A wireframe helps you create a great user experience for the user when building a digital product — simply put, a wireframe is a blueprint for your website, application, or software.
A wireframe can be as simple or complicated as you want. Wireframes can be created with paper and a pencil, though you can also use software tools to assist your efforts.
The purpose of spending time on a wireframe is to map out user interface (UI) elements as you plan to display them, seeing how they relate according to proximity and function, as well as how they help a user achieve whatever goal brought them to your design.
Creating a wireframe helps you to focus on what’s important in terms of your design’s foundation. It empowers you to be flexible in moving things around before you’re committed to specific design elements — when changes may result in bigger headaches.
Give your product the strong design foundation it needs by finding the best fit wireframe tool for your team.
7 Best Wireframe Tools to Build Out Your Designs
While each of the following wireframe tools has unique features and specific use cases, they all share the common goal of empowering people to plan more complicated designs.
Here’s what you need to know about each of the top options on the market:
1. Adobe XD
For macOS and Windows
Adobe XD is new to the Adobe suite. It allows you to see your product in the prototype stage and can do everything from wireframing to basic prototyping. Its interface has a minimalist feel in comparison to other Adobe tools and new-user onboarding is relatively straightforward.
This tool lets you create a wireframe, mockup, and prototype within the same project file. There’s no need to integrate multiple tools or export after every iteration.
Adobe XD is free for one prototype and up to 2GB of storage. Adobe’s Single App plan starts at $9.99/month and includes unlimited prototypes and 100GB storage space.
InVision Studio is quickly gaining popularity in the design community. Before it was released in 2018, UI designers using the InVision prototyping tool had to use a third-party wireframe tool. Now both tasks can be done with the InVision suite.
InVision Studio is free for one prototype and the Starter plan includes three prototypes for $15/month.
Sketch was first released in 2010 and has created a name for itself as a lightweight vector design tool. While it's a fairly basic tool for modern UI and icon vector design, it integrates with other design tools and promotes the building of integration plugins.
Sketch costs $99/year. If you don't renew your subscription, you can still continue to use the tool — but you won’t receive software updates.
For web, macOS, Windows, and Linux
Figma is known for real-time collaboration. It's a robust, cloud-based tool that rivals Sketch, Adobe XD, Studio, and others on this list of wireframe tools. Although comparatively inexpensive, its features were designed to work efficiently whether you're working alone or as part of a design team.
Figma is free for three projects. The Professional plan includes unlimited projects and goes for $12/user per month, billed annually.
Canva helps non-designers create simple, high-quality graphics — and you can also use it to create wireframes. It features drag-and-drop illustrations, photos, charts, and other ready-made templates and shapes for quick mockups.
Canva is free for limited use. For full functionality, the Canva for Work plan is $12.95/user per month.
Proto.io is popular for its prototyping capabilities, but it can also be used as a wireframe tool. It’s especially useful for user experience (UX) testing. You can gather data from users before sending your final design to developers, which helps everyone make informed design decisions.
Proto.io is cloud-based and allows multiple users to access the same document simultaneously, making collaboration not only possible but easy.
Proto.io offers a free limited account for one user and a Freelancer plan for one user and five active projects. It costs $24/month, billed annually.
Moqups is a web-based tool that allows you to build wireframes, mockups, and prototypes within the same environment. You can make designs such as wireframes, diagrams, flowcharts, sitemaps, mockups, graphs, and charts.
It has a built-in library with thousands of design elements and it’s easy to organize your projects with search and drag-and-drop features. It also permits integrations and facilitates collaboration with tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Slack.
The Personal plan goes for $13/month for a single user. It's billed annually and includes unlimited projects.
Free Wireframe Tools
The tools mentioned above are all paid — at least if you plan to have more than one or a few projects.
However, there are some great wireframe tool alternatives you don't have to pay a cent to use.
If you’re primarily interested in wireframing functionality over other possible complementary features, some of the top options include:
Gliffy: a diagramming tool that’s free with an option to upgrade to the fully-featured version for $96/year.
MockFlow: a design tool suite with wireframing. It's free, with full functionality starting at $14/month.
Jumpchart: a website planning tool (which is more focused on sitemap structure than design) built with collaboration in mind.
Wireframe.cc: an ultra-minimal interface that is extremely straightforward to use. For extra functionality, it runs $16-$99/month, depending on your specific needs.
Frame Box is completely free but may be too basic for long-term use. It's good for teams that are cash-strapped to get started on their designs.
7 Best Wireframe Tools for Your 2020 Designs
There are plenty of wireframe tools for designers to seamlessly transition their projects from one stage to the next. Choosing the right tool is an important step in the design process.
If you pick the wrong wireframe tool, you risk wasting time down the line when you realize that it doesn't truly fit your needs. From there, you’ll waste even more time considering other solutions and bringing your team up to speed when you find a replacement.
So take your time evaluating what's on the market. Avoid choosing a program just because it’s popular with another team.
And when considering "free" tools, remember that most options offer a set of basic features and ask you to upgrade to a paid plan to access the best functionality. Freemium tools are great to get you started, but you'll inevitably abandon them or give in to upgrading to a paid plan — so consider spending money on the perfect solution from the get-go that will grow with you.
Originally published Feb 18, 2020 4:04:42 PM, updated March 31 2020