Wireframing is vital for modern web app design. But what makes it so important, and why do you need a dedicated wireframe tool?
Wireframes are the blueprints for your future website. But unlike regular blueprints, they are fully interactive. You can use wireframes to quickly prototype and build a website, create a presentation for clients and stakeholders and collaborate with your team members to speed up the development process.
Wireframes give you a complete structure of your project, including app architecture and user flow. You can include branding elements, colors, styling, texts, interactive UI components, and high-resolution images to build a high-fidelity wireframe that will serve as a pre-launch version of your future website.
Wireframes allow you to test website functionality and user behavior, without having to create and maintain an actual web app. These interactive prototypes are created by UI and UX experts using a variety of wireframe tools. They let you stay focused on the customer, clarify app features and bring down development costs.
In most cases, you will be fine without professional wireframe software. Flowchart apps, software for regular office-related tasks, and even Customer Relationship Management systems like Bitrix24 have plugins, addons, and built-in options that allow you to prototype a web app. You can even start with a pen and a piece of paper if you prefer old-fashioned solutions to digital problems.
However, if you need to collaborate with a team or create a professional presentation of the future product, you'd be better off with a dedicated wireframe tool. You will also need the advanced editing options that such apps provide.
Great wireframe apps include several elements that will help you speed up the design process and create functional UX sequences.
Export to HTML. While many design apps are compatible with each other, having a website prototype in HTML that can be accessed by your coworkers and beta-testers is a great option. You will always be sure that your wireframe project can run on different desktop machines and mobile devices. Best apps let you choose to export some of the interactive elements or entire screens.
UI kit compatibility. Kits are an incredible way to speed up your development process. You won't need to draw every button from scratch if a wireframe app has a built-in library or allows you to upload and install UI kits made by third parties. Popular apps have large communities that create and share a lot of custom content that you can use in your projects.
Team collaboration. A cloud-based wireframe tool offers you an interactive canvas that can be shared with other team members. But even desktop apps have ways of collaborating online and collecting feedback from your clients and co-workers. Unless you are working on a solo project, choose an app that offers a lot of options for working together and sharing feedback.
Hi-fi and lo-fi mockups. Popular apps usually offer you both options. It's much easier to design a lo-fi version and then polish it up using the same tool rather than switching to different software. Consider this option if you are not familiar with many apps and just beginning your journey in UI design.
Adobe Photoshop is the industry gold standard when it comes to design and image editing. It has interesting capabilities as wireframe software. If you have learned to use Photoshop you might need no other tool. Obviously, certain things can be designed faster in more streamlined, specialized apps, but Photoshop has pretty much every feature you can think of.
If you are familiar with image editing or digital painting, switching to wireframe design will be easy.
Photoshop is an interesting wireframe tool that works with pixel graphics. It allows creating hi-fi mockups on top of your wireframes without needing a different app.
An unlimited number of artboards.
Choose any screen size dimensions or create a responsive grid layout using breakpoints.
Create custom UI elements in the same artboard or use a pre-made UI kit.
The best option for editing raster images, which you will need for website design.
Files are recognized by the majority of other design apps.
Can be used with other prototyping tools.
Despite its large assortment of tools, Photoshop is a little clunky to use at times. It can be a nightmare for inexperienced UI designers. If you have no previous experience with Adobe Photoshop, don't use it for wireframing. Choose a different option that doesn't have a steep learning curve.
Plans and pricing:
The regular Photoshop plan costs $20.99 a month and allows you to work on your tablet and desktop. You can start with a 30-day free trial.
Try Bitrix24 instead of a dedicated wireframe tool. It integrates with Bitrix24 CRM, other Bitrix products, and third-party apps. Helps you test not only your website layout but also business strategies.
Adobe XD is a great example of wireframe software for beginners. It doesn't offer tons of features like other Adobe products. It's a great fit for hobby or solo projects.
A minimal interface that is easy to navigate.
Robust features that allow creating wireframes, basic prototypes, and presentations.
Includes an onboarding process, and offers hints and detailed explanations about every feature.
Even if you are new to UI and UX, after a short tutorial from Adobe XD you will be able to work on your own project.
It's a professional-grade tool streamlined for the general audience.
Create everything in the same file, including the mockup, prototype, and wireframe.
A self-contained solution that covers most UI designer needs.
You can publish and share your project online to receive feedback.
Ability to export HTML and basic CSS.
Plans and pricing:
Single App plan costs $9.99 a month. This wireframe app allows you to create unlimited prototypes as long as you stay within the 100 GB limit. A free tier is available.
While Bitrix24 is a comprehensive CRM solution for businesses of any size and not a specialized wireframe tool, it offers users the ability to create a fully functional prototype of a business website (or even an actual website) and publish it online.
Free hosting and a custom domain option.
