18 Wireframing, Mockup And Prototyping Tools To Plan Designs

I will keep repeating how important is to plan your webdesign, sitemaps, draw flowcharts,wireframes before even start to do actual functional and design planning! Since I am deeply researching this topic myself, this time I found the most popular wireframing software available.

Just 3 of tools I found were free, but every tool has free trial or basic plan so you can definitely try and test it yourself for one time projects.

For me – I don’t do redesigns too often, so I don’t need such tools daily, but for design companies I think one of these tools will be life and time saver from drawing, planning and collaborating view – worth spending some money for! To get started I suggest to read also previous planning article I did – Know How To Plan Your Website Redesign & Get Inspired.

1. Lovely Charts

  • 100% free
  • Online application
  • Create flowcharts, sitemaps, wireframes easily!

With Lovely Charts’ extremely simple and intuitive drag’n drop drawing mechanism, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters. You won’t have to draw boxes or arrows, and you won’t have to worry about what symbol to use.

Lovely Charts’s biggest strength lies in its innovative workflow and in its ability to generate lovely diagrams in minutes, with no effort.

Lovely-charts-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

2. Pencil Project

  • Completely free tool
  • Option to use it as Firefox addon
  • Linux/PC/Mac support
  • Lightweighted

The Pencil Project’s unique mission is to build a free and opensource tool for making diagrams and GUI prototyping that everyone can use.

Top features:

  • Built-in stencils for diagraming and prototyping
  • Multi-page document with background page
  • Inter-page linkings!
  • On-screen text editing with rich-text supports
  • Exporting to HTML, PNG, Openoffice.org document, Word document and PDF.

Pencil-project-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

3. Serena Prototype Composer

  • Completely free software!
  • Get Business Requirements Right
  • Build Usable Applications
  • Move Seamlessly From Prototype to Coding

Prototype Composer is a completely new way of gathering requirements. Prototype Composer makes it possible to see how an application will look and function before any code is ever written. Instead of endless text documents, Prototype Composer makes it easy for business users and business analysts to collaborate on requirements by building simple, high-fidelity prototypes that simulate a working application.

View product demo screenshots

Serena-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

4. MockFlow

  • Has free basic pack with limited options, but still free!
  • Modern interface
  • Premium version costs 59$/year

MockFlow is an online tool for creating wireframes of software and websites. It helps to enhance your planning process by enabling to quickly design and share interactive UI mockups.

Can be used as desktop application and one more great thing you can collaborate real-time with fellow collegues and discuss development process right in the application if you use premium account.

Mockflow-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

Little video demo about this software:

5. Axure RP

  • 30 days trial version
  • They offer a perpetual license and license renewal (No lite or premium versions). The price for a license of Axure RP is $589 which includes 12 months of maintenance.
  • Works on PC/Mac

Axure RP enables application designers to create wireframes, flow diagrams, prototypes, and specifications for applications and web sites. It provides the features you need to get started quickly whether working alone or collaborating with your team.

Used by user experience professionals, business analysts and product managers in over half of the Fortune 100, leading agencies and thousands of small and medium businesses around the world. Axure RP has become an essential tool for successful application design.

Axure-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

Watch video tour about Axure RP

6. Balsamiq

  • Looks handrawn and sketchy
  • Easy to use in team as collaboration tool
  • Premium desktop version costs 79$, which is one time payment
  • Online and desktop application

Using Balsamiq Mockups feels like you are drawing, but it’s digital, so you can tweak and rearrange controls easily, and the end result is much cleaner. Teams can come up with a design and iterate over it in real-time in the course of a meeting.

Mockups is designed to help you and your team or clients iterate on wireframes as early in the process as possible, when it’s cheapest to do so.

Balsamiq-mockups-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

Watch video demo about this software:

7. HotGloo

  • A lot of tutorials to help you get started
  • Online application
  • Modern and user friendly interface
  • Chance to test app using free plan
  • 14$/month

Great application, with a lot of tutorials, forum, active twitter account and Faqs/Help section! Interface is very modern as well, one of my favorite applications by far.

Hotgloo-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

8. Mockingbird

  • Lot of great features
  • Modern design and interface
  • Powered by Cappuccino: no Flash needed.

Mockingbird is an online tool that makes it easy for you to create, link together, preview, and share mockups of your website or application.

Mockingbird-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

Launch and test it now!

9. ProtoShare

  • Online Application
  • Modern interface
  • 30 days free trial
  • $29 per user/month

ProtoShare is an easy-to-use, collaborative, Web-based prototyping tool that helps teams visualize requirements for interactive projects and work together in real-time.

Big or small, the key to successful projects is getting people talking and cooperating early. ProtoShare helps all stakeholders — Web developers, account execs, management, marketing, and clients — get on the same page before money and time are sunk in various development dead ends.

Protoshare-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

Check out online video tour explaining good features about this product.

