Having the ability to validate your app concept before you launch it is extremely powerful. It allows you to refine your UX, attract investors, and save money.
At worst, it can help you avoid spending more on a failed idea.
That’s what prototypes are for.
Creating an app prototype is easier now than it was years ago—thanks to the myriad of third-party tools available.
In this article, we’ll be talking about some of the top prototyping tools you can use in your app projects.
Adobe XD is a vector-based design tool developed by the same developers as Photoshop and Illustrator.
With such an impressive pedigree, they have managed to create an easy-to-use platform.
While Adobe XD is mostly for design, it does support animation and interactive features that make it viable for prototyping.
And you can do it in a very intuitive way. You simply enter Prototype mode and drag various components into each other to establish connections.
For instance, connecting a button to a screen makes the app switch to that screen when the button is tapped.
Adobe XD also supports plenty of transitions, giving you plenty of creative freedom.
The tool automatically creates animations for you, which you can play around with using the Drag and Time sliders.
The tool also provides lots of time-saving features that allow you to create
For example, Components in Adobe XD need only to be edited once, and changes will automatically be propagated to all copies. This makes revising prototypes extremely fast.
Another great feature is the Repeat Grid. With it, you can drag an item, and it will automatically create copies of that item in a grid pattern.
It’s extremely useful for quickly creating product carousels or photo album mockups.
Overall, Adobe XD’s versatility, responsiveness, and ease of use make it a powerful prototyping tool.
It’s even better if you use other Adobe tools, as it allows you to import files easily. Plus, the interface and some keyboard shortcuts are similar, so you’ll feel right at home.
Adobe XD is subscription-based, starting at $9.99 per month. It also offers a free trial.
Axure RP (which stands for Rapid Prototyping) is a design and prototyping tool that allows you to create UI designs from scratch like any other tool out there.
However, the design options are limited compared to more robust platforms like Figma or Adobe XD. For instance, mask support is cumbersome in Axure RP.
But where Axure RP truly shines is in creating UX interactions. It supports both simple and complex behaviors, such as triggering multiple states with a single action.
Furthermore, it also has excellent support for gestures.
Its comprehensive interaction features are considered to be among the most powerful in the industry, rivaling that of popular tools like Figma and Sketch.
This makes Axure RP an amazing tool for creating high-fidelity prototypes.
Another fantastic feature of Axure RP is that it can export a prototype into HTML. This allows you to post your
prototype on a website and invite anyone to try it out.
Also, having HTML files makes the handoff to the development team pretty straightforward.
This power and versatility, however, come at a price. One of the biggest drawbacks of Axure RP is its steep learning curve.
You’ll be talking with our technology experts.
If no one in your team knows how to use it, be prepared to commit time and energy to do so.
Nevertheless, if you want to create prototypes with advanced interactions, Axure RP is your tool of choice.
But due to its limited design capabilities, it’s best to pair it with a dedicated wireframing tool like InVision, Sketch, or Adobe XD.
A monthly subscription to
Axure RP starts at $25 per month. It has a 30-day free trial available.
Balsamiq is one of the more popular wireframing tools. Its unique approach is replicating the look and speed of paper sketching through UI components that look like rough illustrations.
Then, once you’re ready, you can switch to a cleaner wireframe UI option.
But while Balsamiq is better known as a design platform, it also allows you to create click-through prototypes.
The approach for creating interactions in Balsamiq is similar to animating a storyboard. You can define clickable areas in your UI, then link those to another screen to create a transition.
However, Balsamiq does fall flat as a prototyping tool. It doesn’t support more complex interactions and animations, which limits its use only to creating low or mid-fidelity prototypes.
But as an early-stage design tool, it’s great. It’s intuitive and straightforward, allowing you to develop low-fidelity prototypes rapidly.
Balsamiq’s pricing starts at $9 per month, allowing you to work on two projects simultaneously.
Figma is a very popular wireframing and prototyping tool—and for a good reason.
It features a myriad of powerful features that make it a strong contender against industry leaders like Adobe XD or Sketch (which we cover later on in this article).
In fact, Figma is a great pick if you’re looking for an all-in-one tool that can handle wireframing and prototyping.
Figma is very easy to use, especially if you’ve used similar tools. For instance, Sketch and Figma share the same interface, which can be a welcoming sight.
Also, Figma supports robust animation and transition tools that allow you to create complex interactions.
For example, you can layer several dynamic types of content together to create interesting effects.
One neat feature of Figma is Smart Animate, which allows you to animate multiple layers in one action.
But the real edge of Figma is that it allows real-time collaboration. This is perhaps the platform’s biggest advantage over Adobe XD and Sketch.
That means multiple team members can work on the same design remotely, similar to Google Docs and Sheets.
This eliminates the time-consuming task of passing design files back and forth.
Figma is web-based, so you can easily access it anywhere on any platform.
However, there’s a drawback to this—you can experience a slowdown when working on larger designs on an underpowered workstation.
Nevertheless, you can’t go wrong with Figma as a comprehensive app design tool.
Best of all, it’s very usable
even with the free plan, while the paid version starts at €12 (around $12.77) per editor per month.
Justinmind is yet another design and prototyping tool similar to Figma and Sketch. But it shines in creating high-quality, realistic designs that closely mirror your final app version.
That makes it a prime choice for creating high-fidelity prototypes.
