What are the best rapid prototyping tools for product experiments?

Product groups that adopt and apply lean methodologies are typically challenged to seek out the best solution to prototype their product ideas. Understanding product market match is one thing, but having the potential to quickly design and check prototypes is another. As well as, creating prototypes for the specific function of producing consumer suggestions requires a special mindset than prototypes additionally constructed for inner stakeholders (i.e. getting buy-in from management and sending specs for engineering).

A wide variety of tools are obtainable that tackle the numerous and growing wants of digital prototyping. While it’s nice to have so many software program options obtainable, there’s no silver bullet. The “best” tools to make use of rely solely on your organizational structure and the instant objective for the prototype. Not only that, however this function will change throughout the product lifecycle.

While some prototyping tools require the experience of designers and developers, others are simply as highly effective in the palms of a product manager. It’s typically environment friendly for the product manager to create easier prototypes earlier in the process, in an effort to independently check excessive degree hypotheses, and then transfer on to extra advanced tools in collaboration with design and engineering, when it is sensible to spend money on those areas.

Ask yourself these questions before choosing the proper set of tools for your wants:

  • What do I need to study from my next prototype check? The sooner you are in the experimentation course of, the more obscure the worth propositions you’ll be testing. You’ll need prototypes that clarify and emphasize initial hypotheses to customers, fairly than specializing in the unrelated assumptions of consumer expertise flows and other areas. Later in the process, this may increasingly change.
  • What are my constraints? Contemplate the period of time and assets it is sensible to take a position at the present stage of testing. Is there sufficient promise and momentum that it’s worthwhile to involve designers and engineers in the improvement of a prototype?
  • What are my necessities? Factor into the design process whether or not or not the worth propositions with which you are experimenting require a cellular app prototype. Or perhaps you’ll want an internet site that simulates superior interactions.

Under are my recommendations for prototyping tools, based mostly on the questions above. This is not an in depth, comprehensive evaluate of all present prototyping tools, nor is this a tutorial. As an alternative, it’s a reference that outlines the best tools to use at totally different factors in the product lifecycle, given the capabilities and constraints of a product workforce.

Full-stack setup to get going shortly

At Alpha, we rely on the following three tools with shoppers due to their ease-of-use, built-in template libraries, and common capability to effectively check high-level and granular hypotheses across system varieties.

Keynote: Keynote’s presentation software program works surprisingly nicely as a prototyping device for non-designers to create low simulations of worth. With a powerful library of templates out there at Keynotopia, you’ll be able to shortly construct prototypes from scratch with few different design belongings required. With out draining further assets, Keynote can substitute pen and paper for rapid testing of high-level value propositions.

Sketch: Sketch is shortly changing Photoshop as the go-to-program for designing consumer interfaces, resulting from its ease of use, free templates, and multiple display resolutions. With Sketch you possibly can construct net, cellular and tablet experiences by simply dropping obtainable UI parts onto Sketch artboards. While there are no animations or interactions out there, many different prototyping packages combine nicely with Sketch information, together with InVision, Marvel, UXPin and Framer. In addition, it’s tremendous straightforward to export graphic for use in all other prototyping packages that do supply animations and UI behaviors. For those who are new to design packages, this is the one to study.

InVision: InVision is turning into a device of selection for product teams, and provides restricted consumer interactions to graphic belongings, for testing in a simulated setting (you possibly can run prototypes on cellular instantly). Interactions obtainable embrace transitions, hover states, scrolling, and anchor hyperlinks, and new options are always being added that make it easier for product teams to collect both qualitative and quantitative knowledge from experiments run. Observe that this device requires present design belongings to be constructed first (you can’t construct screens from scratch), so you’d want to make use of it with one other software, resembling Sketch.