Protoshare-demo-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

10. Gliffy

  • A lot of features built in this online software
  • Free basic plan with no time constraints!
  • 5$ per month premium account

You can use Gliffy to build almost everything, I don’t like though there are too much features. If I would need tool just for wireframing I think I would choose different one, because there I have too many distractions and options I don’t need.

 

With Gliffy online diagram software, you can easily create professional-quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, wireframes and more.

Gliffy-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

11. Justinmind Prototyper

  • Mac,Pc support
  • $495 one time payment license
  • Free 15 day trial
  • Pretty expensive and short trial

Wireframes and mockups have been used to think and define websites or applications before their implementation. But with the coming of the web 2.0, dynamic websites and RIA, you need to think everything from UI to conditional navigation or the type of interactions you want to use. Mockups or even clickable wireframes aren’t enough anymore.

Justinmind Prototyper 3.0 is a powerful wireframing tool designed to build fully functional dynamic prototypes without any coding, both on Windows and Mac.

Justinmind-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

See also short video demo:

12. JumpChart

Different than classic wireframing tools, because of functions, you can change less hierachy, but it’s very easy to build sitemaps and separate content in categories there.

Use Jumpchart to quickly plan out the navigation of your site by adding pages, and sub-pages. If you change your mind, easily drag pages to new spots within the site hierarchy. There is no better way to organize the content for your website.

Watch their online video tour.

Jumpchart-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

13. Pidoco

  • Clickable Wireframes
  • Fast and easy Prototyping
  • Easy Remote Usability Testing
  • No Software Installation
  • 31 day trial, 3 plans – lowest 7 eiro/month

Integrate usability testing into your production cycle by making use of pidoco°’s easy-to-use testing module. You will be developing applications which will work with the end-user as well as your clients whilst increasing the turnover!

Real-time collaboration with several co-workers will optimize communication patterns and will decrease expenditures in many areas within your production team!

Pidoco-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

14. iPlotz

  • Free demo
  • 15$ per month premium plan

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.

Check out video tour.

Iplotz-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

15. FlairBuilder

  • 24$ per month
  • iPhone prototyping
  • 15–day free trial

FlairBuilder is built such that you will feel comfortable with the application’s user interface and complete each task fluently and efficiently.  That is why you will find many common elements such as the toolbar, the menu, a component palette, a context menu for common tasks and a set of handy keyboard shortcuts. All these to simply let you focus on you job and get it done as fast as possible.

Flairbuilder-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

16. GUI Design Studio

  • Free 30 day trial
  • Built for Microsoft Windows
  • Express license – $129

 

 

GUI Design Studio is a graphical user interface design tool for Microsoft Windows that you can use to rapidly create demonstration prototypes without any coding or scripting.

Draw individual screens, windows and components using standard elements, connect them together to storyboard operational workflow then run the simulator to test your designs. Watch video demo overview.

Gui-studio-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

17. OmniGraffle (Mac, iPad)

  • 14 days trial
  • License costs $99.95
  • Work only fro Mac, iPad

Need a diagram, process chart, quick page-layout, website wireframe or graphic design? OmniGraffle can help you make eye-popping graphic documents quickly by keeping lines connected to shapes even when they’re moved, providing powerful styling tools, importing and exporting Microsoft Visio files, and magically organizing diagrams with just one click.

Whether you need a quick sketch or an epic technical figure, OmniGraffle keeps it gorgeously understandable. Watch introduction videos and tutorials here.

Omnigraffle-free-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

18. Microsoft Visio

  • Free 60 day trial
  • License – $260
  • Available just on Windows platform
  • One of the most popular and comprehensive prototyping tools

Microsoft Office Visio 2007 makes it easy for IT and business professionals to visualize, explore, and communicate complex information. Go from complicated text and tables that are hard to understand to Visio diagrams that communicate information at a glance. Instead of static pictures, create data-connected Visio diagrams that display data, are easy to refresh, and dramatically increase your productivity. Use the wide variety of diagrams in Office Visio 2007 to understand, act on, and share information about organizational systems, resources, and processes throughout your enterprise. View video tour.

Microsoft-visio-premium-wireframing-webdesign-tools

 

Did you make your pick? Which was it? Let us know in comments!

Dainis Graveris

Dainis is 25 years young man, who struggled for 3 years while studying in design academy and working for local design agency, because of ignorant teachers and agency boss. He couldn't believe this is all life could offer to him! And then he discovered true Internet possibilities, he was lucky to find his passion early in life and take advantage of this beautiful Information (Internet) Age! Now he is committed to help others succeed, to help others take charge of their life and follow their passion! His goal is to open Your eyes and help unveil Your true potential!

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Comments

  1. Will says

    Thanks for putting together this list of prototyping tools. It saved me much time researching the topic. If you ignore price, what tool do you think is the best?

    I have used MS Visio for years generating tech docs, network diagrams & system diagrams and agree you can use Visio for prototyping… However each time I have attempt to use it for visual prototyping I get lost in the act of drawing vs. trying to get ideas down on paper for discussion and collaboration. Also making changes and updates can be slow.

