This post originally appeared on the springbox.com blog on Nov. 16, 2015.


As anyone who works in digital product design and development may have noticed, there are a TON of new prototyping tools available as of late. With recent releases of Principle, Framer, and Flinto and with Axure 8 and Adobe’s Project Comet on the horizon, it’s hard to know which direction to go when it comes to prototyping.

I recently took time to assess some of these tools with some fellow UXers at Springbox in an attempt to identify the best one – the one prototyping tool to rule them all. We considered ease of use, speed, fidelity, level of interactivity, product stability, and more. Ultimately, we were looking at a huge array of options including but not limited to:

We spent a lot of hands-on time with these tools, and after all was said and done, we arrived at a conclusion as to which one is the best – the one tool to rule them all:

The answer is…

It depends.

Pick Any Two

All of the tools listed above are fine products, but they all go about prototyping in slightly different ways. Some excel in certain areas but might be lacking in others. Alas, the perfect, holy grail of prototyping tools continues to elude us.

What we realized in our time using these tools is that there seems to be three primary metrics: speed, level of fidelity, and level of interactivity – and no product seems to excel at all three. This is similar to the “Pick any two” concept for projects – it can be good, fast, cheap, or a combination of any two, but it can’t be all three. To have all three is to be in a magical fantasy land that does not exist.

When it comes to projects, we are forced to pick two between good, fast, and cheap.
When it comes to projects, we are forced to pick two between good, fast, and cheap.

For prototyping tools, we think there is another “Pick any two” scenario between speed, fidelity, and level of interactivity. There are tools out there that excel at one or two of these, but none seem to achieve all three.

Pick any two: fast, high fidelity, or high interactivity. No prototyping tools seem to be all three.
Pick any two: fast, high fidelity, or high interactivity. No prototyping tools seem to be all three.

What We Settled On

In the end, we’ve come to the realization that there isn’t a perfect tool for us that we could use on all projects. Instead, we’ve come to the conclusion that certain tools help us achieve better results in certain scenarios. If we are creating a highly detailed spec to be delivered to a client, we might use a combination of a Keynote presentation that contains comps from Sketch as well as small prototypes created with Framer (this would be a high fidelity, high interactivity approach). If we’re creating a prototype for internal usage we might go with a simple Axure prototype with a few clickable / interactive elements (this would be a fast, high interactivity approach).

At the end of the day there isn’t a single prototyping software that stands out from the others as the clear winner. They have all been designed to include various strengths and weaknesses. Asking “Which is best?” when it comes to selecting one may not yield a clear answer – instead, I think it’s better to focus on the end deliverable and the result you want to achieve, working backwards, and selecting a tool from there.