25 more great free UX tools
A few years ago I posted a popular article titled 25 great free UX tools. Well an awful lot of new free UX tools have appeared since I posted that article so I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what’s now available. Following said look, I’ve put together a list of 25 more great free UX tools. The tools cover the following areas:
Concept.ly is a web based collaboration and prototyping tool. It allows you to upload designs and then add hotspots to quickly create an interactive prototype. It can create both web and mobile prototypes and as well as being integrated with Dropbox has lots of nice collaboration features such as annotations and feedback capture, live notifications and being able to see the design history for a screen and project. The free version allows you to set-up 2 projects.
Fluid is a web based tool for creating mobile app wireframes and prototypes. It provides a drag and drop interface for building mobile app mock-ups and comes with large library of ready-made iOS, Android and Windows UI widgets for smartphone and tablet. A free account allows you to create 1 project with up to 10 pages.
InVision describes itself as the world’s leading prototyping, collaboration and workflow platform. Given that it claims to be used over 1 million designers then this easy to believe. InVision allows you to easily create interactive prototypes by adding hotspots to uploaded designs and provides lots of great collaboration and presentation features, including annotations, tracked feedback and project updates. It has lots of cool features like automatic Dropbox syncing and user testing capture (which of course don’t come for free) and is probably the slickest prototyping tool currently out there. A free account allows you to set-up just the 1 project.
Marvel allows you to create interactive web, tablet and mobile prototypes from imported screen designs. You can automatically synch Photoshop PSDs through DropBox and even capture feedback from clients and colleagues within the tool. A free account allows you to create as many projects as you want, but Marvel branding will appear in the prototypes.
Mockflow provide a suite of online design and prototyping tools. These include WireframePro for creating wireframes; DesignCollab for sharing and reviewing designs with your team; WebsitePro, a development platform to code, manager and host static websites; AnnotatePro for annotating designs and BannerPro for creating annotated banners and slideshows in HTML5. A free account gives you basic access to all the apps, but only 1 project per app and with some project restrictions.
OpenOffice is open source’s answer to Microsoft Office. It includes Writer, a word processor; Calc a spreadsheet tool; Impress, that can be used to create PowerPoint like prototypes and Draw for creating diagrams, images and graphics. It’s obviously not as slick as its commercial cousin but then it is free!
Origami is Facebook’s free prototyping tool. It allows you to create desktop, tablet and mobile prototypes using imported screens and components. It supports a wide range of interactions, such as scrolling, swiping, tapping and dragging as well as common design patterns, such as slide in navigation. You can create links between layers in your Photoshop or Sketch file and even export snippets of animation code that can be used in the finished app or website.
Pixate is a mobile prototyping tool that allows you to build mobile prototypes that run as native apps. There is both a PC and Mac version and like most mobile prototyping tools you create a prototype from design components that you import into the tool. Pixate has now joined the growing family of Google tools, so expect more features to be added in the future. You can download the application for free, but using any of the collaboration features requires a paid account (starting at $5 a month).
Webflow is a powerful drag and drop website builder. It claims that you can use it to design and launch responsive websites without writing code and now supports not only static websites, but CMS driven dynamic websites as well. A free account allows you to build 1 website, but this will include Webflow branding.
Weld is another drag and drop website builder that allows you to quickly create responsive websites, prototypes and apps. It’s newer to the game than Webflow and doesn’t yet have so many bells and whistles, but looks very promising. A free account will mean that you’ll have to display the Weld branding for sites (at the bottom) and limits the number of projects and pages within a project.
Gimp (which sounds a bit kinky but is actually short for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open source graphics tool. It’s certainly not in the same league as Adobe Photoshop but is none the less very useful for all manner of graphic and design related tom foolery.
Pinterest describes itself as a visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all of your projects and interests. It’s a great way to not only get design inspiration but also to keep a track of great designs you find and to share things like design patterns with others.
User research tools
Evernote is a fantastic app for keeping track of notes, information, photos, artefacts and anything else that you want to store and keep track of. It’s a great way to maintain a digital repository of stuff for a project and because you can sort your notes into notebooks and add tags, it’s very easy to organise your notes and to retrieve information. A free Evernote account allows you to create as many notes as you like but you’ll need to pay for something of the more advanced features such as saving emails, being able to search attachments and annotating PDFs.
Reframer is a qualitative analysis tool from Optimal Workshop. It allows you to add notes from user interviews and user testing sessions and to include tags and a significance rating so that you can easily identify themes, retrieve key information and generally slice and dice your data. Reframer is currently in beta and is completely free at the moment.
Trello is a great tool for capturing, organising and tracking tasks and information. It allows you to create cards and boards to help track and organise your stuff, be it tasks, research insights or simply ideas. You can even use Trello for card sorting. Set-up a board, add your cards and then ask people to sort them into either their own categories (for an open sort) or pre-existing categories (for a closed sort). You can create as many boards as you want with a free account so you can sort and organise your stuff to your heart’s content.
User testing tools
Chalkmark is part of Optimal Workshop’s suite of UX tools. It allows you to quickly capture user feedback by capturing where users would click on an image (such as a mock-up or screengrab) to carry out a task. For example, adding an item to the basket. Chalkmark allows you to set-up a project with up-to 3 tasks, and capture up-to 10 responses for free.
Google hangouts is a free video conferencing tool that is great for communicating, collaborating and also remote user testing. It’s a great way to run remote user testing sessions and even supports remote desktop control so you can run a prototype locally and invite participants to take control of your computer to use it. Nice one Google.
Join.me is an online meeting tool that is not only free (with some restrictions), but also supports screen sharing and remote desktop control so it’s great for remote user testing. The free version lets you set-up an unlimited number of meetings with up-to 10 participants and voice over IP, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to pay to be able to record sessions and to allow participants to use their phone for audio.
Treejack is another great UX tool from Optimal Workshop. Treejack allows you to test an information architecture (IA) by carrying out ‘reverse card sorting’. You upload your IA, which might be the site structure or a taxonomy used then ask users where they would go to find something within a clickable navigation tree of your IA (see screenshot). The free version of Treejack allows you to test up to 3 tasks with up to 10 participants.
Plot allows you to capture in-product video feedback from your users. Users reply to questions (such as “How was your setup experience?”) and can record in-product feedback videos with their screen and microphone. You can target specific pages and because Plot uses fancy technology users don’t even have to install any software to provide feedback. Plot is free for your first 1,000 visitors a month.
Adobe reader is of course Adobe’s free PDF viewer. Not only can it be used to view PDFs but it can also be used to add annotations to a PDF. Very useful for letting others add comments to wireframes, sketches and visuals that you care to share as a PDF.
Windows Edge is of course Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer – the much loathed ugly step sister of web browsers, and comes free with Windows 10. Not only is a much better browser than its predecessor, but it also allows you to annotate web pages. You can easily add notes, scribbles and highlights to websites which comes in handy for everything from competitive reviews to expert evaluations.
Card sorting tools
OptimalSort is an online card sorting tool from Optimal Workshop. It allows you to carry out closed card sorting where by participants sort items into predefined categories and open card sorting where by participants can choose their own categories. OptimalSort is a great way to find out how a site (or set of information) might be structured and allows studies with up to 30 cards and up to 10 participants for free.
Screen grab tools
FireShot is a great little screen capture tool. It allows you to quickly grab a full web page, the visible part of a web page or just part of a webpage and works with all the major browsers. Screengrabs can copied to the clipboard and exported as an image or PDF. The free version is fully functional, although you have to pay for more advanced features such as adding annotations and exporting to another program.