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10 Best Design Thinking Tools in 2022

Design Thinking Tools Shortlist

Here is the shortlist of the 10 best online design thinking tools I’ve selected:

  1. UserTesting

    Best for video feedback from users

  2. Invision

    Best design thinking tool for rich, interactive prototypes

  3. Marvel

    Best design thinking tool for rapid prototyping & testing

  4. Stormboard

    Best tool for building a shared workspace

  5. Smaply

    Best tool for customer journey mapping

  6. Ideaflip

    Best for small group breakout sessions

  7. Userforge

    Best for persona generation

  8. Sprintbase

    Best design thinking analytics & reporting suite

  9. Mural

    Best design thinking tool for enterprise collaboration

  10. Miro

    Best agile design thinking tool

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Online design thinking tools can come in handy—they help you organize your thoughts and plan your trajectory toward product innovation. Design thinking helps you develop creative solutions to technical problems in customer-centric ways.

Design thinking can become complex because you are constantly balancing idea viability + affordability (for the business) + desirability (for the end user). Design thinking apps are made to guide you through the 5 design thinking stages and then track new ideas through project start to project completion.

In this article, I have selected the best design thinking tools on the market and explained how each works, what they do best, and outlined basic features, integrations, and pricing information.

How I Selected the Best Design Thinking Tools

If you're wondering how I selected the best design thinking tools, here's where I'll break it all down for you. First of all, I started with tools that have high user review and satisfaction ratings. Then, using my experience in customer experience deisgn, I discerned what key criteria were most important for design thinking tools and compared how each of them stacked up against the rest.

If you have more general questions about design thinking, you can skip to our FAQ at the bottom of the page. Or, you can jump right to the 10 best design thinking tools overviews if you're ready to start comparing.

Selection Criteria

After careful consideration, I've determined that these are the most important criteria when selecting the best software. Here's a brief list outlining the whats and whys of my selection.

User Interface (UI):

Is the design thinking tool UX clean and attractive? Are ideas easy to post and group together by theme? Can you access key features easily from the menus or side panels?

Usability:

Design thinking is all about empathy and functionality for the end user. So what would it say if a design thinking tool has poor usability? I look for tools that practice what they preach and are easy to learn and master. I also check whether the user experience is satisfying and engaging and how responsive their customer service team is.

Integrations:

Is the platform easy to connect with other software? Any pre-built integrations? Can it connect to storage software like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or OneDrive? Can they connect to graphics or icon databases, like The Noun Project or Adobe? 

Pricing:

How appropriate is the price for the features, capabilities, and use case? Is pricing clear, transparent, and flexible? These tools tend to range from $4 to $30 per user monthly, on average—does the tool fall far outside of that range? How many collaborators are included in the monthly or yearly cost? How many user persona are included in the cost?

Overviews Of The 10 Best Design Thinking Tools

Here’s a brief description of each of the tools on my list showing what it does best, plus screenshots to showcase some of the features.

1

UserTesting

Best for video feedback from users

As you probably already know, the 5th stage in the design thinking pipeline is 'Testing.' That's where UserTesting comes in. Very nearly completely self-explanatory from the brand name, UserTesting is a design testing and user feedback software. With it, you can source end users from their pool of testers or introduce your own and then have them record their experience with your product on video and screen capture. UserTesting has modules for live interviewing, usability testing, brand messaging testing, card sorting, tree testing, and clickstream testing.

Why I Picked UserTesting: UserTesting has a huge focus on, well, user testing. Design thinking is about empathizing with your end user and designing features and services they need most. But your best guess may not be what customers want. UserTesting can help by testing your theories and then organizing the insights you collect in a meaningful way.

UserTesting Standout Features and Integrations

Features include analytics, dashboards, data import, external integrations, notifications, customer management, scheduling, net promoter score, and calendar management.

Integrations include Qualtrics, Jira, Slack, Trello, Adobe XD, Outlook Calendar, and Google Calendar. 

Trial Demo

Available upon request

2

Invision

Best design thinking tool for rich, interactive prototypes

Invision is design thinking software you can use as an online whiteboard to collaborate with your team. Invision’s dashboard lets you view existing projects and their statuses to help you manage resources and meet deadlines. You can embed Jira issues, Kanban boards, and Google docs in Invision, so there is no need to use separate apps.

Why I Picked Invision: Invision is the best design thinking tool if you want to create visually appealing and feature-rich prototypes. With Invision, users can interact with the features of your prototype to identify features that need improvements. Users can provide feedback within the prototype, so you have a centralized database of in-context customer suggestions.

Invision Standout Features & Integrations

Features include workflow management, UI & UX design, automations, ideas management, and product management.