An easy-to-use website builder that helps create functional prototypes and test user flow.
Includes a form builder and a live chat widget allowing you to develop a customer acquisition strategy.
Integrates with Bitrix24 CRM, other Bitrix products, and third-party apps. Helps you test not only your website layout but also business strategies.
Free collaboration with other Bitrix24 users.
Unlimited pages and bandwidth.
Fully responsive and mobile-friendly.
Uses API and pre-built integrations.
Secure hosting and SSL encryption out of the box.
If you are developing a prototype of a business website that has to capture leads and turn them into customers, try using Bitrix24 instead of a dedicated wireframe tool. You can shorten the web app development time and test your business ideas.
Plans and pricing:
The special offer costs $49 a month and comes with extra storage, advanced CRM, and analytics. Allows you to design and maintain up to 10 websites at the same time.
InVision Freehand is a web-based wireframe app that has fewer features than its competitors but offers the team collaboration option and comes at no cost. It's a great solution for small teams working on niche projects or students learning UI.
A large whiteboard that allows collaborating with up to 100 active users.
Add images, basic shapes, or create drawings with your mouse.
A solid, simple wireframe tool that covers your basic needs.
Offers integrations with Photoshop, Sketch, Figma, Google Docs, and YouTube among others.
Real-time syncing with Sketch and Photoshop.
Can import hi-fi prototypes created in other wireframe software.
Makes the iteration design stage much easier, allowing to annotate on imported wireframes.
Can be used with other InVision apps like Craft Manager or Prototype to speed up the development process.
Includes mood boards for reference.
InVision Freehand can be used at the earliest design stage to collectively come up with a simple initial sketch. Its powerful integrations also allow large teams to work and comment on refined, hi-fi web app prototypes.
Plans and pricing:
The Pro option costs $4 a month per user and comes with unlimited spaces for collaboration. Up to 200 users can join a project created with the Pro plan (they don't have to pay). Includes a Free-forever option with a few limitations.
Figma remains a popular cloud-based wireframe software choice. Even with its free plan, it offers users a whole stack of features that allow them to create sleek, professional-looking prototypes and wireframes. It can be used in collaboration with other designers or as a standalone option.
Quick, straightforward wireframing process.
The app is beginner-friendly, and there are a lot of video tutorials on YouTube to help you learn it.
You can design your own UI components or download one of the many kits you can find online.
Create multiple artboards, add shapes and text blocks on the fly. No previous experience in prototyping is needed to get the feel of this wireframe tool.
All features are well-organized and can be easily accessed from a panel on the left side of the screen.
Responsive design options include the Bootstrap grid and native Figma constraints.
Several users can work on the project simultaneously, adding content and changing design elements.
Use sticky notes to comment on the project and receive feedback from other users.
Export individual elements to HTML or grab CSS code.
Plans and pricing:
The most popular Professional plan costs $12 a month per user. The free tier option allows you to create up to three projects. It's a great way to learn the app before advancing to a paid option.
Justinmind is an interesting wireframe tool that lets you create interactive wireframes. You can build a fully-functional prototype right from the start and test different elements as you go.
Offers interactive prototype elements (other apps don't have this feature).
Add radio buttons, text input boxes, or dropdowns with a single click.
Choose from pre-made smart forms and data lists.
Create realistic wireframes in minutes.
If you need to test UX as fast as possible, Justinmind is probably your best option.
Simple, intuitive layout.
A large library of mobile gestures for testing purposes.
Visual, no-code approach to design and prototyping.
Instant preview (including mobile devices).
Plans and pricing:
The Professional plan costs $19 a month per user. It includes advanced editing options and unlimited prototypes. Has a free tier option that is worth checking out.
Mockplus is a wireframe tool that truly stands out if you need to work on a complex project. While most other apps are built for designers, Mockplus offers a rich set of features for project managers as well.
Combines the best features of a prototyping app with team management.
Document every process, add notes to every element in your project.
Built-in text editor for project documentation.
Create your own style guide that other team members can access for reference.
Start new tasks and assign them to your co-workers.
Robust review feedback features.
Everything will be accounted for while you go through the iterations of your wireframe-building process.
You need only a web browser to use this app.
It is constantly updated, introducing new features and security measures.
Desktop and cloud options that are seamlessly integrated with each other.
Plans and pricing:
Cloud plan costs $5.95 a month per user and allows you to create as many projects as you like. Mockplus offers a free tier option that is limited to 10 projects and 10 users.
Sketch is the ultimate wireframe tool for macOS users. Its main function is vector design. With Sketch, you can create pretty much anything, starting with vector icons and ending with wireframes and responsive UI.
Simple, intuitive interface.
The app is beginner-friendly and doesn't have a steep learning curve.
