5 of the Best Prototyping Tools to Test Out Your Web and Mobile Designs
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been sharing some of our favorite resources to help refresh your web design toolkit. So far, we’ve focused on tools that help you discover new design assets for your latest projects — in particular, free stock photography and visually stunning fonts. This week we are changing gears and showcasing a few of the best prototyping tools available for web and mobile design mockups. Prototyping is an integral part of the design process as it lets you and your team review concepts and share feedback in the early stages of a project. By creating an interactive mockup of a website or mobile app, you are able to identify any shortcomings in the flow and usability of your design before investing too much time or money into development.
While every designer has a unique set of needs for their mockups, each of the tools below offers the functionality and flexibility required to create highly interactive concepts without a single line of code. Hopefully, after reading through our list, you find the perfect tool to test out your web and mobile designs.
Envision is a web-based prototyping tool that allows designers to create highly interactive mockups for web and mobile projects. While you can’t create designs directly within InVision itself, you can upload your static page designs into the tool and then add hotspots to transform them into fully interactive mockups. Additionally, InVision has the ability to sync with your Photoshop or Sketch documents, allowing you to update your prototype in real-time within your design suite program of choice.
Envision has a wide array of valuable tools to facilitate your workflow including preview mode, comments, version control, and file syncing. It also offers a variety of transition animations and mobile gestures (swiping, tapping, etc.) that can help bring your design to life. One of my favorite features in InVision is its ability to create hover states for any design element. This allows your prototype to be even more representative of the final product as you can add advanced interactivity such as drop-down menus and hover states for buttons. Invision’s ability to facilitate collaboration is its greatest asset. Teammates, clients, or anyone shared on the mockup has the ability to leave location-specific comments and threads. This eliminates confusion created through the back and forth email threads and helps ensure that changes are implemented exactly where they need to be. Plus, with InVision’s LiveShare feature, collaboration can happen in real-time using a screen sharing integration that includes chat, collaborator-specific mouses, and sketching capabilities.
If you are looking for an all-in-one prototyping tool, look no further than Justinmind. What makes this particular tool unique is that it offers the functionality to create web and mobile wireframes within the platform itself. You just need to select the design elements you want to include and create them on your artboard. Once you are happy with your layout, you can add mobile gestures, web interactions, and transitions from Justinmind’s extensive library of pre-existing widgets. The widget library is tailored to the device template you select at the onset of your project and can include elements such as interactive buttons, checkboxes, lists, and even parallax layouts.
Marvel is a great browser-based prototyping tool that excels in its ability to simplify the prototyping process. As soon as you’ve signed up for your Marvel account, you’re immediately dropped into the interface and can begin creating your first prototype. From there, you can easily upload your image files into Marvel and start adding gestures and transitions. The platform supports direct uploading of certain image file types including PSD, GIF, and JPG, as well as third party uploading via Google Drive, Sketch, or Dropbox.
While Marvel doesn’t offer the kind of complete image editing capabilities found in other software, it does have some basic functionality like background color changes and image resizing. You also have access to 17 different device templates when creating your prototypes. This allows you to rest assured that your mockups are fully optimized for the specific device you are designing for. Marvel’s mobile companion app is probably the tool’s coolest feature. If you’re a designer who loves starting projects on paper, the app can turn your sketches into prototypes just by taking a photo. Your photos are automatically synced with your Marvel account, allowing you to quickly create mockups to experiment with before even designing a single layout in Photoshop or Sketch.
While the simplicity of Marvel may limit the functionality desired by some designers, its low barrier to entry and companion app makes it the perfect tool to get up and prototyping quickly.
Origami is a Facebook-owned prototyping tool that has been used to create mockups for several apps including Instagram, Messenger, and Paper. While predominantly used for iOS apps due to its integration with Apple’s Quartz Composer, Origami also supports the development of interactive Android prototypes.
Origami offers a couple of useful features for interactive prototyping, including plugins for Sketch and Photoshop as well as an extensive documentation library complete with forums, video tutorials, and guides. My personal favorite, however, is its “Export to Code” feature. This option lets you convert your visual design into written code samples for iOS, Android, or the web. This allows you to share animation spec snippets with engineers with just a click of a button.
When in Pixate, you are able to create interface layouts in the form of layers — akin to most graphic design suites — and individual animations through a simple drag and drop function. While these are great to have, what makes Pixate truly useful is its ability to map simulated tactile interactions to these animations through pre-configured options including tap, drag, and double-tap. Once you’re happy with your prototype, you can deploy and test it on an Android or iOS device. But be warned: while Pixate works great for individual freelancers, it can become a little pricey if you work with a larger team of designers. As long as you’re willing to pay the $5 per user per month subscription fee, Pixate’s cloud service allows you to create an unlimited amount of prototype projects that you can share with teammates or clients. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself limited in the number of users and mockups you can create