Top 10 Mobile App UI Design Tools
App design is what the users see first. Before downloading the application, every user decides whether it’s worth it based on the design. Thus, UI design is a critical part of app development. Modern designers have a wide choice of great tools in mobile app UI design. The range of solutions is so wide that some app creators feel puzzled. In this post, you will find a round-up of the ten best mobile app UI design tools. They all have proven to be effective, user-friendly and capable of helping you cope with the most sophisticated app designs successfully.
What Does a Great Mobile UI Design Look Like?
Before we get into the details of discussing top mobile app UI design tools, let’s stop for a moment to discuss what makes UI design great in 2019. According to the contemporary best practices, top-notch mobile interface design should:
- Be compliant with the best practices of the corresponding platform (both iOS and Android have clear design requirements)
- Stay simple
- Use clear action signals
- Apply appropriate colors
- Be consistent
- Also, be intuitive
- Be carefully thought-out
- Use common UI patterns
So, we can summarize all of the above-mentioned features in one statement: a successful app UI design makes using the app easy and fun. It does not confuse the users and helps them get the most of the functionality of the application with the least effort.
Choosing the Best Tools
How can one choose the best tools that correspond to the above-listed requirements? The simplest way is to research what most experienced professionals in the field are using. It’s always better to try several different tools before you can settle to work with one. Tastes differ, so you might like a tool your colleagues don’t prefer.
Make sure to consider the following factors when picking mobile interface design tools for your next project:
- Cost. High-quality professional software rarely comes for a penny. One of the first factors you need to consider when picking a UI design tool for your work is the price you can pay.
- Functionality. Check whether the chosen tool fits the project requirements and your needs.
- Learning curve. Check how much time and effort it will approximately take to master the tool.
- Collaboration feature. Based on the requirements of your project and your preferences, you might need to work with other designers. Check whether the tool you choose allows doing so.
- Support. In case you have any trouble using the tool, what are your options for getting help? Is there a dedicated support team? Is the documentation for the tool exhaustive enough?
- Comfort. No matter what great features a tool has, it might still be uncomfortable to use for you. Test the tools you plan to use to see how convenient they are.
Now, let’s get to the top mobile app UI design tools every designer should know about.
Best Mobile App UI Design Tools
Price: $99/year. Trial: The free trial version of Sketch lasts for 30 days from the first time you launch the app on a new device. Compatibility: exclusive for MacOS. Learning curve: easy to learn the basics, tricks take time to learn. Best features: resizing options, shared styles and symbols, artboards within artboards. Support: comprehensive documentation, email support, and community.
Sketch is one of the MacOS-based mobile app UI design tools that are widely popular among mobile app UI designers. It is lightweight, powerful and feature-packed. While most designers prefer to work in Photoshop, many choose Sketch over it. Sketch is pretty similar to its rival and it can deliver equally great professional results. Yet, it is more focused on UI/UX design. Great features of Sketch include 2x vector, styled vector, export all and infinite zooming.
You can align Sketch with Omnigraffle for wireframing and with Photoshop for visual design easily. It gives you an excellent opportunity to save time going from one app to another.
Sketch powers smooth collaboration without any confusion. Its libraries allow users to create, update and share a single source for any design components. With Sync Cloud, Symbols and Styles can be shared with the project team across all documents.
One more great thing about Sketch is that it has hundreds of plugins. They allow you to do almost anything from turning wireframes into UI to creating sophisticated timeline animations.
2. Adobe Photoshop
Price: $9.99/month. Trial: free 7-day trial. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows, MacOS. Learning curve: middle. Learning the basic features is easy, mastering the software requires some time. Best features: export options for pixel-based graphics, quality control, file sizing control. Support: exhaustive documentation and user manual, learning materials, chat support, vast community.
Adobe Photoshop has been an ultimate interface design tool for many years now. It allows designers to create anything from basic web pages to sophisticated and complex native mobile apps. This famous graphics software is widely used by most web and mobile UI/UX designers around the world. It has been around for many years and earned its excellent reputation fair and square. Nowadays, everyone can learn how to use professional mobile app UI design tools for free or for a very little charge. The amount of educational materials you can find online is overwhelming. All you need is a software subscription and a desire to learn.
Compared to other similar tools, Photoshop has the best export options for pixel-based graphics. It lets users manage the file size and quality of graphics perfectly. What is more, it lets users create animated GIFs.
There are some limitations you should know about. With Photoshop, you don’t get useful features like prototyping and symbols. The overall user experience is not as intuitive as what you get with Sketch, for example.
