A wireframe helps you create a great experience for the user when building a digital product. Simply put, a wireframe is a blueprint for your website, application, or software.
Building a wireframe can be simple or complex depending on the type of product you’re creating. They can be created with paper and a pencil, though you can also use software tools to assist your efforts.
The purpose of creating 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 their goals through using your product.
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 elements around before committing to specific design elements.
After reading this post, you’ll be prepared to give your product the strong design foundation it needs by finding the best-fit wireframe tool for your team.
Best Wireframe Tools
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:
Create wireframes, mockups, and prototypes in the same project file
No need to integrate multiple tools
2GB free storage with Adobe XD’s free plan
Adobe XD is Adobe's UX design app. 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 shareable prototype and up to 2GB of storage. Adobe’s Single App plan starts at $9.99/month and includes unlimited prototypes and 100GB of cloud storage space.
A centralized design, development, and product hub that makes moving code quick and easy
Jira integration for better project management
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.
The free version of InVision Studio allows up to three active users and three documents and works best for individuals and small design teams. For $7.95/month (on the annual plan), the Pro plan includes unlimited documents and archiving for up to 15 collaborators.
Iterate your work with non-destructive Boolean operations
A variety of exporting options, including drag-and-share
Sketch was first released in 2010 and has made 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 for an individual license. If you don't renew your subscription, you can continue to use the tool, but you won’t receive software updates or be able to save files to the cloud.
Use Figma libraries to store, find, and add new assets
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's free offering can be used for three projects and two editors, and you'll get unlimited cloud storage with it. The Professional plan includes unlimited projects and goes for $12 per user per month, billed annually.
Canva teams lets groups design mockups together in real time
Create precise compositions with Canva’s crop tool
Create charts easily with numerical and percentage-based editable charts and graphs
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.
More than 250 UI components to mimic the behavior of their native counterparts
Design virtually any web or mobile event or action
Preview, share, and get feedback on designs with user testing integrations
Proto.io is popular for its prototyping and wireframing capabilities, and 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.
Integrates seamlessly with Dropbox, Google Drive, and Slack
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.
Moqups offers a free plan with 1 project and 5MB of storage. Upgrading to the Pro plan for $16/month (billed annually) gets you unlimited projects for a single user.
Balsamiq helps developers, designers, and creatives visualize their ideas quickly with low-fidelity wireframes. Instead of focusing on finer details that are characteristic of higher-fidelity sketches, Balsamiq’s interface sticks to the basics — its interface and elements imitate a hand-drawn style to emphasize content and structure over other aspects, making it handy for the beginning stages of a build. All plans allow unlimited users, and Balsamiq also offers a 30-day free trial.
Advanced interactivity lets you more actively simulate the user experience
Use built-in libraries to incorporate interactive elements, colors, and icons when you’re short on time
Show conditional flow logic with UXPin’s embedded user flow capabilities
UXPin is a powerful prototyping and wireframing tool. With it, you can construct maps from a library of user interface components that you can combine into UX patterns, run tests on your wireframes and collect feedback from subjects, and collaborate with teammates in real-time.
Many of UXPin’s elements incorporate advanced interactivity, so you can more actively simulate the user experience as you build out your interface.
All plans allow unlimited prototypes and viewers, and each increasing tier enables more advanced features like conditional logic, variables, and design systems (style guidelines for your whole team).
Track changes to review previous versions of your diagrams
Export the most popular file formats
Integrate your favorite programs like Slack, AWS, and Microsoft Teams for collaborative work
Cacoo is a wireframing and diagram tool built for collaboration. You can easily select and place elements from desktop, iOS, and Android libraries, and team members can track and comment on live changes to their wireframes. While a purely web-based tool, Cacoo lets users export to PNG, SVG, PDF, and PPT formats. It also integrates with applications like Microsoft Teams, Dropbox, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
More than 2,000 desktop and mobile elements to choose from
Mockup screen transition options for visual flair
Collaborate efficiently with built-in collaboration tools
Those in need of detailed mockups can try Fluid UI, a high-fidelity prototyping tool. Fluid UI offers a library of over 2,000 desktop and mobile elements for fine-grained designs, and you can upload your own graphics too. Also of note are the transition options between mockup screens, which add a bit of extra visual flair to presentations. Finally, the built-in collaboration tools will help your team flesh out your website efficiently.
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, here are some options:
Drag-and-drop diagramming tool makes it easy to create wireframes quickly
Integrate with the most popular tools like Basecamp, Jira, and WordPress
Create process flowcharts, workflow diagrams, and swimlane diagrams using the free online app
Gliffy is an online diagramming tool that’s free with an option to upgrade to the fully-featured version for $7.99/month. The free version is a capable tool for making mockups — it has elements for flowcharts, containers, and forms, plus other interactive elements. Users can upload their own images as well.
Use preview mode to present, play and review designs and mockups
Track edits and incorporate feedback with the revision tracker
Assign role-based permissions to collaborate with your design team
MockFlow is an online wireframe and sitemap builder. It allows you to plan out your site on a whiteboard-like interface, with low and high-fidelity options. It's free, with full functionality starting at $15/month.
Export your designs to your preferred CMS with a powerful API
Guide writers with placeholders for headers and body copy directly in the design wireframe
Assign tasks to contributors to know exactly who’s doing what
Another solid online mockup creator, Jumpchart’s free version allows for one project with up to 10 pages and two users. Jumpchart is more focused on sitemap structure than individual page design and can help you see the big-picture of your site before honing in on the details.
Limited color palette so you can focus on the design and functionality
See only what’s important on the screen with a context-sensitive UI as you create your wireframes
Move quickly through mockups with wireframe templates for web, mobile, or custom screens
Wireframe.cc provides an ultra-minimal interface that is very straightforward to use — it’s about as close as you can get to a literal paper-and-pen prototype.
For extra functionality, premium versions run from $16 to $99 per month. The free version is likely too basic for long-term use, but it's a good resource for cash-strapped teams to get started on designs before upgrading to a paid tool.
The Best Wireframe Tools for Your 2021 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. 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.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 21, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated May 21 2021