Skip to main content

With so many different design thinking tools available, figuring out which one is right for you is time-consuming. You know you want a tool to help you understand design problems and generate creative solutions, but you need to figure out which option is best. In this article, I'll help you make this choice easier by sharing my insights on the best design thinking tools to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration when navigating design challenges.

What are Design Thinking Tools?

Design thinking tools include the software, methods, techniques, and processes used to facilitate the design thinking approach, a human-centered problem-solving method that puts the user's needs and experiences at the forefront of the design process. These tools aim to promote empathy, creativity, and collaboration among team members to generate innovative solutions to complex problems.

Some examples of design thinking tools include persona creation, journey mapping, empathy maps, brainstorming, storyboarding, prototyping, and user testing. These tools help teams gather insights, identify user needs, ideate and develop solutions, and validate and iterate on those solutions based on user feedback. Overall, design thinking tools help teams approach problems with a user-centered mindset and generate meaningful solutions that meet user needs.

Overviews of the 10 Best Design Thinking Tools

Here are brief descriptions of the top 10 design thinking tools on my shortlist that highlight what each tool does best, plus screenshots to showcase some of the features. I’ve also included a few more bonus options below if you’d like even more options to consider.

Best agile design thinking tool

  • Free plan available
  • From $10/user/month
Visit Website
Rating: 4.8/5

Miro is an online, collaborative design thinking tool that works a lot like a digital whiteboard. Its vast canvas accommodates a variety of expressions, from sticky notes and mind maps to images and freehand drawings, facilitating diverse idea representation. You also 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. Notably, the tool's integration with project and task management applications like Jira and Asana streamlines the transition from ideation to actionable tasks. Furthermore, Miro's asynchronous collaboration features, such as comments and reactions, allow team members to contribute at their convenience, fostering collaboration across different schedules.

Miro Standout Features & Integrations

Features include roadmapping, resource management, task scheduling/tracking, notifications, Gantt charts, prioritization, calendar management, data visualizations, quick diagram tools, a dependencies app to visualize dependencies, capacity planning capabilities, Miro Assist AI, and data import/export.

Integrations include Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Atlassian, Brandfest, Monday.com, Confluence, 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.

Best for a highly flexible virtual whiteboard

  • Free plan available
  • From $3/user/month
Visit Website
Rating: 4.7/5

FigJam is a virtual whiteboard platform that can be used for various work management, brainstorming, and team collaboration purposes.

Why I picked FigJam: This whiteboard solution is super flexible and can be used by your team for all kinds of purposes. It has stickers, comments, shapes, lines, arrows, images, and more that can be used to map out concepts, ideas, and plans. It also comes with several pre-built templates that can help you get started. From brainstorming outlines to retrospective structures to project management and roadmapping tools, there's plenty to draw from (so to speak). It's also very user-friendly and intuitive to navigate, making it a friendly solution for varying levels of technical expertise.

Team can collaborate virtually through FigJam using audio and live chat, commenting, stamp and emoji reactions, and even bitmoji avatars. You can also use the music player to spice up your brainstorming sessions, and calendar and timeline widgets for planning your work. External collaborators can be invited to your boards, too, which is helpful if you work with clients, freelancers, or agencies.

FigJam Standout Features & Integrations

Features include pre-built project management templates, audio and live chat, stamp and emoji reacts, external collaborator access, calendar and timeline widgets, bitmoji avatars, music player, and mobile app.

Integrations include Figma, Microsoft Teams, Asana, Jira, Mixpanel, and Github.

Best for video feedback from users

  • Free demo available
  • Pricing available upon request
Visit Website
Rating: 4.5/5

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. 

Best design thinking tool for rich, interactive prototypes

  • Free plan available
  • Pricing upon request
Visit Website
Rating: 4.4/5

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.

Best design thinking tool for rapid prototyping & testing

  • 7-day free trial + free plan available
  • From $16/user/month (billed annually)
Visit Website
Rating: 4.4/5

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.

Best tool for building a shared workspace

  • Free plan available
  • From $8.33/user/month (billed annually)
Visit Website
Rating: 4.2/5

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.

Best tool for customer journey mapping

  • Free plan available
  • From $25/user/month
Visit Website
Rating: 4.5/5

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.

Best for small group breakout sessions

  • Free plan available
  • From $9/user/month
Visit Website
Rating: 4.3/5

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.

Best design thinking analytics & reporting suite

  • Free trial upon request
  • From $1,500/studio/year (5 users)

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.

Best design thinking tool for enterprise collaboration

  • Free plan available
  • From $9.99/user/month (billed annually)

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). 

10 Best Design Thinking Tools Comparison Chart

This comparison chart summarizes basic details about each of my top design thinking tool selections. You can view pricing details and the availability of free trials or demos side-by-side to help you find the best design platform for your budget and business needs.

