As a UX designer, it might seem like keeping your users happy is getting harder with every year that passes, as product expectations increase and users demand even more from every interface they encounter. This is actually good news all round: user expectations are increasing because so is the quality of the products they are interacting with. The even better news for you is that so too are the tools and resources you as a UX designer have at your fingertips.
To help improve your design workflow, we’ve picked our list of the top UX and UI tools to try in the new year so that along with all this great innovation and product development, you can keep up with your users.
Before we jump into our list, check out this video round-up of six awesome free design resources, presented by UX design expert Dee Scarano:
And now for those top tools!
For a per-test fee, UserTesting can relieve most of the stress and hassle of user research and prototype testing. These testing experts recruit your target users, administer the tests remotely, and deliver the results within an hour. Each test comes with a video of the user, so you can gauge facial expressions and general emotional responses.
The service works for sites and apps, prototypes and finished products. You can even opt for UserTesting’s in-house team to design your test, or take advantage of one of their project managers to keep your project on track.
2. Stylify Me
Have you ever fallen in love with an exact color hue on someone else’s site, but could never figure out how to recreate it?
The free reverse-designing tool Stylify Me was created for this exact purpose. Simply enter a site’s URL in the top search menu, and you will see the exact HEX values. You’re even able to download the colors in a PDF format.
The beauty of UXPin is that you can design a site or app from start to finish, using the same documents from lo-fi wireframe to hi-fi prototype. UXPin sets itself apart by its focus on UX elements — codeless animations, interactivity, UI patterns, etc. can all be added as easily as dragging and dropping, even on the barebones wireframes. This isn’t the first time UXPin landed on a top ten list like this.
UXPin can also integrate with Photoshop and Sketch, allowing designers to convert static files into interactive prototypes without losing layers.
According to founder Pieter Omvlee, Sketch was designed as an image editor for digital design. While Photoshop is intended for a broad range of users and tasks, Sketch shares many of the same features, but honed specifically for web design.
For example, Sketch uses CSS logic right from the start, which makes transitioning into development that much easier. The Automatic Slicing feature and one-click exports also enable creating assets in the format of your choice. Every new object is automatically affixed to a new layer, opening up creative combinations, easy navigation, and more convenience for developers.
Sketch is one of the key tools of the brand new CareerFoundry UI Design Program.
PhotoLine is the underdog on this list, not nearly as well-known as the others. But this comparatively cheaper app (€59) still offers the same features like photo manipulation, nondestructive layers, vector editing, and desktop publishing, plus a few exclusive bonuses, like multi-layered EXR importing and exporting. Those that have used it continually praise it, earning it a reputation as “one of the web’s best kept secrets.”
Optimizely, like UserTesting, makes user research a lot easier, but only focuses on A/B testing. Comparing usage data from two different versions of your product (i.e., a call-to-action in two different places) helps make important decisions and lets designers experiment more freely, so a service that facilitates this is obviously beneficial.
7. Color Safe
Once you have your color scheme selected, Color Safe helps you select the best contrast balance for readability. Accessibility guidelines aren’t just a “nice-to-have;” their principles are interwoven of those with good design. Improving legibility through color contrast is something that all your users will appreciate.
XMind is a free app (there is also a paid version) that simply put, helps you organize your thoughts. It’s open-ended “mind mapping” diagramming tools aid brainstorming and exploring ideas, while it’s organizational capabilities make it a great task manager, for individuals as well as teams (with its cloud-storage capabilities). XMind relies on visuals for quick comprehension, and lets you customize how you outline goals, progress, requirements, and problems.
With the slogan “team communication for the 21st century,” Slack gathers all the standard communication tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Twitter in one place, so the entire team is kept up-to-date. You can organize conversations into channels and upload files directly. So much of UX is collaborative (or should be), so any tool that improves communication will improve UX. Slack is used on all the CareerFoundry courses to help communication between students and mentors as smooth as possible.
Think of Mural as your digital UX whiteboard. Fast, fun, and naturally collaborative, the clever app allows entire product teams to brainstorm ideas and organize concepts in real-time.
Mural also supports files from Youtube, Vimeo Slideshare, Google Drive, and Evernote.