Free Tools and Resources for UX and UI Design
by Anna Khrupa on Jul 26, 2021
Whether you are just starting your career as a UX/UI designer or not, it’s never been easier to start working on a project right away. The tools are getting better and smarter thanks to AI. You can research an entire market even if you are located on the other side of the world. And, of course, you can learn new skills and techniques from the comfort of your home and at your own pace.
The number of resources and tools for designers seems unending, from design hubs and blogs to apps and browser plugins. Sometimes the number of available options might seem overwhelming. Even experienced designers find navigating through all the available options a bit exhausting. And sometimes, you might waste valuable time trying to design UI elements that are already available to download for free.
I asked the UX and UI designers from ManyPixels to share their favorite tools and resources that help them in everyday work. The lists I got from them was pretty extensive and included everything, from sources of inspiration to tools and libraries that allow them to speed up their workflow.
We narrowed everything down and organized every resource into categories based on the different stages of the design process. Hopefully, this digested list of free tools and resources for UX and UI design will help you with your next project.
What does it take to make a good UX/UI design?
A good design rarely happens in a moment of inspiration or by accident. It always takes a lot of work, a seemingly endless number of iterations, and a lot of patience. Sometimes it seems that the job will never be done. Other times it seems that the job is going way too smoothly, and you keep wondering if you missed something.
Making a website, an app, or another digital product is more than just simple wireframing. It’s a process that requires a lot of research, data gathering and analysis, and some designing in between. There are five crucial stages in every UX/UI design process:
- Understand and research; The first stage is focused on identifying the target audience for the product. We gather data about our ideal users and about their needs and expectations from the product that we are creating through research.
- Analyze; In this stage, we analyze the gathered data and draw conclusions and patterns about what our users want.
- Ideate; This is where we start to make first concepts about the design of our product.
- Validate; Once we have the first concepts, we start building the prototype that will help us test the concepts and ideas with our target audience.
- Iterate; It is very likely that during the validation stage, we encountered some problems, or we got better ideas on how to make some of the things in our product.
The first and one of the most critical steps in creating a compelling user experience is research. Knowing your target audience or users, what they want, and how your product or service can help them is the foundation of every UX/UI design project.Instead of guessing what your potential users want, you should always research and make decisions based on the obtained information. Good UX research is always data-driven and always relies on the answers provided by the users. This way, their voice can be heard in the development process. You also gain invaluable information that can direct the progress of your design project.
There are two distinctive types of UX research, and you can pick the most appropriate one based on the information you are trying to get. Qualitative research is usually focused on non-numerical information. It provides us information about “why” something works a certain way and “how” it makes the users feel. On the other hand, quantitative research is focused on measurable information such as the time and percentage of users who complete specific steps in the app or on the website.
These research types can be further divided into research methods. They can help further refine the research and get even more precise and detailed insights during the research phase. The most commonly used research methods when it comes to UX are:
- A/B testing
- Usability testing
- First click testing
- User interviews
UX/UI research tools
The number of practical tools that can help with the research grows every year. Performing complex analysis no longer requires big budgets and a lot of time. Today options range from free to budget-friendly, and you can find tools suitable for any team size. Your only job is to figure out what kind of data you need and which methods will help you get the desired information efficiently.
If you want to take the guesswork out of your design decisions, then UsabilityHub should be the right place to start. This remote research platform provides a great selection of testing tools that can help you collect data efficiently. They offer first click tests, design surveys, preference, and five-second tests.
UsabilityHub allows you to get relevant information from your potential target audience. You can select test users based on criteria such as gender, age, location, education, etc.
Pricing: Free package gives you access to all test types and allows you to perform tests that are up to two minutes long. There are also Basic, Pro, and Enterprise plans which start at US $79 per month.
While Google Analytics is irreplaceable when analyzing website traffic data, it still lacks insight into how users use it. Hotjar bridges this gap successfully, allowing designers great insight into users’ behavior on the website.
By placing a short snippet of code from Hotjar on your website, you start gathering data about how your visitors behave through session recordings. You can see the scroll depth for each page you track, mouse movements, and clicks.
The data is presented in the form of interactive heat maps. The service also offers quick surveys and polls. You can target the specific type of users based on demographic data shared through Hotjar’s Identify API.
Pricing: Basic plan offers limited features and data, which are more than enough for small projects. Plus, Business, and Scale plans offer free trials and provide more data recordings. The prices for paid plans start at US $39 per month for the Plus plan.
