These tools will help you design better products. Most of them have free trial versions. Some tools are great for small teams (less than 10). Some tools are great for large teams (over 50). The list is organized by when they’re used in the product lifecycle (from ideation to launch).
Tools for Leading Brainstorming Sessions:
Popplet – This is my favorite brainstorming tool. Using Poppet feels like using a virtual board with digital post it notes. Fun to use. Multiple people can plot down ideas on the same board in real time. Great for small and large teams.
Tools for Creating Flow diagrams:
Lucidchart – This tool shines with it’s simple user interface and minimal feature set. I prefer using Lucidchart over Microsoft Visio. Lucidchart feels simple and light while Microsoft Visio feels heavy and bloated. Lucidchart is a web app. This makes it easy to collaborate with other team members. Great for small and large teams.
Omnigraffle – Omnigraffle has a lot of features and shapes. It’s a power tool. Omnigraffle lets you import Microsoft Visio VSD files. The navigation is built on a “layers” concept similar to photoshop. Omnigraffle is a tool that you need to install on a computer. This means sharing files back and forth amongst team members can be a pain. Better for small teams.
Tools for Creating Wireframes:
Balsamiq – Simple and light weight. This tool let you quickly create wireframes. Balsamiq wireframes are flat. This means you don’t get to create interactions. It’s great for creating simple websites or apps. If your product is complex (interactions, many UI components), Omnigraffle and Axure will be a better fit. Great for small teams.
Omnigraffle – This tool has more features than Balsamiq. It let’s you create reusable UI components. Pages can get messy if you don’t organize it well using layers. Better for small teams.
Axure – Axure is a powerful tool. It includes many features. You can create interactive controls (radial buttons, checkboxes, states) and reusable components. You can also build an interactive prototype with one click. Axure also let you annotate your wireframes. This helps you create detailed specs. Great for small teams.
Tools for Building a Prototype:
Invision – Create interactions by adding customizeable “hotspots” to your design. You can also comment directly on a design from the prototype experience to add more context. Invision also has a cool iPhone app that let you capture recordings and interactions with your prototypes while seeing users’ faces and hearing their voice. Great for small and large teams.
Justinmind – Includes over 500+ Web and Mobile Widgets. Some of the widgets can be used to insert HTML, Docs, and video. Justinemind also let you design smart forms and data grids that you can test instantly. Great for small teams.
Tools for Managing a Feature Backlog:
Asana – Simple and light weight. This product was created by one of the early founders of Facebook. Easy drag-and-drop interface let you quickly prioritize features and load images. If your product has less than 50 features / bugs at one time, this is a great tool to use. Great for small teams.
Pivotal Tracker – Simple and light weight. This product was created with Agile development in mind. Pivotal Tracker has more powerful tracking and reporting features than Asana. It has a great UI that display just the right amount of information to help you track things. Great for small teams.
JIRA – This is a power tool. JIRA has many ways to customize views, fields, and reports. This tool can quickly overwhelm you if you’re using it for the first time. Easily integrates with Confluence. Powerful tracking and reporting. Great for large teams with complex products.
Launching a Product:
Launchrock – Easy to use. This tool lets you create viral “Launching Soon” pages. The pages include built in sharing tools and analytics. Lots of templates to choose from. All templates automatically support mobile web. Great for small and large teams.
What are your favorite tools?
I’ve started to use Aha! for product management. It’s really interesting, despite a few strange features.
I love what you’ve started here on this blog Charles! Perhaps you could add a section for prototyping tools in this post like Justinmind. Many of these tool suites are designed to be part of the production process, with their own reporting capabilities. I have heard people like trello for very early stage project collaboration/management. I find it too lightweight but appreciate how it ties into sunrise calendar (which is awesome.)