What Are the Best Free Tools for Wireframing?

by
Stephanie Corrigan
What Are the Best Free Tools for Wireframing?
When it comes to wireframing free tools, you've got a lot of options to choose from. In this post, we're breaking down the pros and cons of the top 7 free wireframing tools available for web designers.

Creating wireframes is one of the most important steps in the web design process and one that designers typically spend a lot of time on. It's not the most glamorous job; in fact, wireframing can feel tedious compared to designing beautiful mockups and UI interactions (at least in my opinion). Fortunately, there are a wide selection of tools available that help speed up the wireframing process by removing some of the repetitiveness that comes with it.

The first thing to keep in mind when searching for a wireframing tool is that there are both free and paid options. Some paid tools come with either a basic free plan or a free trial period. There are also free forever options. These open-source tools are a good option for beginners or anyone on a tight budget, however they're generally less feature-rich than the paid tools.

In this list, we've included a combination of open-source and "freemium" wireframing tools that have a free plan or trial option. Every one of these tools has everything you need to get started with wireframing for free.

Why do you need a wireframing tool?

Before we dive into this post, you may be wondering: Are wireframing tools even necessary? Many designers prefer to sketch out wireframes old school style on pen and paper. And in fact, we actually recommend all web designers to start the wireframing process this way because it's faster to create multiple iterations by hand than it is using software.

Example of a wireframe sketch
Example of a wireframe sketch

However, if you're working with a team or need to present your wireframes to a client, it's best to translate your sketches into a digital wireframe. Your clients don't need to see your hand drawn scribbles. Also, there's no good way for team members or clients to share feedback on a physical sketch. Digital wireframes, on the other hand, look more polished than sketches; plus, many wireframing tools are built for prototyping and collaboration, which makes collecting feedback and iterating a breeze.

To learn more about the wireframing process and why it's important, click here to read our in-depth beginner's guide to wireframing for website design.

7 free wireframing tools

Now that we have a better understanding of how wireframing tools play a role in the web design process, let's dive into our top wireframing free tools. In no particular order, here are seven great tools we recommend for beginners or anyone on a budget.

1. Balsamiq Wireframes

Balsamiq Wireframes is a popular wireframing tool that helps designers and developers create low-fidelity wireframes quickly. This tool is designed to mimic the appearance of sketching by hand; in this way, Balsamiq Wireframes helps users focus on the structure and content of the wireframes and avoid getting hung up on visual details, which come later in the web design process.

Why use Balsamiq Wireframes for wireframing

One of Balsamiq Wireframes' main selling points is its simplicity. They claim to have zero learning curve and thus appeal to beginners and non-technical individuals. The interface is drag-and-drop and comes with a library of pre-built UI components.

Balsamiq Wireframes is built for speed. With its simple and intuitive interface, anyone can jump in and start creating low-fidelity wireframes right away. In addition, Balsamiq Wireframes includes sharing and prototyping capabilities, which makes it an attractive tool for anyone collaborating with developers, project managers, or clients.

What's the catch?

As with any tool, there are a couple downsides to Balsamiq Wireframes. The first and most obvious is that it's not completely free. Balsamiq Wireframes offers a 30-day free trial for any of their three versions: Cloud, Desktop, or Google Drive. Each version offers the same editor and features, but is priced differently.

Another potential con of using Balsamiq Wireframes is that its simplicity can feel limiting to some. It's not as feature-rich as some of the other tools on this list, like Figma and InVision. In addition, the hand-drawn aesthetic doesn't look as polished as some designers might prefer.

2. Framer

Framer is a free wireframing tool available for Windows and Mac. In fact, it's much more than a wireframing tool--Framer also includes capabilities for creating full-blown prototypes, complete with animations and interactions. Using a design tool like Framer versus a dedicated wireframing tool like Balsamiq can help speed up the web design process because you can seamlessly translate your wireframes into prototypes using a single tool.

Why use Framer for wireframing

Framer is an all-in-one solution for wireframing and prototyping both websites and mobile apps. It's a code-based tool that excels at clickable prototypes and animations. The auto-generated code helps designers form a better understanding of how their designs will behave as a real app or website.

To help designers speed up the wireframing process, Framer includes a library of pre-built starter kits and UI elements. Another benefit of using Framer is that it's built for collaboration. Creating and presenting interactive wireframes with team members or clients is made a breeze.

What's the catch?

One of the biggest drawbacks of using Framer for wireframing is that it's not as intuitive and beginner-friendly as some of its competitors. Although it's powerful, many designers are intimidated by the tool's complexity. Also, the wealth of prototyping features may be overkill for anyone who's just looking for a simple wireframing free tool.

In terms of pricing, Framer is completely free to use for up to 3 projects. Pricing for the Pro plan starts at $20/month.

3. Figma

Figma is a popular browser based tool for collaborative wireframing and prototyping. Wireframes are stored via a live URL that collaborators can click to view and edit. Like some of the other tools on this list, Figma is an all-inclusive tool for taking your wireframes from low- to high-fidelity.

Check out Ran Segall's video below to learn more about the process of wireframing with Figma:

Why use Figma for wireframing

Figma is a great tool for collaborating on wireframes and iterating quickly. Since it's Cloud based, the tool is easily accessible to anyone at any location with an Internet connection. For designers and non-designers alike, the interface is fairly intuitive and doesn't require much training.

