What are the best Prototyping Tools? It depends. :)

Through my career as an Interactive Designer I have always been interested in being able to present “Interactive” ideas in the best way possible to my team or clients without too many words, improve upon it and provide feedback without the “idea” getting lost in translation.

So I started exploring ways to best present the work and back then Flash, PDFs and Powerpoints were the only viable solutions.

Fast forward 10 years and things have evolved – a lot. So the range of tools has (luckily) grown exponentially.

One question that comes up a lot is “What is THE best prototyping tool?”
Although I have my preferences the answer is in my opinion “It depends” :)

Why? Because it really depends on what you are trying to prototype (also depends on the company I am working at the moment and their stack) but in general:

Comps and Wires:

My favorite is Sketch by far. Photoshop or Illustrator for comps otherwise and any other wireframing tool for wires they might be using, from Balsamiq or Omnigraffle to Axure.

I use for comp based web prototypes: InVision or Marvel (pretty much identical to each other with Marvel being slightly slower but a little cheaper). Marvel does a better job for mobile prototypes (more gestures and transitions and allows for media embeds).

For non-comp based & responsive:

Webydo or Webflow they are very similar and allow to create really good looking sites that you can release — lower fidelity versions can be used as clickable wires.

For mobile almost native experiences:

I love Principle for Mac — it’s the easiest to use that allows for very complex interactions. Not free but has a free trial.

Pixate is very powerful and even allows for some system interactions and works also on android. It’s free and better for teams. But still prefer Principle when I can — experience much closer to Sketch in terms of ease of use.

For mobile native experiences:

Xcode, Swift + the Spring animation library by Meng To. My choice when sounds, notifications, loading data from a feed or customizing the experience based on a logged in user or allowing to take pictures for example, are key to the prototype and user experience being tested.

Not available yet but when it will be Silver (plugin for Sketch) will allow advanced prototyping within Sketch including allowing to take photos with a user’s camera or interacting with the system — very exited: http://silverflows.com/

Adobe is also working on all-in-one design + prototyping tool as of now called “project Comet” coming this Spring (?) that is basically is Sketch + Silver and some dynamic data smarts included and presumably will be bundled with Creative Cloud that might see great adoption. Looking forward to trying that one. Anyone here on the beta?

For web experiences that need to fake a login with dynamic user data usually some HTML, CSS, Angular and JSon data will do the job and when not a backend can be of help like a basic Rails app. Say you want to prototype a search of some sort and instant filters Kayak style.

The keyword in all this is “depends” :)

For a really good chart comparing a lot of different prototyping tools I found this article by Cooper that allows to sort and filter:

http://www.cooper.com/prototyping-tools

What are your favorite tools?

In NYC? Check out the Prototyping User Experiences Meetup

Good luck!

Francesco 
UX/UI Designer and Prototyper
@fbmore

+Founder of Free&Willing