User interface (UI) design is a critical part of the success equation for any app, regardless of its value proposition. Therefore, it is important for a web design and development company to not just scratch the surface, as far as UI design is concerned, whether it is involbed in software development services for a mobile app or a web project.

There are certain mobile app UI design tools that are non-negotiable. They help designers make UI design effective. They are used throughout the entire design process: in the research, conceptualization, and implementation stages.

While many designers favor different tools, we have compiled a list of nine that are popular across the board. Before diving into these mobile UI design tools, let’s define what determines good UI, and set the checklist that will help you make the right choice.

What Makes a Good User Interface?

What is UI Design
What is UI Design

The idea behind UI design services is to create interfaces that are user-centric. This means that interfaces are tailored and designed from the perspective and understanding of the user’s needs and possible interaction with said interface.

It is not an easy task to design application screens. App design requires a lot of effort, creativity, and expertise. There are special guidelines created for designers to help them build iOS and Android user interface designs correctly. However, they do not cover everything; a professional designer should have good taste and should constantly learn.

You are probably wondering how to design a mobile app UI of a good quality. We know the answer. The criteria of a well-done app interface design are as follows:

  • It is simple
  • It has common elements
  • It has a carefully thought-out page layout
  • Its colors and style highlight important elements
  • There are enough system messages that inform a user about activities in the system

Among the things that an app designer should be able to work with to create great designs, there is special UX/UI design software. The choice of available tools is immense. Of course, designers are likely to choose to use tools that make their lives easier and meet all of their needs and requirements.

The list of interface design tools in this article is based on our own experience gained through years of persistent work and practice. However, let’s first define what criteria to consider when choosing this kind of software.

Also read How Much Does Your App Design Cost to learn more.

How to Choose the Best UI Design Tool

To be honest, there is no ‘best’ tool because there are many different people, and many different minds. If you conduct a survey and ask designers what they think, their options will differ. In fact, to define which design tools will work for you, it is important to fully realize your requirements and know your proficiency level. However, that is not all. Do you want to learn more? Then go on to the checklist that will help you choose your UI software.

Criteria for Choosing a Good UI Creation Tool

Here are the main points to pay attention to when deciding what tool to utilize for your future mobile app UI designs:

  • Key features
  • Learning curve
  • Collaboration opportunity
  • Integration with your design process
  • Availability of support documentation
  • Platform compatibility
  • Cost
  • Comfort of use

Here are the details for every point.

  • Key features

The functionality of UI tools is one of the vital factors. You should analyze it carefully to find out whether it covers all of your requirements and design needs.

  • Learning curve

When choosing from software interface design tools, take into account what you already know. As well, you should think about how much time you will need to cover a knowledge gap, if any, and master new features.

  • Collaboration opportunity

You should find out whether the tool allows you to share your work. If you work in a team and create mobile app UI for clients, you will certainly need feedback from them. Teamwork is of great importance as well as being on the same page with your fellow UX/UI designers.

  • Integration with your design process

If you already have an established process, the UI creator you choose should be integrated into it smoothly. It should also work well with whichever toolkit you use.

  • Availability of support documentation

A sufficient amount of information about a UI design tool certainly works in its favor, as it indicates that the developers take care of users and explain the different aspects of working with their software. The more support documentation that is available, the better.

  • Platform compatibility

Needless to say, if a tool does not support the operating system you are using, no mobile app interface design will be possible with its help. Do not forget to check the compatibility.

  • Cost

This criteria is more of a personal or corporate matter. Think of how much you are ready to pay for a UI prototyping or mockup tool and filter all offered solutions accordingly.

  • Comfort of use

Choose the app UI design software you will be satisfied with. The software should help you eliminate possible issues and design the mobile app layout you visualize in your mind.

Types of UI Design Software

All user interface design tools can be divided into various categories.

Based on the platform(s) they run on, these tools can be desktop-based, web-based, and mobile-based.

If tools are grouped according to their distinctive deliverables, it is possible to name the following categories:

  • UI mockup and prototyping tools
  • Interactive prototype makers
  • Collaboration tools
  • Other solutions

We move on from here to the list of the best UI design software. This list was made based on the experience of MLSDev, software development company.

Top Mockup and Prototyping Tools to Choose from

Without further ado, learn which software is used for UI design.

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • Avocode
  • Zeplin
  • Figma
  • 3ds Max
  • Adobe After Effects

Mockup Creation and Prototyping Tools

The following toolkit is good for creating mobile app mockups and app prototypes:

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop

OS compatibility: Windows and macOS
Cost:
Trial - free
Adobe Photoshop CC Single App - $20.99/month
Photography plan - $9.99/month
Students and teachers - 19.99/month
Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month





For a long while, Photoshop has been considered one of the go-to UI design tools for designers. Indeed, many clients are equally familiar with PSD files and usually request final project designs in PSD. PSD files are composed of layers, which makes them easy to work with.

