Creating products takes a lot of time and resources, but one thing that can speed up that process is using the best free prototyping tools. UX and UI designers will find prototyping tools helpful. While some cost a fee or subscription, there are some excellent free options, as well.
We’ve taken the time to track down 12 of the best free prototyping tools out there. If they aren’t 100 percent free, they at least have a free option available, so you can test out some of the features and see if the tool works for you.
1. Origami Studio
Facebook originally developed Origami Studio so their employees could design new products and test them out quickl. Now, it is available for anyone to download for free. You need to register as an Apple developer before you can download. The site offers tutorials and a community to help answer any questions you have about using this product. Origami works by simulating scrolling, swipes, page links and more. You can even import Photoshop or Sketch designs into the program easily, making it one of the best free prototyping tools out there.
2. Invision Studio
Invision Studio is another free solution, but this one has a lot of different features that will likely meet most of your needs as a designer. It’s an excellent tool if you are working with a team and need ongoing communication as you add and subtract elements in your design. It comes with a library of components, including headers, process bars and buttons. Changes are as simple as choosing a different module that matches your needs.
Webflow comes with a free starter plan. You can design and develop all at one time with this tool. It also works to clean up your code and make sure it functions smoothly. This program is a good option for beginners or those who aren’t quite sure of their coding skills. Even if you’re a coding veteran, Webflow speeds up the process of writing code.
The free version allows you to work on two projects. If you regularly design sites or work in design, you may want to upgrade to the Lite plan for $16 per month or the Pro plan for $35 per month. There are also plans for teams.
Figma is another tool that allows you to create prototypes and test them for free. However, there is a limit to how many you can create for free with this site. The first three projects are complimentary. If you want to create more than that, you’ll pay just $12 per month, but you’ll be able to work on unlimited projects for that price. One of the unique features of Figma is the ability to gather feedback on your projects. You just send a link to those you want to give you their thoughts on a project.
5. Pencil Project
Pencil Project is an open-source wireframe type tool that is completely free to download and use. It works for all platforms, and allows you to create mockups to share with clients or for your personal design use. Features include built-in shape collections, diagramming and the ability to export your projects as PNG or a PDF, along with other options.
6. Apple Keynote
Apple Keynote is an outstanding solution if you work on a Mac computer. The tool allows you to create presentations for clients. You can also create illustrations to add to slides or use real-time collaboration, so your entire team can add input. The software works with Mac, iPad or iPhone. The software is entirely free to use and works particularly well to figure out user interface.
Mockplus allows you to create sites designs much faster than without. The tool features more than 200 components and templates for you to explore. There are 3,000 SVG icons and the ability to export with Sketch. If you want a fast, intuitive design tool, Mockplus is an excellent option. The interface is basic drag and drop. The basic version of Mockplus is free, but if you need to upgrade to Pro, it is $199 per year, or you can buy a lifetime subscription for just $399.
With RapidUI, you can turn Photoshop files into live websites. You’ll save time writing all that coding. Just drag your PSD file into the right spot, and the file turns into HTML and CSS. Brilliant, fast and easy! You can also create interactive elements, such as sliders, adding maps or making buttons clickable.
With the free starter package for RapidUI, you can create a prototype of one website, which is perfect for someone building a personal site or just wanting to test out the tool. If you’re going to work on additional sites or need more functionality, you can upgrade to the Pro package for $35 per month, which allows you to collaborate with a team and export code. The number of projects you can work on with the Pro plan is unlimited.
Vectr is another free solution if you’re on a tight budget. Design prototypes on the Vectr site or use desktop apps for either Mac or Windows. If you want to switch between desktop and server, the design will remain synced. You can even share mockups for editing, or so others can add notes.
10. Balsimiq Mockups
Balsimiq Mockups is a simple wireframe tool that allows you to create mockups of your web design ideas on the fly. It is entirely free to use, which is a nice perk. With the simple drag-and-drop interface, you can use pre-built elements to save time. The finished result has the appearance of a hand-sketched design, making it look as though it took you far more time than it did. It is best for small projects that don’t require any animation.
Atomic allows you to complete one project for free. If you need to complete projects beyond that, their rate is $19 per month for an individual, which gives you the ability to work on unlimited projects and share unbranded links for feedback. Atomic is capable of large-scale prototypes. Create animations with a single click and design from a library of choices, or create your own from scratch.
Marvel may sound like a comic book site, but this powerful tool is anything but cartoonish. Get started for free for one user and up to two active projects. As your design business grows, you may need to upgrade to a Pro plan, which costs $12 per month for one user, but allows unlimited projects and the ability to remove branding and download prototypes. There are also plans for teams.
13. Fluid UI
Fluid UI allows you to create web and mobile prototypes on the fly. Some of the features included in this platform are built-in libraries, uploading your own graphic assets and adding interactivity, such as animations and mouse and touch gestures. Fluid UI offers a free forever plan for one project, up to 10 pages and no uploads. For only $8.25 per month, when you pay for the year in advance, you can increase to five projects, unlimited pages, unlimited uploads and access to all Fluid UI libraries.
A Dozen Choices
No matter what your budget or what features you’re seeking, the 12 tools above should meet your needs. The key to finding the best prototyping tool for you is trying different platforms until you find the one you enjoy using that meets the demands of your work.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dog, Bear.