Notably, it offers mobile gestures, a feature that allows you to simulate any gesture in your prototype without running it on a mobile device.
This allows you to set what happens when the user swipes right or pinches the screen.
Moreover, you can simulate gestures on any prototype, thus simplifying your testing immensely.
Justinmind offers a free plan that allows unlimited projects and screens, which is nice. But if you want advanced features, their paid plan starts at $9 per user per month.
Framer is an interactive design tool used for websites and prototyping.
It started life as a technical prototyping tool for designers with coding experience and grew into a collaborative web application.
Framer is also beginner-friendly, to use it you only need basic canvas skills.
Framer shines at creating landing pages, marketing sites and online campaigns while supporting every step of the design process, from visual mockups to interactive prototypes.
Its most interesting feature, though, is that it allows you to publish directly from the canvas.
This removes the need for rebuilding your design in another tool or in code before putting it to production.
Framer’s free plan is meant for hobby projects and it offers several paid plans, depending on your needs: Mini ($5/mo), Basic ($15/mo) and Pro ($25/mo) as well as a Business Custom plan with custom features and services.
Marvel is a web-based tool that lets you take a mockup and make it interactive.
While Marvel lets you create designs with its capable design tools, importing an existing
wireframe from Sketch or Photoshop is the best approach.
In fact, you can upload files to Marvel directly from these platforms.
This platform excels at creating prototypes with realistic interactions. It supports transitions and behaviors for both web and mobile devices.
You can use hotspots and layers to design intricate, complex animations.
As such, Marvel is primarily a high-fidelity prototyping tool.
The great thing about this tool is that it allows for rapid prototyping. It has templates, pre-built components, and stock images to help you easily create a prototype.
Everything is done via an intuitive drag-and-drop approach.
The bottom line is that Marvel is a powerful web-based prototyping tool and a viable alternative to Figma.
Best of all, it offers a free plan for individuals working on only one project. Otherwise, the paid plans
start at $12 per month.
Principle is a native MacOS app used to design animated and interactive user interfaces.
It’s powered by Core Animation, just like iOS and MacOS and it includes features like full-screen mode, a retina interface and auto save making it immediately familiar to MacOS users.
Principle can be used to animate everything from simple short animations to multi-screen app flows.
A particularly interesting feature it has is the record feature – it allows you to export a video or an animated gif that you can share on Dribbble, Twitter or any other social media of your choice.
Principle also lets you design for any size – you can choose a preset (desktop, mobile etc.) or create a custom-size artboard depending on your needs.
Principle only offers a
one-time license purchase for $129 with newly-added features provided for free for the first year – if you want the new features after that, you’ll have to renew your license.
Invision is a prototyping, collaboration and workflow tool for designers.
It allows you to quickly and efficiently create wireframes, mockups and prototypes on their Freehand whiteboards – it’s also beginner-friendly and easy to learn.
What makes Invision stand out is the ease of collaboration and leaving feedback.
You can share your mockups and prototypes live and your users can leave feedback in real-time, leave comments on specific pages or comment on specific elements of your prototype.
Invision also offers simple and easy integrations with various other tools and apps like Google Docs, Jira, Figma, Zoom etc.
Invision offers a free plan ideal for individuals, a Pro plan ($4.95/mo per active user) for cross-collaborative teams and an Enterprise plan with custom pricing based on your organization’s needs.
Proto is probably one of the most beginner-friendly prototyping tools on this list.
This web-based platform does it through an appealing interface with intuitive drag-and-drop controls.
It also includes a huge library of UI components, icons, visual elements, and virtually anything you need to
create a good app UI. You can even access a decent sound effect library.
This gives you the flexibility to create any prototype you can dream of.
It’s especially adept at developing creative transitions and unique behaviors, thanks to the array of resources at your disposal.
Proto.io also goes beyond the usual events like
on tap or on checkbox toggle, as it includes over 80 triggers. This can help you develop a richer, more responsive app.
Overall, if you’re looking for a prototyping tool that gives you the creative powers of an animator and graphic designer, Proto.io is a great pick.
Proto.io plans start at $24 per month for the freelancer version, which is limited to one user and five projects.
Sketch is hands down the most popular design and prototyping tool today. Since its release In 2010, it has become the go-to platform for UX designers and app developers.
Part of Sketch’s appeal and popularity lies in its versatility. It can do everything exceptionally well, from vector editing to creating layouts. However, one area where it’s lacking is interactivity.
That’s not to say that Slack can’t make interactive prototypes at all. You can do so using Hotspot links, which allow you to switch screens when a button is tapped or pressed.
However, Sketch’s interactive toolkit is very limited compared to others on this list. You don’t have many transitions and effects to play with.
Furthermore, having too many Hotspot links can be confusing.
For this reason, Sketch is best used solely for low-fidelity prototyping. For more advanced prototypes, it’s better to transfer to another tool like Mockplus or Proto.io.
Sketch is reasonably priced at $9 per month per person.
Need help with your prototype?
We must admit—that’s a pretty long list of prototyping tools!
Chances are that you’re asking yourself which one to use.
The thing is that you can’t go wrong with any option on this list. They’re all equally capable of creating great prototypes.
However, some tools have specific use cases you can only discern through experience.
So, instead of picking a tool yourself, why not consult us?
We’ll do more than just tell you the right tools to use—we can help guide you through the prototyping and app development process.
Schedule a consultation with us today, and let’s talk!