One group, one device

Alternatively chances are you’ll find for any variety of causes that your group would best be served by a single prototyping answer, even when meaning sacrificing velocity and ease-of-use. Right here are a couple of to think about:

Axure: Axure is certainly one of the oldest and most outstanding prototyping tools for enterprise. Because of its giant consumer base, it has an lively online group and numerous boards for help. It provides advanced desktop animations, in addition to different options corresponding to versioning management, responsiveness to quite a few display resolutions, and HTML output for browser viewing (though you’ll doubtless have to scrap this code for real manufacturing). Notice that this software isn’t meant for constructing a refined, visual design; it’s meant for teams to build interactivity using primary graphics. Additionally, whereas it does have cellular functionality, it lacks extra complicated cellular interactions that you could be need for building an app prototype.

JustinMind: JustinMind is the shinier, newer model of Axure, and unlike Axure, does play properly with present design belongings. It additionally comes with design templates for graphics designed within the device itself, and was designed with extra complicated cellular interactions in thoughts, as well as the capacity to preview on the system itself. Nevertheless, as a result of it’s a more moderen kid on the block, there are fewer individuals utilizing it, and less documentation as such.

UXpin: UXpin additionally comes with a large library of recent UI parts and templates, and has complicated interaction capabilities for desktop and cellular. It’s just like JustinMind, with plugins out there for Sketch and Photoshop, permitting you to edit in these packages and have modifications pulled in mechanically. Lastly, you’ll be able to document users’ face and desktop throughout consumer testing, view it in real-time, and get feedback from customers while they’re interacting. Word that while it has a powerful quantity of features, performance in the device might be irritating or buggy, and like JustinMind, fewer organizations have adopted it.

Technically-savvy with the capability to test more superior interactions

If in case you have a technical background or engineering assets dedicated to prototype testing, there are some more advanced interactions you’ll be able to design to generate consumer suggestions on prototypes that extra reliably mirror a finished answer.

Framer.JS: When you’ve got experience with JavaScript, Framer is an incredibly powerful prototyping device for each desktop and cellular. It has strong animation and microinteraction capabilities and is suitable with net, cellular and pill. Framer additionally performs nicely with present belongings in Sketch or Photoshop.


To escape the bloat of software program options that accommodate many display resolutions, it might be worthwhile to check out providers that target cellular. I recommend two under, depending on your desired library of interactions.

Flinto: Flinto has comparable capabilities to InVision, except it’s slightly simpler to fine-tune consumer flows, and a few favor its display linkage strategy over InVision. Low start up time required, nevertheless it’s not capable of creating complicated interactions.

Pixate: Pixate is capable of producing strong microinteractions for both iOS and Android, and is turning into the favourite software for app creators, based mostly on its cellular targeted function set.

Retaining it easy and low-tech

Though professionally-designed prototypes may be effective for understanding consumer conduct in response to worth propositions, it’s widespread for workforce members to turn out to be too defensive of prototypes and create obstacles to revisions and iteration. We typically advocate product groups begin with paper prototypes to remove this state of affairs, because it’s much easier to discard a sheet of paper.

Typically, you possibly can even study virtually as a lot from easier, less ‘snazzy’ prototypes. They drive users to give attention to and respond to the worth propositions as an alternative of getting hung up on the consumer experience. Actually, there’s lots to study if customers can’t get over the lack of aestheticism – it tells you that customers might not desperately have the need you hypothesized.

Pen and paper: Pen and paper allows product managers to communicate their concepts to designers and customers with ease. It’s nicely suited once you’re in the earlier levels of prototyping. You need to use this primary device to scope out the core performance and value of the product.

Balsamiq: Solely slightly more exhaustive than pen and paper is Balsamiq, a device that nearly anyone can use to build wireframes and primary mockups. Although missing nearly all interactions, you’ll be able to construct clickable PDFs to iterate early in the product lifecycle.


Whereas there are many prototyping tools on the market, most have their own distinctive benefit that can make them useful throughout some part of the product lifecycle. It’s necessary to first contemplate your enterprise aims and practices before choosing the right tools to make use of. Choosing technologies first can severely handicap your prototyping process, short-circuiting your capacity to optimize and discover an adaptable answer.

Almost all prototyping tools include a free trial, so you’ll be able to download and see which software works best for your wants. In the event you’re wanting for views on a wider spectrum of prototyping tools, I like to recommend testing Emily Schwartzman’s information, Ian Schoen’s prototype graph, or this nice discussion on Quora.