Before you have settled on a logo, sitemap, fleshed-out content, or branded font, you are going to need to design a wireframe. Having a wireframe is essential to mapping out what your UX will be like for your end-user.
Where will the UX essentials be positioned on the screen and in relation to one another? What will the user see first and how will the design carry their eyes across the page? Where will they expect to see common elements like help/contact buttons or an options menu? These are the kinds of questions you will answer for yourself while building a wireframe mockup for your product.
Some people may prefer the good old fashioned method of pencil and paper for coming up with a quick wireframe design. Personally, I like to save a few trees and use a dedicated wireframing app instead. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites to share with you today.
In this post I’ll share with you the best prototyping tools to include on your wireframe software shortlist and explain how UX software can help you create an app mockup that will impress any client. I will tell you what you should look for in web wireframe tools, provide our evaluation criteria for assessing any mockup software, and provide a simple UI mockup tool comparison.
Wireframe App Comparison Criteria & Key Features
What do we even look for in a mockup generator? What qualities make certain wireframe apps stand out from the rest? We have a robust set of criteria that we use when analyzing any new tool. Here is a quick breakdown of our current evaluation process.
- User Interface (UI): How well-designed is it? Does it offer clear displays and intuitive navigation? What is the user experience like?
- Usability: Is it easy to learn and master? Are there tutorials and training? Does the company offer good tech and user support? Does the software support Android and MacOS, or have a mobile app?
- Features & Functionality: How many of the key website and app design software features and functions does it provide, and how powerful are they? Specifically, I looked for:
- Drag & Drop: easily add and move UI elements and other design elements with drag and drop simplicity, allowing team members to quickly create and modify wireframes.
- Feedback & Collaboration Tools: it’s important to be able to easily manage feedback on wireframes, with the ability to leave comments, mark up wireframes, attach files, and collaboratively build wireframes. Does the software provide collaboration features to enable this?
- Interactive Elements: allows you to make an interactive wireframe (sometimes called a “clickable prototype”, “interactive mockup”, “interactive prototype”, etc.) which lets you create a clickable version of the wireframes to prototype the interactive elements.
- Fidelity Levels: does the software allow team members to create a range of different wireframe types, including high-fidelity and low-fidelity?
- Presentation Tools: wireframes are usually presented in the initial phases of a project, either internally or to clients, so the ability to quickly convert wireframes into visually beautiful presentations is important.
- Revision History: can you access previous versions to see changes and revert back to them—this saves your work so you don’t have to re-do it in the event of changes.
- Integrations: Does the wireframe app connect with other tools? Any pre-built integrations or add-ons, such as Jira or Photoshop?
- Value for $: How appropriate is the price for its features, capabilities, and use case? Is pricing clear, transparent, and flexible?
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Miro is a collaborative online whiteboard with over 1,000 templates including mind maps, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, product wireframes, research boards, and flowcharts. It’s trusted by 99% of the Fortune 100, and used by teams at TransUnion, HP, Upwork, Cisco, Qlik, and Atkins. Miro’s visual platform is built for hybrid work, and has robust resources for continuous learning like Miro Academy, online events, and a community forum.
Miro offers a wireframing tool that comes with an infinite brainstorming canvas, a robust set of widgets, prebuilt templates, toolkits for user story or customer journey maps, wireframing, roadmap or sprint planning, retros, and more. You can engage remote teams across formats, tools, and channels with digital workspaces to enable asynchronous and synchronous collaboration.
At The Digital Project Manager, we use Miro to map out content clusters and to visualize content workflows from start (brainstorming ideas) to finish (publishing the content on our site).
Miro has integrations with a whole suite of tools, including Zoom, Figma, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Slack, Google Drive, Box, Airtable, Notion, Azure, and Webex. Some integrations are limited to paid plans only.
Miro is free to use for unlimited members with up to 3 editable boards. Paid plans start at $8/user/month (billed annually).
Creative teams can design at scale with the Adobe XD toolkit, which includes a unified assets panel for brand consistency, features for easy replication of lists and other elements, responsive resizing of content, collaborative presentation and chat features, tooling, and APIs to enable custom integrations, and more.
As for our evaluation criteria specifics, it doesn’t get much more well designed and functional than Adobe software. While Adobe tends to have a steep learning curve, they are also top-notch at providing training videos and written tutorials so you will never feel left in the dust.
App integrations and/or plugins include Airtable, Trello, UserTesting, Google Sheets, CloudApp, Overflow, Stark, Angle, UI Faces, and dozens more.
As for some minor critiques, the animations and auto-animations features are not as fully-functional as they could be. Also, there is no way to include micro-interactions and links between prototypes, which leaves users piling artboards into a single file, significantly slowing down the program as it grows.
Adobe XD starts at $9.99/user/month but also has a freemium version.
With an intuitive vector editor, lightning-fast prototyping, and powerful collaboration tools, Sketch can help you turn your brainstorms into ready-to-code project designs. They offer pixel-perfect precision, hundreds of plug-in options, non-destructive editing, export presets, code exports, and more.
If you read our evaluation criteria, you probably noticed that in features and functionality we are looking for drag and drop capabilities, collaborative feedback options, interactive elements, presentation tools, and revision history. Sketch covers all of these bases with ease.
They have tons of integration options listed on their site as well as plugins that they offer for Sketch users. Integrations include but are not limited to Crystal, Drafta, Invision, Lingo, Marvel, Overflow, Proto.io, UXPin, Wake, and Zeplin.
