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. Here is a list of over 50 great free UX tools covering the following areas:

Prototyping tools | Design tools | User research tools | User testing tools | Survey tools | Annotation tools | Card sorting tools | Screen grab tools | Sitemapping tools | Analytics tools | Accessibility tools

Prototyping tools

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 launch demo 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.

Concept.ly

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

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

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.

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.

Marvel

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

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; AppPlanner for planning and organising application development; WebsitePro, a development platform to code, manager and host static websites; AnnotatePro for annotating designs; BannerPro for creating annotated banners and slideshows in HTML5 and BrochurePro, a web-based publishing tool for creating brochures and other design documents. A free account gives you basic access to all the apps, but only 1 project per app and with some project restrictions.

OpenOffice

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

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.

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.

Pixate

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).

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.

Webflow

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

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.

Design tools

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.

FreeVectors.net

FreeVectors.net is a great little website offering free vector graphics. All the images on the site are free to use for personal use and most of them can even be used commercially.

Gimp

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.

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.

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.

Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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).

Chalkmark

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.

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.

Google hangouts

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

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.

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.

Skype

Skype is ideal for remote user testing and is now one of the slickest remote meeting tools out there. 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.

Treejack

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.

Survey tools

Google forms

Google forms is a great way to quickly create online surveys. It’s a little bit limited when compared to the SurveyMonkeys and SurveyGizmos of the world but what do you expect given that it’s free?

Plot

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.

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 to 10 questions and 100 responses, which is generally plenty.

SurveyGizmo

SurveyGizmo is my go-to online survey tool. It’s a bit more powerful than SurveyMonkey and has good support for delivering surveys on desktop, tablet and mobile. The free version allows for unlimited surveys, questions and responses (unlike Survey Monkey), although you do have to put up with SurveyGimzo branding. The free version also doesn’t allow you to use some of the more advanced question types (like drag and drop for ranking), or survey logic, but you can hardly complain at that.

SurveyAnyPlace

SurveyAnyPlace specialises in mobile surveys. You can quickly build very slick surveys for mobile and tablet, with skip logic and even different end screens depending on the responses. A free account allows you to create an unlimited number of surveys, with all of the questions types available. However you are limited to a rather miserly 20 responses per month with a free account.

Annotation tools

Adobe reader

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.

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.

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.

Windows Edge

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

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

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 SeaMonkeyKonqueror and Galeon.

FireShot

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.

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.

ScreenHunter

ScreenHunter is a great free screen grab tool that allows you to easily take a screen shot of the entire screen, the active window or just a selection of the screen. Screen grabs can be automatically exported to a directory and can be saved in a variety of formats.

Sitemapping tools

Creately

Creately is an online diagramming tool that allows you to quickly create sitemaps, flowcharts and even wireframes. It’s build with collaboration in mind so you can collaborate in real-time with other people and it even integrates with common tools such as JIRA, Google apps and FogBugz. A free account allows you to create up to 5 public diagrams and collaborate with 3 other people in real-time.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Accessibility tools

Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar

The Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar is a Firefox plugin that’s really useful for checking the accessibility of web pages.

Total Validator

Total Validator is an (X)HTML validator, an accessibility validator, a spell checker, and a broken links checker all rolled into one.

Any other tools?

Is there a free UX tool that you use missing from the list? Let me know by posting a comment below and I’ll get it added to the list.

3 Comments

  1. Lucek
    27th October 2015 @ 9:23 am

    Hi,

    some great tools on the list, congrats!
    You can add one more tool – Survicate (http://survicate.com/). It’s a tool that allows you to run surveys on your website and collect feedback from visitors. Their answers can help find problems with the usability and solve them. In a free plan, you can analyze up to 50 answers a month.

    Reply

  2. Nishadha
    22nd November 2015 @ 2:52 pm

    We also have a great web based design tool called Creately. We have separate libraries for iOS mockups, Android mockups and general web mockups. Do consider adding us to the list.

    Reply

  3. Erika
    13th November 2016 @ 3:03 am

    Realtimeboards is the most amazing mindmapping solution I have found to date, and Jotforms is a great survey tool with tons of additional functions.

    Reply

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