Few factors play as big a role in your app’s success as its user interface. From the minimalism of Google to the straightforward design of Facebook, many of the world’s most popular websites and apps succeed not just because they’re useful, but because they have great UIs.
One of the most common mistakes first-time app and website developers make it focusing on functionality before UI. They rush into development with a list of features to implement, without any focus on how the user will actually interact with these features through the application.
The end result is often an app that works well, but has a user interface that’s built without any thought for usability. The value is there, but a clunky or poorly thought out user interface makes performing the simplest of tasks a serious challenge.
Luckily, it’s easy to develop a prototype UI for your application before you leap into developing its features. Having a UI prototype of your app ready ahead of time gives you several benefits:
- If you’re seeking seed capital, you have a prototype ready to present to investors
- You have a minimum viable product (MVP) ready for users to test and comment on
- You have a control design ready for A/B, multivariate and usability tests
Your developers also benefit from having a prototype UI prepared ahead of time, since they’re able to visualize how users will interact with their code. This makes developing useful features much easier and prevents confusion during the development process.
What are the best UI prototyping tools?
Hands down the easiest way to prepare a prototype UI for app is with UI prototyping software. A huge variety of UI prototyping tools are available today, ranging from web-based apps to PC and Mac software.
Below, we’ve listed five of the best UI prototyping tools for preparing a quick, helpful prototype of your app’s UI to show to investors, developers and other interested parties.
Invision is a web-based prototyping app for web and mobile apps. Built for collaboration, it has a great contextual feedback feature that lets clients, investors and other stakeholders comment on specific aspects of your UI while it’s being designed.
Easy to use, Invision lets you upload your design files and start building right away. Animations, transitions and other elements can be added to your prototype, making it easy to create a high quality prototype that accurately reflects how your app will look once it’s more complete.
Once you’re finished, you can export pixel-perfect stylesheets to use for your app or website. It’s free to use Invision for one prototype, with larger plans for professionals starting at just $15 per month.
Marvel is an easy to use prototyping tool for designers. If you usually work in Photoshop, you’ll find it easy to import your images for editing in the Marvel editor. Marvel can also integrate with Sketch to create screens for your application.
Once you’ve imported your files, you can link designs together using gestures and transitions to imitate the performance of a real web app. Like Invision, Marvel has a collaboration system that makes it easy for clients to leave helpful feedback on specific UI elements.
Marvel is free to use for up to three projects, although you’ll need to sign up to the $15 a month Pro plan to export your prototypes as ZIP, PDF or for Android.
Moqups is an online wireframing tool that makes designing an interface for your mobile or web app quick and simple. The tool’s interface is split into two sections: on the left, a list of elements for use on your page, and on the right, a live editor with your prototype wireframe.
Once you’ve built your pages, you can join them together to create a working app prototype with links and hotspots. Moqups lets you export your UI prototype in PNG or PDF format, giving you a series of images to present to potential investors and developers.
Like Marvel and Invision, Moqups has real time collaboration. Plans start from $13 per month for up to 10 projects, unlimited users and 1GB of storage space at once.
Balsalmiq Mockups is a simple UI mockup tool that lets you drag and drop page elements onto a blank canvas. Built with usability and simplicity in mind, it’s arguably the easiest tool to use on this entire list, especially for non-designers interested in quickly building a simple UI prototype.
Mockups integrates with Google Drive, making it easy to import your design files. It’s available as a Mac or Windows app, and also as a web-based application. There’s even a free Udemy course that covers the basics of creating an app prototype using Balsamiq Mockups.
If you’re searching for a really simple prototyping tool built with non-designers in mind, this is a great option. The desktop app is available for $89, with access to the online version priced from $12 per month.
Pixate bills itself as the “most powerful prototyping platform on the planet,” and a brief look at its list of features certainly backs up its promise. Using Pixate, you can generate a 100% native UI prototype that looks and behaves exactly as it should on iOS and Android.
Once you’ve finished your prototype, you can share it with team members on their own devices in one click. Pixate makes it easy to leave feedback on specific UI elements, with support for up to 10,000 users (yes, 10,000) on a single project.
Used by Amazon, Facebook, Google and other leading companies, this is the prototyping tool to choose if you’re looking for power. Pixate is available for free, with Pixate Cloud priced at $5 per user per month.
Finished your prototype? Now it’s time to test it
UI testing your mobile app as early as possible lets you spot and fix bugs before you prepare for release. MyCrowd QA, our crowdtesting platform gives you access to thousands of usability testers before you launch your app, giving you the data you need to optimize and improve your UI.