Review of the best Wireframe Tools and Mockup Tools for UI/UX Designing of Apps and Websites:
In this post, we will discuss the top Wireframing tools available in the Software market today.
Before digging deep into this topic, we need to understand what is Wireframing & why it is a must in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
Wireframing is a:
- Mock Up/Rough Sketch that showcases the look & feel of the User Interface of a Software Product (Color, Layout, Controls).
- Define the navigation structure of the Software Product.
- Helps refine the requirements by bringing out the specific behavior of the System.
- Explicitly enable the validation of the requirements with all the stakeholders.
- A simulation that aids the users to conceptualize Software Requirements.
- It brings in a huge factor of user interactivity & responsive design.
What You Will Learn:
- Best Wireframes, Prototyping, and Mockup Tools and Apps
- List of Top Wireframe Tools and Apps
Best Wireframes, Prototyping, and Mockup Tools and Apps
To understand the need for wireframing more clearly, consider the below conversation between a Business Analyst who defines Software Requirements for a Top IT firm & a Retail client who has contracted with the firm to develop a Grocery App that would enable customers to purchase Grocery items from their mobile devices.
Business Analyst: “Hi Greg, today I would like to discuss the Requirements for the ‘Your Offers’ section that the Marketing Department has been envisioning to have in the Grocery App. Can we discuss the high-level User Interface Requirements for the same?”`
Client: “I don’t think that would be necessary. I think we will give out feedback on the User Requirements once your development delivers the first build. We will discuss this during the User Acceptance Test (UAT)”.
More often than not, this exact problem is faced by many client-facing Product Managers/Business Analysts during the Requirements gathering process.
In the above case, the look & feel of the User Interface of the Grocery App is left to the sole discretion of the designers/developers who do the best guesswork for the Client only to find that the Client is not happy with the User Design after the first build/iteration of the Product is delivered.
So how can we eliminate this discrepancy? There are a lot of Wireframing tools that serve this purpose and help freeze the requirements upfront.
Traditionally, most of the Requirement Engineers use two types of Wire Framing Paper & Electronic. Though Paper Wireframing is a Cheap, fast & low-tech way of defining User Interface design, it is far from feasible to accurately depict the navigation structure when there are a lot of screens involved. It becomes a hassle to execute & manage UI requirements in such a scenario.
The electronic Wire Frame tools overcome this difficulty and make the life of Business Analysts/Product Managers easy.
Most of us have used Basic Microsoft PowerPoint for Quick Wireframing at some point in our careers. Haven’t we? But there are several disadvantages to this and a few of them are mentioned below:
- The default controls might not be sufficient for the product that is being designed.
- Take an example of using a list box control for a website that cannot be dragged & dropped with a single click using Microsoft PowerPoint.
- Redo the User design to fit into different aspect ratios for Desktop & Handheld devices like Tablets & Mobile
- Inability to experience the look & feel of the User Design on different devices like desktops & tablets with a single click
- Ability to load context-specific controls like Android Menus or Windows 8 App bar while designing Wireframes for specific devices.
Due to the above disadvantages, most organizations prefer to use specialized tools for rapid, quick & hassle-free Wire Framing. We have analyzed and arrived at the top tools currently being used at top IT firms.
List of Top Wireframe Tools and Apps
The list of best open source free and commercial Wireframing tools for UI/UX design of your apps and websites:
- Balsamiq Mockups
- UXPin Mockups tool
- Fluid UI
- Hot Gloo
- InDesign CC
- Microsoft Visio
- Pencil Project
- Flair Builder
Comparing Some of the Best Wireframe Tools
|Name||Best For||Supported Platform||Free Trial||Price|
|Balsamiq Mockups||Quick and easy to start low-fi wireframing||Desktop & Cloud||30 Days||$9 per month for 2 projects, $49/month for 20 projects, $199/month for 200 projects.|
|UXPin||Over 1000+ built-in UI Elements||Cloud||14 Days||Basic Plan: $19/editor/month, Advanced Plan: $29/editor/month, Professional Plan: $69/editor/month.|
|Fluid UI||Add animations to wireframes||Cloud||Free Trial with limited features||Solo Plan: $8.25/month, Pro Plan: $19.08/month, Team Plan: $41.58/month.|
|Hot Gloo||Designing interactive wireframes||Cloud||7 Days||$13/month for group plan, $27/month for team plan, $54/month for agency plan. Custom enterprise plan also available|
|InDesign CC||Custom UI Element library||Windows, Mac||30 days||Starting $20.99/month.|
#1) Balsamiq Mockups
Best for quick and easy-to-start low-fi wireframing.