  2. Stan says

    In case you want to add interactivity to your static designs, ClickThru can be the ideal tool. Since ClickThru focusses on adding interactivity layer to existing designs, you can use your favorite design tools and hence you can decide the visual fidelity of your prototypes.

  3. brinda says

    “Hi, this is great and on the same note would like to request and give mockuptiger a look”

    Brinda

  4. brinda says

    MockupTiger is a good html5 wireframe, you can host it on your domain, desktop, switch between hand drawn look, change fonts and prototype dashboard mockups with data

  5. Kathie says

    Geez, how anybody knows when this article was written, or when the comments were created? There is no freakin’ date anywhere :-) LOL
    Lovely Charts is outdated, it is not free, nor the web version neither the desktop app.

  6. John says

    This is a great list for someone just getting off the ground. I went through about six different tools (including some of the ones mentioned) before I landed on LucidChart which does not appear to be listed here.

    The key differentiators were that it was web-based, had real-time collaboration, Visio import and a host of other features that made it quick and easy. Plus, they make hilarious videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLF8LqbWoCs

  7. Victor says

    Justinmind Prototyperrel is a bit outdated. It has a 30-days trial, is in 4.2 version and the website changed months ago. But great list anyway!

  8. Vanina says

    Yes it is a great list, maybe you could be interested to participate to this collaborative comparison of mockup and wireframing design tools (you can rate or vote for the best ones):

    This new platform is like a “wikipedia of comparisons”, you can compare everything and embed the table on your blog.

  9. mprove says

    Would be interesting to compare the tools according to the size and complexity of the site.

  10. says

    I like working in Balsamiq. But now cant access the mockup demo page, that i need to work online. I cant point out the error. I thought it was regarding with flash player in my system. When i tried reinstalling it ‘s working fine. But again i cant access the page when i boot up my system on the very next day. Can any one help me fixing the problem :(

  11. Dann says

    You forgot to mention GridPapr ( http://gridpapr.com ) which is a very lightweight Wireframing/Collaboration too. As it been descsribed in REWORK, too much details can hurt planning.

  12. Patt says

    I absolutely love Balsamiq because I can use it to prototype interfaces and not have all the suits saying stuff like, “Can you move that input field over two pixels.” “Can you use Times Roman Italic and Comic Sans fonts? Those are my kids’ favorites.” “Can you make some pointless change so I can feel important and take credit for the entire project when all I really did was waste your time? Thanks.”

    The sketchbook, cartoon like drawings seem to get the point across that at this stage we’re focusing on the functionality of the app not the minutiae of the interface design.

  13. says

    Dainis,
    Thanks for including ProtoShare in your list of wireframing and prototyping tools!

    More and more options are popping up, so resources like this help designers and developers sort through the ones to best fit their needs, then trial them to determine, which will work for them.

    We just updated our website with new information, including tutorials, on ProtoShare for those interested.

    Keep up the great posts.

    Cheers,
    Andrea

  14. says

    This is a great list! However, I thought I’ll introduce http://creately.com – This is great online diagramming software which is definitely worth a try. Creately is a great software with excellent support for wireframes, mockups, web sitemaps, UML Diagrams and a host of other diagram types.

    The real clincher is that Creately is accessible anywhere at anytime with no downloads or installs. You can have a great diagramming experience with the pre-built extensive shape sets and ready-made templates. Also, Creately comes with both free and paid plans. You can also try out creately now without signing up – http://creately.com/creately-start.

    Regards
    Indu

  15. says

    Wow nice job. Good to see HotGloo listed. Thanks for that. If you have any questions about or feedback regarding our service, feel free to contact me at any time. Plus we will come up with something really cool very soon!

    Regards,
    Wolf
    @HotGloo

  16. says

    Great list! Been on iPlotz for quite a while and really like it. Though I will definitely try some new free apps for comparison. Thanks for getting all those together!

  17. says

    I’m missing among a few more- Flash Catalyst, Microsoft Sketchflow and Google Drawing from the list. We’ve seen these 18 many times before on lists. Would be nice if someone took the time to review all the other options.. Or even frameworks like Protokit for instance.

  18. Keri says

    Thanks for this article! I tried Lovely Charts; it’s really easy to learn and I’ll probably be using it again in the future. Great list, thanks!

  19. Ryan Cowles says

    Thanks for another great list of resources! Seeing the “Free” price tag on most of them is nice too, haha!

  20. Peter Severin says

    WireframeSketcher is a wireframe and mockup tool for Eclipse-based IDEs. It integrates seamlessly with Aptana, Eclipse, Flash Builder, Flex Builder, ColdFusion Builder, MyEclipse, RadRails, RAD and Zend Studio: http://wireframesketcher.com

  21. Cristian Pascu says

    Hey Dainis,

    Thanks so much for including FlairBuilder in your list. I appreciate it!

    Cheers,
    Cristian