3. Adobe Illustrator
Price: $29,99 – $52,99/month (various limited time offers may apply). Trial: free 7-day trial. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows and MacOS. Learning curve: middle. Requires learning and practice. Best features: snap to pixel capability and artboard tool. Support: exhaustive documentation and user manual, learning materials, chat support, vast community.
Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular software tools, used also as one of the mobile app UI design tools. It is an industry standard vector graphics application that allows designers to create sophisticated illustrations, sketches, logos, typography for mobile, web, video and print purposes.
Although Photoshop and Illustrator come from the same company, they have a very different nature. Unlike Photoshop that uses raster graphics, Illustrator works with vector graphics. Adobe Illustrator allows designers to create icons and illustrations that can be utilized across many channels without compromising the quality of the elements.
The best features of Adobe Illustrator include snap to pixel capability and artboard tool. Yet, Illustrator is a mature tool that has tons of features one can explore and master for months, if not for years. It is built to work with other Adobe programs like Photoshop and InDesign smoothly. In case integration with them matters a lot for your work, you should look for a UI design tool no further.
In spite of the best efforts of its competitors, Adobe Illustrator has been the most popular and widely used tool for UI prototyping and mockup creation for many years.
Price: $0/mo. for 1 prototype – $99/mo. for unlimited prototypes for a team. Trial: $0/mo. for 1 prototype. Compatibility: InVision supports Microsoft Edge (the 2 latest versions). Internet Explorer (IE 11)*, Firefox (the 2 latest versions), Chrome (the 2 latest versions), Safari (the 2 latest versions). Learning curve: easy. Best features: frictionless rapid prototyping with advanced animations, responsive layout, shared design components, fast collaborative experiences, open platform. Support: knowledge base, exhaustive documentation, and tutorials, community.
InVision is a software tool created by designers and for designers. Many professionals refer to it as to a thing that made their professional lives easier and happier. Isn’t it what everyone is looking for?
This representative of mobile app UI design tools is perfect for design prototyping. It allows designers to create clickable and highly interactive mockup designs and prototypes quickly and easily. InVision allows sharing the design files with the team inside the app, which allows smooth and easy collaboration. What’s more, this tool allows the team members to leave comments and discuss things inside the app as well. Real-time collaboration is probably the best thing about this tool. Such cool features let designers move along the project faster with less effort.
InVision is easy to comprehend thanks to its intuitive drag and drop functionality. In case you have already created some design elements in another app, putting them together in InVision won’t be stressful at all. The InVision team is constantly adding more amazing features to the product. Many designers cannot imagine their life without it anymore.
Price: $14/month for one user – $90+ for teams. Trial: free 7-day trial. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux. Learning curve: easy. Best features: hand-off and inspect, team collaboration, design management. Support: knowledge base, educational materials, chat support.
Avocode is not one of the typical mobile app UI design tools. It does not allow you to make prototypes or designs. However, it lets you do a wide range of things with your designs. With Avocode, you can drag and drop any designs, share them with anyone, select and export any layers, import design prototypes to Avocode and discuss them with the team in the comments. Avocode also gives you an opportunity to annotate any design area, discuss changes in the comment threads, and tag your colleagues to notify them about anything.
Avocode is a tool that covers your workflow from prototype to code. With this software, you can keep all of your design versions in sync and present them to the team or the client from any point of view. All in all, Avocode allows building Web, iOS, and Android projects faster and easier. Avocode helps teams save a lot of time every day. The fact that it lets you drag and drop any design on any OS without any plugins makes it a great fit for teams with big and diverse development workflows.
Price: $17/month for three projects – $129/month for unlimited projects/12 members. Trial: $0/month for one project. Compatibility: desktop app for Microsoft Windows and MacOS; web app for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge; plugins for Photoshop and Sketch. Learning curve: easy. Best features: one-click design export, automatic development resources generation, Slack integration. Support: knowledge base, educational materials, chat support.
Zeplin is one of the youngest mobile app UI design tools that many developers and designers loved from the start. As of now, it has a reputation of one of the best and most stable mobile app UI design tools one can use for a project. This tool can facilitate the daily work of developer, designer and the whole team.
One of the major goals of Zeplin is to facilitate cooperation between developers and designers. The tool copes well with this task in many ways. Zeplin unites all the attributes of the shortlisted elements into a collective specification sheet. Framing interactive and engaging specification sheets is easy with this tool. What’s more, it helps introduce developers to the process faster. With Zeplin, designers do not need to wait till the design process is complete to provide developers with the specifications. This makes cooperation between the design and development teams smoother and more time-efficient.
Price: $12/month – $45+/month. Trial: Free individual starter plan. Compatibility: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge. Learning curve: easy. Best features: rapid app interface editing tools, rapid turn of design into code, team libraries, flexibility in scaling. Support: knowledge base, chat support.
Figma is one of the unique mobile app UI design tools due to the fact that it’s completely browser-based. This feature takes all the worries of updating the versions, downloading the software and handling compatibility away.
With Figma, one can scale their design to fit any screen size. You can even create components that scale with this tool. It allows combining any set of shape layers with exact precision. What’s more, Figma offers 60fps interactive editing. It brings designers pixel-perfect previews and exports. There is an intuitive pen tool made for direct manipulation. Building and sharing rich prototypes is easy thanks to the interactions, device frames, scrolling and overlay features.
Figma has team libraries that allow you to share components and styles with the team directly, without having to worry about synchronization. This tool also provides developers with an opportunity to explore, copy and export design assets, as well as copy CSS right from the design files. All in all, Figma is a multi-purpose online tool that lets you create mobile app UI design. With this tool, one can prototype, design and collaborate right in the browser.
8. 3ds Max
Price: $1,545.00/year. Trial: 30-day free trial. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows. Learning curve: easy. Best features: material editor, workflow feature, preview rendering, animation controllers. Support: knowledge base, forum, email support, cell phone support.
3ds Max is a popular design tool used for rendering, 3D modeling and animation. It was created specifically for game design visualization. This tool is used by many TV commercial studios, movie studios, game developers and designers, architectural visualization studios, etc. In most cases, movie pre-visualization and visual effects are created in 3ds Max.
3ds Max is packed with features that give designers, modelers and renders an opportunity to create sophisticated 3D animations, flawless photo-realistic 3D images and practically any other effective 3D models. This tool has the best spline system you can find in the market. Its edit poly modifier is super convenient as well. 3ds Max has a rich library of 3D content you can use for your projects.
3ds Max has its own scripting language, called maxscript. It is comparatively easy for artists to learn and use for writing simple scripts that can bring incredible results. Currently, the choice of user-created scripts and plugins you can find out there is huge.
9. Adobe After Effects
Price: $19.99/month. Trial: free. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows, MacOS. Learning curve: middle. Best features: data-driven animations, VR tools, team projects, visual keyboard shortcut editor. Support: knowledge base, chat support.
Adobe After Effects has been among the best mobile app UI design tools for a while now for many reasons. This Adobe product is widely used by UI designers, animators, and video professionals. This tool is a good fit for creating animations of all kinds, from motion graphics to short movies. With Adobe After Effects designers can prototype animations as well. However, this tool is not meant for rapid prototyping. As the name suggests, it is for after effects most of all.
This tool can be used for mobile interface design as well. While creating a design in Adobe After Effects, you can be sure that it meets the guidelines of a chosen platform and avoids any usability issues before they pop up. With this tool and its plugins, designers can create reusable components, build and animate screens, add transitions, create gesture animations and export the final sequence as an animated GIF.
Adobe After Effects might not be the easiest to master tool on the market. Yet, is is probably the deepest and richest motion graphics and compositing software you can currently find.
Price: from $199 per user/year. Trial: free version available. Compatibility: Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Android. Learning curve: simple. Best features: visualized interaction design, extensive pre-design components, fast testing. Support: email and Slack support, tutorials, knowledge base.
Mockplus is a modern, powerful and simple tool for rapid prototyping. With the help of such mobile app design UI tools, designers can create or link interactive pages and components. The simple drag-and-drop functionality of the tool allows designers to make interactions and test their previews in several ways. Mockplus aims to simplify the complexity of app prototyping and speed up the process.
This tool is efficient and simple. Designers can use it for creating mockups and prototypes for website, desktop and mobile applications. The Pro version of the product has over 200 ready-to-use elements you can incorporate into your designs. Also, there are hundreds of icons you can use as well. Another good thing about Mockplus is that it has a plugin for Sketch.
Mockplus also makes testing easier. You can scan the generated QR code and preview prototypes on your device instantly. There is no need for a USB cable anymore with this tool. The cloud technology of this software allows teams to collaborate on the project easily without interfering with anyone’s work. The page division feature ensures that one page can be edited by one person at a time.
To sum up, the best mobile app UI design tools for creating a perfect UI are Sketch, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, InVision, Avocode, Zeplin, Figma, 3ds Max, Adobe After Effects and Mockplus.
However, it does not matter what tool you choose, make sure it fits the requirements of the project and your professional needs. Fortunately, the choice is large enough to find something for every need and every budget. Remember, there is no perfect tool, there is a perfect choice of a tool for a given task.