Sketch? Axure? Balsamiq? Top UX Tools Comparison

UX Tools

When making the first steps in UX, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of tools available.  Their names ring a bell, but you don’t really know which one to go for. To help you save time, we’ve done a little research for you. We’ve asked UX designers what tools save their days at work. Check out our UX tools comparison:

Sketch is still the king, but you don’t want to miss the Framer either

Judah Guttmann, a UI/UX Designer at Lightricks, the photo and video editing apps developer, and the brain behind the portrait retouching apps, Facetune 2 and Enlight Photofox, recommends Sketch, provided you know the plugins!:

“When it comes to UX design Sketch is still king. The team at Bohemian Coding recently added some basic prototyping to Sketch, and that has really allowed me to speed up my workflow and trim some of the tools I used to rely on for mapping complex user flows. If you’re looking for a killer plugin to speed up your workflow in Sketch, even more, I highly recommend Sketch Runner, it will change the way you use Sketch.”

the view of sketch dashboard

Image source: https://www.sketchapp.com/

For more complex prototyping, Lightricks go for Framer. It requires some knowledge of code, which can be intimidating for designers, but quoting Guttmann, “the payoff is worth it.”

Dropbox Paper and Google’s Gallery app

Dropbox Paper may not be the obvious choice but, according to Guttmann, “It’s a bare-bones word processor that gives you just enough tools to keep you focused on the task at hand. Helping you spend more time getting your ideas out of your head and less time fiddling with fonts and other word processing tools and options.”

As for apps, Lightricks recommends Google’s Gallery. The app lets you track designs across the design team. And for design inspiration, why not try Instagram? “I’ve been using it to follow hashtags our users often use to tag their work like #photofox, to see what amazing things our users have been creating with our apps,” says Guttmann. “It inspires me to always me to always think about our users, and it also helps get me thinking of how our users are using our apps and how I can make that experience better for them. Whether that’s creating new tools, or improving current features.

Axure still enjoys high fidelity levels

Bennett Lauber, the Chief Experience Officer at The Usability People recommends Axure:

“It is great to use for creating early/low fidelity prototypes that can be used for simple testing of the basic design and information architecture.” But, Axure also supports the development of high fidelity versions of prototypes too. It also has a decent sharing function, that lets you expose your design to/from the client/stakeholder to gather feedback.”

Using Axure you need to remember that the prototypes you create often serve as a design specification. Lauber notices, that it’ll be more natural for the developers to recreate the functions and designs based on what they see in the prototype, and not necessarily on design specifications. “I guess it is a good problem to have, but you have to make sure that the prototype always presents the most up-to-date design,” he sums up.

Axure

Image source: https://www.axure.com/

Axure is also recommended if you need to keep your workflow realistic for the sake of user testing.  As Jarek Faith, the Head of Design at The Software House  points out, “you want to see how people would interact with your design, to test different scenarios, options and interactive elements, to react according to findings.”  Axure does the job for you, but not without glitches.

“You’re left with a complex matrix of interactions which can be properly dealt with only with tools that allow variables and deal with users data input, says Faith. “I’ve tried Just In Mind for a while and it seems very similar to Axure, and the biggest pain is that using these tools isn’t fun at all. Working in Sketch or UXPin is a pleasure, the UI and feel of these tools is great, seamless. Axure and Just In Mind feel like using JIRA – you do it because you have to.”

Balsamiq – the balm to UX eye-sores

Akiva Leyton from Falcon Marketing opts for Balsamiq: “It allows me to easily and efficiently create hundreds of mockups, which otherwise would have taken much longer to complete. The sheer number of icons, tools, and shapes they have ensures that every idea gets perfectly displayed for my developers to understand.” 

Falcon Marketing is a website design company that manages all aspects of website creation. Their design is research driven, not only based on external design trends but also tested internally. Regardless of the project, be it redesigning e-commerce websites, mobile applications, or custom-built software platforms, the testing process involves initial wireframing – first on paper, then in Balsamiq. This allows Falcon to create neat-looking wireframes they can present to their clients.

mockup of iOS app

Image source: https://balsamiq.com/

The tool is a huge cost saver,” says Leyton. Balsamiq wireframes allow the company to plan out section placement, without the involvement of designers to create costly initial mockups that will require editation. The designers aren’t involved until the creation of final mockups that will be presented to the clients. 

Before Balsamiq, we were spending too much on editation costs for our designers to continuously edit mockups to the clients’ satisfaction. What has changed with Balsamiq is that now anyone is capable of editing sections according to the clients’ requirements,” says Leyton. This has helped the company decrease the costs significantly. 

Is Balsamiq your perfect choice, then? No. The tool does have its shortcomings, too: As Layton notices, the wireframes are limited in vertical size, which is problematic when designing larger pages. Another pain point is that there is no tool to make items equidistant from each other, which will undoubtedly cause frustration for many UX designers, who tend to have an eye for detail.

Feeling overwhelmed by the abundance of tools?

Given the number of tools available it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. How to choose the one for you?  Jarek Faith from The Software House makes a very good point, saying : 

“It’s all about your workflow and what outcome you need at the end of the day. Do you need a prototype to show it to your client? Or do you need to make sure your developers understand the concept? Or, maybe, what you need is an interactive prototype for user testing.”

As Faith notices, each of the tools has pros and cons you need to balance. As long as you have your goals stated clearly and priorities sorted, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make the choice.

So, to make the right choice, you need to be honest about your own shortcomings and your workflow’s imperfections. Designing complex solutions will invariably entail designing dozens of connected screens. No tool will sort out the complexity for you.

As Faith puts it: “It’s your job to keep it organized” and keep it simple. “You don’t need to create a design for every possible scenario. Keep your flow linear and Sketch will do,” says Faith. The rule surely applies to most of the tools you’re considering. 

And, what’s your experience? Is there a tool worth mentioning that we haven’t covered? Tell us in the comments sections below!

 

 

I'm a service designer and a digital marketer, passionate about human-centered design and storytelling. To my own surprise, I frequently find myself writing about motivation and organizational culture. Why? This could be the human factor at play...

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