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Our Favorite Mobile Product Design Tools

November 22, 2017

The app boom isn't over; it's ramping up. At the end of the App Store's first year in 2008, it featured just 5,000 apps. Today, it clocks in at 2.5 million. In the next three and a half years, according to Sensor Tower's forecast, it'll double in size to 5 million apps. By 2020, there will be more iOS apps available than people living in Ireland, New Zealand, or Costa Rica.

But with so many apps vying for users' attention, growing (and, more importantly, keeping) a user base is tougher than ever. The secret? Standout design.

Great apps start with great tools. Only with state-of-the-art mobile design and development tools can app developers hope to claim their share of that multibillion-dollar revenue pie.

Every team has its favorites, of course. But after trying dozens of different tools, we at Yeti use the following four for nearly every mobile design project:

Mobile App Design Tools to Try

1. Sketch

Our mobile app design tool of choice, Sketch helps us lay out everything from pixel-perfect icons to full-scale user interface workflows. We've grown particularly fond of Sketch Symbols, which allow us to reuse UI elements and maintain consistency across screens.

Complex design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can take weeks or months to learn, but the basics of Sketch can be learned in hours. To kickstart your next design, try Sketch's built-in templates and art boards for both iOS and Android devices.

2. Invision

During the prototyping phase, our designers use Invision to create a clickable walkthrough of the app. Demoing an interactive version helps us solicit feedback from users and stakeholders, preventing us from wasting valuable development time down the road.

The best part of Invision? It allows reviewers to comment directly on screens within the tool, massively streamlining client collaboration. We've even built a design approval process using Invision's workflow tool to track progress and input across multiple parties.

3. Zeplin

Zeplin is both an app design and development tool. Before we found it, our designers had to write notes on their mockups about font sizes, margins, colors, and more and then wait for our developers to produce a new version. When developers didn't have that information available to them, they had to guess. Zeplin automatically pulls styles from our Sketch files, giving developers the information they need and allowing them to export sliced images into Android Studio or Xcode.

When we worked on "Chelsea Handler: Gotta Go" last year, Zeplin served as our single source of truth for finalized mockups, minimizing miscommunication. After showing clients our mockups in Invision, we moved them back to Zeplin to finalize the builds. Thanks to Zeplin, the team saved time and gained clarity on what needed to be done.

4. Principle

Although there's no shortage of app animation tools available, we prefer Principle. We use it to bring our UI workflows to life by prototyping microinteractions and screen transitions. It imports easily from Sketch and has a similar UI, making it quick to learn.

But Principle does more than design animations. When we worked with PlayStation to create concepts for an app to connect and reward gamers, we used Principle to share our ideas with PlayStation's team.

Designers often struggle to verbally communicate actions, interactions, gestures, and animations. Iterating on those interactions before they're implemented in code can make things even worse. By keeping designers, developers, and clients in the know about an app's animations, Principle boosts productivity and team alignment.

No app can succeed without stellar design. But design is only half the story. For the full picture, check out our whitepaper, "The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Design and Development." Discover more great tools, read about common mistakes to avoid, learn to manage your timeline, and gain the skills you need to make your app stand out from the sea of software.

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