Tiago’s top 5 prototyping tools for digital product designers in 2019

Ahead of the upcoming User Experience Lab courses in London, New York, São Paulo and Stockholm, we asked Amsterdam-based product designer and AI researcher (and Hyper Island alumnus) Tiago Varandas to update his list of favorite prototyping tools for digital product designers right now.

Pen and paper can be a good starting point to get your ideas out quickly, but when you want to take things to the next level, you’ll need interactive prototype tools. Preferably one that has been built with collaboration in mind, between disparate teams using different operating systems. With an ocean of new design and prototype tools flooding the user experience design software market, which one should you choose? Here’s a list of the five I’ve been using over the past couple of years that I think could become valuable tools for your work.

1. Figma

Figma Design in San Francisco have come up with a cloud-based design tool that’s been built for better team collaboration. It has a familiar interface that makes it easy to adopt and works on any platform (it comes as a desktop app or web-based, so works on any operating system that runs a web browser), which makes collaboration possible between, say, designers using Macs and developers using Windows PCs. Teams can also communicate using Slack. Each user gets their own named cursor, so others can track who’s doing what. According to the website, “Granular permissions let you share what you want, when you want” and “Work is constantly saved, and all edits can be accessed with version history,” which makes things simpler from the get-go.

Figma is used by Braintree, Buffer, Coinbase, Deliveroo, The New York Times and Uber, among many others.

2. Sketch+Craft

Sketch is a vector-based design tool for Mac with a focus on screen design. Although headquartered in the Hague, NL, most of the team behind Sketch is based remotely. It’s used primarily by screen designers who create websites, icons, and user interfaces for desktop and mobile devices.

According to the company website, “From its conception Sketch was tailored to the needs of digital designers and it shows in every fibre of the app. Since then, Sketch’s popularity and fan-base has been ever increasing, and is now widely-recognized, and the design tool of choice for many digital companies and startups throughout the world.”

Craft is a suite of free plugins for Sketch and Photoshop created to help designers design better and faster from their design environment. With unlimited space, there’s no limit on the creativity—or variety—of your ideas and you can use Sketch or PS on a mobile, tablet or desktop no matter where you are.

Sketch is used by many top startups and Fortune 500 companies. Notable customers include Apple, Disney, IBM, Google, NASA and Nike. Craft can be downloaded from InVision.

3. Framer X

Framer X offers a set of intuitive tools that allow anyone to create native-level interactions in just a few clicks. Use the Link tool to add transitions like push and overlay or create nested scroll views with multi-directional gestures. From the website: “Create a shared design system, keep everyone in sync and customize everything — from package categories to component interfaces. You can even import production components to build a unified language between design and development.”

Framer X  is used by teams at Dropbox, Pinterest, Twitter, and more.
4. InVision Studio

InVision Studio offers designers a way to both create and edit their work and then seamlessly send it into the InVision cloud for collaboration. Studio takes on the familiarity of traditional design tools like Photoshop and Sketch, but is built specifically with the modern designer’s workflow in mind.

InVision Studio is used by Airbnb, Spotify and Twitter, among many others.

5. Principle

Principle makes it easy to design animated and interactive user interfaces. Whether you’re designing the flow of a multi-screen app, or new interactions and animations, Principle helps you create designs that look and feel amazing. Nice features include that you can import your designs from your favorite design tools with a one-click importer, and Principle Mirror for iOS lets others view your designs on their device.

Principle is used at Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Starbucks, among others.

Independent of the tools you choose, conversations get richer when you prototype with other team members, developers, clients or “real” users. These five are just tools. At the end of the day, it’s what you do with them that counts.

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