One feature that this wireframe tool is missing is a Windows version of the software. This tool is only available for OS X, which will alienate many potential users right off the bat. In order to get the most out of the software, you will probably find yourself installing a lot of plugins, which might be tedious for teams who are looking for a “ready to go” app.
Sketch for Teams starts at $9/user/month and has a 90-day free trial.
Microsoft Visio is a design tool that connects your flowcharts and diagrams to real-time data, meaning that changes made to data present in Microsoft 360 or Vision will automatically be reflected in your design. They have a browser-based version so that you can access your charts and wireframe templates remotely. You can also share your work as a secure web-based link, attachment, image, or PDF.
Being that it comes from such a large, well-known brand, the evaluation criteria segments in which Visio excels are UX design and usability. It’s very well designed and laid out with many familiar elements of Office software built-in. There are tutorials and online support aplenty so it really does work for any team without the resources for additional training.
As you would expect, MS Visio integrates with Microsoft 360. However, there seem to be no other third-party integrations to speak of.
The fact that Visio doesn’t offer real-time collaboration functionality is a huge negative for an otherwise robust app. It also seems to be missing custom stencil support, which is a key tool offered with many competitors software. Unless you love the Microsoft/Windows landscape, you will want to look elsewhere for a wireframing tool, as Visio performs best amidst that family of software.
Microsoft Visio starts at $6.40/user/month and has a 30-day free trial.
Used by BP, L’Oréal and BMW, Lucidchart simplifies app wireframe making software with a large library of wireframe templates, drag-and-drop functionality, real-time collaboration, in-app chat, automatic sync and save, and more. Being a web-based app, there are no downloads or installations needed and it works on any device, browser or operating system.
When diving into our specific evaluation criteria, usability and value for cost are definitely strengths of Lucidchart. The low per-month cost combined with the use-anywhere, browser-hosted app makes this one of the easiest wireframing tools to get started with.
Lucidchart integrates with Microsoft Office apps; has free add-ons for Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides; and integrates with the likes of Atlassian, Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Slack, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Jive, GitHub, BambooHR, Quip, and more, including many through Zapier.
Although we love the ease of a browser-hosted tool, if you want a desktop app you’re out of luck. That means that no data/wifi means no work, which might not work for certain workplaces. The exact limitations of the freemium version are also a little difficult to suss out, meaning that some users might bump up against a paywall when they are not expecting it.
Lucidchart starts at $4.95/month and has a freemium version of the software.
|From $8/user/month||Check out Miro|
|From $9.99/user/month||Check out Adobe XD|
90 days free trial
|From $9/user/month||Check out Sketch|
30 days free trial
|From $6.40/user/month||Check out Microsoft Visio|
|From $4.95/month||Check out Lucidchart|
Need expert help selecting the right UI & UX Software?
We’ve joined up with the software comparison platform Crozdesk.com to assist you in finding the right software. Crozdesk’s UI & UX Software advisors can create a personalized shortlist of software solutions with unbiased recommendations to help you identify the solutions that best suit your business’s needs. Through our partnership you get free access to their bespoke software selection advice, removing both time and hassle from the research process.
It only takes a minute to submit your requirements and they will give you a quick call at no cost or commitment. Based on your needs you’ll receive customized software shortlists listing the best-fitting solutions from their team of software advisors (via phone or email). They can even connect you with your selected vendor choices along with community negotiated discounts. To get started, please complete the form below:
Best for stencil and template library
Best for experienced UX designers
Desktop-based tool for prototyping mobile, web and desktop apps easily and quickly
Low-fidelity wireframing tool for designing great web apps, desktop software, websites and user interfaces
All-in-one prototyping tool for web and mobile apps with an assortment of free wireframing tools to get started right away
Best for software engineering and software architecture
Piece interactions together to create realistic prototypes for any digital product in the most familiar way to you
Wireframe Design FAQ
These are a few frequently asked questions that I wanted to touch on. However, if you have a question that isn’t addressed here, feel free to leave it in the comments below. Chances are, someone within the community may be able to help you.
What is wireframe UX?
Wireframe UX is the building block of software design. It visually plots where different blocks of data will appear on a screen. It will not include branding or design at this point and is only meant to convey a basic arrangement of elements.
What is wireframe software?
Wireframe software is software that is designed to help you mock up a wireframe layout as quickly and easily as possible. Many web wireframing tools will let you drag and drop placeholder elements for images, text, banners, and logos to help you get a feel for your first draft design.
What software do UX designers use?
UX designers may need prototyping software, wireframing software, graphic design software, tools for research and testing, Information Architecture (IA) planning software, bug report and tracking software, and more. Many tools will handle two or more of these needs, like Sketch, which can take care of vector editing, prototyping, code export, and collaborative feedback.
Not looking for UI design software at the moment? Check out our other lists of top software to manage teams, resources, and projects:
- Where are you in your UX project journey? If you’re already way deep into the design process, you might benefit from the best bug tracking tools on the market.
- If you’re struggling with just getting started at all, then some productivity help will be your biggest ally. Before you get started, you have to get motivated.
- If you’re looking for some Project Portfolio Management tools that are currently creating a buzz in the industry, we have that too! PPM tools are essential to any project, UX design included.
What Do You Think About Our Best Wireframing Tools Lists?
Every good idea starts with a good wireframe—making wireframing an important step in web design. Before you can get specific, you have to plot out the larger elements of any UI project. The tools above will help you do that.
What website mockup tool would you recommend? What do you currently use now? What do you look for in a website prototyping tool? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.