Part of the reason for Photoshop’s popularity stems from its history primarily as a photo-editing tool when it was released. However, since the release of Photoshop CC 2014, its fame has grown beyond being a photo-editing tool to a friendly and powerful tool for digital designs. Photoshop is widely used by designers and web design and development companies, especially for designing UX wireframes, high fidelity wireframes, and UI mockups.

Some of the features that make Adobe Photoshop useful as a mobile app UI design tool are:

Features of Adobe Photoshop
Features of Adobe Photoshop

  • Smart Objects

Smart objects are similar to libraries in Photoshop. They can be reused for different things and, in various situations, irrespective of if they are single or multiple files.

Smart objects also help keep an image’s quality by preserving its source content alongside all accompanying characteristics. This allows designers to perform non-destructive editing on the image’s layer. For example, a designer can create a logo in Adobe Illustrator and then transfer the file over to Photoshop. There they can arrange individual elements into mockups or build prototypes.

  • Libraries

These are assets you can transfer to, and keep in, a cloud account that can be used over and over again across other Adobe software. These assets, or files, can be used repeatedly for current and future projects.

  • Layer Compositions

With layer compositions, a designer can make changes to a design by simply altering positioning, attributes, and other elements without the fuss of having to work with multiple files. With this, designers can use the same designs on multiple projects and just tweak minor details, thus saving time. This very feature distinguishes Photoshop from other UI design tools.

  • Extracting Assets

Plugins like Cut&Slice and DevRocket can be used by designers to extract assets like elements, objects, and images from the web and mobile elements even after incorporating comprehensive features.

In 2015, Photoshop developers also added the ability to work with artboards. This feature made designers’ lives easier, as they no longer needed to switch between layers and hide them. Artboards now allow designers see all app screens at once.

Photoshop is one of the most powerful UI mockup tools. Although it has its limitations, there’s no denying its importance in any designer’s toolset. Moreover, designers can extend the functionality of Photoshop by using plugins that allow them to stretch their imagination and creativity further.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Illustrator

OS compatibility: Microsoft Windows and macOS
Cost:
Trial - free
Adobe Illustrator CC Single App - $20.99/month
Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month
Students and teachers - $19.99/month
Business - $33.99/month





In 1987, Adobe Systems Incorporated released Adobe Illustrator as its first offering. The pen tool was one of its most significant features, as it allowed designers to create high-resolution elements and to draw sleek curves. Since then, Illustrator has remained one of the most important mockup and UI prototyping tools.

This importance is engrained in the many features you can find in the application, which include:

Features of Adobe Illustrator
Features of Adobe Illustrator

  • Vector-Based

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based application. Unlike pixel-based Photoshop, it uses mathematical principles to create vector graphics. What this means is that Illustrator uses paths instead of bitmaps or a line of pixels to create images.

Due to this fact, Adobe Illustrator is used to create illustrations and icons that can be used across multiple channels and in different sizes without a drop in image quality. Simply put, Adobe Illustrator’s output is not dependent upon resolution.

  • Snap to Pixel Capability

This feature allows designers using Adobe Illustrator to align their designs on accurate pixel boundaries. This makes designs sharp and delightful on digital devices with “different stroke widths and alignment options.”

There are three Snap to Pixel options: while drawing, moving, and scaling. The feature works for both vector shapes and path segments. Objects created with this feature do not have pixels or blurred shadows around them, hence the crispness.

  • Artboard Tool

Artboard tool makes it possible to work on designs that can work on different devices and screens simultaneously. Artboard is similar to a canvas on which artwork can be created. While working, designers can pick from a variety of predefined sizes, as well as create artboards with custom sizes.

Moreso, Adobe Illustrator allows the use of multiple artboards. Designers can use them for individual elements that can be utilized in other Adobe applications such as Adobe After Effects.

Other features of Adobe Illustrator include Live Trace, Live Paint, layer-based editing, bitmap image detection and conversion, multiple export formats, and integration with Adobe Creative Cloud. Designers make it a preferred application for creating app UI design and vector graphics.

Sketch

Sketch
Sketch

OS compatibility: macOS
Cost:
Trial - free
A lifetime plan with a year of updates - $99/year


In recent years, Sketch has grown to become one of the leading mobile interactive UI design tools despite only being available for Mac OS users. In many aspects, Sketch is similar to Photoshop, yet it stands out with its own unique features and capabilities.

