Essential UX Tools

As a UX/UI designer you will eventually need to get hands on and make a beautiful entity out of nothing but a few ideas. This is where the following tools will come to your aid.

Overview
The first step in every single UI design. No matter how bad your drawing is, or how ugly the outcome is, this step should be your first approach to UI design. The end result is for yourself and in order to get moving from just an idea to something that you can implement using one of the useful tools
Usage
Idea visualization, mock ups, and concepting
The Good
Free, very fast to make, very fast to iterate, no skills required. More honest and unbiased feedback can be attained
The Bad
Bad drawing skills can be a deterring factor
Overview
In simple words, it is like the Balsamiq dressing on the salad. It’s not the prettiest choice, and it’s not the most complex. But it is fast, does not require a lot of practice to get a handle of it, and it is very simple to make. The result however is pretty good and you will have a concrete version of your early ideas that you can test with users and iterate before moving to something more polished
Usage
Lo-fi prototypes, early versions of mockups
The Good
Fast to develop, fast to iterate, easy to learn, collaborative online platform, 30 day free trial
The Bad
No interactive prototype capability built in, cartoonish looks, 12$/month price
Overview
A very powerful tool that can create hi-fi prototypes and even fool the best of us into thinking it is an actual web page or an app. UXPin is extremely detailed and has a lot of different options to choose from. In addition to looking real, it also feels real. Prototypes can be interactive and each button or action will behave the same as it would in the final product. It also has capabilities such as Photoshop extension that allows the designer more flexibility. It might take some time to learn and work with UXPin, but it is definitely well worth the effort
Usage
Hi-fi interactive prototypes, final stages of development
The Good
Collaborative work and live commenting, polished look, interactive, animations
The Bad
Learning curve, 19$/month price tag , only 7 days free trial
Overview
a powerful app that ensures the final polished look of a web page or a mobile app. This app is only available on Mac store which makes it less accessible, but it has a lot of good options and features to make a very finely detailed prototype. You can view the work on different devices in real-time and see how they look. Sketch is based on the layer system which makes it easy to see an overview of the entire system
Usage
Hi-fi prototypes
The Good
Lots of options and settings, polished look
The Bad
Learning curve, Available on Mac only, 99$ retail price, not interactive, not collaborative
Overview
Perhaps one of the most extensive and complete prototyping tools today. It has everything to get you started from diagrams to prototypes and even a specification document right at the end in order to make life easier as UI designers. It is perhaps one of the most complex systems out there, but there are lots of good info on how to use it online. It is available for both Mac and Windows and has a 30 day free trial to see if it matches your needs
Usage
Hi-fi Interactive prototypes with a polished look
The Good
Free for students and educational institutes, very detailed options, free trial, Turnkey solution for UI designers
The Bad
Learning curve and time to master, 29$/month if you are not a student
Overview
Unlike other prototyping tools that have their own platform to start a prototype from scratch, invision simply takes your pre-made designs and loads them into the site. But that does not mean it is less capable, in fact it is the opposite of that. You can upload designs in forms psd, pdf, sketch, jpg, and more. This flexibility allows you to upload your balsamiq, Photoshop, or even hand drawn designs and make them fully interactive for different devices for testing purposes
Usage
Making pre-made designs interactive
The Good
Good final results, everything is done online, collaboration option, gestures and animation definition
The Bad
Free account limitations, start price 13$/month, confusing in the beginning