Create wireframes in minutes using custom vector shapes and unlimited artboards.
Lacks built-in UI component libraries. However, there are thousands of community-developed UI kits that you can use freely.
As a desktop app, it's not designed with collaboration in mind. But if you combine it with Sketch Cloud, you can share iterations of your project and receive feedback from other users.
Can export full designs or individual components to HTML.
Can be integrated with hundreds of other apps to speed up the development process.
Plans and pricing:
Individual user plan costs $99 a year. Teams can use Sketch Cloud for $9 a month per member.
UXPin is a wireframe tool that receives a lot of accolades from industry professionals. If you are serious about learning UI design and wireframing, take a look at UXPin.
While it has a rather steep learning curve, once you master its rich toolset, you will become a competent UI designer.
A large built-in library of UI components.
Can create lo-fi and hi-fi wireframes without having to search for UI kits.
Reads Photoshop and Sketch files.
Unlimited interactions, team collaboration options, and a separate folder for design specs.
An incredible collection of educational materials.
Probably the best option for presenting your functional prototype to clients and stakeholders.
Collecting feedback, conducting reviews, and accepting approvals — all in the same app.
Plans and pricing:
The System plan costs $39 a month per user. It offers advanced features for teams, and comprehensive documentation.
If you are looking for a perfect wireframe tool, consider your needs first. You don't have to buy a product just because it's expensive or heavily advertised. Different tools have their unique strengths that can speed up your prototyping process when used properly.
Adobe Photoshop and Sketch are the household names in UI design, with UXPin having a devoted community of professionals. Figma offers a great free tier option. Think about your budget, your level of experience, and choose an app that fits with the rest of your tech stack.
Do you have previous experience with any of these tools? Are you working on a corporate product that has certain requirements? Or is it a hobby niche project? Do you want to try out a new wireframe app to learn more about it? Are you working alone or with a team? What is the size of your team? Do you need to finish the project as soon as possible? Do you need to include a lot of interactive components? Do you have to build a fully-functional hi-fi prototype for a presentation? Ask yourself these and similar questions, and you will discover the best solution for your needs.
To cover your bases, you can use several apps from this list. Most of them are compatible with each other. Start with building a lo-fi wireframe with your desktop wireframe tool, then move the project to the cloud, where you can collaborate with your teammates.
Artboard: An artboard is a digital alternative to a piece of paper or a canvas. If you want to create several wireframes in one file, simply add more artboards. You can stretch and resize them any way you like. It is also possible to move items off the artboard if you don't want to print them.
High-fidelity: High-fidelity wireframes, mockups, and designs resemble the finished product as much as possible. If you want to create a polished feel, build a hi-fi wireframe. They include text, images, and branding elements and are mostly used during project presentations.
Low-fidelity: Low-fidelity wireframes serve as blueprints for your final product. They represent the early stage of the design process. They use placeholder texts and images and do not convey the identity of the brand. Lo-fi wireframes are used to test ideas and concepts that you are going to implement in the infrastructure of your web app.
Mockup: A mockup represents a static version of your future web app. While wireframes are used to show the functionality and the structure of the app, mockups focus on visual design. Mockups can be highly-detailed, including many elements of the final product. At the early stage of mockup creation, you can use placeholder texts and images.
Pixel (raster) graphic: Raster graphics and images are created using tiny dots called pixels. Real-life examples can include an old grainy photograph or a comic book. Pixel dimensions will tell you how much data is stored in an image and how large you can print it. Raster graphics can be high- and low-resolution. Every pixel contains unique information about color and tone.
UI: UI means User Interface. Wireframe tools and mockup creators help you build a graphical layout of an app. In layman's terms, "UI is how a website looks." UI includes screens, images, text blocks, typography, color palette, and visual elements like icons, arrows, or buttons. All website elements that users can interact with can be described as UI.
UI components: User Interface components or elements are the interactive pieces of an app. They include arrows, buttons, checkboxes, drop-down menus, and progress bars. Designers don't always have to create UI components from scratch. There are thousands of free and paid UI kits out there that can be used by most wireframe apps. If you want to speed up your prototyping process, download a kit.
UX: UX means User experience. It corresponds to how a web app "feels" to a user. User experience covers usability, functionality, design, and branding. The website loading speed, its easiness of navigation, hints, gamification, and other elements serve to create a great user experience. While designing a web app, think about how users will interact with it, how much time it takes them to navigate. Check if there are errors and other "flow-breaking" moments that can ruin UX.
Vector graphic: Unlike raster images that use pixels, a vector graphic relies on lines, curves, and other geometric shapes in 2D or 3D space. If you zoom in on a vector graphic, it never becomes blurry like a raster image. Vector graphics are created by a series of mathematical commands called statements. They help produce detailed lightweight illustrations for websites and mobile applications.