Best GUI Tools

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GUI Tools

GUI (Graphical User Interface) holds the interactive visual components of any application. A GUI is made to display the objects on the screen that can convey the user’s information. The objects can change their size, color, or visibility when a user interacts with them. Without the GUI, there will be no interface, and the information will be visualized in simple text format, which is quite hard to read on both small and large scenes. A GUI can include elements like tables, animations, GIFs, images, videos, pie charts, etc. to make it look more comprehensive.

Back in the early days of the Internet and web application, it was hard to create a GUI, and designers needed to sit with developers and clients to create a wireframe or the GUI using pen and paper. But now, the technology has advanced, and the GUI can be made within a few minutes using the GUI templates present in various tools. So today, we will showcase some of the best GUI tools that designers need to use to get the best out of their creativity.

Top 10 GUI Tools

Below is the compiled list of the top 10 GUI tools that a designer needs to use or must know to start their career in designing. If designers are skilled in using these tools then making prototypes of any application becomes very easy.

1. Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects is an excellent product to design special effects and animations for any application. Adobe, since the launch of After Effects, has been tweaking the software to make it perfect. Adobe After Effects has been present in the market for over 30 years and is popular amongst designers when it comes to providing dazzling animations and UI creating abilities. In recent years, Adobe has made After Effects more stable on many platforms, and has also improved its performance.

Features:

  • The software has been regularly updated to make it more responsive, and this change is evident from its compatibility with older hardware.
  • Now the software also supports Content-Aware Fill workspace, which is a feature added in Photoshop that lets users remove a specific object from the screen and makes the background extend in the gap seamlessly.
  • With the latest update, the company has made changes in shape layers. Now a designer can select a bunch of them simultaneously with a right-click and group all of them together.

Another right-click will make them ungroup quickly. These are some minor updates that make Adobe After Effects the best it can be. The software comes in the paid version only, which starts at $20.99 per month.

2. InVision

InVision Studio is used as a prototyping and animation tool for creating vector-based screen designs on its flexible layers and infinite canvas. With its usage in creating designs, one can quickly speed up the designing process and make interactive prototyping, which can be communicated to the team members as and when needed. A designer can ask for suggestions from clients and teammates at any stage of the designing process. It is said to be the highest-fidelity screen designing tool out there. One can even import sketches from the cloud or local storage.

Features:

  • When you open the software, you get to see different options for creating the project.
  • Once you choose which design to work on, you will be prompted to take a tour of the interface, which you can skip if you want to.
  • It allows you to resize and crop the image without using any masking tools.
  • Likewise, you can fix the elements like the header and footer by using the pin icon on the upper right corner of the software.
  • The use of swipe triggers can create parallax effects that occur on scroll.
  • The main advantage of using this application is that a designer can create responsive prototypes without using a single line of code.
  • Lastly, a user can add a set of designs to be “resizable” in the software, and it will automatically change its size when viewed in different browsers.

The free plan comes with a limitation for one project but with unlimited collaborators and screens. Moreover, the demos are not counted towards the number of projects. The upgrade plans start from $25 per month to $99 for team usage.

3. Axure RP

Axure RP is an application development platform used to create wireframes and prototypes for web application-based projects. It allows users from non-technical backgrounds to create diagrams and prototypes in a much more efficient way. The tool has many sketches, wireframes, flow diagrams, prototyping, notes, etc. With its usage, one can share the publishing, co-authoring, revision history, team project hosting, SAML-based single sign-in, author, and reviewer accounts management all from a single account. The tools present in the software allow the user to create and manage flowcharts, mockups, and user journeys along with idea boards. It can provide prototyping for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

Features:

  • Users can write text inside the elements.
  • It is pretty impressive in handling the low-mid fidelity wireframes.
  • All the features are neatly placed in the user interface.
  • One can create prototypes of different devices using routing, sound, functions, and even codes if he/she is comfortable with it.
  • With collaboration tools, more than one designer can work on the same project simultaneously.
  • A user can take a screenshot of an entire page, inner page, or screenshots of any master event.
  • With the use of repeaters, it is now easier to create product images and their galleries.
  • Paper sizes and the print guides can be viewed; along with this, the multiple print configuration can also be added, and specific pages can be selected for a print.

4. Zeplin

Zeplin offers the least features to create much improved workflows. For example, the Section feature makes it possible to organize the screen in Zeplin. The main thought behind the development of Zeplin is to provide comprehensive software that can help build great GUI designs. A user only needs to upload the design, and Zeplin will generate the specs and the guidelines for the design automatically using AI.