The following features make Sketch outstanding:

Features of Sketch
Features of Sketch

  • Vector-Based

With the proliferation of smartphones, there is an increased focus on mobile-friendly designs. This has brought responsive design, in which vectors play an important role, to the forefront. Designers need to consider how their designs will play out across multiple devices – big screens and small screens, high resolution and low resolution, etc.

Therefore, having a design that can rescale without losing quality is imperative to user interface mockups. Without vector-based design, a designer would have to create separate designs for each possible set of device dimensions, which is quite herculean and time-consuming. Sketch eliminates this headache by allowing designers to resize objects at will.

  • Typography in Sketch App

Typography is an important part of mobile app design and Sketch makes it easy to create typographic elements. Moreso, you can apply the created text style across multiple documents. If for any reason you have to change the design of the typography, all you need to do is change it at the ‘source’ and all other documents linked to the text style will be updated.

An additional plus with Sketch, with regard to text styles, is that it uses native rendering, which means there are absolutely no changes to your typographic elements even when you transition to web browsers.

  • Built-In Layout Grid

Unlike Photoshop, where you have to depend on guidelines and plugins to create a makeshift grid that is hard to edit, Sketch comes with a built-in layout grid. Moreso, you can easily edit and resize the column and gutter sizes, as well as pin a transparent layout guide.

  • Code-Friendly Designs

Sketch makes it easy to transition from designing to developing in that it makes your design implementable in CSS and vice versa. Even though Sketch is not the only mobile app UI design tool to implement this, it does, however, make it easier to copy CSS directly without any alterations to the design.

The truth is that Sketch is peppered with lots of features aside from those listed above. Just think of Sketch’s style inventory plugin, how easy it is to export assets, the content generator plugin, dynamic buttons, and much more. Sketch is tailor-made for UI design and its interface reflects this with little clutter and impeccable features.

Our designers know how to use Sketch to create the best app design for you.
Contact us to learn more.

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Tools to Create Interactive Prototypes

For those who like to get the most out of their mobile app UI design, there is a tool that can make clickable prototypes:

InVision

InVision
InVision

OS compatibility: Online app design tool
Cost:
Free - $0/month
Starter - $15/month
Professional - $25/month
Team - $99/month
Enterprise - custom price





InVision is a perfect tool for software prototyping. With its help, you can quickly and easily create interactive and clickable prototypes and mockup designs. When done, designers can share the design file with their clients and/or project team members within the app. This is more efficient than sharing PDFs and screenshots, and allows projects to proceed quickly. Additionally, clients can leave feedback and discuss the designs within the app.

The features that make InVision an outstanding mockup and prototype maker include:

Features of InVision
Features of InVision

  • Collaborate in Real-Time Using Live Share

Live Share is a feature that enables designers, project members, and clients to collaborate in real-time. The Live Share interface is quite interactive, with each member of the team able to point out specific design elements as well as chat. Additionally, there’s also a VOIP chat available in the browser or a link to a different conference line.

  • Mobile App Prototyping with Gestures

In InVision, you can add hotspot links for all your screens, which helps to control mobile gestures and add transitions. With this, you can mimic common mobile actions such as double tapping, swiping, and sliding to the left or right. This feature is especially handy when you’re making cross-platform designs as well as attempting to scale the designs to their correct mobile device sizes.

  • Drag and Drop Functionality

It is easy and straightforward to start projects in InVision thanks to its drag and drop functionality, which also makes the learning curve less steep. This is particularly important if you’ve created your design elements in another application and just need to put them together using InVision.

There are other InVision features that make it a popular mockup and prototype development tool, such as turning comments and feedbacks into a to-do list, which you can go back to and start knocking items off once you’ve addressed the issues. There’s also hover state, which you can use to create tooltips, menus, and mimic the hovering action over a button.

Learn more about complete prototyping services at MLSDev.

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UI Design Collaboration Tools

The following UI software is usually used for collaboration between team members and customers:

Avocode

Avocode
Avocode

OS compatibility: Online UI design tool
Cost:
Trial - free
Pro - $16/month
Team - $36/month
Company - $100/month
Enterprise - custom price





Avocode) does not belong to typical UI design tools. With it, you cannot create designs or prototypes. The tool, instead, allows you to preview and inspect designs created in Photoshop/Sketch. In Avocode, you can export image assets, copy text and CSS, grab colors, gradients and font information, measure distances between elements, and save optimized image assets for production.