Figma's Starter plan is free forever with unlimited files in drafts, viewers and commenters, and cloud storage, for one team project. This plan is great for giving Figma a go without any commitment.

What's the catch?

Like other web based tools, Figma is prone to lagging and not suitable for anyone with a poor Internet connection. In addition, there aren't any controls for limiting the actions that viewers can take when a prototype is shared with them. As Ran states in the video above, it would be preferable if clients could only have access to edit the copy, as opposed to the entire design.

4. Wireframe.cc

Wireframe.cc is a no-frills, browser-based wireframing tool. The name of the game for Wireframe.cc is simplicity; the tool intentionally offers limited style options in order to force users to focus on the bigger picture and iterate faster.

Why use Wireframe.cc for wireframing

This free tool makes it easy for anyone to get started with wireframing right away. There's no need to download any software, and the drag-and-drop interface is very intuitive for designers. Wireframe.cc is available for desktop, tablet, and mobile wireframing.

On the free plan, users can create a wireframe for a single page and then generate a link to share it with others. All in all, Wireframe.cc is a great option for anyone looking to create simple, low-fidelity wireframes quickly.

What's the catch?

The free version of Wireframe.cc is limited in that you can only create single-page wireframes. There's also no way to export your work; the only way to share it is through a URL. While Wireframe.cc could suffice for beginners looking for a simple and free solution, some designers may find the tool too simplistic.

The premium version of Wireframe.cc starts at $16/month and includes capabilities for multi-page wireframes, interactions, master pages, and exporting to PDF or PNG.

5. Moqups

Moqups is another web-based UX tool for creating wireframes, mockups, and prototypes. This free wireframing tool is simple, intuitive, and comes with a good selection of UI elements. Moqups is an all-in-one platform for UX and UI design that's built for collaboration.

Why use Moqups for wireframing

As far as features go, Moqups has all the standard capabilities you would expect from a wireframing tool. Drag and drop elements, thousands of icons, precise object editing, and intuitive page management are just some of the useful features that Moqups offers.

Where Moqups shines in comparison to some of its competitors is with its ease of collaboration. As a Cloud based tool, it's accessible to anyone from any location, making it an attractive tool for remote teams. Collaborators can comment feedback directly on the designs, ensuring that all voices are heard and localized in one place.

What's the catch?

Like many of the other wireframing tools on this list, Moqups isn't a free forever solution. On their free plan, you can create one project with up to 200 objects and 5MB of storage. If you want to continue using Moqups for other projects, pricing starts at $16/month.

6. MockFlow

MockFlow is an intuitive tool for web designers that excels at both speedy wireframing and UI planning. The tool's wireframing capabilities are simple but powerful. With this all-in-one tool, designers can take their wireframes all the way from sketch to prototype.

Why use MockFlow for wireframing

MockFlow has a low learning curve, which makes it another good option for beginners or non-technical users. With this intuitive tool, designers can create and iterate on wireframes quickly. It also comes well-stocked with pre-built UI packs to help cut down on time even more.

Another pro of using MockFlow is its revision history system. This handy feature helps designers easily keep track of their multiple iterations. Plus, the tool is conducive to collaboration with its annotated feedback capabilities.

What's the catch?

One of the drawbacks to using MockFlow is that it runs on Adobe Flash in the browser. This can cause issues for some users. However, a Desktop app is available to download on both Mac and PC if you're on the WireframePro plan.

In terms of pricing, the free forever plan is limited to one project with three pages and up to two reviewers. The Premium plan starts at $14/month.

7. Cacoo

Cacoo is a diagramming tool that can be used for wireframing, among other things. Although it's not built exclusively for wireframes, it offers a large collection of templates and integrations that make wireframing quick and easy.

Why use Cacoo for wireframing

Cacoo is heavy on collaboration; team members can edit at the same time, track changes, and discuss live over chat, comments, and even video chat. Designers can create both low- and mid-fidelity wireframes with Cacoo. The tool also makes it easy to create sitemaps and other diagrams that are helpful for strategizing.

Another draw of using Cacoo is its generous free forever plan. With this plan, users can create up to six sheets, export PNG files, and even collaborate with unlimited other users through comments, chat, and video chat. Cacoo's Pro plan is very affordable at $5/month.

What's the catch?

One of the issues that comes up with Cacoo is performance. Since it's a web-based app, it can be slow and laggy for some users. In addition, Cacoo is not an all-in-one solution for transforming wireframes into interactive mockups and prototypes.

Learn our proven process for designing high-value websites from scratch

In this post, we introduced seven great tools that web designers can use to get started with wireframing for free. Each tool has its pros and cons, however, any tool would work so long as you are comfortable with and enjoy using it.

Whichever tool you use for wireframing, it's important to keep in mind that tools alone are not going to make you a better designer. In order to create top-notch websites for your clients, it's essential to form a deep understanding of web design principles and techniques, and then practice putting them into action, over and over again. Web design is not a skill that can be mastered overnight; however, courses like The $10k Website Process can dramatically enhance your skills and growth as a freelance web designer.

The $10k Website Process is a step-by-step course that has taught over 3,000 designers a proven process for designing strategic websites that solve real problems for clients. Click here to learn more about the course and join the waitlist.

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