When you’re looking to build an app from the ground up, there’s more to it than a slick, immaculate design. Every user expects pixel-perfect design, but since mobile-first products have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives, a digital interaction that doesn’t return value to the user isn’t a product that’s worth that user’s time, attention or money. That’s why UX and UI design is one of the most important aspects the full team of product strategists, designers and mobile app developers have to consider.
When it comes to the design part of the product definition and building process, UX/UI designers are always looking for ways to enhance their work. Mixing skills with creativity and using the best design tools with the right processes is what some might call the recipe for success.
Designing the best possible version of your mobile product
We thought we’d help the mobile app designers out there by providing a list of what we think are the best mobile app design tools available. But before getting into that, there’s that saying that goes that when you’re holding a hammer, everything you’re seeing is a nail.
Whether you’re a freelance UX/UI designer looking for the right tools for yourself, or a team of designers working in an app development company, you can’t lose track of what you’re looking to achieve. Google wireframing, design, prototyping, or usability testing tools, and you’ll find hundreds of options. The fact is your clients’ needs and your goals should dictate the process, and process should dictate the tools that you need.
We’ll cover the two most typical clients. The first is when we help a founding team build their app from scratch. The second is when a startup already has an MVP launched and is looking to improve it and scale it.
Scenario 1: You want to go from a concept to a launched MVP
If you’re a founder or a team that hasn’t launched a product yet and is only in the concept or idea stage, then product definition and design are essential. Before you go into the development phase, as this helps you estimate costs and figure out a timeline until launch. Getting your design ready will also help you decide if you should launch on one platform or two. You might want to start with either Android or iOS app development and perfect your product for each platform at a time. If you’re tight on either time or budget or want to launch on both from the get-go and a cross-platform framework is a better option for you, you can look into React Native app development.
Before jumping into the design process, make sure you walk through defining your problem and solution. In short, this means you should be able to:
- Describe the problem you’re addressing with your product and
- Validate it is a problem for your core audience
- Describe the flow through which your product is bringing value to your audience by this problem
- Describe how you’re going to monetise the product you’re building
Our team at Tapptitude will usually work with you through a series of workshops to help you define these things if you’re at this stage. Once you’ve covered these points, you can move on towards the wireframing and design process, and this is where a UI/UX designer can really help you. Once a high definition prototype is finalised, you can use it for fundraising purposes, but also to plan user testing sessions with members of your audience, to get direct feedback on your product.
Scenario 2: Your mobile product is already launched and you want to improve it
If you’re the type of startup that already has a product that is launched but feel like it needs improvement, Tapptitude can guide you through the necessary steps to give your product the boost you’re looking for.
Here, as well, it’s very important to define clearly what goal you’re looking to achieve.
- Are you looking to improve the user experience and increase engagement?
- Are you looking to change your monetization options?
- Have you been thinking about adding new features? For whom? For what purpose?
Depending on the goals you have in mind, we’ll decide together on what we’ll need to audit together, whether it’s your code, your existing UX, where further research is needed, and how to ideate and focus our future work in a design sprint. Eventually, the design team will translate our plans into wireframes and fresh designs that will be implemented by the development team.
Whichever goal you’re aiming for, going through this process will most likely have a positive impact on the success of your product and your business.
Now, let’s walk you through the list of tools a product studio like Tapptitude and other mobile development companies like to use when it comes to designing cross-platform products and mobile apps. We’ve included tools with which you can facilitate workshops, build wireframes, design user interfaces, prototype, animate said prototypes and even run user tests.
9 of the best mobile app design tools to try out
Workshop facilitation tools
Mural is a digital workspace for visual collaboration, and it’s one of our favorite apps on this list. It’s easy to use once you get a hang of it, and allows creatives to think outside the box and tackle important situations. With Mural, you can create diagrams that stimulate design thinking so you can apply sharp methods to the mobile app design process for impactful results. Additionally, the tool lets you organize your ideas with sticky notes, build lists, diagrams, flowcharts, and more.
Their YouTube channel is packed with tons of tutorial videos. Head over to their channel if you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of the tool.
Miro is a digital collaboration space for teams and it’s perfect to hold remote meetings, ideations sessions, or even more complex workshops. Product strategists and designers can use existing templates to facilitate discussions or create their own templates depending on their needs.
The platform’s numerous integrations, as well as the great community available, means that any new user has many resources available to learn from.
UX and UI tools
3. Adobe XD
Adobe XD is the direct competitor of Sketch, although the platform is available for both Windows and macOS. XD comes with most of the same features as Sketch, from prototyping to wireframing, UI/UX design, and more. Part of the Creative Suite, it was built to replace Photoshop as the more powerful tool for designers using that program to build wireframes and UI interfaces. The tool is fast, reliable, and equipped to aid creatives in building high-fidelity designs and animations. Adobe XD has a strong focus on collaboration and teamwork and is packed with countless plugins and features.
Sketch is a macOS design tool kit and it’s primarily used for UI/UX designs. The app’s main focus is prototyping and wireframing—it essentially lets designers bring their ideas to life. It’s a lightweight tool, but very effective. Sketch comes with a very intuitive interface, as well as loads of features to help designers in their creative process. With a strong focus on collaboration between teams and clients, the design tool truly lets you create incredible products.
Collaborative design and prototyping tools
Figma is a UI tool kit. The tool shines as a vector graphics editor and prototyping app with hundreds of features to keep designers busy. Figma also comes with its own unique tools, such as Vector Networks and the Arc tool, which help your ideas come to life. The design tool is primarily web-based, with a strong focus on cloud support and collaboration.
Invision is another simple, yet powerful design tool you can play around with. The app allows you to build rich interactive prototypes, allows you to upload design files and create animations. Invision is also very cloud-oriented, so you and your team can always collaborate effectively and share creative ideas.
Designing, prototyping, and collaborating—Marvel can help you do each of these effectively. The tool comes with everything you need to bring your ideas to life. With a strong focus on collaboration, you can bounce ideas with your team and create incredible digital products, including mobile apps.
Interaction and motion design tools
ProtoPie is a cutting-edge design software that lets you create beautiful, realistic and advanced designs. What’s really unique about ProtoPie is that it lets you deliver prototypes without the use of code. You can create interactions using the keyboard, native camera, or multi-touch. Apart from a strong focus on collaboration, they also have this unique conceptual method in creating the perfect design: Object + Trigger + Response. Check out their website for more details.
Last but not least on our list is Principle. This tool stands out because it allows you to create complex animations and interactions for your mobile app. Furthermore, it’s the software of choice if you need to design an app that will have multiple screens. Apart from letting you design animated and interactive user interfaces, Principle lets you share your work and import files from other design tools.
There are numerous mobile app design tools to choose from nowadays, and this list only covers a few of our favorite options. Choosing the right mix that fits your own design process might prove a challenge, especially as many of these apps have similar features.
Oftentimes, you need to use more than just one design app to have outstanding results. If you and your team don’t have the time to learn and play around with these new tools, we can offer guidance and help you create the best version of your app. A modern, stylized design, coupled with impeccable functionality offers the best chances of success for any mobile application, and that’s what we want to help you achieve.
Erika is a full-stack marketer passionate about the intersection between technology and social impact. She mixes research with content design and a human touch to help people and startups succeed in delivering value through their work. When not writing or talking to people, you’ll find her reading or quoting Hamilton for any life situation.