Integrations include Google Workspace, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Adobe XD, Sketch, Asana, Zoom, Azure, Microsoft Word, Spotify, Slack, Google Maps, WebEx, Figma, Loom, and Trello.

Free version available

From $4.95/user/month

3

Marvel

Best design thinking tool for rapid prototyping & testing

Marvel is a design thinking tool for creating wireframes and prototypes of new products or features. You can use Marvel as a central database for feedback and ideas for your CX team. Marvel even has an event tracking feature to identify which users experienced issues during testing and which surface designs are good to go. Marvel’s user testing system lets you gather text, audio, and video feedback from users, design team members, and external stakeholders.

Why I Picked Marvel: Marvel is the best design thinking tool if you want to complete projects quickly because it allows rapid prototyping and testing. Its sketch tool allows you to transform design mock-ups into working prototypes without coding.

Marvel Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, notifications, Gantt charts, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations include Jira, Confluence, Sketch, Microsoft products, YouTube, Niice, Smartmockups, Keynote, Userflows, Botbot, Zeroheight, Ballpark, and Dropbox Paper.

Free Plan

From $12/user/month

4

Stormboard

Best tool for building a shared workspace

Stormboard is a design thinking tool for identifying, prioritizing, and acting on innovative ideas. It uses agile product management to let you strategize, create product roadmaps, and collaborate on projects. Stormboard has an ideation feature for brainstorming and generating solutions for issues you encounter during product design and development phases.

Why I Picked Stormboard: Stormboard helps keep your entire team on the same page through a shared workspace. It allows you to create folders for different teams, projects, and departments. You can use Stormboard to remotely co-edit files and presentations with your team. It even allows members to chat or use comments to communicate and send files to one another.

Stormboard Standout Features & Integrations

Features include calendar management, dashboards, data import/export, notifications, scheduling, task scheduling/tracking, roadmapping, collaboration support, budgeting, data visualizations, project management, and third-party plugins/add-ons.

Integrations include Azure DevOps, Jira, Google Drive, and Slack.

From $10/user/month

5

Smaply

Best tool for customer journey mapping

Smaply is journey mapping software used to manage and improve customer experience strategies. It has a stakeholder mapping feature for visualizing how stakeholders may influence and interact with your products. Smaply acts as a central information database for all projects to identify and eliminate redundancies.

Why I Picked Smaply: Smaply's customer journey map builder allows you to envision how customers will use your product and the issues they might encounter. Smaply also has text lanes to note down ideas for improving your product or save them for future projects.

Smaply Standout Features & Integrations

Features include customer management, data import/export, dashboards, notifications, and data visualization.

Integrations include Jira as well as import/export data options from Mural, Excel, Miro, and Lucidspark.

Free plan available

From $20/user/month

6

Ideaflip

Best for small group breakout sessions

Ideaflip is an online collaboration tool with digital sticky notes, commenting, and a graphics library for sharing ideas with a group. It has unlimited boards to use in as many projects as you need. The software allows you to add up to two guest collaborators for projects requiring outside stakeholders or contractors.

Why I Picked Ideaflip: Ideaflip is the best design thinking tool for online collaboration with a breakout group template for managing large groups. This design software lets you create smaller groups so everyone can participate during discussions. Ideaflip allows you to assign members randomly to ensure equal team distribution and foster camaraderie.

Ideaflip Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, notifications, Gantt charts, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations are not listed publicly on their website but they do claim that custom integrations are part of their Enterprise subscription package.

Free plan available

From $9/user/month

7

Userforge

Best for persona generation

Userforge is a persona creator tool for creating products that align with real-world user needs. It has more than 1,000 icons to allow you to create polished and professional-looking personas. You can invite other team members to your Userforge project to get more insights and share the workload. This tool has an integrated image library with thousands of images to create interesting personas. It also has customizable text output that lets you create user or buyer personas in several languages.

Why I Picked Userforge: Userforge is the best empathizing design tool because it lets you build user personas to get into the head of users and know how they feel and what they need. You can add more content to your user persona template as you learn more about your users’ needs.

Userforge Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, notifications, Gantt charts, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations are not listed publicly on their website.

Free trial (1 persona)

From $16/month (10 users)

8

Sprintbase

Best design thinking analytics & reporting suite

Sprintbase is a design thinking tool used by companies across different industries, like NBCUniversal, eBay, Perdue University, and Deloitte. Sprintbase was designed to help companies turn observations into prototypes and then implement them, all without in-depth design or technical know-how. They offer built-in tutorials to get the most out of the tool; customizable and collaborative whiteboards and workspaces; team performance analytics and output reports; small group breakout boards; storyboarding tools; and a creative assets bank.