The major benefits of using Avocode are as follows:

Benefits of Using Avocode
Benefits of Using Avocode

  • Supports Numerous Design Formats Including Sketch

Avocode provides an equal experience for all developers, no matter what design software they use. A designer can use UI design tools like Photoshop or Sketch and still share their designs with the customer in  Avocode.

  • Cross-platform

Working with Photoshop, you cannot switch to Linux, and working with Sketch, you can only use Mac. It can become annoying to switch between computers in order to get an image from a PSD. With Avocode, a designer can work with any design format and any operating system.

  • Automatic Synchronization of Assets

In Avocode, every time an asset is exported, the system uploads it to a private designer's server or a CDN. This way, every time a designer makes a change in the project, Avocode syncs the assets automatically.

  • Time-Saving

Avocode PS Plugin allows a designer to share designs quickly and easily.

From our experience, Avocode is a handy and robust tool that facilitates designers’ work.

Zeplin

Zeplin
Zeplin

OS compatibility: Online, Mac and Windows apps
Cost:
Free - $0/month
Starter - $19/month
Growing business - $29/month
Organization - $144/month




Zeplin was launched somewhat recently, but it is already growing steadily and gaining a reputation as one of the top mobile UI design tools. The software facilitates collaboration between developers and designers. For example, designers can make revisions to their designs and the project documentation is updated automatically. It saves the designers time that they would have previously devoted to making updates manually.

You can also use the Zeplin plugin in Sketch, which will generate a design specification document, including guidelines and assets. Certain features make this possible, including: easy asset generation, project update notification, sections, and four project modes (iOS, Android, Web, and Experimental). When working with Sketch, Zeplin is a better choice than Avocode.

Other Solutions

To cover all the requirements when designing app UI, the software interface design tools described above should be complementary to each other. You might think that it would be more convenient to have a solution that could do everything you need without additional assistance, and you would be right. The good news is that there is such a UI design tool for mobile apps.

Figma

Figma
Figma

OS compatibility: Online, Windows, macOS, Linux
Cost:
Basic - free for individuals
Professional - $12/month per editor
Organization - $45/month per editor



Figma is a multi-purpose tool for creating mobile app UI design and prototyping. Moreover, it can be used for UX design, graphic design, wireframing, and brainstorming. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

If you are an individual, Figma is a free mobile app UI design tool for you. For companies, the price is quite affordable, which is a huge advantage of this software with regard to the tasks it can perform. It allows you to collaborate quickly, receive feedback, and create app UI designs in less time.

The following features make Figma an outstanding UI creation tool:

Figma Features
Figma Features

  • Rapid tools for editing app interface design

Figma provides UX/UI designers with the opportunities to use vector networks, various operations, interactive techniques, previews, and exports.

  • Team libraries

UX/UI developers can share design components in a team library for their colleagues to use. Once changes are made to shared components, the team is notified.

  • Turning design into code quickly

With Figma, designers can share files with developers for inspection and further coding. Programmers can copy code snippets directly from files, be it Android UI design, iPhone app interface design, or website UI design.

  • Flexibility in scaling your work for the team and clients

The permissions of the tool allow users to share their files whenever they want and with varying access options. All edits to designs are saved and can be viewed in the history. The latest Figma updates make it possible to restore past versions of files.

The conclusion is: if you are looking for a robust and fast app UI design software that can be your one stop in designing applications, Figma is a perfect choice.

If you are looking to create iOS or Android UI design for your future application, learn more about our UX/UI design services.

There are UI design tools that provide special deliverables to their users. They are mostly used by designers when their clients need custom elements for their app UI design.

3ds Max

3ds Max
3ds Max

OS compatibility: Windows
Cost:
Trial - free for 30 days
Monthly plan - $190/month


3ds Max is one of the popular app design tools used for animation, 3D modeling, and rendering. The app was specifically built for games and design visualization. 3ds packs lot of features, including:

Features of 3ds Max
Features of 3ds Max

  • Workflow Feature

This particular feature aids in the conversion of scenes so that elements like materials, lights, and objects can be altered to improve their quality. This is facilitated by the ability to use rendering features such as accurate settings and new physical materials.

  • Preview Rendering

When users activate ActiveShade in 3ds Max, they can see how the changes they make to lighting and material will affect their final design in a new window.

  • Material Editor

This feature allows user apply reflections, creative textures, and other effects as they specify materials for the objects they create.

  • Multiple Animation Controllers

Designers can store key animation settings, processes, and practically everything created in the app with the help of multiple animation controllers. As well, while creating objects in 3ds Max, you can link them together to form chains or hierarchies. You can use these repeatedly for different projects.

