22 very useful UX tools as recommended by the experts
Everyone has a tool they rely on to make their lives easier. I have a studded ogre’s club that I like to take into meetings to generate an air of intimidation and wild unpredictability. You probably have a favourite stapler or gimmicky bottle opener.
But how about the UX professional or the web designer suddenly rebranded as a UXer – what tools do they need to make their jobs easier? A studded ogre’s club and gimmicky bottle opener will only take them so far!
I took to my second favourite tool – our Slack community of UX professionals and enthusiasts – and asked them what UX tools they couldn’t live without.
All of them were fairly pragmatic and replied that they could easily continue to exist comfortably without any given wireframing or prototyping tool, and that perhaps I should rephrase my question to the less sensational “what UX tools make your job easier?” Ah UXers. Never change!
So here you go… a handful of UX tools as recommended by the experts. (And remember, you know where to go if you need a user research tool, yeah?)
Online UX tools/apps
As recommended by Lukas Ondrej: “My favourite tool at the moment is Sketch. I love how flexible it is from the point when I start transferring my rough sketch to more tangible designs all the way to final high-fidelity screen mockups.”
Sketch is $99 for a one-year licence with all the updates available during that time. Once the year is up, you can keep using the last version of Sketch you downloaded, forever.
Peter Hornsby: “My favourite UX tool is Axure, which is has been my go-to solution for rapid prototyping for years. As a way to quickly create attractive prototypes from low to high fidelity, across a range of devices (with the responsive design features), with sophisticated interactivity, it meets Alan Kay’s maxim of ‘Simple things should be simple, hard things should be possible’.
Sanil Patel: “Axure hands down. I’m able to create fully functioning prototypes with error messages, validation & animation. This creates a more rounded experience when users come across edge cases and I am able to understand unexpected behaviours.”
PowerPoint (with PowerMockup)
Pat D-O: “My favourite UX tool for a very long time is Microsoft PowerPoint with an extension called PowerMockup. It is very fast, it supports many helpful on-hover/on mouse click actions, animations, etc, and PowerMockup gives lots of predefined UI elements for various operating systems as well as a shared library. You can create with it both wireframes and high-fidelity mockups. Also, what’s quite important, you can easily share it with anybody, because PowerPoint is quite a commonly used tool.”
Sandra Ng: “My favourite UX tool is the Post-it app! It’s amazing! You can create boards from scratch digitally. Even more amazing is you can take a photo of a physical Post-it board and change it to a digital format, allowing you to move the Post-its around. I recommend everyone check it out – so cool!”
There were loads of other online tools mentioned by our experts in passing, that I will quickly run-down here:
Web Audit helps you maintain your site by running automatic audits that help you find and fix problems that affect user experience.
Also check out our list of 16 useful accessibility tools and resources for other ways to improve the online world.
Video conferencing software with cloud-based recording capabilities, handy for moderating conversations with clients, testers and colleagues.
An ‘infinite’ online whiteboard, handy for remote collaborating between members of your product team.
For mind mapping. Which sounds like something Derren Brown or Will Graham does, but is in fact another name for brainstorming. Mindmeister is a web-based tool that lets you collaborate on, capture and share ideas.
It’s basically a lite version of Sketch that comes with prototyping features.
If heatmaps are your thing, Hotjar offers a comprehensive service, with added bonuses such as conversion funnels, form analysis, polls and surveys.
Upload your design files and add animations, gestures, and transitions to transform your static screens into clickable, interactive prototypes. Well I’m just stealing copy direct from the website now.
Screen capture software that allows you to edit your screenshots and videos.
A collaborative interface tool, which makes for a potentially cheaper substitute for Sketch if you just want to pay monthly for a short period of time.
Get organised, you wild and crazy malcontent, with my third favourite tool, which keeps my own content strategy in check.
Actual physical things that actually exist in the real world
I know. Sick. People STILL use stuff that they can touch in the real world. Don’t they know that’s how germs are spread? Well, until we live in a glorious utopia where we remain in our own strictly monitored hyperbaric chambers, interacting with the world purely through VR units, here is some stationery and stuff that people find useful…
Sticky notes (branded ‘Post-it’ or otherwise)
Edyta Niemyjska: “My favourite UX tool are sticky notes. I use them to plan my research, I make the users organise them or draw on them, and I use them to organise my own thoughts when I’m putting it all together. I can’t believe I went though so many years of grad school without using them everyday.”
Elizabeth Chesters: “Love those buggers. I use them for prototyping, personas, empathy maps, workshops, reports – pretty much everything. I’ve gone out in the pouring rain to for shops for sticky notes to do a report.”
Voice recorder on a mobile phone
Chris Wright: “My favourite UX tool is the voice recorder on my phone. It saves me having to write notes whilst conducting interviews, which allows me to focus on what I need to do rather than rushing to make notes.”
As this Amazon reviewer eloquently states, Sharpies are “totaly [sic] Jazzy B [sic]”
Mmm, these are pretty sexy…
Holy crikey, HOW MUCH?
Notepad and pen
Use one of the 15 agency branded Moleskine notepads you were given at that last marketing conference.
You will never need a flip-chart again. Until you accidentally use the permanent markers. Also not very practical for commuting.
Less permanent than paper. Slightly more permanent and professional than an Etch-a-Sketch.
Rulers and T-squares
No more lining things up against a crisp packet to draw an emergency straight line.
Not actually tools, but thanks anyway 🙄
Some UXers thought they were being clever by suggesting things that aren’t actually tools. These are what some people refer to as ‘soft skills’. I refer to them as, ‘no actually think of an actual tool please, this isn’t helpful for my article thanks’.
- “Fussy users who aren’t afraid to complain”
- “Insatiable curiosity”
- “My favorite UX tool is picky users who aren’t afraid to say what and why!”
- “Conversation with my users”
- “I’d say it’s curiosity. Helps you formulate your questions, find a solution, experiment and take the feedback onboard”
- “My favorite tools aren’t tools at all, as they are USERS. Google analytics comes only second :)”
Well they’re all cheaper than a Copic marker I suppose.
For an in-depth and entertaining guide to getting started with user research, read our brand new comprehensive e-book: User Experience Research 101.
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager for EMEA, which basically means the skipper of the good ship ‘UserZoom blog’. So far his requests for changing its name to the ‘USS-erzoom Blog’ have been rightfully denied. In his spare time, Christopher is a filmmaker and the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy, editor of Search Engine Watch, staff writer for ClickZ and features editor of CMO.com.