User interface (UI) design refers to the process designers use to build interfaces in software or computerised devices, focusing on visuals and interactivity. From wireframe, to mockup, to prototype, UI design covers all of the components you’ll see and interact with on a screen: colours, fonts, menu bars, swiping actions, and more.
Excellent UI design is key to ensure users have a smooth and enjoyable experience when using an application or device. With that in mind, it’s vital that UI designers have the best developmental tools available at their disposal. WIth so many different tools in the market, it is sometimes difficult to find the right software that is suitable for you. Different UI design tools have their own unique features and learning curve so we will outline some essential design tools which we think will be useful for helping different designers design a good user interface. A good tool for you may not be a good tool for another designer.
Here are some essential UI design tools in 2022.
Sketch is one of the most popular UI design tools used by professionals and beginners alike. It’s an all-in-one vector-based design app that means everything you create is scalable. The app is built to make collective designing possible, with cross-platform tools that allow you to share real-time feedback and make easy handoffs to developers.
Its intuitive vector editing tools make wireframing and prototyping easy. The app also features an infinite design canvas, thousands of templates and typefaces, as well as courses and cheat sheets so you can develop your knowledge as a designer. You won’t run out of functions on Sketch – the app includes over 700 extensions, such as plugins, assistants, and integrations.
The Sketch app is available for Mac only, although it does have a web-app for all operating systems with some limited features.
Visily is an AI-powered wireframe and mockup tool that allows anyone to create impressive app and web designs in no time at all. The app speeds up UI coding development and makes it simple to create sophisticated and functional wireframes, even if you have no UI design experience.
As well as providing a huge range of beautifully pre-built mobile and web templates, Visily’s powerful AI tools allow you to upload images of existing apps or sketches and convert them into fully customisable wireframes. The app enables you to work collaboratively on projects, while Visily’s AI Design Assistant helps to spot subtle colour or icon set mismatches and more.
Visily’s intuitive interface has almost no learning curve, making it perfect for both non-professionals and professionals. What’s more, it’s currently a completely free application.
Another one-stop vector-based UI design tool, Adobe XD allows users to prototype web, app, and brand designs. The programme offers a number of impressive design features such as 3D Transforms which allows you to simulate object depth and perspective, as well as voice prototyping so you can include voice-enabled features in your work.
It also has all of the vital mockup tools you expect from a top of the range UI-development product, including collaborative design, reusable components, auto-animation, as well as a streamlined handoff process. One more handy feature of Adobe XD is its UI kits which make it easy to design apps for popular platforms such as Apple Design, Google Material Design, and Amazon Alexa.
It’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite but you can subscribe to Adobe XD itself separately.
Marvel is an ideal UI tool for beginners. It’s web-based with no install required, and offers quick and intuitive design and testing. The app includes an impressive library of pre-made templates and assets for every device, as well as the ability to import from a range of other UI tools. Meanwhile, its design handoff tool makes transfer to developers super simple.
It’s a perfect rapid prototype tool that allows you to transform mockups into interactive designs, making it easy to add hotspots, interactions, and layers as you desire – with no coding needed. Marvel also makes it easy to share these prototypes with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. Quick URL sharing and embed codes mean you can get feedback on your designs in no time at all.
It’s accessible for individuals – with a free plan for a single user with one project – all the way up to large organisations in Marvel Enterprise.
Figma is another browser-based UI tool. It’s an end-to-end design platform that aims to bring together impressive creative features with a more enhanced and streamlined workflow. Created with the future of web design in mind, it boasts design components you won’t find anywhere else, such as a modern vector pen tool allowing you to draw in any direction and an Arc tool so you can create clocks, watches, pie charts, and other round designs.
As well as its wide range of plugins and presets, Figma features a really useful design system in which you can store all your visual assets – this is accessible to your entire business, ensuring flawless consistency of image between teams and designers. And as Figma is an all-in-one tool, it’s easy to switch between your design file and live prototype. Meanwhile, the embedded commenting ensures feedback is viewable on both formats.
Figma offers a decent free plan, with up to 3 Figma files and unlimited collaborators. Its Professional option, featuring unlimited Figma files, can be accessed for $15 per editor per month.
InVision Studio is a powerful and comprehensive prototyping, animation, and mockup tool. With its responsive vector-based drawing, flexible layers, and infinite canvas, you’ll be able to create attractive and inviting designs. The app covers the whole design process, making it easy to test and get feedback on your creations and then hand them over for the development stage.
A unique facet of InVision Studio is that it places a lot of focus on interactivity and animation. Using the Motion transition, the app automatically links up matching layers and animates the differences between source and destination screens in a smooth fashion. And if you’re new to animating prototypes, there’s no need to worry – InVision Studio’s website has a number of informative Learn pages that help you to master every one of its features.
InVision Studio works seamlessly with the InVision suite of tools. You can use Studio for free with 1 prototype and 3 boards; its Pro plan starts at $9.95/active user/month.
Balsamiq is known as the ideal in-between UI tool for developers and designers. It’s a quick and simple wireframing and mockup tool that makes it possible for anyone to design sleek user interfaces, desktop software, websites, apps, and more. The app claims to be the industry standard for low-fidelity wireframing software.
Perfect for the early, ideation stage of UI design, Balsamiq aims to digitalise the process of sketching mockups and drafts on paper or whiteboards. Instead of getting caught up in discussions about details like colours, animations, typography, Balsamiq forces you to focus on structure and content. It contains hundreds of built-in UI components and icons, while its drag-and-drop design process means there’s no learning curve required. The app makes wireframing rapid – this means you can generate more ideas and weed out the bad ones.
Balsamiq is available as both a cloud and desktop app. You can get a free 30 day trial of the cloud version of the app.
Uizard is a prototype and mockup tool that uses AI to assist in creating attractive and functional designs in just minutes. Developed for both designers and non-designers, it comes with plenty of pre-built templates and assets that you can drag-and-drop into your work. Furthermore, its Design Assistant allows you to easily convert hand-drawn sketches into digital layouts.
Uizard is web-based, accessible across all platforms and operating systems and it has a remarkably low learning curve – its developers suggest that if you can use Powerpoint or Google Slides then you’ll be comfortable using Uizard. Plus, if you’re working in a team, Uizard’s smart sharing process allows you to collaborate in real-time so you can get feedback from your team and sign-off from stakeholders – it’s as easy as sharing a link, just like Google Docs.
The app’s free plan allows you to have 3 projects and up to 10 themes, while its Professional version gives you access to all of Uizard’s pre-built templates.
No matter your level of experience and expertise, this article demonstrates that there are a range of UI design applications for every stage of the development process at every price point. Whether it’s a low-fidelity wireframing and mockup tool or a more comprehensive and complex all-in-one suite, you’re bound to find a programme that suits your needs. Although there are so many different tools out there and maybe most of them suit your needs, it’s always worth trying out each tool so you can find the one that suits you best. Sign up for a few free trials and see what works best for you – the future is truly yours to create.