A surprising number of important design decisions have been made by sketching out a groundbreaking idea on whatever is at hand.
These quick sketches evolved into the foundation of something much bigger, able to be refined and iterated on until they became a design icon or a flourishing airline business.
Wireframe tools offer the same option for designers, allowing them to rough out their ideas and get the basic building blocks in place so the overall design can be assessed and refined.
Thankfully, several excellent wireframe tools are on the market. To help you out, we’ve curated a list of 10 of the best.
What are wireframe tools?
Wireframe tools allow designers to quickly and effectively mock up an outline of a design as easily as possible.
Designers are able to drag and drop placeholders for images, headers, and content and easily move them around to create a first draft that can be iterated on later.
What is the purpose of wireframing?
Wireframes allow designers to work out the basics of a page’s interface, such as space allocation, prioritization of content, functionalities, and behaviors.
Using a wireframe to plan the basic layout of a web page has a number of benefits, including:
- Connecting the information architecture of a site to its visual design by highlighting the paths between pages
- Developing consistent methods for displaying information of different types on the user interface
- Determining intended functionalities
- Prioritizing content creation based on where the content is located and how much overall space is allocated to that type of content
What makes a good wireframe tool?
You don’t technically need a dedicated wireframe tool — a flowchart app can work just fine. But some functionalities of a good wireframe tool greatly benefit a website designer.
- An in-built or uploadable UI kit: Ideally, you’ll want to pick a wireframe app that has either an in-built UI component library or offers you the ability to upload your own to it.
- Scalable mockup fidelity: Good wireframe apps will give you the freedom to scale between an incredibly basic gray-scale low-fidelity mockup and more graphically complex high-fidelity mockups.
- Collaborative working: We all live in a post-pandemic working world, which means the ability to share work digitally and allow others to make changes or leave feedback is an increasingly important function in any wireframe tool.
- Export options: Ideally, once you’ve finished your mockup, you’ll want to be able to export sections of it as HTML or get access to basic CSS code so you can implement development more rapidly.
10 best wireframe tools for 2021
Here’s a list of wireframe tools designed to help you craft that perfect idea.
Figma takes our top spot because of its combination of powerful cloud-based design software and the fact that users can build three projects for free before you have to select one of their payment plans.
Using Figma is as simple and straightforward as you could want it to be. While Figma doesn’t have its own built-in UI components, it does come with the option to upload your own or use a pre-designed kit.
It is, however, remarkably easy to create artboards, add in basic shapes and text, and do a certain level of prototyping.
All of the design organization is handled in one panel, allowing you to quickly move between different artboards, layers, and pages without getting overwhelmed.
The built-in Figma constraints show you how each element will respond on different sized screens, making it much easier to optimize your user experience for mobile devices.
When it comes to collaborative working, Figma allows multiple team members to access and edit the design and leave comments. Once the mockup is completed, you can access the CSS code and export individual elements.
2. Adobe XD
Adobe XD is a vector-based design tool that is designed to work in concert with other Adobe products, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe Fonts, and Adobe Stock, and it’s one of the best paid tools on the market.
Adobe XD’s focus is on making the wireframing process as streamlined and easy as possible for the designers, with simple to use tools for creating site maps, flowcharts, and storyboards, as well as a full suite of prototyping tools.
As part of Adobe XD’s focus on giving designers tools that make rapid design possible, the platform also includes a repeat grid option, auto-animation and voice triggers, and a full set of collaborative working tools.
It’s also available for both Microsoft Windows and macOS.
The only downside to Adobe XD is that it requires an Adobe subscription to access all of its functionality.
When it first hit the market in 2010, Sketch revolutionized what could be done with a wireframing tool.
While it is not available for Windows, Sketch’s simple and intuitive interface and focus on creating effective UIs and icon vector design make it a must for Mac-based designers.
Much like Figma, Sketch doesn’t come with its own built-in UI library, but, because of its popularity, a huge number of third-party UI kits are available and easy to upload.
One of the standout features of Sketch is its Symbol function, which allows you to create elements that automatically repeat across the entirety of your layout.
Sketch does offer a free trial. After that, you can purchase the entire program for a one-off fee rather than paying an ongoing subscription cost.
4. Balsamiq Wireframes
A simple web-based tool available on both Mac and Windows, Balsamiq Wireframes is a simple and effective wireframing tool that lets designers create quick wireframe designs.
Compared to some of the more complete tools on this list, Balsamiq Wireframes could best be described as quick and dirty with its hand-drawn style harking back to the design drawn on a napkin idea.
