If you have any interest in web design, app design, UX or UI, there’s no doubt that you’d know that prototyping tools are a massive deal right now. They’re becoming more and more popular for designing interfaces for websites and applications.
If you haven’t heard of prototyping tools, they’re tools that have been developed to help streamline the design and development process of digital products. They allow designers to create prototypes of interfaces before they go into development. This can be fantastic for when stakeholders want to experience the interface of their product before lots of time and money is invested in developing it.
Adobe veterans Photoshop and Illustrator have been instrumental before now in creating mock-ups for web pages and applications. As grateful as we are for their service, it’s time to move on. The limited, static design solutions that these programs offer have become more and more of a hindrance for developers, especially with apps and websites becoming more interface and user experience focused by the day.
With these feature-rich prototyping tools becoming so readily available, design handoff is becoming much more integrated with the development process. Not only this, but for UX designers and researchers, it allows usability testing to be carried out a lot sooner in a lot more detail. Usability tests like tree testing and card sorts are obviously still instrumental to begin with, however having a designed mock-up of the finished interface before the fully developed product can help the designers get results sooner, with more conclusive attitudinal and behavioural information.
So, are you ready to dive head first into the world of prototyping tools? Sure, but there are so many tools available that it’s almost impossible to define an industry standard. We’ve picked out our four favourite prototyping tools to help you find what suits your needs the best.
More of an honourable mention really, but we feel that we should include it as one of the first prototyping tools to really come to market. Although it may be slightly slacking lately with all the fierce competition out there, Sketch really did pave the way for prototyping tools. It still has one of the cleanest, most intuitive user interfaces out there, but lacks in-depth native tools. Although, if you’re willing to integrate, with a few plugins Sketch can still become a UI design powerhouse.
Probably the prototyping tool you’ve heard of, right? InVision has been instrumental recently. It has both a lite version, which they claim will be free forever, and a paid-for studio version, which has heaps of advanced native features. It is fantastic when it comes to collaboration, as people you share your designs with can leave comments on certain elements, which is great if stakeholders want to keep a close eye on what you’re working on, and add feedback where necessary. It also one-ups Adobe XD, as it has great advanced animation features, including timeline functionality.
Adobe XD is the designer’s prototyping app. If you’re familiar with other Adobe programs, chances are you’ll already be able to use this one. It integrates well with other Adobe apps and has some handy time-saving features for designing layouts, such as repeat grids. It also offers up a pretty good ‘auto-animate’ feature, which isn’t as advanced as InVision’s timeline functionality, but is extremely easy to use. It’s also extremely easy for design handoff, as it’s easy to export icons, fonts and imagery directly from the canvas. The one issue I’ve found with Adobe XD, is that the prototyping can get messy quickly. If you want to build an extremely complex prototype, you’ll notice that you end up stuck with a prototyping page with about a thousand link diagrams on it.
So that’s our four top picks then. Hopefully from this you should be able to see what suits you the best, but if you’re still completely clueless, don’t worry. There are loads of other prototyping tools out there (seriously, loads… it’s frightening really), so one of them is bound to work for you.