There are multiple features that make 3ds Max the application for creative mobile UI designs. Aside from those listed above, you also have other features; they are max creation graph controllers, simple simulation data import, Autodesk Raytracer Renderer (ART), customizable workspaces, and many more.

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects
Adobe After Effects

OS compatibility: Microsoft Windows and macOS
Cost:
Trial - free
Adobe After Effects CC Single App - $20.99/month
Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month
Students and teachers - $19.99/month
Business - $33.99/month





As Photoshop is important to photographers, so is Adobe After Effects to video professionals, animators, and UI designers. Designers use the application to create designs from compositing to character animation, titling, and much more. Its set of rich features makes it easy and time-friendly to make animations and mobile UI design, as you’ll see below.

While After Effects is similar to most video editing software, it differs in the sense that it doesn’t have features to perform regular editing tasks; it produces special effects and composites.

Some features that make After Effects an industry leader are:

Features of Adobe After Effects
Features of Adobe After Effects

  • Data-Driven Animations

This is one of the newest features added to After Effects. It allows the designer to alter animations according to the data that is supplied. With this feature, you can import JSON data files directly into any app and turn them into animations.

For example, this feature is significant for app scenarios where live updates are important, such as election results and statistics, weather reports, surveys, or polls. The imported data can then be used to create animated characters, graphs, and other moving elements.

  • Various Virtual Reality Tools

After Effects also features different tools that aid in creating virtual reality applications. One of these is the Virtual Reality Video Composition Editor for editing 260 or virtual reality videos. Another one is Create VR Environment tool for building virtual reality environments. There are other tools specifically used to add dynamics and effects to virtual reality videos.

  • Visual Keyboard Shortcut Editor

Users of After Effects can personalize their workspace by creating shortcuts for commands they use regularly through the visual keyboard shortcut editor. The editor works to edit existing shortcut commands or to create new commands that can be used to edit or create animations.

Let’s compare all of the UI design tools described above according to the main criteria:

UI design tools Key features Learning curve Collaboration opportunity Availability of support documentation Platform compatibility Cost
Adobe Photoshop Smart objects, libraries, layer compositions, extracting assets Hard to learn Partially available (only for designers) Enough information Windows, macOS Trial - free, Single App - $20.99/month, Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month
Adobe Illustrator Vector-based, snap to pixel capability, artboard tool Hard to learn Partially available (only for designers) Enough information Microsoft Windows and macOS Trial - free, Single App - $20.99/month, Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month
Sketch Vector-based, typography creation, built-in layout grid, code-friendly designs Average difficulty Partially available (only for designers) Enough information macOS Trial - free, a lifetime plan with a year of updates - $99/year
InVision Real-time collaboration, mobile prototyping with gestures, drag and drop functionality Easy to learn Available for designers and customers Enough information Online app design tool Free - $0/month, Professional - $25/month, Team - $99/month
Avocode Support of numerous design formats, cross-platform, automatic synchronization of assets, time-saving Easy to learn Available Enough information Online UI design tool Trial - free, Pro - $16/month, Team - $36/month
Zeplin Collaboration between developers and designers, automatic updates of documentation, Zeplin plugin in Sketch Easy to learn Available Enough information Online, Mac app, Windows app Free - $0/month, Growing business - $29/month, Organization - $144/month
Figma Rapid tools for editing app interface design, team libraries, turning design into code quickly, flexibility in scaling your work for the team and clients Average difficulty Available for designers and customers Enough information Online, Windows, macOS, Linux Basic - free for individuals, Professional - $12/month per editor, Organization - $45/month per editor
3ds Max Workflow feature, preview rendering, material editor, multiple animation controllers Hard to learn Partially available (only for designers) Only basic information from developers. Additional tutorials are required. Windows Trial - free for 30 days, Monthly plan - $190/month
Adobe After Effects Data-driven animations, various virtual reality tools, visual keyboard shortcut editor Hard to learn Partially available (only for designers) Enough information Microsoft Windows, macOS Trial - free, Single App - $20.99/month, Creative Cloud All Apps - $52.99/month

Wrapping It Up

Let's Make a Conclusion
Let's Make a Conclusion

Many designers and app design and development companies have their own unique workflow and the tools they use to make it happen. We have just listed the top mobile app UI design tools we use to create awesome mobile apps and web projects for all of our clients.

If creating user-centric designs for your mobile and web projects is something you’re interested in, our team can help you do it. Whether you want a second opinion about an upcoming project, or you want to revamp your old designs, we would love to offer our expertise.

Have any questions about app design?

We urge you to contact us today for all things concerning mobile application design and development services. You can drop us a message and we’ll respond swiftly.

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