Balsamiq Mockups take the top spot on the list because of how simple and agile the tool is. Anyone can easily get started with it even if they have no experience doing UI mockups. The tool presents you with an intuitive drag-and-drop system along with various other elements necessary, like buttons and icons, to draw a compelling UI mockup.
You can use this tool to collaborate with other individuals on a particular project. You can get real-time feedback on your work, thus improving the quality of mockups being rendered. This tool can seamlessly integrate with Google drive and also offer various plug-in options for an enhanced user experience.
How to get started with Balsamiq.cloud:
#1) Start by signing up at balsamiq.cloud
#2) On the projects page, select the ‘+’ sign shown in the upper left corner of your screen. This will result in you starting your first project in the Balsamiq wireframe editor.
#3) You can share the project or invite collaborators by also clicking on the icon present at the upper left corner of your screen.
#4) You can now start designing your wireframe by adding, arranging, and editing over 75 UI elements.
#5) Simply click on the export icon available above once you are done with your editing.
- Built-in UI controls and icons.
- Drag and drop mockup builder.
- Re-usable and customizable template library.
- Simple and interactive prototypes.
- Simple to use
- Share wireframes easily via the web, PDF, or images.
- Optimized for speed.
- Hundreds of community-generated UI elements.
- Only suitable for low-fi wireframing.
Supported Platforms: Desktop & Cloud
Verdict: Balsamiq Mockups is a tool that we have no qualms recommending to anyone who wishes to quickly put together a low-fi wireframe. The drag-and-drop UI elements, along with impressive collaboration tools, make this a worthy contender for the top spot.
Free Trial: 30 Days
Cost: $9 per month for 2 projects, $49/month for 20 projects, and $199/month for 200 projects.
Website: Balsamiq Mockups
#2) UXPin Mockups tool
Best for over 1000+ built-in UI elements.
UXPin boasts over 1000 built-in UI elements that one can use to design cloud-based or mobile-based wireframes. It comes with a sizeable library of interactive components.
Besides elements for wireframes, UXPin also presents UI components for Bootstrap, iOS, Android, and Foundation. They also grant you the ability to import or export files to and from Sketch and Photoshop.
One of its most impressive features is the ‘Merge’ option. With this, you can design realistic prototypes with code elements imbued into them. It also excels with regard to its collaboration tools. You get a live-presentation tool that allows you to give a demo of your mockup to clients.
How to get started with UXPin:
#1) Sign up and open your UXPin account.
#2) Select ‘New Prototype’ and you’ll be redirected to the UI prototype editor.
#3) Here, you can choose to add various UI elements and components to your prototype. You can adjust the grid, scroll, and canvas size from the right-hand side of your screen and add images, comments, shapes, etc. from the left-hand side of your screen.
#4) In the upper right corner of your page, you can hit on the share icon to invite collaborators or export your wireframe.
You can also choose to preview the wireframe on the device by hitting on the small icons right beside the share button.
- Built-In UI elements.
- Integrates with Storybook, Git Repo, and NPM Package.
- Interactive and reusable design elements.
- Contrast Checker.
- Color Blindness Simulator.
- Drag-and-drop simplicity.
- Design realistic prototypes using code elements.
- Comprehensive documentation.
- Remote team collaboration.
- A free version would have been nice.
Supported Platforms: Cloud
Verdict: Easy to use and packed with advanced UI designing features, UXPin is one of those rare wireframe tools that is suitable for both beginners and professional users. As such, UXPin is a wireframe tool worth checking out.
Free Trial: 14 Days
Cost: Basic Plan: $19/editor/month, Advanced Plan: $29/editor/month, Professional Plan: $69/editor/month.
#3) Fluid UI
Best for adding animations to wireframes.
Fluid UI offers some of the same features that make other wireframe tools on this list great. However, it still distinguishes itself with some unique capabilities. This is one of those tools that allows you to add animations and transitions to your wireframes.
The tool presents you with over 2000 built-in UI components that can design web-based, cloud-based, and mobile-based prototypes.
It grants flexibility to users to interact with a UI targeted at varying screens like mobile, desktop, and wearables like Apple Watch and Pebble. Like any other decent wireframe tool, Fluid UI also excels with regard to its collaboration tools. It comes with video calling capabilities, which makes it easier for users to get instant feedback on their UI mockups.
How to get started with Fluid UI:
#1) Create your first page by double-clicking anywhere on the blank window Fluid UI presents you with upon signing up.
#2) You’ll instantly be redirected to the main editor, where you can drag and drop UI elements to create and refine your mockups.
#3) Once your mockup has been created, you can test them on your mobile and website screen.
#4) Hit the share button to invite collaborators and clients for instant real-time feedback.
- Massive library of built-in UI components.
- Add animation to prototypes.
- Live video presentations.
