When it comes to design, nothing actually beats the importance of feedback during the entire design process. Seeking feedback from team members as well as users and clients is an excellent method of ensuring that the overall design of the product is in sync with the expectations and requirements.
And when it comes to seeking feedback, prototyping is a very handy concept. Basically, prototyping means explaining the design concepts and ideas in a rough draft, so that the final product adheres to the design strategy. Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably, prototyping is way different from wireframing (I have talked about this in my article here).
In this article, I will be mentioning five of the best prototyping tools for designers.
Five Top Prototyping Tools
Unlike most other prototyping tools, Flinto does not compel you to use its own editor for prototypes. Instead, you can render PNG files using your favorite graphic editor, and then let Flinto do its job, which is, “from PNGs to prototypes”.
Flinto lets you share the link of your prototype with other users, and the prototype can also be recreated with iOS and Android transitions if need be.
Pricing:$20 per month (30-day free trial).
InVision is a collaborative prototyping tool ideally meant for distributed teams. You can create clickable demos, link up sketches, wireframes and other elements, and share your prototypes with other users.
The USP of InVision lies in its collaborative model, which focuses on realtime team-work and in-browser collaboration. InVision offers voice chats, private conferences and even a shared whiteboard wherein everyone can jot down ideas and contribute towards the overall prototyping process.
Pricing:Free for 1 active project; $25 per month for unlimited projects.
Simply put, Briefs lets you describe your mobile app to others. Apart from a demo, Briefs also lets you preview your design and test it live during the design process.
Briefs employs a flexible interface and native animations to help you visualize your prototypes. As such, this is a tool that is primarily meant for visual designers and folks who like to explain the design ideas that they have but often find the mainstream prototyping tools lacking when it comes to conveying ideas and concepts.
Briefs also lets you package all your designs, which can then be viewed on the Briefscase iOS app by your clients, users and team members.
Pricing:$199 per license.
Marvel is a free prototyping tool that runs entirely off Dropbox. The mode of operation is simple: it recognizes the changes as and when they are made and updates your prototype in the background. Marvel supports mobile, web and even gaming devices!
Marvel supports PNG, JPG and GIF formats. Not happy? Marvel also supports PSDs, so you need not convert your Photoshop files before uploading.
All in all, Marvel is an amazing tool and the best part is that it does not burn a hole in your pocket.
5. Prototyping on Paper (POP)
Prototyping on Paper, or POP, adheres to the good old method of drawing your prototypes on paper, albeit with a twist.
Irrespective of the intuitiveness and ease of use that digital devices have to offer, there are a good number of users who just prefer the method of sketching wireframes and prototypes on paper. If you are one of them, this tool is meant for you.
Basically, Prototyping on Paper lets you work with your hand-drawn prototypes. You just draw and sketch your ideas and prototypes as per your needs and wishes, and then click photos of them via your cellphone, and thereafter upload those photos on to the Prototyping on Paper website. Once done, you can stitch together your sketches using hotspots in order to create your scenario and arrive at the final prototype.
Even though it is devoid of any high-end features, Prototyping on Paper lets you share and demo your prototypes on iPads/iPhones as well as web browsers.
This brings us to the end of this piece about some of the top prototyping tools for designers.
When it comes to wireframes and prototypes, there can be no Swiss Knife solution. In fact, what serves as a good and handy prototyping tool for you might just seem unusable and highly confusing to me, and vice versa. At the end of the day, if your tool lets you effectively and efficiently create your prototypes and helps you convey your design ideas to your clients, users, team members and all others who matter, it is a tool worth keeping!
As is obvious from the tools mentioned above, there is no ultimate solution for prototyping. Some designers tend to prefer the old school method of relying on pencil and paper, whereas others work via Dropbox and utilize simple but robust tools such as Marvel. Briefs, on the other hand, is a worthy investment if you are a visual thinker and like the liberty of being able to convey your ideas sans hindrances. Flinto, similarly, is more of a no-nonsense tools aimed towards designers who frequently work with mobile app prototypes, etc. Lastly, InVision is definitely a service meant for distributed teams. With its features such as a live shared whiteboard and private conferences within teams, it might be overkill for individual freelancers, but an indispensable tool for distributed teams.
Which tool do you use for prototyping? Got a tool or service that you think should be on this list? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!
Continued Reading: More Tools for Creating Mockups, Sitemaps and Wireframes