While UX design is a highly creative career, focused on empathy and helping others succeed, it also requires a variety of design- and research-related hard skills.
UX designers rely heavily on research, collaboration, and analyzing data to better understand user needs. With this data in hand, a UX designer can dive in and start the process of creating wireframes, mockups, and prototypes that will determine how the end product looks, feels, and behaves.
To accomplish all of this, there are countless UX design tools that make the design process run smoothly, from initial sketches to the point where the final designs are handed off to a developer for coding and deployment.
Here are the top UX design tools that every designer should be familiar with, from the essential must-haves to more specialized apps that can help you with advanced design needs.
Essential UX Design Tools
Of all the UX tools that you’ll encounter, there are a few that offer a feature set that can support everything from basic UX wireframes to more advanced UI work and high fidelity prototypes.
Here are the top three design tools in this category:
Figma is a cloud based UX/UI design platform that has quickly become the go-to tool for UX designers, whether they’re a freelancer or have multiple team members they collaborate with on a day-to-day basis.
Figma is an incredibly user-friendly platform that delivers the essential features for designing anything from a basic wireframe to a user flow and working UI prototypes. You can invite other people to view and/or edit your file for real-time collaboration, or simply to gain insightful feedback on your website or mobile app designs.
While Figma itself is focused primarily on vector designs and prototyping tools, you can also take advantage of the robust community plugins that give you additional functionality for an easier, more streamlined design flow.
Price: Free for unlimited personal design files and up to 3 shared Figma and FigJam files. Paid plans start at $12/editor per month for unlimited shared Figma files, design libraries, and more.
Designlab students are eligible to receive one year of the Professional plan ($144 value) for free.
Platform: Web, Mac, Windows, Linux
Learn how to use Figma for UX design with our free, 5-day email course. Each day, you’ll receive a lesson that walks you through the basics of using the platform and creating your very first design.
2. Adobe XD
Adobe has been traditionally known for its feature-rich design tools Photoshop and Illustrator—household names for photographers, illustrators, and print designers. Adobe XD is one of the newer additions to the Adobe Suite that’s much more lightweight and intended to offer a design solution that’s more suitable for UX/UI designers.
While primarily a desktop tool, you do have the option to save your design file to Creative Cloud, which then opens up real time collaboration opportunities with your team members (which Adobe XD refers to as simply “co-editing”).
Price: 7 day free trial. Paid subscription starts at $9.99/month for Adobe XD, or you can subscribe to the Creative Cloud plan for $19.99/month which includes all Adobe apps.
Designlab students are eligible to receive 1 year complementary single app subscription ($119 value) for free.
Platform: Web, MacOS, Windows
Learn how to use Adobe XD for UX design with our free, 5-day email course. Each day, you’ll receive a lesson that walks you through the basics of using the platform and creating your very first design.
Sketch is a UX/UI design tool that allows you to create vector wireframes, designs, and prototypes. It also enables you to manage your design team, review documentation and access design tips by logging into your Sketch account on a browser.
The design documents themselves, however, must be edited in the desktop app, which is only available for MacOS devices. For design teams that are committed to using MacOS devices, this isn’t necessarily an issue, since Sketch recently released a real time collaboration feature, allowing team members simultaneous access to design docs.
As you work through the design process in Sketch, you’ll find that it offers all the functionality you need to go from basic wireframes to fully polished UIs. You can even use the prototyping features to incorporate motion and transitions that better illustrate the more advanced elements of your design.
Like Figma and Adobe XD, Sketch functionality can be extended with a variety of plugins that enable you to do anything from add stock images to incorporate JSON data for a more realistic app interface.
Price: 30-day free trial. Paid plans start at $9/month (or $99/year) per editor.
Designlab students are eligible to receive 50% off ($50 value).
Learn how to use Sketch for UX design with our free, 5-day email course. Each day, you’ll receive a lesson that walks you through the basics of using the platform and creating your very first design.