I was one of those people who thought that every time I had to create a new design concept, or a prototype – I’d have to write new code for it, or at least make a ton of images for it in Photoshop. I learned – as the time went by – that you can use wireframe tools, or otherwise called mockup, and prototyping tools that allow you to create example designs for your team and clients, saving yourself a lot of precious time.
Good wireframing tool will allow you to expand upon ideas, see the bigger picture and avoid mistakes along the way. You can try and imagine the end result in your head, when you’re just starting out, but it’s much easier when you prepare a wireframe before and really know what you need to do before even starting to do it.
The example above shows what wireframing tools can help you with. It’s obviously a very lousy example, but it’s intended for those who’ve yet to explore the power of creating something, before it’s created. I’m going to be including only those tools that offer free plans, as there are literally hundreds of these tools available, and each has a different set of features and options to offer.
I’ll include a short bio for each, a snapshot a link to the tools website. I welcome any feedback, and experience reviews of each of the tools in this list. I hope they’ll help you make better decisions, and of course better web designs.
You’ll also find a couple of mockup and wireframe tools for mobile devices.
1. Frame Box
This is also the tool I used for a demo in the beginning of the post, it’s very basic, but I know that Frame Box can be of good use for those who’re looking for simplicity and simple overlay options for their designs.
Very similar to the one above, but seems to sport a more modern look, and is also very minimal. Wireframe.cc also provides the support for mobile and tablet devices, making it really easy to switch between the both. (Desktop by default)
Mockplus is a quick wireframe tool which is created by the fast-growing startup Jongde Software LLC. It is a desktop based application can be used to prototype for any mobile and web apps. Mockplus is really a good choice for users at any level of experience because of the ease of use and the clean interface. If you are looking to create interactive prototypes in a minimum of time, then you can’t go pass Mockplus. It is said that Mockplus team are working on V2.1. The new version of Mockplus will come with a set of pre-designed interaction components, such as popup menu, sliding drawer, image carousel and more, which will allows you to build interactive prototypes with simple drag-and-drop.
Wirefy was created as a tool to help web designers and developers create fast, manageable wireframes. It helps to speed up the journey between sketches and final deliverables. Like the web, it is in constant iteration. This requires a simple workflow and a well-defined collection of atomic elements so that new UIs can be quickly pulled together.
You can upgrade to a premium plan if you like, but the free plan offers all of the tools you need to build sample pages and get a better idea / feel of the direction your project needs to take.
5. Pencil Project
Pencil Projects is great for a lot of things, like mind-mapping for example, or building diagrams. It is however intended to be used for building prototypes and wireframes for web designers. It’s an open source desktop application, which works on most of the platforms today. You can easily build iOS or Android wireframe templates, which will save you a ton of time.
6. iPhone Mockup
Most of the tools in this list will provide mobile support in one way or another, but it’s nice to have a free iPhone mockup tool like this one at hand, when you need to do some quick prototyping without having to worry about project files or load times.
UXPin is a known name in the web designer industry, their wireframing and prototyping tool has helped to changed the lives of many web projects. The design of the application is flawless, the feature list is immense, and modern designers will appreciate the ability to import your design files directly from Photoshop and Sketch into UXPin. Custom UI libraries that range from iOS all the way to Android and more! It really does feel like an unique wireframing experience, and it’s 30days free to play with.
Balsamiq is all about the traditional values of prototyping online, expect fast speed and smart features, especially when it comes to collaboration on projects. You can expect the Balsamiq app to reflect an experience of using a whiteboard to create your prototypes, easy to use, smooth and a ton of fun! Some of the biggest names on the web use their platform to crate mockups.
The Axure platform is one of the most versatile standalone apps out there that provide a big variety of features, and allow the creation of the following:
- Web Designs
- Presentation Slides
- iPhone Mockups
- iPad Mockups
and a big number of Fortune 500 companies believe in Axure to use them on daily basis.
10. Visual Paradigm
As an all-round software design tool, Visual Paradigm is famous for its requirements gathering and system modeling supports. Visual Paradigm features an easy-to-use wireframe editor that comes with a rich set of wireframe widgets. You can easily create wireframes for any websites, desktop applications, and even iOS apps and Android apps. Not only does it support drawing wireframes, but also a storyboard feature that lets you connect wireframes to form meaningful, scenario-based storyboards. This makes presentation of screen design ideas much more effective and rewarding.
In the latest version of Visual Paradigm, you can even make use of its wireframe editor to perform quick editing of existing system screen. Simply take a snapshot of the system, and then modify it by removing, repositioning and adding screen components into the captured image. This provides a speedy and effective way to clarify and confirm user requirements.
Pidoco offers an easy to use solution to building fast prototypes that your clients will adore. Not only that, it is extremely simple to start using and results can be achieved within minutes of launching the app. For me, one of the best feature is definitely the ability to perform offline and online user tests quickly and easily using our convenient HTML export or conferencing or screensharing tools.
Cacoo is an Online Diagram Software for creating a Flow Chart UML
You can easily create mockups for website designs, and even smartphone applications. The free plan will allow you to export the final project only in .PNG format, but I think it’s enough for those freelancers who’re not working with major clients, and mostly need something to expand their ideas upon. Great set of tools, and functions come integrated in this free wireframing platform, and it’s easy to upgrade whenever you’re ready.
