7 Best Prototyping Tools for Designers

| October 23, 2012
Sign up to get weekly resources, and receive your FREE bonus eBook.
Thank you!

Get ready for some great content coming to your inbox from the team at UserTesting!

Here at UserTesting, we’re firm believers that you should test a prototype with real users before writing any code.


Because it’s way more expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating for your engineers to go back and make changes in the code than it is for your designer to go back and make changes in their design tool.

In a perfect world, developers would spend 100% of their time building awesome new products and features. But in reality, an estimated 50% of engineering time is spent on doing rework that could have been avoided. What’s more, fixing an error after development is up to 100 times as expensive as it would have been before.

Prototyping can help you avoid costly rework

Getting early feedback from your target market (and making research-backed, user-centered design decisions) can help you avoid those expensive errors, saving hundreds of engineering hours and thousands of dollars.

A much better use of your time would be to mock up an initial design, drop it into your prototyping tool of choice, and then run a user test to validate your assumptions and figure out whether or not you’re heading in the right direction.

But which prototyping tool should you use? We’ve been through our fair share of prototype tests, and we’ve collected our favorite tools and resources to help you get the job done.

1. InVision

InVision makes it easy to create interactive prototypes. Simply upload static screenshots and create clickable prototypes your users can interact with and understand.

InVision supports all major mobile, desktop, and wearable screen sizes, and you can easily share your designs with team members, stakeholders, and clients. They can give you contextual feedback by leaving comments directly in your prototype.

They offer a few different plans at various price points, starting with a free account that allows you to make 1 prototype, all the way up to a $99 per month plan for unlimited prototypes for five team members.

2. Marvel

Marvel quickly turns your sketches, images, and mockups into prototypes that look and feel like the finished product.

You can create prototypes of all major mobile, desktop, and wearable screen sizes, and easily share them with others. Team members, stakeholders, and clients can comment directly on each screen or drop annotations.

Marvel offers three plans ranging from a free account with unlimited projects (but some basic restrictions) to a $55 per month account for 5 team members. You can add more team members to your account for $11 per user per month.

3. Flinto

Flinto lets you quickly prototype your iOS and Android apps by using screens or sketches you’ve already designed, allowing you to update as you iterate. It specializes in mobile prototypes for iOS and Android devices.

Flinto makes it easy to share your mobile prototypes. You can actually text a link to your team members, stakeholders, and clients that will let them download your mobile prototype to their home screen and use it like any other app.

And it costs $20 per month per user.

4. Justinmind

Justinmind is an interactive wireframe creator that enables you to create realistic, interactive prototypes without any coding.

It supports all major mobile and desktop screen sizes, and it also supports Google Glass. Just like Invision and Marvel, Justinmind makes it easy to share prototypes and get contextual feedback on them.

You can either purchase a subscription plan for $19 per user per month, or you can pay a one-time fee of $495 per user to get lifetime access to Justinmind.

5. Axure

Axure allows you to generate realistic wireframes by generating HTML wireframe prototypes. We recommend Axure for big projects where every detail counts. Axure is a pro tool: the learning curve is a little steeper than other tools, but they have a great learning center and many resources. It also supports all major mobile, and desktop screen sizes.

Axure offers two price points: a one-time payment of $289 for the standard plan, and $589 for the pro plan. They also offer a 30-day free trial.

6. Proto.io

Proto.io helps you create fully interactive, high-fidelity prototypes that function just like your finished app should—without any coding required.

You can create any custom size screen and customize it with your own device frame graphics to handle just about every device out there.

Proto.io offers 4 different plans ranging from $24 per month to $160 per month.

7. Balsamiq

Balsamiq helps you quickly design mockups and easily share them with your teams and clients. It’s easy to use, it has a great widget library, and the fact that it’s cloud-based makes team collaboration easy.

Balsamiq supports all major mobile, and desktop screen sizes. It also supports dialogue box mockups. Their desktop product costs a one-time fee of $89. The web app version of the product ranges from $12 per month for three projects to $249 per month for one hundred projects.

Bonus: Keynotopia

What I love most about Keynotopia is how easy it is to use. It turns PowerPoint and Keynote into prototyping machines that anyone can use, regardless of their design chops. 

You get drag-and-drop templates you can use to easily mock up interfaces. And you can even create interactive prototypes by linking design elements to specific slides.

They support UI templates for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Facebook. UI templates cost between $39-49, bundles are $99, and their all-inclusive package with every template is $242.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about how to use prototypes to get early feedback and build better products, check out these resources: