UX Design Tools – which ones will make your life easier in 2017?

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re already aware of just how effective UX design can be in terms of benefitting your customers.

(If not, check out our comprehensive guide on UX design here).

Now’s a great time to be making your first forays into this unique area of design.  There are hundreds of learning resources out there, making it easy to get started and – more importantly – there are a host of excellent software options out there that make the job itself easier.

Here, we’re going to go through some of our favorite UX design tools, and highlight just why you might benefit from using them.

Obviously, as with all tools some will suit your needs more than others – it’s simply a matter of experimenting and seeing which ones you get on best with.

Researching

UserTesting

As you’ll know if you’ve read our guide, research is a key part of UX design.  Without knowing how your markets think and behave, you won’t be able to provide them with the perfect solution.

UserTesting is a great – and comparatively easy – way of getting real users to test your software, app or website.   UT go out and find the users, arrange the testing – usually they provide visuals of the users, giving you feedback as they use the site.

It’s the closest you’ll get to inviting users to your office to test the product without actually doing it.

The only thing to bear in mind is that you’ll need to already have well-functioning product in place.  The bare minimum they’ll accept is a working prototype.

Loop11

A simple testing tool that doesn’t rely on you having HTML experience.

Loop11 is more work to setup than UserTesting, but there are a lot of different options for inviting participants to the test, including pop-ups on your site, social media and e-mail.

All you need to do is set up a list of questions you’d like answered, and the test participants will answer them.

The one thing we’d note is that by focusing on general thoughts, UserTesting will often throw up questions and ideas you haven’t thought about.  When using Loop11, you’ll need to know what you’re going to ask upfront.

Of course, if you’re thorough you’ll still get positive results.

Wireframing and Prototypes

Wireframing allows you to prototype your software and design before you go live.  As such, it’s a vital testing bed.  These are some of the standouts:

Mockplus

If you’re working to a tighter budget, Mockplus is a good option.  Even the most expensive license is only 20 dollars per month.

Mockplus is built to make wire framing faster and more efficient. It’s desktop based, rather than browser based, and boasts a clean and easy to use interface.

Typically, Mockplus will suit users who want a cheap efficient tool, and don’t want to have to worry about programming.   It’s more about the design than the functionality, mind, so it’s more suited to those in the early days of their UX design career.

InVision

A popular choice among agencies, InVision is versatile and offers a lot of possibilities.

Web-based, it allows you to upload design files in a number of different formats including PNG, JPG, GIF, AI and PSD.

Animations, gestures and transitions can all be added to the design, making InVision a good tool for demonstrating prototypes to clients.  The collaboration tools are particularly ideal if you work in a team, as different people can enter the file and add feedback and annotations.

InVision’s pricing is staggered depending on how many users – and projects – you want to operate at once.

PhotoLine

Possibly the most under-rated tool out there, PhotoLine offers a lot of options for its relatively meagre price. (59 Euros).

Produced in Germany, PhotoLine offers a wealth of design features including non-destructive layers, photo manipulation, vector editing and desktop publishing.  What’s more, you can import and export multi-layered EXR files.

In terms of efficiency, PhotoLine is as good as it gets for the price.

Axure

If you’re after the biggest and the best – and the most expensive – Axure is a great option.

Prices are steep – for a team license, you’re looking at the best part of $600.  (There is a trial option, though).

Axure allows for prototypes of both responsive websites and mobile interactions, and offers a host of flexibility on images, colors, gradients transparency and others.

One thing to bear in mind here is that – like Photoshop – the wealth of options means that Axure can be quite intimidating on first glance.  However, there’s an active forum of users there to help you if you get stuck.

For A/B testing

Optimizely

There’s no substitute for raw data, and choosing between different designs should be based entirely on that data.

This means that you should always be A/B testing different options. Optimiszely is currently the standout software on the web for doing this.

Put simply, Optimizely allows you to constantly measure the impact tweaking your design has on different users.  Whether you want to analyze which color to make your CTA button or how the background color impacts the time users spend on the page, Optimizely can help.

Optimizely is very easy to use, and takes care of the more complicated options behind the scenes.  There are few better ways to access raw, useful data.

(It’ll also give you hard evidence to back up your design decisions should your bosses ask!)

Other useful tools

Color Safe

One of those tools that’s so brilliantly useful you wonder why no-one came up with it before.

Color Safe’s premise is simple: once you’ve decided on your design’s color scheme, CS will give you the right colors to use in order to guarantee readability.

Put simply: it’ll make your software look great.

It’s easy to overdo it with contrast, and Color Safe will stop you going off the deep end.

Project Management

Slack

Teams can communicate in a LOT of ways in 2017.

Dropbox, Twitter, Google Drive…

You name it.

Slack is a brilliant little tool that allows you to put all those channels in one place.  Whether you’re providing ongoing feedback on a project, communicating with a client or just keeping files up-to-date, Slack keeps it all together.

UX Design is a collaborative field. Even if you’ve only got one person doing the designing, you’ll have clients, managers, research, testers….and so on.

Slack, well…picks up the slack.

Iconic Solutions: specialists in UX design

Remember that there’s no substitute for experience. At Iconic Solutions, we’re specialists in UX Design.  If you’re at all unsure about the process and would prefer to put your feet up and let US take care of your new design, pick up the phone today.

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