Most of the elements in Balsamiq Wireframes are drag and drop, and designers have the option to use a drag-and-drop editor to arrange pre-built widgets, which really lowers the learning curve.
Plenty of example stretch and wireframe skins are available for different designs, such as desktop apps, mobile apps, and websites. Balsamiq Wireframes also boasts a huge library of UI elements.
The primary downside of Balsamiq Wireframes is that the lack of high-fidelity animations makes it unsuitable for doing any form of large-scale prototyping.
Justinmind is a wireframing tool available for Mac and Windows designed specifically for less techy designers. The platform is easy to learn and somewhat less complicated than other options like Figma or Sketch.
Just because the UI is more simplistic, however, does not mean that Justinmind lacks functionality. The platform is built to allow you to create wireframes that can be tested as prototypes right from the beginning and includes a range of interactive prototype elements.
Justinmind also includes a range of built-in UI elements, as well as a range of widgets for iOS, SAP, and Android. You can use custom styling options to edit the included elements or import your own.
Once you’re done, the prototype can be exported as HTML.
Lucidchart is an excellent wireframe software choice for diagramming and data visualization that comes with an effective range of collaboration features.
The drag-and-drop functionality of the interface is set up to allow you to arrange elements so they work on mobile devices and websites. Lucidchart also includes a full UI shape library with all the basic elements you need, including search boxes, site map icons, and text editors.
If you’re new to wireframing, Lucidchart also has an extensive range of templates that are all sized and styled for both mobile and desktop — ideal for a faster design process.
To help you and your team work together, Lucidchart has an excellent set of real-time collaboration tools. You can create your own URL and use it to allow collaborators, stakeholders, and clients to comment on or edit your mockups.
When it comes to presenting your work, Lucidchart also includes a presentation mode and is fully compatible with Google Slides.
Available for both Mac and Windows, MockFlow functions as a digital whiteboard. The web-based platform comes with a huge range of components for a vast number of user interfaces, including iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Apple Watch, and Android watch.
One of the major benefits of MockFlow is its large user community and the sheer range of wireframe templates and UI packs that have been created and uploaded by them.
Once created, these wireframes can easily be exported as an expansive range of formats, from HTML and wire to Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF.
MockFlow also comes with a suite of collaborative tools, such as real-time editing options and iterative annotated comments.
The basic version of MockFlow is entirely free, but paid options are available that include greater functionality.
Moqups is a web app that allows users to create wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. A cloud-based platform that allows you and your team to collaborate from anywhere, Moqups has a single easy-to-learn and intuitive interface.
The primary benefit of using Moqups is that it allows users to switch between diagrams, wireframes, and prototypes without needing to switch platforms.
Moqups also comes with a huge library of templates, stencils, icon sets, fonts, and objects that are fully customizable.
The main aim of Moqups is to create a single unified workflow without the barrier of constantly switching between a range of single-use apps.
Moqups doesn’t offer a free option, but the only difference between the pro and unlimited pricing plans is the number of users it can support.
Available on Windows and Mac, Framer is a web-based tool that comes with a fairly comprehensive free option that is ideal as a professional prototyping tool.
Framer’s insert menu comes with a huge selection of components that can be quickly and easily added to your wireframe through the simple drag-and-drop interface.
The prototyping components included with Framer display different visual states so you can see exactly how the actual components would look. You can also customize the included elements to control how they animate across screen transitions.
When it comes to sharing and presenting your work, all you need to do is share one link. The presentation mode also lets you use custom backgrounds, device frames, and device hands.
With the ability to add up to two editions and create three projects, Framer is one of the best free wireframe tools on the market.
Mockplus lets you create interactive wireframe designs that look like fully functional prototypes.
Available on both Windows and macOS, Mockplus has a library of more than 3,000 built-in icons, components, and templates, allowing you to use the simple drag-and-drop interface to quickly create wireframes.
Mockplus’ wireframes work for both desktop and mobile devices, supporting both iOS and Android.
When it comes to testing your design, Mockplus offers eight ways to preview and test your interactive wireframes, making it ideal for user testing your UI design and UX design. Feedback can then be left directly on your designs.
The free version of Mockplus limits the number of users and projects you can have running but is still a viable option for smaller teams.
(Bonus) Webflow: Vireflow
Our bonus addition to this list is the Vireflow wireframing device. Created by Anton Balitsky on Webflow, Vireflow is a simple but effective wireframing software that is hosted on Webflow.
Balitsky’s creation is simple and you’ll need to upload your own UI library and objects, but it is entirely free, making it ideal for those wanting to get into web design without spending any money upfront.