25 great free UX tools

There might be no such thing as a free lunch but thanks to the wonders of Open Source software, freeware and trial software there most certainly is such a thing as free software. In this article I list 25 great free UX tools, including tools to help with prototyping, annotating, screen grabbing, site mapping, usability testing, accessibility and analytics.

Prototyping tools

Pencil

Pencil is a nice little Open Source tool for creating prototypes, UI mockups, and UX diagrams, such as user journeys. It comes with a good set of built-in widgets covering web, windows and sketchy UI components and allows pages to be exported as HTML, a PDF, an Open Office doc, a Word Doc or an image.
http://pencil.evolus.vn

Pencil – A free prototyping and diagramming tool

Pencil – A free prototyping and diagramming tool

LucidChart

LucidChart is an online tool for creating diagrams, UI mockups and prototypes. It allows more than one person to collaborate on a document and comes with a nice set of built-in widgets, including UI components, icons and diagramming shapes. Although it’s not strictly speaking free it does allow documents to be created with up to 60 elements and with two collaborators for free. Documents can be saved and downloaded as a webpage, PDF or image.
http://www.lucidchart.com

LucidChart – A prototyping and diagramming tool with a free  trial version

LucidChart – A prototyping and diagramming tool with a free trial version

Balsamiq

Balsamiq is another online UI prototyping tool and like LucidChart it’s not fee but does allow you to create simple single pages for free using the trial version (just click on the ‘take a tour’ link). It has an intuitive UI and comes with a good set of sketchy widgets to use. Pages can be downloaded as a PDF or an image.
http://balsamiq.com

Balsamiq – A prototyping tool with a free trial version

Balsamiq – A prototyping tool with a free trial version

Serena Prototype Composer

Serena Prototype Composer is a powerful WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) UI editor, allowing you to create UI prototypes and mockups, and to link these in with user flows and business process diagrams. Unfortunately the free edition (community edition) only allows you to modify some existing sample projects.
http://www.serena.com/products/prototype-composer/

Serena Prototype Composer – A prototyping tool with a free  trial version

Serena Prototype Composer – A prototyping tool with a free trial version

Annotation tools

Protonotes

Protonotes is a great little tool that allows you to add post-it type notes to a prototype in order to capture feedback. You simply add a little bit of JavaScript to each page of the prototype and Protonotes does the rest.
http://www.protonotes.com

Protonotes – A free prototype annotation tool

Protonotes – A free prototype annotation tool

WebNotes

WebNotes is a browser plugin that allows you to attach notes and comments to any webpage, and to share these with other people. It’s a great tool for capturing feedback for a design and for capturing comments for things like usability reviews and competitor benchmarks.
http://www.webnotes.net

WebNotes – A free webpage annotation tool

WebNotes – A free webpage annotation tool

Diigo

Diigo allows you to capture and share annotations for webpages, including screenshots, comments and highlighted text. You can set-up a group for sharing information so it’s a nice tool for capturing comments for designs and for sharing things like design patterns.
http://www.diigo.com

Diigo – A free webpage annotation tool

Diigo – A free webpage annotation tool

Design tools

Lorem Ipsum generator

The Lorem Ipsum generator does what it says on the tin and is really useful for generating dummy text for designs. You can generate Lorem Ipsum for a specific number of paragraphs, words or sentences.
http://www.ipsum-generator.com

Lorem Ipsum generator – A free dummy text generator

Lorem Ipsum generator – A free dummy text generator

ColorPic

ColorPic is a great little tool for those instances when you want to grab an onscreen colour. A magnifier makes grabbing the right pixel dead easy and it will give you the web colour along with Hex and RGB values. ColorPic even allows you to build up palettes of colours so you don’t have to keep grabbing the same colours.
http://www.iconico.com/colorpic

ColorPic – A free colour picker for onscreen colours

ColorPic – A free colour picker for onscreen colours

Netvibes

Netvibes allows you to set-up custom dashboards to track online content such as blogs, RSS feeds and photo feeds. It’s useful for keeping in touch with what’s going on with your favourite UX websites and for getting inspiration for new designs.
http://www.netvibes.com

Netvides – A free online dashboard tool

Netvides – A free online dashboard tool

Screen grab tools

Jing

Jing allows you to easily capture and share screen grabs and videos from onscreen. It’s great for capturing dynamic interactions and behaviours and allows you to export videos as a streaming Flash video (SWF) that anyone can play in their browser.
http://www.techsmith.com/jing/free/

Jing – A screen grab tool with a free version

Jing – A screen grab tool with a free version

Screengrab! Firefox plugin

Screengrab! is a great little Firefox plugin that allows you to capture an entire webpage, not just the visible part. Screen captures can be saved as JPG or PNG images, or alternatively can be copied directly to the clipboard.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/screengrab/

