The Best Wireframe Tools for Small Businesses on a Budget: Find the Creative Tools You Need without Creating a Huge Dent in Your Finances

Sean Lund-Brown

Wireframing is a critical part of the design process. It's the “sketch on a napkin” equivalent for websites, landing pages, and apps, and gives you the primary tools you need to fully conceptualize your design and get it moving toward becoming an actual product or solution. Wireframe tools allow you to brainstorm and sketch out your ideas before you even get to the prototype stage—that way, you’re never investing time and energy in ideas that won’t pan out. 

Of course, there are tons of different apps and tools on the market today to assist with this process. They’re not all the same, but they do offer several similarities. They also have differences and may serve one business better than another. We’ve done the hard part of rounding up the best wireframe tools available, which you’ll find outlined below. All you’ll have to do is look at what each one offers and use the information to choose the one that works for you. 

What’s in a wireframe app?

While you don’t necessarily have to use dedicated wireframe tools, and there are some apps and tools that offer similar features along with other things you need, there’s something to be said for sticking to the ones created just for wireframing. Sure, other tools might be “good enough”, but if you really want to embrace the power of the design process, you want the best. 

While a standard app could let you slap together a basic structure with text boxes and clip art graphics, for example, it’s not going to give you the advanced editing tools that will come in wireframe apps. These apps are developed on the principle that you’re going to want to create a sketch and then refine the design before handing it off. They know that you’re not just going to hand that “napkin” to the development team and expect them to understand what you want. 

The best wireframing tools will include things like:

  1. UI Component Library or Kit: You want to make sure that you choose an app that either offers you a built-in component library or the chance to upload kits that have been predesigned by third parties so that you have all of the tools that you need to mock up your design at hand. 
  2. Collaboration and Feedback Tools: In the modern age where remote work has become the norm for millions of people. Of course, you need to make sure that you have virtual tools to collect feedback and collaborate with the key stakeholders, clients, and others that are involved in the design process. 
  3. Various Mockup Capabilities: Speaking of the design process, you’ll want to make sure that you get a tool that includes several levels of capability—you can find everything from basic wireframe tools to high-fidelity mockups that allow you to get a lot more detailed in your design. Some people want to stick with basic to save money, while others prefer to upgrade for the premium customization features. 
  4. Handoff/Exporting: Although a lot of developers can work from screenshots, not all of them like to. Not only that but being able to send off specific elements of your design like just the icons can make things a lot quicker. You might even be able to grab the CSS code to get to development and implementation that much faster. Regardless, being able to export is a great asset to have here. 

If you’re looking for an even better handoff, consider enlisting the dedicated assistance of the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai. While you’re working on wireframing and the design process, we can handle things like 24/7 live website chat, appointment scheduling, lead intake, and other mission-critical services so that your business never misses a step, even if you have to step away. 

Sketch: best for custom UI tools

Designed for macOS, Sketch offers a wireframe tool that allows you to create some really unique, detailed designs that you can then turn into prototypes and expedite the entire development process. This platform was created in 2010 and has held a powerful place in the market for those who are on macOS. It includes modern UI and vector design tools that ensure that you’re always on point with your designs. 

Sketch works to offer premium features and access that outperform popular tools like Adobe Illustrator, and it can all be done in a simple, user-friendly interface that includes a community of designers that have created plenty of design kits for you to choose from. It doesn’t offer a lot with collaboration because it’s a desktop app, but it can be synced to the Sketch Cloud, which means you can share links as you need to. 

Sketch makes exporting simple with a single click. You can integrate with tons of programs and find customization tools that will keep your designs on point at all times. Plus, while there’s not a free option, it’s one of the more affordable options. Single users can get access for $99 per year, while teams can use Sketch Cloud for $9 per month per user. 

Adobe XD: best for simplicity

Adobe typically has a reputation for providing feature-heavy products that are more difficult to learn than others. However, they delivered everything that is exactly the opposite of that with Adobe XD, an easy-to-use option for wireframing and design, no matter what you have in mind. You can find standard wireframing tools to prototyping features and more, all right in the same app. Plus, you will also appreciate that it’s able to be used on Windows and macOS.

Adobe XD is an easy-to-use platform, despite what its origins might tell you. For once, it seems like Adobe took the time to focus on creating a truly useful and basic solution that just works. After all, wireframing is supposed to be basic, even in the end stages when it gets close to prototyping, and the right tools will be just basic enough to keep up. 

It starts with a minimal interface that’s easy to learn, making it simple to get started even for first-time users. You'll also find vector design tools, UI elements in the community, and the ability to wireframe, mockup, and prototype a single design file. The tool also tracks the CSS and HTML so you can grab coding easily and hand it off without a hitch. One prototype is free but plans for unlimited access start at just $10 per month. 

Figma: best free wireframing tool

If “free” is the name of your game, Figma is the best option on the market today. This cloud-based alternative is making quite a name for itself, competing with the likes of all of the tools here without holding back. Free users get a powerful suite of features that don’t make them feel neglected for foregoing a paid membership, and the wireframing process within the app is simple, straightforward, and keeps projects and designs moving. 

