Wireframing is a skeletal product layout that gives you an overview of an app or website’s structure and user flow. It shows you where things like buttons and images go without all the intricate designs. For UX designers, this step is highly important to ensure the final product is easy for people to use. It’s a large part of their jobs, as it sets the foundation for the rest of the design process.
While designers used to sketch their wireframes with pen and paper — today, there are numerous wireframe tools to make this process faster and more efficient. Yet, how does a UX designer know which wireframe tool is best with all the options available on the market?
Exploring a list of the top tools can give you insight into which ones are top-notch.
Figma is a favorite tool among those in graphic design and prototyping, but did you know you can use it for wireframing? This cloud-based tool lets you access it from any computer at zero cost. Figma provides free users with tons of features, making it a great choice for those on a budget.
While plenty of free wireframe tools are available, Figma gives teams what they need to collaborate. Each can work side-by-side to brainstorm ideas, map user flows and make team projects smoother. New users may need time to get the hang of it, but wireframing becomes a breeze once they do.
Key Features of Figma
- Vector networks: Figma lets you create complex designs without any fuss.
- Prototyping: Make your wireframes come to life by animating transitions between frames.
- Design components: Create wireframes from customizable templates and reuse elements across multiple pages.
- Shared libraries: Teams can share and update design elements in real-time.
- Real-time collaboration
- Feature-rich for free users.
- Integrates well with other tools and plugins.
- Has other functions and design purposes, so it’s not strictly made for wireframing.
The Pencil Project is an open-source tool, meaning it’s free for everyone to use and modify. It’s a straightforward tool that makes it ideal for beginners. Though it’s free of charge, you can still get many great features to build your wireframes.
Download the wireframing tool on Mac or Windows. You can also choose to access it through an add-on in Firefox. Either way, Pencil Project makes a suitable choice if you want to create wireframes for websites or mobile applications.
Features of Pencil Project
- Built-in shape collections: Provides standard shapes, flowchart elements and iOS and Android UI stencils.
- Export options: Allows you to save your designs in different formats like PNG, HTML or PDF.
- Inter-page linking: Connect elements to a specific page, making it feel like a live product.
- Clipart browser: Easily find and use clipart in your wireframes with drag-and-drop functionality.
- Easy to use, even for beginners.
- It’s completely free.
- Lets you download wireframes in various file formats.
- It’s for low-fidelity wireframing, so it lacks some advanced features to make high-fidelity prototypes.
- May be slow or glitchy at times.
3. Adobe XD
Adobe XD is an all-in-one design tool with many neat features to make wireframing easy. The tool lets you work with a blank canvas or use plugins to give you customizable layout templates. It has a handful of tools to iterate throughout the project and refine your wireframes.
Adobe XD is also great for creating a basic or high-fidelity wireframe. As part of the Adobe Cloud Suite, XD gives you everything needed to create a wireframe that you must hand off at work.
Key Features of Adobe XD
- Interactive prototypes: Link artboards and add animations for realistic user flow.
- Plugins and integrations: Extend functionalities by connecting with other tools and plugins.
- Adobe fonts integration: Access to more fonts for better design.
- Responsive resize: Design across multiple screen sizes with minimal effort.
- Asset panel: Store and retrieve design elements easily for consistency.
- Seamless integration with Adobe Creative Cloud services.
- Offers real-time collaboration with Coediting.
- Clean and intuitive interface suitable for beginners and pros.
- Monthly subscription can be affordable as a standalone tool but costly if the entire suite is needed.
- Some advanced features have a learning curve.
Another great wireframe tool is the Balsamiq Wireframe — a low-fidelity wireframe instrument that stands out for its hand-drawn, sketch-like experience. It’s like using a pencil to draw on a whiteboard but with a computer. This simplicity allows designers to focus on functionality and user flow without the distraction of aesthetics.
Key Features of Balsamiq Wireframes
- Drag-and-drop elements: Easily place UI components within the wireframe.
- Quick add: Search for and add UI elements fast.
- Reusable symbols: Create custom elements to use across various mockups.
- Collaboration features: Comment, discuss and iterate directly within the tool.
- Ideal for rapid prototyping and getting ideas down quickly.
- User-friendly for beginners with a minimal learning curve.
- Provides a library of UI components and icons to speed up the design process.
- Can seem like a downgrade to other comprehensive programs.
- Collaboration is possible, but not as seamless as other platforms.
- The “sketch” look may not be presentable to certain clients.
Mockflow is more than a wireframing tool — it’s a suite of applications, making it a one-stop shop for the entire design process. What makes Mockflow popular is its approach to creating, sharing and collaborating. Mockflow has these features that make the design process smooth.
It’s also an ideal program for beginners. With lots of design presets, you can save time creating shapes and other elements.
Key Features of Mockflow
- Component library: A large collection of components and templates to speed the design process.
- Design collaboration: Invite team members to view, comment and edit in real-time.
- Revision history: Track changes and revert to previous versions if needed.
- Export options: Varied formats, including PDF, HTML and more, allow for flexible sharing.
- A large set of tools for sitemaps, design approvals and more.
- Cloud-based, allowing easy access for teams everywhere.
- Intuitive interface makes it useful for beginners and experienced professionals.
- Limited design options for wireframes.
- Application can be slow at times.
- Free version has limited access to features.
Make Wireframe Creations Seamless With These Top Tools
Wireframes are essential to the UX design process — they give teams insight into how the final product will look. However, manual sketching of a wireframe takes time. Instead, you can speed up the process with the right wireframe tools. Choose one that suits your needs and make wireframe creation as smooth as possible.