Features:

  • It allows Slack channels for smooth collaboration, which also allows developers to leave notes for the design.
  • Both the designer and the front-end developer can collaborate and work on this software side by side.
  • Zeplin can even run on budget hardware with exceptional speed in terms of performance as it is a lightweight GUI designing tool.
  • Moreover, each design has its HTML/CSS code which can be copied from Zeplin and used.
  • Likewise, one can download specific images which are used in the design.
  • There are a number of design templates present to aid the designer when they hit a creative block.
  • Lastly, one can create a link to a design and share it on multiple platforms for collaborators to view it.

Zeplin comes with a free usage option for personal workspace, allowing 50 reviewers, and a 30-day version history saved as a backup. After that comes paid versions starting from $6 per month and $12 per user per month that provide an unlimited number of projects and advanced user permissions.

5. MockFlow

MockFlow is a cloud-based wireframing mockup tool used to design the blueprints of websites and other web applications. With the use of MockFlow, a designer can take suggestions from other team members in real-time. It’s a great product that can be used directly from the browser without downloading and installing it. Instead, the online GUI tool provides a mockup or a skeleton of a website on which the designer works.

Features:

  • It is a one-stop solution for all UX development needs because a designer can create wireframes, sitemaps, annotations, design collaborations, style guides, and much more.
  • The online tool is backed by professional customer support who specializes in design engineering. As a result, all the queries related to design and the tool will be answered efficiently.
  • A designer has the option to create a user interface for multiple platforms, like mobile, tablet, and web browser.
  • The designing process becomes streamlined, and the collaboration process is pretty efficient and can be deployed in an organized way.
  • Besides, a user gets to create their own banners, and data architecture using informative visuals along with sitemaps and UI flows.

It provides a basic layout for the application’s features and functions without making a designer build a whole website’s framework. With the use of MockFlow, a designer can showcase how a website is going to look and where buttons and images will be placed in the framework. In the free version, you are not getting professional design support, and there is a limitation of designing a single project at a time. On the other hand, paid versions start at $14 per month with all the features that are missing in the free version.

6. Balsamiq

Balsamiq is all serious business and no fun. It is a rapid wireframing and UI designing tool that comes with strong suggestions to help designers finish up the project quickly. In addition, there are drag-and-drop elements that make the designing process even more accessible. Indeed, it doesn’t have colors, and the whole designing process can be done in monotone. But this color scheme has been chosen to make a designer focus solely on creating the best of UX. That’s why for a lot of designers, Balsamiq is a great way to truly channel out their creativity and showcase it in their projects.

Features:

  • The simple UI makes it possible for a designer to focus only on the interaction points, hierarchy, and other best practices which are required to create a fantastic UI.
  • It allows users to download pre-made components, of which some are free and some paid, but they can be used multiple times in different projects once downloaded.
  • Easy to understand and implement the design concepts on the project.
  • Wireframes can be easily converted into a number of other formats, such as PDF.
  • The visualization makes it easy to comprehend the data and design, even for a layman.

In other words, Balsamiq is a GUI tool that can help a user develop a UI using drag and drop, connecting various slides to one another. This makes it an excellent product for both designing interns and professionals. The basic version of the application is free to use, and the paid version starts at $9 per month for a single user. For team usage, the pricing starts from $49 per month.

7. Sketch

When creating a list of GUI tools, it is necessary to mention Sketch GUI creator. This tool is quite famous for the features it offers, and the ease of using it. A designer can create a symbol which is basically a UI asset which if created for once, can be used as an element in other projects also. As a result, it helps in keeping the interface consistent. Likewise, a designer can export a design into a clickable prototype in just a few minutes. Sketch is a vector-based GUI designing tool that can be used for designing desktop and mobile UI mockups and prototypes. It has become an industry standard for creating GUI, but you can use it to edit and manipulate sketches.

Features:

  • The intuitive interface of Sketch makes it possible for newcomers to work on it quickly and learn about its tools in a very short time.
  • A single design can be used on multiple device layouts.
  • It allows the clients to preview the UI in different design layouts like desktop, tablet, and smartphone.
  • The toolbar is clutter-free and can be customized as per requirements.
  • A number of plugins can be used with this tool, such as Abstract, Craft, Flinto, etc.
  • Lastly, its affordability is a significant boost for people to like this product.

The only issue with Sketch is that it’s a Mac-only GUI development tool. But that doesn’t hinder its popularity among designers. Sketch has lots of guides, communities, and preloaded templates, which allows a designer to create unique designs and makes them learn about the new concepts and techniques in the field of designing.