Why I Picked Sprintbase: Not only does Sprintbase offer design thinking visualizations, they have plenty of handy charts and dashboards for measuring output reports and performance analytics. You can track quantitative inputs by team member or department and even generate PDF reports with one click (literally). This is very unique in the design thinking software space.

Sprintbase Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, notifications, Gantt charts, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations include digital calendars like Google and Outlook.

Free trial upon request

From $1,500/studio/year (5 users)

9

Mural

Best design thinking tool for enterprise collaboration

Mural is a digital whiteboard and collaboration software that lets your team work together in real-time or asynchronously to contribute to a shared visualization. This visualization can be filled with sticky notes, drawings, text, icons, gifs, and graphics. You can let your team freestyle on a completely blank board or leverage a pre-made template (or a template you designed yourself) for a more focused approach. The canvas is infinite and resizable with a flexible permissions system⁠—so you can go wild with a limitless ideas space or hone in on a specific goal. 

Why I Picked Mural: Mural is the best design thinking tool for enterprises because it gives team members an equal space to contribute during ideation and planning workshops. It has an anonymous voting feature to give equal opportunity to voice preferences and/or concerns. You can add an unlimited number of users to have all hands on deck when tackling complex problems.

Mural Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, resource management, task scheduling/tracking, notifications, Gantt charts, prioritization, calendar management, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations include Adobe, Asana, Airtable, Azure, Butter, Confluence, DropBox, Embedly, Figma, Giphy, GitHub, Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Notion, Slack, Trello, Unsplash, Zoom, and additional connections through a Zapier account (may require a separate subscription). 

Free plan available

From $9/user/month

10

Miro

Best agile design thinking tool

Miro is an online, collaborative design thinking tool that works a lot like a digital whiteboard. You can start from a blank page or use a template, then users can post sticky notes, create mindmaps, add graphics or icons, create color pallets, or even illustrate ideas freehand. You can translate Miro into over 100 different languages so language barriers need not apply when coming up with your best, most innovative new ideas. 

Why I Picked Miro: Miro is great for agile teams who need to work fast and innovate often. This is in part thanks to their vast integration options, which lets you quickly send Miro whiteboards and charts to other project management and communication channels. They offer attention management tools, premade templates, and smart diagramming to help you ideate and execute quickly.

Miro Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, resource management, task scheduling/tracking, notifications, Gantt charts, prioritization, calendar management, data visualizations, and data import/export.

Integrations include Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Atlassian, Brandfest, Figma, Slack, Asana, Airtable, Zoom, Azure, Notion, Box, and more if you join the Miro Developer Platform and access their web SDK and/or REST API.

Free plan

From $8/user/month

The 10 Best Design Thinking Tools Summary Table

Tool Free Option Price
1
UserTesting

Best for video feedback from users

Trial Demo

Available upon request Visit Website
2
Invision

Best design thinking tool for rich, interactive prototypes

Free version available

From $4.95/user/month Visit Website
3
Marvel

Best design thinking tool for rapid prototyping & testing

Free Plan

From $12/user/month Visit Website
4
Stormboard

Best tool for building a shared workspace

Not available

From $10/user/month Visit Website
5
Smaply

Best tool for customer journey mapping

Free plan available

From $20/user/month Visit Website
6
Ideaflip

Best for small group breakout sessions

Free plan available

From $9/user/month Visit Website
7
Userforge

Best for persona generation

Free trial (1 persona)

From $16/month (10 users) Visit Website
8
Sprintbase

Best design thinking analytics & reporting suite

Free trial upon request

From $1,500/studio/year (5 users) Visit Website
9
Mural

Best design thinking tool for enterprise collaboration

Free plan available

From $9/user/month Visit Website
10
Miro

Best agile design thinking tool

Free plan

From $8/user/month Visit Website

Other Tools

Here’s a few more that didn’t make the top list.

  1. Boords - Best web-based storyboarding software
  2. Mockingbird - Best drag and drop UI elements
  3. Digisite - Best for design thinking tool for marketing, CX/UX, and innovation teams
  4. Batterii - Best tool for turning video reviews into insight reports

Free Design Thinking Tool Kit & More

Though they may have some limitations compared to their paid-subscription counterparts, using a free design tool is a great option for smaller teams or those looking to simply test the waters of the software first. 

Free possible solutions include: 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Think?

Design thinking solutions can help you plan a successful product from start to finish. It’s a way to organize your design process so that no note is forgotten. They can help you visualize where you are and where you are going. 

Have you tried any of the tools listed above? What online design thinking tool would you add to this list? 

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Related List of Tools: UX Software For Designing And Prototyping

By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. Her goal is to bring together a community of CX professionals to learn, interact, and voice their own opinions on this ever-evolving industry.

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