Axure RP (free 30-day trial)
This tool is a favorite among UX designers because it allows them to test complex interactions early on in a project. Axure RP enables you to build realistic and functional UX prototypes with virtually unlimited combinations of actions, conditions, and trigger events.
These prototypes allow you to explore the entire experience without the need to have even an MVP. You can use touch, mouse, or keyboard events to trigger interactions and ad conditions and variables to make your prototype as realistic as possible. With simple drag-and-drop, you can place various elements such as text fields, drop lists, and multi-state panels.
Pricing: Axure RP offers a free 30-day trial with full access to all of the options. Axure RP Pro starts at US $29 per month and gives you unlimited prototypes, reviews, advanced prototyping, and cloud storage.
Google Analytics (free)
As one of the most insightful tools for analyzing web traffic, Google Analytics provides valuable insights into trends and user flow on your website. Marketers mostly use it, but a growing number of web developers and designers use it to analyze and improve the user interface and experience.
Google Analytics requires some time to master all its options. However, with the latest update, GA reports became more intuitive and easier to understand and combine.
Pricing: Google Analytics is completely free. It only requires some of your time to learn the basics.
Finding an inspiration
Finding inspiration for any creative project today shouldn’t be complicated or challenging. There are many places online that can provide great insight into the work of other designers or upcoming design trends. Even though the number of available websites can seem a bit overwhelming, almost every designer will point you towards these few.
Behance is by far the most popular design hub. There isn’t a designer that doesn’t have a portfolio there. No matter what type of design inspiration you are looking for, chances are you will find it on Behance.
Dribbble is not only a great place to browse an endless feed of unique designs, but it is also a great place to share and learn new skills. Many UX and UI designers made their first steps sharing and picking up skills from other designers here.
Creative Bloq provides a daily mix of inspiration and advice for artists. Their “How To” section offers a fantastic selection of tips, tricks, and knowledge sharing.
Land-book is a collection of well-designed landing pages that is updated daily. It was made to help designers, front-end developers, and marketers find inspiration for their upcoming projects and share their best work.
Screenlane offers an incredible collection of the latest app and web UI designs divided into various categories. You can browse the content based on the platform, screens, elements, product categories, or products.
UI Sources lets you browse their collection of over 800 interactions and over 2400 screenshots. The free version is limited to looking only. In contrast, the paid version enables you to browse through categories and patterns. It even lets you request a particular app to be added to the collection.
Muz.li the best-kept secret among designers is this aggregator of fantastic design ideas. Muzli mines design sources such as Dribbble, Behance, Mashable, Designspiration, etc., and gives you a personalized source of inspiration. It is also available as a browser extension (Chrome and Safari) and as an iOS app.
Gathering building blocks
Creating a prototype for your app, website, or any other digital product has changed dramatically during the past decade. From simple wireframes that required a lot of imagination from the viewers, we got to prototypes indistinguishable from the actual product.
An essential part of every UI design process is wireframing. During this process, designers create something like a blueprint of the website. This is a low-fidelity version of the proposed design, and it serves as guidance to designers and developers. Wireframe helps them understand how the users will interact with the interface and where to place all the necessary design elements.
On the other hand, prototyping is a high-fidelity design of the final UI that offers limited interactive design options. Prototypes help present and validate the functionality of the final design.
Making wireframes and prototypes is much easier today, thanks to many free templates and UI kits. They are very much like blueprints and building blocks that help you quickly develop concepts for your designs. No matter which software you decide to use, there is undoubtedly a collection of free assets online.
UI wireframe kits
The designing process is a very individual thing, and it differs from designer to designer. However, in the majority of cases, wireframing is part of the workflow. No matter which design app or prototyping tool you decided to use, wireframe templates and UI kits can significantly speed up your workflow.
UIstore.design is an aggregator of free and donation-supported design templates. At the moment of writing, they had almost 600 free UI kits in their database.
Free Design Resources is created by designers for designers. The idea behind this project is to help designers share and get free resources for their projects. The entire database of UI kits can be filtered by software compatibility, design properties, and type of license.
Sketch App Sources offers a large selection (over 240 at the moment of writing) of wireframe kits and prototype resources for Sketch. You can find almost anything that you might need to bring your designs to life quickly.
Figma Crush is one of the most popular resources for designers who use Figma. It has a great selection of free and premium UI and wireframe kits. And it also has a substantial library of web design templates.
XD Guru is created for the users of Adobe XD. It has a great selection of UI kits and resources, as well as device mockups, animations, and XD plugins.
