What Are UI Design Tools?
It’s almost an unspoken agreement that UI tools need to be a quadruple-threat to compete in today’s design industry, offering screen design, prototyping, and design handoff feature all in a single app, or at the very least, integrate with third-party services to make this full-featured workflow available.
As we’re starting to see the benefits of lean UX design, it’s also clear that UI design tools need to be collaborative.
What do UI design tools actually do?
When do we do this?
When we’re ready to mockup the final design, after usability testing and wireframing.
1- Sketch (macOS only)
Photoshop lost its crown to Sketch as the most-used UI design tool back in 2015.
Sketch literally revolutionized UI design, inspiring a whole new wave of intuitive UI design tools with now-standard features like artboards, symbols, and exporting.
While Sketch has become a victim of its own success, with rival apps mirroring its foundations on Sketch, being “the first” has had its advantages since it’s still the most commonly used design tool today. It’s certainly one of the cleanest and most intuitive and can be a mighty force for those willing to extend their workflow with integrations.
2- InVision Studio (macOS only)
InVision recently released the long-awaited InVision Studio, making their design collaboration suite now the most complete solution on the market today, with screen design, prototyping, design handoff, and even advanced animation features.
3- Adobe XD CC (macOS, Windows)
A huge reason to use Adobe XD is the Adobe ecosystem, which is not only heavily equipped for designers, but if you’re a veteran designer it’s likely that you’re deeply familiar with Adobe, and honestly, the best tool is the one you know how to operate.
Adobe XD CC ships with many of the same features as InVision (screen design, prototyping, design handoff, and so on), although Adobe XD is no stranger to innovation either, coming up with time-saving features such as repeat grids.
4- Figma (Web, macOS, Linux, Windows)
Figma is so far the first and only UI design tool to ship with multiplayer design functionality, which essentially enables designers to collaborate in real-time.
Figma is another excellent Sketch alternative for Windows, although there are now mac and even Linux versions available, making it super for OS-flexible design teams.
Like many of the best UI design tools, Figma enables screen design, real-time device mirroring, prototyping, commenting, design handoff, and all of the other usual features, but massively excels when it comes to creating adaptive layouts and design systems.
Although not as mainstream as the likes of Sketch, InVision, or Adobe XD, Proto.io is one of the few design tools that take designers from wireframe to high-fidelity to design handoff without a cluttered and overwhelming user interface. Proto.io is also the team behind a new user flow diagramming tool, Overflow App, also well worth a try!