I have mentioned Gliffy in a recent post of mine – tools to publish better content – and it goes to show the variety that his platform is able to offer. You can see an example of Gliffy’s wireframe on this page, the free plan allows 2MB storage and 5 diagrams. More than enough to do some testing, and small scale projects.
Jumpchart allows to involve everyone within a single project, and so the whole team is always educated on the latest changes, and the needs of a project. You can easily monitor changes, and updates as they happen, so there is no reason to question whether something was done on purpose or not. It comes ready for tablet devices, and they even allow you to export the designs to WordPress, allowing you to create live sites within minutes.
You get two users, one project and ten pages from the free plan that Jumpchart offers, I think that’s more than enough to test the waters, and see if you’d like to make it your companies default way of wireframing and creating mockups.
MockFlow is famous for their flagship product ‘WireframePro’ – which is both desktop & web application for creating, designing and collaborating on web design projects with your team, or by yourself. It’s fully interactive, and even enables to create sitemaps of the project pages you’ve created. You can export in almost every possible format there is, and there are hundreds of features and options to choose from.
Free plan comes with one design project, and one design license.
With iPlotz you can create clickable, navigable wireframes to create the experience of a real website or software application. You can also invite others to comment on the designs, and once ready, you can then manage the tasks for developers and designers to build the project. You can have one project, with up-to five pages if you’re working with the free plan.
17. InVision App
Invision App is an cloud based mockup and prototyping tool that comes integrated with a lot of modern features, it also allows to build for mobile devices, and has a great community behind the project. Each project can be monitored in real-time, and the free plan allows you to keep one project active for as long as you like.
Lumzy was built with developers and designers in mind. The Lumzy team is proud to offer some of the best prototyping, mockup and wireframe tools in the market, absolutely at no cost whatsoever. However, the Lumzy team is using a method called ‘tokens’, which means that you’re able to donate as much as you like; how much do you think this particular piece of software is worth?
And, as for the features of this particular tool – things like a simple drag and drop interface, the ability to live interact with clients and customers, and also the ability to version your mockups is what really makes this tool to stand out.
19. Mockup Builder
It is difficult to put a price on great tools, and even though Mockup Builder is going to cost you a little bit of money, I think it is a fair investment in exchange for the features that you’re getting, not to mention the quality of wireframes that you’re going to be building. To this day, there have been more than four millions mockups built using this tool. The feature that stands out is the UI library, a directory of all your UI elements.
Naview is an online service that allows you to design and build navigation prototypes and test navigation usability with your users. You can create amazing state of the art navigations using this prototyping tool. I suppose the feature that everyone is going to enjoy the most is the ability to make the menu as deep as technically possible, saving quite a lot of time for drawing sketches and mind maps.
Creately is not a specific platform built for solving the issue with wireframes, rather it is a set of tools built within a single desktop application; tools that can help with things like prototyping, diagramming, and building demos for clients. It is not the cheapest option out there, but the beginner plans are cheap enough to be given a try straight away. I’d love to see some case study reports for this particular tool, are you able to provide any?
You’ll be happy to learn that the FlairBuilder team is all about simplicity, it is their motto for their own products. The FlairBuilder focuses on building wireframes, and nothing else. With that in mind, once you install the tool you’re given access to hundreds of components, widgets, and tools to build with. I’m liking the feel of this particular wireframe tool, what about you?
What about those poor iOS developers, don’t they deserve some wireframe love too? I guess they do, so here is a nice little tool that will help you build wireframes and mockups for your iPhone devices. What is more, you can actually download this app from the App Store, which means that you can instantly get all the necessary prototyping power at your disposal. I’m hoping to see more of the same type tools (mobile wireframing) enter the market soon.
The guys behind Savah want you to feel productive, creative and inspired when you’re building something new, like a new wireframe using the Savah wireframe creation platform. It looks like it works for both desktop and mobile wireframes, and there is also built-in support for collaboration, and client reviews. Very good set of features, the application is free at the time of writing this.
I was recommended this tool through the comment section, and after doing a little bit of research and inspection, I feel that this tool can qualify for this post. SnapUp is a SaaS built platform that wants to help designers and developers to forget about difficulties encountered when building mockups, and rather wants to give them freedom to build whatever wireframes they like. See the features, and also check out the comment section for additional information.
Free Wireframe Tools
I think I’ve covered the majority of free tools that are currently available on the market. It’s true that many of these don’t offer that much functionality because of the free plan restrictions, but those free plans are still incredibly good for getting a feel of wireframing and how creating mockups can help your designer path.
Regardless, a professional web design business should always think about investing some money into purchasing a solid wireframe/prototype tool that can keep up with the demands of the latest web standards, while free wireframe tools are fun to use and easy to work with, it is difficult to replicate a truly remarkable design which just a lousy list of features. Plus, a lot of the tools on our list do offer some great plans.
UPDATE: 10/29/2014 6:58PM
I have taken the time to add a couple of more tools to this list, and because there is such great demand for this particular topic; you’re encouraged to share reviews, experiences and insights about any of these tools on the list, but at the same time – you can submit your own apps and tools for review, and I’ll do my best to have them added to the list as soon as I’ve reviewed them.
UPDATE: 05/25/2015 5:45PM
It has been a long while since this post was last updated, and ever since then a lot of the websites on our list have changed their designs, on top of that — a lot of the apps have added new features and more interesting things to play with. I’ve added an extra five new tools that have been capturing the attention of designers all over the world. Please, do let us know in the comments if you’ve got more interesting wireframe tools that you wish us to feature in this roundup.