- Retriever mode.
- Test prototype on mobile devices.
- Impressive remote collaboration.
- It’s very simple to use.
- Send invites to clients for feedback.
- Some users have complained about the tool is slow.
Supported Platforms: Cloud
Verdict: Fluid UI can be employed by both beginners and experienced users to create UI mockups in minutes. You have over 2000 UI components to play with alongside the ability to add interactive elements to your prototypes, like animation and transition effects.
Free Trial: Unlimited with feature constraints
Cost: Solo Plan: $8.25/month, Pro Plan: $19.08/month, Team Plan: $41.58/month.
Website: Fluid UI
#4) Hot Gloo
Best for designing interactive wireframes.
Hot Gloo is perhaps one of the finest tools we have seen with the ability to create an interactive wireframe. As a user, you get to play with over 2000 UI components and over 5000 icons to create responsive prototypes. The wireframe you create with Hot Gloo can be optimized for screens pertaining to tablets, desktops, mobiles, and wearables.
Hot Gloo also allows you to instantly send previews of the wireframe you’ve designed to clients so you can get feedback from them in real-time. Again, this tool, like most wireframe solutions on this list, also boasts an impressive remote team collaboration capability.
- Massive widget library.
- Remote team collaboration.
- Test prototype on mobile.
- Export to PNG and HTML.
- Easy to use
- Unlimited reviewers.
- White labeling option is available with pricier subscription plans.
- The most affordable plan is extremely limited with regard to its features.
Supported Platforms: Cloud
Verdict: Hot Gloo offers everything to users that allows them to create responsive and interactive wireframes. The fact that you get to try over 2000 UI components to design your wireframe should be enough to win you over.
Free Trial: 7 Days
Cost: $13/month for Group plan, $27/month for Team plan, $54/month for Agency plan. Custom Enterprise plans are also available.
Website: Hot Gloo
#5) InDesign CC
Best for custom UI Element Library.
InDesign CC, like most of its contemporaries, harbors a massive UI component library. However, it also allows its users to create customized UI elements to design responsive wireframes. The custom-made UI elements can later be saved in the library for reuse later on. InDesign CC also allows you to add transition and animation effects to your mockups.
InDesign CC is an Adobe product. This becomes extremely beneficial as you get access to a plethora of stock assets, videos, graphics, etc. which you can directly import from the Adobe library. Once created, you can easily publish and distribute your wireframe online to gather feedback.
- Team Collaboration
- Add animation to Wireframe.
- Import stock content from Adobe library.
- Create interactive online documents.
- Publish the wireframe online for quick feedback.
- Customize UI elements.
- Track team performance.
- The tool’s main focus isn’t really wireframe creation.
Supported Platforms: Windows, Mac
Verdict: InDesign CC may feel like a different beast altogether, especially when you put it up against other wireframe tools on this list. However, it didn’t take this platform long to win me over with its advanced features and customizing capabilities.
Free Trial: 30 Days
Cost: Starting at $20.99/month.
Website: InDesign CC
#6) Microsoft Visio
Best for basic Wireframe creation.
Microsoft Visio is an easy-to-use tool that allows you to create low-fi wireframes. The best aspect of this platform is the fact that it shares a familiar interface with MS Excel and Word.
This is what makes the platform so simple to use. You also get the support of several third-party plug-ins that only enhance the user experience. You also get to export the wireframe created as an HTML file.
- Process Mapping
- UML Diagrams
- Flowchart processing
- Diagram software
- Project collaboration
- You can access it via Citrix
- Simple to use
- Skype support
- Upgrading it can take a toll on your system.
Supported Platforms: Windows, Cloud (Office365)
Verdict: Microsoft Visio is a tool that we strictly recommend for quick, urgent, and basic wireframe creation. It benefits from its simplistic UI. It is quite phenomenal as a visual chart-designing platform. However, it lacks what is needed to create responsive wireframes.
Free Trial: 60 days
Cost: Visio Plan 1: $5/user/month, Visio Plan 2: $15/user/month.
Website: Microsoft Visio
Best for Robust Interactivity and high configurability.
Pidoco made it to my list because of its ability to create interactive prototypes that can masterfully simulate what your applications will precisely feel like. The platform allows users to leverage device motion, touch gestures and clicks to create prototypes that are highly reactive in nature.
Pidoco also allows you to test your created prototypes on both iOS and Android. You don’t even need to download or install an app to run your prototypes on mobile. The platform also presents you with the privilege of creating your own UI components, which you can store and reuse to design layouts.
- Real-time collaboration
- Mobile testing
- Export prototypes as PNG
- Reusable UI Components
- Easy to use
- Mobile simulation.
- Integrate with apps like Jira and Planio.
