This will help you quickly compare and evaluate the best wireframe tools and mockup tools.
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.
Quickly Compare & Evaluate The 5 Best Wireframe Tools
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.
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Wireframe App Comparison Criteria
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?
The Best Wireframe Tools Overviews
You could take a deep dive into dozens of web design tools until you find the best mockup software…but luckily, you don’t have to. I’ve done the heavy lifting for you and collected some of the best wireframing tools around.
1. Terrastruct – Best for software engineering and software architecture
Terrastruct is a wireframe tool intended for software engineering and software architecture. Diagrams created in Terrastruct can be split into multiple layers so users and viewers can distinguish each layer of abstraction. This makes it easy to move up and down the layers and see the big picture as well as the details.
Terrastruct scored well in the interactive elements and presentation tools sections of the criteria. The tool allows you to define scenarios for your diagram so that you can model interactions in every relevant case.
Users can interact with and click-around on completed diagrams and break down scenarios into separate frames to keep things organized. Diagrams can also be exported as PDFs or PowerPoints.
Terrastruct can integrate with Google Drive and Confluence, but there are currently no other integrations listed on their site.
Terrastruct has a free version for up to 4 diagrams, 2 scenarios/layers, and 3 frames. A paid plan costs $14.99/month and up.
2. Cacoo – Best for real-time collaboration
Cacoo is an easy-to-use online diagramming, mockup, and wireframe tool with a powerful editor, user-friendly interface, and templates. It helps users visualize their ideas in wireframes, flowcharts, mind maps, and more.
It’s for more than just developers and designers; Cacoo helps all teams brainstorm ideas, present and gather feedback, simplify workflows, and enhance effortless collaboration.
With real-time collaborative editing, on-diagram comments, and a revision history feature, working in Cacoo feels like having your entire team right by your side. Other key features include multiple importing and exporting options, presentation tools, in-app notifications, and an AWS importer.
With a well-designed interface and an extensive library of templates and shapes, it is easy to bring your ideas to life. There are video tutorials, an online support center with in-depth “how-to” guides, and interactive live chat support during business hours.
With its versatile platform, Cacoo provides great value in a wide range of use cases including network architecture diagrams, marketing flowcharts, and business process flows. A setback for some users is that Cacoo is unable to support offline work and there are limitations on the number of sheets and collaborators in the freemium version.
Cacoo integrates with Google Drive and Docs, Visio, AWS, Atlassian Confluence, Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, Box, Slack, and Typetalk. Besides pre-built integrations, Cacoo offers a developer API so users can build custom integrations too.
It’s worth noting that this tool is part of Nulab’s suite of collaborative products which include the project management tool Backlog and the team chat app Typetalk, both offered as Cacoo integrations.
Cacoo costs $6/user/month for the cloud-hosted version, and they offer a 14-day free trial and freemium account option. Cacoo also has a self-hosted version and supports educators and students by offering a 50% discount on its Education Plan.
3. Sketch – Best for vector editing
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.
The biggest con of Sketch is that there is no Windows version of the software, only 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.
4. Omnigraffle – Best for stencil and template library
Artboard presentation mode, keyboard shortcuts for import/export, interactive actions, mouseless editing, non-destructive shape combinations, conversion of text into shapes, diagramming subgraphs, and more combine to make this intuitive wireframing software a robust choice for any sized team.
Omnigraffle truly excels in the usability category of our evaluation criteria. They have a whole section of their site dedicated to manuals and each document is offered in different formats to cater to users’ needs.
They also have tutorial videos available, prominent support contacts displayed generously across the website (email, phone, and social media), and a dedicated Slack channel.
Omnigraffle does not support any integrations that we are aware of, which is a major con of the software.
Like Sketch, Omnigraffle is only available for Apple OS, which is a con for any Windows-dedicated user. Furthermore, the collaboration and communication functions in-app could be expanded, as real-time feedback and engaged group, work is essential to any planning/design project.
Omnigraffle starts at $149.99 for a Standard license and has a free 14-day trial as well as a 30-day return policy.
5. Axure – Best for experienced UX designers
At the center of the Axure RP interface is the canvas, where you create your diagrams by arranging widgets. Used by companies like Amazon, BBC, Target, and Microsoft, Axure provides tools to create diagrams, customer journeys, and wireframes.
Additional features include conditional logic, adaptive product views, animation effects, code export functionality, easy cloud storage and sharing, and more.
Axure is a favorite contender in the features and function evaluation criteria column, most notably because it has so much to offer that users often report a steep or deterring learning curve. For experienced UX designers, though, this will be a blessing. Although it may cost you, Axure doesn’t pull punches when it comes to feature availability.
Axure lacks integrations with third-party apps in the traditional sense. The best they have to offer is their “widget library”, which at least provides you with assets and icons from popular software (Apple products, Google products) so that you can design accurate wireframes with those platforms in mind. These all have an additional cost.
Other than the lack of integration options, some cons include the fact that team and cloud functionality is rather bare-bones compared to other software on the market. Additionally, the way they handle, design, and format images could be smoother—it was often a challenge to implement our vision.
Axure starts at $29/user/month and has a free 30-day trial. They also offer discounts for accredited grad schools, post-secondary facilities, government organizations, and not-for-profit groups.
The Best Wireframe Tools Comparison Chart
|Terrastruct||Read Terrastruct features & functionality|
|From $14.99/month||Check out Terrastruct|
|Cacoo||Read Cacoo features & functionality|
14 days free trial
|From $6/user/month||Check out Cacoo|
|Sketch||Read Sketch features & functionality|
90 days free trial
|From $9/user/month||Check out Sketch|
|Omnigraffle||Read Omnigraffle features & functionality|
14 days free trial. 30 days return policy
|From $149.99 for a Standard license||Check out Omnigraffle|
|Axure||Read Axure features & functionality|
30 days free trial
|From $29/user/month||Check out Axure|
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.