What are the best UX tools

Comparing prototyping tools

Static wireframes and designs are no longer enough today, as websites and software are becoming more and more complex and interactive. Fortunately, prototyping tools can simulate and try out all interactions before a developer has to write a line of code. This way, designs can be made understandable, user tests can be carried out, stakeholders can be convinced and the requirements can be explained to the developers. That is why prototyping is now part of the standard repertoire in UX conception. However, the prototyping tool market has become confusing and continues to grow. The strengths and weaknesses of some well-known tools are highlighted in this post.

Overview table

AxureJustinmindproto.ioUXPinHotGloo
General
Price per licensefrom $ 495from $ 495---
price per monthfrom $ 29from $ 19from $ 24from $ 19from $ 14
Web basedNoNoYesYesYes
Widgets and Design
Supplied librariesFewLotsLotsMany manyFew
Own librariesYesYesNoYesNo
Possible fidelityhighhighhighhighlow
Import from PS / SketchNoNoYesYesNo
masterYesYesYesNoYes
Interactivity
AnimationsYesYesYesYesNo
variablesYesYesYesNoNo
Conditional interactionsYesYesNoNoNo
Device support
Responsive designYesYesNoNoNo
Apps for mobile devicesYesYesYesNoNo
Touch gesturesYesYesYesYesNo
collaboration
Team projectsYesYesYesYesYes
Working in parallelYesYesNoYesYes
PersonalizationYesYesNoNoNo
PublishYesYesYesYesYes
Leave a CommentYesYesYesYesYes
documentation
Generate specificationYesYesNoNoNo
AnnotationsYesYesNoNoNo

 

General criteria

An important decision criterion is always the price. Basically, the prototyping tools differ between a one-time purchase and a subscription model. A license can only be purchased for Axure and Justinmind and is then around 500 US dollars.

When it comes to subscriptions, Axure is at the top in terms of price: at least 29 US dollars per month. Justinmind, proto.io and UXPin are in the middle with around 20 US dollars per month. Entry into the world of prototyping tools starts with HotGloo for $ 14.

When comparing prices, however, caution is advised: There are usually several variants that differ in the number of users, projects and sometimes also in features. The ones mentioned here are always the cheapest prices.

Another important factor is whether the prototyping tool runs web-based in the browser (proto.io, UXPin and HotGloo) or is installed as standalone software (Axure and Justinmind). Both variants offer advantages:

  • Standalone software is more powerful and works even without an Internet connection
  • Web apps do not require installation and a license can easily be shared with several people

Widgets and Design

In order to create a prototype, ready-made widgets are used in all tools, which work like a construction kit. All 5 tools come with a certain selection of such widgets, but the scope is very different: Axure and HotGloo only offer geometric shapes, form elements and a few other UI patterns. Justinmind and proto.io are already going further and delivering libraries with standard widgets for iOS and Android. Finally, UXPin has the largest selection of widgets.

The lack of selection of widgets in Axure is compensated for by the ability to create or import your own libraries. There are many ready-made libraries on the web - some for free, some for a fee. Justinmind and UXPin also allow you to create your own widget libraries.

Prototypes are often differentiated according to visual fidelity, i.e. graphic accuracy or design. High-fidelity prototypes look almost like the finished software, while low-fidelity prototypes are more reminiscent of interactive wireframes. In general, almost all of the prototyping tools mentioned here allow both high and low fidelity. Only HotGloo offers very limited graphical settings and is therefore only suitable for low-fidelity prototypes.

If the design has already been created in another tool and is only to be made interactive, proto.io and UXPin offer an unbeatable advantage: Both programs can import directly from Photoshop or Sketch. All layers are retained as individual widgets so that they can be easily developed into a prototype.

Recurring parts of a prototype, typically a website header, can be managed as so-called masters in almost all prototyping tools. They are created centrally and changes then affect all pages. Unfortunately, only UXPin does not support this feature. The Masters in Axure are best implemented.

Interactivity

Prototyping is all about making the individual screens interactive so that they respond to user actions. In principle, all of the tools discussed here can do this. However, the exact scope differs widely.

Animations are supported by all prototyping tools except HotGloo. The proto.io is clearly best suited for this, however, with which it is very easy to animate between different states and the settings for this are made via a timeline.

In order to simulate more complex interactions, data often has to be stored in variables and passed on from screen to screen. This is easily possible with Axure, JustinMind and proto.io. Axure and Justinmind also support conditional interactions, so that certain states can be checked in order to then carry out different actions depending on the situation.

Support of various devices

Basically, all prototyping tools support various devices such as smartphones and tablets. This is usually done by selecting the device when creating a project. Responsive websites, on the other hand, only support Axure and Justinmind, but in both cases rather rudimentary.

Appropriate gestures are also essential for touch devices. Unfortunately, HotGloo does not support this, so it is only recommended to a limited extent for mobile prototypes.

Axure, Justinmind and proto.io also offer special apps with which the prototypes can then be displayed very easily on the actual device. This makes it possible, for example, to carry out usability tests with little effort.

Collaboration functions

Nowadays, it is often no longer a single designer who works on UX design in secret, but rather different team members together. A prototyping tool should also provide the best possible support for feedback loops with customers or colleagues.

So it is not surprising that all 5 prototyping tools offer collaboration functions. Team projects can be used in Axure and Justinmind so that several people can work on a prototype at the same time and it always remains up to date. The prototypes of the other, web-based tools are in the cloud anyway, so this is not a problem. With the exception of proto.io, all tools can be used by several people at the same time.

The team projects in Axure and Justinmind offer another advantage: Different versions are created so that changes can be tracked and reversed.

All tools allow the prototype to be published so that other users can view and comment on it.

Documentation and specification

If a specification document is to be generated directly from the prototype, for example as a basis for technical implementation, then only Axure and Justinmind are suitable. Various annotations can be used here to document the prototype in detail. These can then be viewed in the browser or exported as a document, for example in Word.

Conclusion: Different prototyping tools for different requirements

As can be seen from this comparison, all prototyping tools have both advantages and disadvantages. There is no such thing as the best tool, just the right tool for a specific purpose.

Most comparable are Axure and Justinmind. They are both clearly aimed at advanced users, because they offer a very large range of functions and also enable very complex interactivity. Justinmind has slight advantages when it comes to handling data, team collaboration and the provided libraries. Axure, on the other hand, has the edge when it comes to complex interactions and also offers a much larger and more helpful community. This makes it easier to learn Axure, for example with online courses or Axure training from professional providers.

The other 3 prototyping tools also serve special requirements:

  • Proto.io is particularly suitable for mobile prototypes with many animations.
  • UXPin tries to shine with strong collaboration functions and can also manage entire design projects beyond the prototype.
  • HotGloo is particularly aimed at beginners who do not need a high-fidelity design.

So the most important thing when choosing the right prototyping tool is to analyze your own needs. In addition, it is essential to test extensively beforehand. All tools described here offer free trial versions for this purpose.