10 best prototyping and design tools for startups

Are you familiar with a situation when a website or an app was made according to intended design but it doesn’t work as expected? When everything looks right from the first sight but a button doesn’t work, a link is wrong and animation is a bit different from what you wanted it to be. As a result, developers need to go back and fix everything.

design tools50% of development time is spent on reworking something, which could have been avoided and it costs money. Actually fixing an error after development is complete is 100 times more expensive than it would have been before.

With modern prototyping tools, it’s possible to create a functional version of a website or an app that looks and works exactly as the final product should. With the ability to collaborate, comment, share and test prototypes you can save plenty of time and money.

1. UXPin

UXPin is the ultimate UX design tool for all team members: from designers to managers. It lets you create mockups and transform them into beautiful and interactive prototypes.

Along with rich functionality, UXPin has an intuitive interface and is very easy to use (what else could you expect from UX design tool). Besides, it has immense knowledge base to help you get started.

UXPin lets you upload Photoshop, Sketch, JPG, PNG, PDF and DOC files so it works with any design tool you use. You can also conduct usability tests using UXPin prototypes instead of live website and gather user insights from screen and webcam recording. Because UXPin is positioned as the ultimate design tool for the whole team, additional attention was paid to collaborative functionality.

Price: UXPin price starts from $19, $29 or $99 per month depending on number of users and functionality.

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2. Invision

Invision is probably the most popular prototyping tool in the world. All you need to is to upload any .psd, .sketch, .pdf, .png, .jpg or .gif files and start prototyping. The process is as easy as it gets – simply select the area in the image and assign the action.

Management of project feedback is probably the best and most important feature offered by Invision. Clients and team members can leave comments directly on the prototype. All comments are stored so you can access them anytime. It’s extremely handy in combination with version controlling.

Price: You can try Invision for free, but this plan allows only one prototype. Paid packages cost $15, $25 and $99 depending on the number of prototypes and users.

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3. Adobe Experience Design CC

Previously known as Project Comet, Adobe Experience Design (XD) was released last spring and has already earned significant market share. XD is somewhere between Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop with some wireframing features.

Being new to the market, XD has simpler functionality than some of its competitors: small toolsets, no Layers Panel, no collaboration support. No doubt, Adobe will add more great features in the future. On the whole, XD perfectly fits the niche that was neglected for a while.

Price: Adobe XD is totally free, at least for now.

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4. Webflow

Webflow is all-in-one platform which combines web design tool, CMS, and hosting platform. Webflow lets you easily design and prototype a website for all devices simultaneously. Once the prototype is ready, you can turn it into a production-ready website with just one click of a button. Webflow comes with ready-to-use templates and prebuilt components (forms, navigation, sliders, tabs, etc.) to make the process even easier. It also integrates with 500+ apps (Slack, Google Drive, Trello, etc.), email marketing tools and eCommerce platforms.

Price: Webflow offer three different plans one of which is free. Free plan includes unlimited number of projects (if you use Webflow’s hosting), 2 unhosted projects, “Forum only” support and basic set of features. For more sophisticated projects, you can choose “Professional” plan for $35/mo. If you work in a team, “Team” plan would cost you $78/mo.

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5. Proto.io

Proto.io lets you create fully-interactive prototypes for all kinds of devices that look and work like finished products. Proto.io offers a wide range of ready-made templates with a variety of built-in interactions so you just need to add you specific content. You can also easily develop a project from the scratch. In case you need any help, Proto.io provides excessive knowledge base with detailed user guides and videos. Also, with Proto.io you can incorporate Sketch and Photoshop designs through a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Price: There are 4 pricing plans which differ by the number of users and projects. The cheapest plan includes 1 user and 5 active projects for $24/mo, while the most expensive one costs $160/mo for 10 users and 30 active projects.

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6. Atomic

Atomic includes everything you’d expect from high-quality prototyping solution: drawing and layout tools, enhanced interactions and animation, collaboration functionality and tons of ready-made components. Also, Atomic has a “history option”, which allows you to access all previous versions and create a new one from any point.

The main drawback is that Atomic works only in Google Chrome. It doesn’t support any other browsers and is not available as a desktop app.

Price: Atomic offers 3 packages that cost $15, $25 and $35 per month. Needless to say that it’s a very democratic price.

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7. Justinmind

Justinmind is a desktop app for creating interactive wireframes and prototypes. It supports all major mobile, desktop and wearables screen sizes. You can also publish wireframes created in Justinmind online and get feedback from users and customers.

Price: Justinmind offers very simple and attractive pricing policy. In case of annual subscription you pay just $19/mo. You can also buy a lifetime license for $495 per user.

Moreover, Justinmind has an Enterprise package which includes:

  • Collaboration on your own servers
  • UI assets synchronization
  • Requirements management
  • Advanced user management
  • LDAP integration
  • Plug-in extensions
  • Enterprise-level support

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8. Axure

Axure is a desktop application with diagramming, documentation, and interactive tools to quickly design and share interactive prototypes. It supports all major mobile and desktop screen sizes. Axure is a pro tool and best suits big projects. It’s also more sophisticated than the other tools on our list but it should not be a problem thanks to impressive knowledge base.

Price: Axure’s pricing system is quite flexible. “Pro” plan would cost you $29 per user per month or $495 per user per license. “Team” plan costs $49 and $895 accordingly. “Enterprise plan” is only available via subscription model and costs $99 per user per month.

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9. Vectr

Vectr is a graphics editor used to create vector graphics easily and intuitively. It’s available both as a web and desktop app which is very handy considering that it automatically saves and syncs your projects in real-time, across all platforms. Currently Vectr is in Beta but it already has everything you need to create prototypes for websites and apps.

Price: Currently Vectr is free and basic graphics editor will be free forever. Pro plan will for sure be added in the future.

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10. Framer Studio

It’s a prototyping app for Mac that stands out from the crowd. Why? Because it actually requires coding. Framer Studio is based on Framer.js JavaScript framework (see it on GitHub) and literally lets you prototype anything. While a lot of users consider “code-free” prototyping as an advantage, Framer delivers unprecedented flexibility thanks to its coding functionality.

Learning Framer’s coding language is not as scary as it sounds. The Framer’s documentation is well structured and includes plenty of examples. There are how-to videos and courses on O’Reilly and Udemy.

Price: Framer Studio costs $129 per license and has Free trial.

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Author bio: Oleg Yemchuk is the marketing manager at Maven sharing office space with online business experts and software developers. Oleg is marketing expert by day and geek by night. As a geek culture fan, he spends his free time playing video games and reading comics.