A single-user Sketch comes for an annual subscription of $99 ($7.3 per month). If a user wants to renew for the second year, they have to pay only $69 for the whole year. The volume licensing starts at $89 per two devices, and for the second consecutive year, a user needs to pay $64.

8. Marvel

Marvel is used for creating quick web and mobile prototypes, which makes it possible for a designer to show the initial designs and workflows to clients. On the basis of the feedback received, the designer can make necessary amendments. This saves time and energy to make a basic design. There was a time when a designer had to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to show to clients. But with the use of Marvel, one can present more realistic and practical prototypes to stakeholders in no time.

Features:

  • A designer can get a specific CSS style guide using a design specification tool.
  • The learning curve is pretty quick due to its user-friendly interface.
  • Also, the application is entirely web-based. As a result, a user can access it from any computer which has an Internet connection.
  • With the link-sharing ability, a designer can easily share their creations with stakeholders and clients.
  • There are a number of options which one can choose in terms of interactions, and one can also create their own customized interaction.
  • Marvel has pre-installed templates which can be used for creating quick prototypes.
  • Most of the designs, templates, and interactions are free to use, so it’s an excellent tool for designers who are starting with a tight budget.

The drawback of Marvel is its limitations in making changes to the pre-installed elements. Moreover, there are so many features present in the application that it takes some time for a user to understand their usage. All in all, it’s a great online GUI tool for creating mockups with many free features. If you are looking for a pro version of Marvel, you have to pay $8 per month for individual usage and $24 per month for small teams. Lastly, for enterprise users, you can get in touch with the company and get custom pricing quotes.

9. Framer X

The latest version of Framer X is based on React and JavaScript for developing micro-interactions and animations. As a result, the load times and performance have seen an uptick. The included media players, real-time data, and graphs inside the prototypes can have more scope of addition as the software uses React components. Furthermore, an individual who is new to designing can actually learn a lot of things using Framer X as it shows what code has been used to create the animations. Also, a user can make changes in the code and see how the animation will change. This is a great way to learn new design concepts and copy their code to production when needed.

Features:

  • Framer X provides easy integration with other applications for sharing and deployment of wireframing.
  • Allows designers to create the exact design which can be used in the final application.
  • The code for each design is present to let the designer know how the developers will be integrating the design into the application.
  • By just trying out some prototypes, one can quickly get accustomed to its interface and functioning in a short time.
  • The community of designers which backs the Framer X has tons of forums where a new user can ask work-related queries and get them answered by experienced professionals.

Framer X has really ramped up its prototyping and wireframing with its new UI. Thus, it certainly is worth a try for both new and experienced designers. If you have mastered the React programming language, then it’s a great GUI tool for you without any doubt. The company provides a free version in which two editors can work alongside each other on the same project. The paid version costs $9.20 per month. Moreover, there is custom pricing which is beneficial for organizations that have more than 20 designers onboard for prototyping.

10. Pencil Project

Last on our list is the open-source GUI prototyping tool, which is used by designers all over the world for creating websites and application wireframes. The software includes built-in shapes collection, flowcharts, elements, Android and iOS GUI shapes, etc. The software can be used as a stand-alone application that can be installed on your system or as an extension in the Firefox web browser.

Features:

  • It is completely free of cost, as it’s an open-source GUI tool.
  • The library of shapes and icons helps designers create what they have imagined.
  • There is no operating system-related compatibility issue. It can run on Linux, Windows, and even macOS.
  • It supports connectors that can be used to connect shapes in a diagram. For drawing diagrams, a collection of flowchart shapes are also available.
  • Allows exporting documents into OpenOffice/LibreOffice text documents, Adobe PDF, and Inkscape SVG formats.
  • It allows designers to connect their GUI with prototyping workflow with a single click.

The Pencil Project comes equipped with a clipart browser tool that integrates with OpenClipart.org to facilitate designers to look for cliparts by entering keywords, and then include them into the drawing by a simple drag-and-drop action.

Conclusion

These were some of the best GUI tools which a designer can use to create wireframes, prototypes, and GUI while developing a website or web application. It is necessary to first think about the wireframe and GUI before proceeding to develop the application. A GUI allows developers to have a basic workflow of the application. On the basis of this workflow, they can develop the whole application if the GUI has been extensively designed, keeping all the requirements of the application in mind. Then after the completion of designing the GUI, the development process will be more streamlined and easy to complete.

Our personal favorite GUI tool is InVision, as it has all the features which a designer wants from any GUI tool. The interface of InVision is neat and tidy, as well as there are many features along with pre-installed templates. All this makes InVision stand out from the rest of the competition.

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