Screengrab! – A free screen grab plugin for Firefox

Screengrab! – A free screen grab plugin for Firefox

Browsershots

Browsershots is a free Open Source web app that allows you to find out how a webpage will look in lots of different browsers. It gives you screenshots for each browser and along with the usual suspects such as IE, Firefox and Chrome it also includes some really obscure ones, such as SeaMonkey, Konqueror and Galeon.
http://browsershots.org

Browsershots – A free tool for checking cross browser  appearance of a website

Browsershots – A free tool for checking cross browser appearance of a website

Sitemapping tools

XMind

XMind is a really nice mind mapping tool that’s great for building site maps; for collating information; and for generally capturing thoughts and feedback. Mind maps can be imported from other mind mapping applications such as MindManger and Freemind and can be exported or shared with others by uploading them to the XMind website.
http://www.xmind.net

XMind – A mind mapping tool with a free version

XMind – A mind mapping tool with a free version

Freemind

Freemind is an Open Source mind mapping tool that’s really useful for creating clickable HTML sitemaps. It’s not as slick as some of the other mind mapping tools out there but is very quick to use and has more features than the free edition of XMind.
http://freemind.sourceforge.net

Freemind – A free mind mapping tool

Freemind – A free mind mapping tool

Usability testing tools

CamStudio

CamStudio is an Open Source application that allows you to record what’s going on onscreen, including audio from a microphone or the computer speakers. It even allows you to capture a webcam video feed as well so it’s a great tool for recording usability testing sessions. Videos are saved as AVI files and can also be converted into streaming Flash videos (SWFs).
http://camstudio.org

CamStudio – A free screen recording tool

CamStudio – A free screen recording tool

Remote usability tools

Skype

The business version of Skype allows you to carry out screen sharing with an audio and even a video feed, so it’s perfect for carrying out remote usability testing. Unfortunately participants do need to install the Skype client on their computer and it won’t record sessions like WebEx, but then you can always use something like CamStudio to do this.
http://www.skype.com

Skype – A screen sharing tool with a free version

Skype – A screen sharing tool with a free version

Loop11

Loop11 is a great tool for carrying out unmoderated usability testing. You basically set-up some tasks for people to do on a website and let them try them out at their own convenience. Loop11 is not free but does allow you to set-up a trial test with a maximum of 5 tasks and 2 questions.
http://www.loop11.com

Loop11 – A remote usability testing tool with a free trial  version

Loop11 – A remote usability testing tool with a free trial version

Five Second Test

Five second test is a great tool for capturing first impressions for a design, or for perhaps carrying out some quick A/B testing. You can have one or more designs, in the form of images and then people are able to view them for 5 seconds before entering some feedback.
http://www.fivesecondtest.com

Five Second Test – A free remote usability testing tool

Five Second Test – A free remote usability testing tool

Survey Monkey

SurveyMonkey is an online survey tool that’s great for carrying out online surveys, or for capturing feedback following usability testing. The free version allows you to set-up surveys with up to10 questions and 100 responses, which is generally plenty.
http://www.surveymonkey.com

SurveyMonkey – An online survey tool with a free version

SurveyMonkey – An online survey tool with a free version

Usability reviewing tools

Concept feedback

Concept Feedback is an interesting tool for getting second opinions on a design. You can post a design to the site and then a community of designers will give you their feedback for free.
http://www.conceptfeedback.com

Concept Feedback – A free usability reviewing tool

Concept Feedback – A free usability reviewing tool

Analytics tools

Google analytics

Google analytics is not only free but also incredibly useful for finding out how a site is being used. You can find out loads of interesting stuff such as the paths visitors are commonly taking and where visitors are entering and exiting a site. It even allows you to carry out A/B testing.
http://www.google.com/analytics

Google analytics – A free analytics tool

Google analytics – A free analytics tool

ClickHeat

ClickHeat is a tool that allows you to view a visual heatmap of clicks on a web page, showing hot (lots of clicks) and cold (few clicks) zones. It’s great for finding out where visitors are clicking on pages, although it does require a bit of technical know how to get it installed and working for a site.
http://www.labsmedia.com/clickheat

ClickHeat – A free analytics tool

ClickHeat – A free analytics tool

Accessibility tools

Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar

The Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar is a Firefox plugin that’s really useful for checking the accessibility of web pages.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/accessibility-evaluation-toolb

Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar – A free accessibility  evaluation tool

Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar – A free accessibility evaluation tool

Total Validator

Total Validator is an (X)HTML validator, an accessibility validator, a spell checker, and a broken links checker all rolled into one.
http://www.totalvalidator.com

Total Validator – A free accessibility evaluation tool

Total Validator – A free accessibility evaluation tool

More free UX tools