You'll find simple navigation tools and you can manage everything easily from the left side of the screen. Figma constraints even allow you to tell elements how they should respond to various screen sizes, making cross-device compatibility easy. The web-based app also makes it easy for teams to collaborate and connect so that projects are streamlined, and you can even communicate right in the design files to keep everything in one place. 

Figma makes wireframing easy and it helps ensure that teams can collaborate every step of the way. It also has more detailed features and can carry designs all the way to the prototyping stage without missing a beat. Plus, it’s free to use for up to three projects, and then the Professional plan is just $12 per month to start for access to unlimited projects and wireframing tools. 

UXPin: best for the hand-off

Everyone knows when the interface designers are happy, the rest of the collaboration team is happy. With UXPin, you’ve got a designer favorite that is one of the first tools that many recommend for those who are new to wireframing. There is an impressive set of features that make every project simpler, and while it might be a bit of a challenge for new users to wrap their heads around everything, it’s worth the learning curve. 

The UXPin tool starts by offering a library of UI elements built right in, allowing you to wireframe with just a few drag-and-drop motions and create a functional flow in just seconds. You can also use this tool to read Photoshop and Sketch files, allowing you to use this tool to take those designs one step further before handing them off to the developers. 

This app also allows you to add interactions, present to the team, and execute seamless handoffs to the developers so that development and integration can be executed. The live presentation feature and documentation tools definitely set this app apart, as does the integrated Preview mode that allows you to preview designs and share with the team to get feedback before you send it off to development. Plans are available from $23 and $39 per month, respectively, depending on whether you want basic access or the full System plan. 

InVision Freehand: best for whiteboard collaborations

Although we’ve covered a lot of intuitive, unique designs, InVision Freehand is a much more basic wireframing app. However, it’s ideal for those who prefer a whiteboard-type platform where everyone can collaborate, contribute, and refine designs until they are perfect. This web-based platform makes it easy for anyone to create designs, and the cloud access means that multiple users can be working on a single project at the same time, saving time and improving collaborative efforts. 

Freehand is a simple tool, but it also integrates with Sketch, Photoshop, and others to improve the design process and ensure that users can take their prototypes to the next level before they even get sent off to development. Plus, it comes as part of the InVision suite of products, which means that you can work seamlessly between programs and even store your sketches along with mood boards, working prototypes, and more. 

InVision Freehand works great for those designers who want a collaborative tool, despite the bells and whistles. While the extras are nice, sometimes the basic design elements are really what stand out and that’s what makes this tool such a popular choice. Plus, it’s one of the only options on the list that’s completely free, so it’s great for anyone on a budget. 

Adobe Photoshop: best for pixel-based designs

You didn’t think we’d get through a list of the best wireframe tools without bringing Photoshop to the table, did you? This industry heavyweight is the go-to choice for pixel-based design since it can handle everything from impressive photo editing to digital painting, and everything in between. Adobe also comes with a loaded name, which is often the reason that some professionals choose the tool in the first place. Of course, there’s more to love than a name.

Photoshop allows you to access the tool from the web, which means you can easily create the best high-fidelity mockups without having to change systems or apps, or deal with a lot of integrating or exporting. You can add artboards that meet your screen dimensions, add UI components that you design yourself, or even choose from online UI kits that include all of the tools that you need. You’ll never find better image editing capabilities, either.

Of course, Photoshop can be a bit clunky for those who want an intuitive tool with simple flows and multi-screen access. It also has a bigger learning curve than some of the apps available today and is often best used in combination with them, rather than as an alternative to them. Adobe Photoshop starts at just $9.99 per month for the basic plan and is available on macOS and Windows, as well as via the web. 

Design a better future by partnering with Smith.ai

While you’re busy creating designs and prototyping with the various wireframe tools listed here, you can depend on the dedicated receptionists at Smith.ai to handle all kinds of mission-critical services, from answering the call—literally—24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assisting with lead intake, appointment scheduling, and more. We can even integrate with your tools so that our tasks are streamlined and managed in your own CRMs and apps, helping you stay organized and know what needs your attention. 

Where a wireframe tool is the backbone of your latest design, consider Smith.ai the backbone of your logistics and mission-critical services. Our team has years of experience handling everything from simple customer inquiries to total front-facing customer service management and can act as the face of your brand while you’re busy running your business. 

If you’re ready to design a better future, schedule a Live Chat consultation to find out how you can partner with our team to take things like payment collection, overflow calling, inbound and outbound calls, live website chat, and even SMS messaging solutions. We’ll make sure that your business is on point so you can focus your efforts where they’re best utilized: on creating the next best design. Find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484, as well. 

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

Try Smith.ai now

Accelerate growth with live receptionists and AI. Get started risk-free for 14 days!

Accelerate growth with live chat and AI. Get started risk-free for 14 days!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Contact our sales team today at (650) 727-6484 or schedule a call.

sign up for our newsletter

Thank you!
Your submission has been received.
Yikes! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Categories