- Only online support for the free plan.
Supported Platforms: Cloud
Verdict: Pidoco is a platform you’ll love if you wish to create interactive UX prototypes and click-through wireframes. With the ability to create custom UI components, I am sure that both small and large companies will find plenty to adore in this tool.
Free Trial: 31 days
Cost: Free plan available, Basic: $9.99/month, Pro: $29/month, Unlimited: $199/month.
Best for web screen design for iPad.
Penultimate isn’t exactly feature-rich wireframe software like the ones we’ve already mentioned earlier. This is, however, something you can use to maintain the basics of wireframing with regard to designing screens for iPad directly on the device.
Penultimate also comes with a robust team collaboration feature, which allows you to work on a particular screen with other users on the platform remotely. The wireframes conceived with this platform can be viewed on both mobile and computer devices.
- Web Clipper
- Searchable text addition
- Document scanner
- Template library
- Handwritten text is searchable.
- Easy to use.
- Excellent remote team collaboration.
- Very basic wireframing capabilities.
- Exclusive for iPad.
Supported Platforms: iPad
Verdict: If you wish to design UI mockups using handwritten text to see what a UI may look like on an iPad, then this platform is for you. It is extremely simple to use and ideal for performing the most basic of wireframing work.
Best for creating web applications and mobile prototypes.
ProtoShare is another easy-to-use, web-based wireframe-creating tool that works for both PC and Mac. This collaborative prototyping tool can be used to design, refine, and review your mobile as well as web-based UI prototypes.
What I really love about ProtoShare is the fact that as an editor all you have to do is just focus on designing your prototypes with the component library available. The platform automatically manages the documentation of the feedback itself.
- Single repository for all communication.
- Massive widget and UI component library.
- Export the prototype as a word document.
- Add interactions to prototypes.
- Built-in feedback management.
- Easily test mobile prototypes.
- Build custom reusable UI components.
- No reviewers allowed for their cheapest plan.
Supported Platforms: Cloud
Verdict: Simple and rich in features, ProtoShare is an online wireframing tool you can use to create website, mobile, and web application prototypes. With automated feedback management, the review process this platform adheres to is the finest I’ve seen.
Free Trial: 30 days
Cost: Standard Plan: $29/month, Professional Plan: $49/month, Business Plan: $59/month.
#10) Pencil Project
Best for open-source GUI prototyping.
Pencil Project distinguishes itself from all the other tools that have been mentioned here by being an open-source GUI prototyping platform. It offers a plethora of built-in components that you can use to create both mobile and website UI mockups. The platform also allows you to import clip art directly from the internet to be added to your prototypes.
- Built-in shape collections.
- Drag and drop operation.
- Diagram drawing support.
- Inter-page linking.
- Open source
- Collection of flowchart samples.
- Export prototype in the different output formats.
- Feels a bit dated.
Supported Platforms: Windows, Mac & Linux
Verdict: Pencil Project is an open-source platform that you can use for GUI prototyping, thanks to its in-built library of components. We would recommend it to anyone who wouldn’t be bothered by its dated look and wishes to simply focus on refining a UI mockup.
Website: Pencil Project
#11) Flair Builder
Best for free online viewers.
Flair Builder comes with a comprehensive suite of built-in components, all of which you can use to create clean and responsive prototypes for mobile and websites. You also get to add transition and advanced animation effects to your wireframe with just a few clicks.
Its review system is also impressive. You can get the proof-of-concept in front of your client anytime without a hassle. The best aspect of Flair Builder is the free online viewer, which allows you to share your prototype with anyone within minutes.
- Custom UI Library.
- Reusable UI components.
- Insert Animation and Transitions into wireframes.
- Advanced user management.
- Master pages and layers.
- Auto-generated sitemaps.
- Supports both online and offline comments for review purposes.
- Integration with images and fonts from Sketch, illustrator, and Photoshop.
- The pricing structure is needlessly complicated to understand.
Supported Platforms: Mac, Windows & Cloud
Verdict: Feature-rich and easy-to-use, Flair Builder is a lightweight prototyping tool that can create clean, interactive, and responsive mobile and website UI wireframes. Its ability to add interactive elements like animation alone makes it a uniquely decent software for prototyping.
Free Trial: 30 days
Cost: The design of WordPress plan starts at $50 per page. Design to HTML plan starts at $75 per page.
Website: Flair Builder
Now that we have discussed the top 12 wireframe tools in this article, the million-dollar question is which one would one go for? That question is better answered based on an organization’s requirements & budget allocation.
We analyzed the features, pricing, and licensing options for each & every tool and the final decision should be taken after a thorough evaluation.
If we have missed out on any Wireframe tool here, your suggestions and experience are most welcome!