Can One UX Tool “Rule Them All?”

a field note from ixdeology.com

Conceptualizing a great innovative experience and strategy alone is not enough to convey it to your team or clients. Experience Design also requires some knowledge of specific tools to craft high-quality documentation, to further help visualize such ideation as blueprints for your digital product.

This Field Note sheds some light on the tools-of-the-trade by providing an objective comparison of 17 industry standard tools for UX (researched between August & September of 2014). My journey also included trying to find that perfect tool, fueled by the need to improve efficiency without sacrificing creativity, flexibility, and quality in the design process.

Don’t forget to download the PDF with specific feature comparisons of all 17 tools to help inform making your decision when choosing your next UX tool. Additionally I hope this encourages the tool creators to also improve their software with specific features that UX design processes need.


Qualities of a Great UX Specific Tool

Each of the 17 tools chosen were compared against their potential for the most common needs of a great tool for UX design.

  • Create: Flexible creation for custom details and better authenticity.
  • Print: Ability to create high quality documentation as tangible printed deliverables.
  • Prototype: Ability to prototype experiences with interactions and motion.
  • Present: Ability to present digitally.
  • Collaborate: Ability to collaborate with stakeholders and make documentation of feedback easier with version control.
  • Test: Integrated user testing options.

One Tool Cannot “Rule Them All” — Yet!

The result was expected, however there were some solutions to consider. As the lead, for my team’s needs, I presented the following recommendations to democratize the choices and foster collective interest. After all, if you enjoy the tools you use, it shows in your product. The findings fell into the following categories:

  • Most potential for that “one perfect tool.”
  • Tools for a flexible process.

Most Potential for that One Perfect Tool

These desktop tools came very close, and in this order due to their non-browser based creation, and other tool set features. See Comparison Chart with pros and cons for more specifc analysis.

JustinMind
Well-rounded features for UX, even for Google Glass. Also they are very responsive to your feature requests and forward thinking.

Axure
Another industry leading tool widely used.

Tools for A Flexible Process

If flexibility is your most important need, the following tools by themselves, or in combination, help achieve it based on your processes. See Comparison Chart with pros and cons for more specifc analysis.

Brainstorming

Paper, pencil, markers, post-it notes, cards, etc.
No substitute for this.

MindNode
For quick paper-less brainstorming of site user flows, rough architecture audits, etc.

Creation of Static Tangible Deliverables

Lucid Chart
I found this helpful for clean and fast process flow creation for digital strategies, and site architecture maps.

Adobe InDesign
UX site architecture organization and wireframe visualization in multiple pages with auto pagination. Adding annotations. It is great for printable deliverables.

Adobe Illustrator/ Photoshop
Rapid UX prototyping for apps & export of scalable elements to animated, interactive formats and tools for prototype presentation.

Creation of Animated Prototypes & Presentations

Adobe Flash/ After Effects
For animating prototypes to convey complex interactions and motions for unique experiences.

KeyNote
For quick presentations and clickable prototypes.

Interactive Prototypes with Presentation & Collaborative Tools

JustinMind
Besides creation, it’s also great for prototyping and presenting.

Axure
Besides creation, it’s also great for prototyping and presenting.

inVision
Focus specifically on prototyping and collaboration.

User Testing

VerifyApp
Pre-development A/B Testing, design surveys, etc.

SolidifyApp
Multi-device user testing, behavior analysis, etc.

Download

See Comparison Chart with pros and cons [Click Here Mobile Users] for more specifc analysis.

In Conclusion

There is no one tool that can “rule them all.” However there ares some great contenders and solutions. Having the proper tools gives you the freedom to create, allowing for unhindered, medium imposed limitations, when designing for innovation. I hope my journey to find the perfect tool, and combinations, helps inform your choices — if you are seeking it. I will continue to evolve this document as new tools are put to the test — time permitting of course.

As a follow-up to this article, eventually, I will be writing another on how I take one of my projects through some of these tools. It will shed more light on why flexibility is important for better communication of your digital product’s blueprint.

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