UI Design Daily offers thousands of UI resources for almost any design software you might use. You can subscribe to their daily newsletter and get all new updates in your mailbox. All of the items on the website are available under the Creative Commons license.
Illustrations and stock photos
In order to make your high-fidelity wireframes and prototypes more believable, you will have to use visuals. Adding photos and illustrations to your prototypes help you show both stakeholders and test users your creative vision. It allows them to see the potential results before the project goes to developers.
Undraw is an open-source library of vector illustrations. You can search the library by simply typing in your keywords. You can change the color of the images with a simple slider or by typing in a HEX code, and you can download them in SVG or PNG format.
They update their library regularly, and all illustrations are free to use for personal and commercial projects.
ManyPixels was launched to help small businesses, marketing teams, and startups get fast and affordable design services. Besides offering subscription-based design services, including UX and UI designs and custom illustrations, ManyPixels is also famous for its free resources tailored for both businesses and designers.
They have a library of over 2,000 royalty-free illustrations that you can customize easily. The illustrations are divided into types: monochromatic, isometric, flatline, outline, and two-color. You can adjust their base colors with a slider or by typing in HEX code, and once you have the illustration you need, you can download either SVG or PNG version.
Ira Design allows you to build your illustrations in two styles, colored or outlined. You get to customize some of the colors on the images and then download them in SVG or PNG format. The library is not very large, but Ira Design allows you to download all the assets and customize them according to your needs.
Icons 8 offers more than icons for your design. You can find free illustrations, vectors, photos, and music that you can use for free in personal and commercial projects. However, the free versions of files come in smaller resolutions and a limited number of file types. Still, the available images and illustrations are more than enough to create good-looking wireframes and prototypes.
Is Graphics provides a library of high-quality mockups for displaying your designs. The mockups are available in various formats for Adobe XD, Photoshop, Sketch, and Figma. Just submit your email, and you are ready to go. All mockups are free for commercial and personal use.
Unsplash is one of the most popular places for getting free high-quality images for commercial and non-commercial use. You can search through their vast collection of photographs using keywords and then refine the search results based on image orientation, dominant color, and relevance.
Pexels provides not only a great selection of photos but also an extensive video library. All photos and videos are free for private and commercial use. Once you register your account, you can group the materials you like in collections. You can download video and image files in different resolutions.
Picking the right color palette
Unless you have precise branding guidelines, you are very likely struggling to come up with the right color palette for your designs. The selection of colors is not an irrelevant task. Do it right, and your app or website will be visually appealing. Do it wrong, and you will have to spend even more time undoing the damage.
Fortunately, more than a few free online tools can help you develop the right color combination for your project. Online color palette generators are supporting UI and graphic designers in finding a suitable variety of hues.
Adobe Color is by far one of the most powerful apps of this type. Just like every other software from Adobe, this one also offers a set of powerful tools in one product.
With Adobe Color, you can create a palette from scratch or by using your photos. With the help of the color wheel, you can create complementary, compound, monochromatic analogous, and triadic color palettes. This tool is entirely free, and if you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can check creations from other designers in a color gallery.
Color Hunt has one of the largest collections of color palettes. This website serves as an excellent place for color inspiration. You can browse the newest additions to the collection, the most popular ones, and some of the many thematic collections.
UX/UI resources that will help you grow as a designer
Continuous learning is part of the job description for every designer. No matter how much experience you get, there are always some new trends and technologies around the corner. It is never enough to master the tools, you have to master the art as well.
Last on our list are resources that can help you expand your knowledge, learn new skills, and discover upcoming trends. These are some of
UXMagazine has a community of over 500,000 UX designers that contribute daily with high-quality articles about the latest trends, new tools, and the future of UX and UI design. It is entirely free, and their library has over 2,000 articles divided into 150 topics.
Smashing Magazine offers a rich selection of blog posts, books, workshops, and newsletters specially tailored for UI and UX professionals. Even though some of the content is locked behind a paywall, there are still many valuable things for every designer and developer.
DesignCourse is one of the favorite YouTube channels of many UI/UX designers and front-end developers. Gary Simon, the host of the channel, is a full-stack developer and course instructor. You will find a real treasure trove of tutorials for beginner and advanced designers in his neatly organized playlists.
The Futur Academy is a YT channel dedicated to the development of creative professionals. These videos are made for individuals that are eager to sharpen their skills and advance their careers. You can find well-organized thematic playlists and dynamic and informative content.