The best UI design tools in 2022

Image of one of the best UI design tools on a monitor screen on a desk
(Image credit: Faizur Rehman via Unsplash)

The best UI design tools can help you create realistic, functional prototypes quickly and easily. You'll hear plenty of impassioned recommendations from UI designers. Each designer has their own favourite, and many use more than one tool since each option has its strengths and weaknesses. 

Ideally, we'd recommend trying out several options to find the best UI design tool for you. Many offer free trials, which give you the chance to get the feel for how they work before making a decision. Of course, not everyone has the time available to test out every software option around using a free trial, so we've aimed to help you save time but drawing up our own pick of the best UI design tools

A decade ago, Sketch ruled the roost. Since then, a bevy of strong contenders has made it difficult to know where to start. We've narrowed them down to the 7 best UI design tools for different requirements. We've weighed up their pros and cons based on our own reviews and the features and sophistication of each program to give you a better idea of which tools might be most suited to you or your team's needs (see more about how we test software).

If you're looking for more general tools, see our guide to web design tools, or if you're a non-coder and just want to get a site up and running as quickly and easily as possible, see our selection of the best website builders and the best web hosting services. And if you want to learn more bout UI design and the wider field of UX, make sure you sign up for our online UX design course: UX Design Foundations (opens in new tab).

The best UI design tools available now

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A screenshot showing mockups in Figma, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Daniel Schwarz)
The best UI design tool overall

Specifications

Platform: Windows, macOS, web
Free plan: Yes
Free trial for paid version: No

Reasons to buy

+
Full-featured
+
Works in the browser
+
Excellent collaboration features

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively expensive

Now owned by Adobe, Figma is one the most popular UI design tools, and it's one that's set many of the standards for the features you'll see in others. The most notable of these is co-editing (or what Figma calls 'multiplayer design'), which essentially enables designers, developers, and other stakeholders to collaborate in realtime on the same Figma file.

Although Figma is slightly more expensive than its main competitors, it's actually more cost-effective as its impressive amount of features eliminates the need for many secondary tools. We find Figma makes it easy to hand off designs and create design systems. It's also one of the few tools that allows designers to create design system documentation, and the only tool that allows teams to explore ideas on a digital whiteboard (using FigJam (opens in new tab), which is included in the subscription).

Figma isn't end-to-end (it doesn't translate UIs into real code components) and doesn't have any user testing or research features, but then neither do most other UI design tools. See our full Figma review for more details.

Screenshot of Sketch, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Sketch)
The best UI design tool for macOS

Specifications

System: macOS
Free plan: No
Free trial for paid version: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Friendly interface
+
Offers everything you'd expect

Reasons to avoid

-
MacOS only
-
Slow to implement industry-standard features

Sketch pioneered UI design tools 10 years ago and although it no longer dominates the market, it remains a solid contender and is the 2nd most popular UI design tool today. This is despite the fact that it's only available for macOS. In fact, its friendly macOS semblance is what makes Sketch's user experience feel so pleasant. The downside is that all other designers on the team must be using macOS too.

When we reviewed it, we found Sketch facilitates high-fidelity prototyping, variables and symbols (components), realtime collaboration, and handoff – everything you'd expect a standard UI design tool to do – but it can be slow to keep up with other tools in terms of new features. For more details, read our full Sketch review.

Screenshot from Adobe XD, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Matt Smith / Adobe)
The best UI design tool for Adobe users

Specifications

System: Windows, macOS
Free plan: Yes
Free trial for paid version: 7 days (credit card required)

Reasons to buy

+
Seamless integration with other Adobe products
+
Works on Windows and Mac
+
Clean user interface

Reasons to avoid

-
No standout features
-
Lack of video or animated gif support

Adobe XD may be a little behind the curve but it works more reliably than Figma and supports Windows where Sketch doesn't, ensuring that it still has a place in the market. It's also a breeze to use, especially if you're familiar with other Adobe products. In fact, if you already have an Adobe Creative Cloud (opens in new tab) subscription then you might have access to Adobe XD already.

With a surprisingly clean user experience and seamless integration with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Stock, Adobe Fonts and more, Adobe XD makes designing and handing off user interfaces both enjoyable and efficient. While it doesn't offer any standout tool as such, Adobe XD does everything you'd expect it to and you won't find much to complain about. We've found that it's getting better with every update, and updates. See our full Adobe XD review for more details, and also check our recommendations for Adobe XD plugins.

A screengrab of the interface in Axure, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Axure)

04. Axure RP

The best UI design tool for technical UI designs

Specifications

System: Windows, macOS
Free plan: No
Free trial for paid version: 30 days

Reasons to buy

+
Wireframe components
+
Build complex prototypes

Reasons to avoid

-
Costly

Axure RP has long been one of the best UI design tools on the market, and is great for technical projects that require powerful functionality, complex interactions, and dynamic data. Axure also ships with wireframe components to help designers plan complex information architecture more carefully, plus the standard features that other UI design tools offer.

A screengrab of the interface in Framer, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Framer)

05. Framer

The highest rated UI design tool

Specifications

System: Windows, macOS, web
Free plan: Yes
Free trial for paid version: No

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional UI
+
Granular interactivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Small community

Framer has been gaining followers and is hight rated for creating interactive prototypes. Its ready-made but customisable react-based components and clean user interface do set it apart. There are tons of smart components that come with Framer as standard, including inputs, sliders, loaders and more. We particularly like advanced features like magic motion animation, which allow a lot of control over animation tweening including bounce, damping and delay with the ability to preview the animation at the bottom of the panel.

On the downside, Framer does lack some basics such as the ability to create groups and there are no community files or support of standard UI kits. The Framer community is still relatively small too, so it can be difficult to find designers that are familiar with it. 

A screengrab of the interface in UXPin, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: UXPin)

6. UXPin

The best UI design tool for end-to-end product development

Specifications

System: Windows, macOS, web
Free plan: No
Free trial for paid version: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
End-to-end
+
Developer friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be slow/bloated

Like Framer, UXPin is react-based but with offering opportunity to work more closely with production-ready code, allowing designers to achieve full consistency with the final product. With wireframing, accessibility, and design system documentation tools to compliment, UXPin is the only true end-to-end UI design tool, and it facilitates creating incredibly interactive interfaces. The downside is that UXPin can feel slow and bloated due to its many features.

A screengrab of the interface in Marvel, one of the best UI design tools

(Image credit: Marvel Prototyping)

07. Marvel

The best UI design tool for rapid prototyping

Specifications

System: Web
Free plan: Yes
Free trial for paid version: 7 days

Reasons to buy

+
Friendly tools
+
User testing features
+
Interesting integrations

Reasons to avoid

-
No desktop apps

What sets Marvel apart in the maturing UI design tool landscape is its focus on democratising design. Its incredibly simple UI design tools make wireframing and rapid prototyping lightning fast. The sheer simplicity of these tools won't stop developers, marketers, and other stakeholders being able to make their ideas heard either, and that's the beauty of Marvel.

Throw in user testing tools (which no other UI design tool offers) and Marvel becomes the perfect tool for validating prototypes, even though you can totally continue to develop said prototypes and hand them off to developers when ready.

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Carl is a creative who has been in the web industry for more than 14 years. Blessed with a passion for UX/UI design, Carl has been awarded Creative of the Year for his contribution to the industry. His diverse portfolio of past clients includes Facebook, Twitter, Unity Technologies, Ordnance Survey, and beauty brand Lush. He has written features for Web Designer magazine, and currently heads up the Salo Creative agency, which he also founded.