads and banners and Timeline to design professional timelines.
Talking a little more about Wireframe Pro, it offers drag and drop UI editor, master pages support, layer based design, canvas auto sizing, grids, rulers, presentation mode, ready to use UI components like icons, forms, navigation, etc., multiple editing and team chat for collaboration, and many export options.
Apart from basic features mentioned above, it also offers online library called MockStore that hosts many ready to use third party templates and design components.
Read more about Mockflow wireframe app here at – Mockflow wireframe app
Proto.io is another simple to use web based online wireframe tool for creating high fidelity prototypes of mobile and web applications and for that matter apps for anything with screen interface, including smart TVs, game consoles, cameras, airplanes, cars, and of course phones, tablets, computers and laptops.
Proto.io was started back in 2011 by Labs Division of SNQ digital and as of today boast customers like Disney, IDEO, Amazon, PayPal and BBC to name a few.
Proto.io lets designers make prototypes that look absolutely real and work exactly like the end product, without the need of any coding and just with drag and drop tools.
Proto.io helps bridge communication gap by bringing product managers, developers and designers on the same platform. One can test animations, interactions and flow of the app without writing code.
One can import designs from Sketch and Photoshop or create designs in proto.io itself, preview designs in any device using proto.io android and iOS apps, gather comments and video feedback from users, conduct user testing with platforms like loopback, validately and UserTesting.
Read more about Proto.io here at – Proto.io
Pidoco offers subscription based online model as well as desktop based tool that can be installed on windows, Linux and Mac OS. All of the Pidoco subscription plans offer enterprise grade security, full feature access, web and mobile projects, unlimited users and tech support.
Pidoco targets five step process for great designs -
- Easy Sketching
- Custom Templates
- Interactive Elements
- Instant Previews
- Smart Teamwork
Pidoco is a great fit for creating low fidelity clickable wireframes for mobile apps, web apps, and websites and enterprise applications. Pidoco is quite popular among small and midsize organizations unlike Axure, Invision or UXPIN that rule in the world of Fortune 500 companies
Read more about Pidoco here at - Pidoco
Pencil Project – Free Wireframe Tool
Talking about free wireframe tools - Pencil project is an option if you are looking for free wireframe tool. It is not as intuitive and feature rich as the top commercial tools like Axure, UXPin and Invision etc., but is the best free wireframe tool available as of today, and provides enough features to create working prototypes for desktop, web and mobile apps.
Since Pencil Project is open source free wireframe tool, so it is free of cost for unlimited use, and can be installed on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X. For Fedora and Arch Linux, installations can be done using the built in package manager. Alternatively, Pencil also comes as Firefox extension and lets you work in the browser itself.
Some of the key features of Pencil include Easy GUI prototyping with the use of pre-installed android and iOS UI stencils, linking elements on multiple pages, built in shapes collection and shapes collections created by community, drawing tools for wireframing shapes, options to export to PNG, PDF, SVG, and web pages etc.
Read more about Pencil Project here at - Pencil Project - Free Wireframe tool
The approach towards creating wireframes and prototypes has evolved very rapidly in the last couple of years and paved the way to highly sophisticated wireframe tools.
Dot it yourself, drag and drop UI/UX design tools for creating high fidelity and low fidelity wireframe and prototypes have become the default choice of designers, and have shown exit door to the age old sketching & drawing apps.
In this article, we have covered best wireframing tools for designers in the market that help create stunning designs with minimum effort and cost. While most of these tools offer overlapping features yet there are significant differences, and for that reason, it is important to do a clear mapping between requirements and features offered by these tools, before selecting the final one.
The best part is that almost all of these tools have free version available for evaluation which can be tried out before purchasing the tool or subscribing for a paid access.
Do share your experience with Wireframing and wireframe tools with our readers via comments. Cheers!