Tools Price
Miro From $10/user/month
FigJam by Figma From $3/user/month
UserTesting Pricing available upon request
Invision Pricing upon request
Marvel From $16/user/month (billed annually)
Stormboard From $8.33/user/month (billed annually)
Smaply From $25/user/month
Ideaflip From $9/user/month
Sprintbase From $1,500/studio/year (5 users)
Mural From $9.99/user/month (billed annually)
Preview Image - <h2 class="c-block__title b-summary-table__title c-listicle__title h3" > Compare Software Specs Side by Side</h2>

Compare Software Specs Side by Side

Use our comparison chart to review and evaluate software specs side-by-side.

Compare Software

Other Tools

Here are a few more worthwhile design platforms that didn’t make it into my top 10 list of the best design thinking tools, but are still worth checking out:

  1. Userforge

    Best for persona generation

  2. Lucidchart

    Best intelligent diagramming software with integrations and collaboration for design thinking

  3. Lucidspark

    Best virtual whiteboard with integrations and collaboration for design thinking

  4. MindMeister

    Best for collaborative mind mapping

  5. Mockingbird

    Best drag and drop UI elements

  6. Boords

    Best web-based storyboarding software

  7. Batterii

    Best tool for turning video reviews into insight reports

  8. Digisite

    Best for design thinking tool for marketing, CX/UX, and innovation teams

Selection Criteria for 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 numerous user reviews and high satisfaction ratings. Then, using my experience in customer experience design, I discerned which key criteria were the most important for design thinking tools to offer. With that list in hand, I then compared how each system stacked up against the rest.

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.

Key Features

Here are the key features I assessed to make my final selections for this list of the best design thinking tools:

  • Brainstorming tools: These tools help you generate a multitude of ideas without judgment, to stimulate creativity amongst your team members.
  • Mind mapping tools: These tools help you organize your ideas visually so you can connect different concepts into thematic groups.
  • Customer personas: This involves the ability to create a fictional customer that represents the needs, behaviors, and motivations of your target audience for a particular digital product.
  • Customer journey mapping: This includes tools to help you visualize your persona's user experience, including their thoughts, emotions, actions, and pain points. This can also be achieved by using storyboarding tools too.

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 with user research tools, UX/UI software, or design experience platforms (for example)? 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 seats are included in the cost?

People Also Ask

Still wondering about design thinking tools and how they work? These answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) should help clarify things further:

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a productive and creative way of solving problems by building products that cater to a niche need.

Jeanne Liedtka, Design Thinking Expert, noted in Harvard Business Review that: “design thinking has the potential to do for innovation exactly what TQM did for manufacturing: unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.”

The best business model is one that keeps the end-user front-and-center throughout the service design process. You can do this by creating an empathy map for iterating purposes, uncovering user pain points with your product, and doing tons of hands-on user research.

However, brainstorming sessions are wasted time if you don’t have a way to collect and compile the resulting data using a platform that can make use of the data.

Design thinking can be hugely influential when it comes to developing new products, like when Braun set out to design a simplified IoT electric toothbrush, for example. Design thinking is exactly that: taking what you already know and building off of it to make a better product that answers more of the end user’s concerns for a better customer journey.

How can design thinking tools help the creative process?

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

The design thinking process can become complex because you’re constantly balancing idea viability + affordability (for the business) + desirability (for the end user). However, design thinking apps are made to guide you through the 5 design thinking stages so you can track new ideas from project start to project completion.

What is the customer journey?

The customer journey is the probable path (or paths) that your ideal users will follow during their interaction with your product, from introduction to completion. Human-centered design is important to make this journey as painless as possible. The design thinking process relies on a strong understanding of the customer journey: how customers get from A to B and where they might run into trouble, as well as what key problem your product/service is trying to solve for them.

What are the 5 design thinking stages?

According to Stanford University, the 5 stages of design thinking are: empathy, definition, conception, prototype, and testing.

  1. Empathy is working to understand the end user’s needs (the “problem statement”);
  2. Definition is the elevator pitch of what problem you intend to solve and how;
  3. Conception (or, ideation) is creative brainstorming (“ideate”) to find the best solution through product design;
  4. Prototyping is creating the most basic version of your product;
  5. Testing is turning that minimum viable product into a fully functional, QA tested, launch-ready item.

What other resources can help me learn more about design thinking?

If the design thinking concept has got your wheels turning, there are plenty of other resources to help you along in your learning journey. Here are a few collections we’ve already made for you, to point you in the right direction:

Are there any free design thinking tool kits?

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. As a CX design leader, you can make the call in regards to what suits your needs best.

Free possible solutions include:

Other Design Software Reviews

When it comes to the design world, there are lots of other digital products out there beyond just design thinking tools. To save you some time, check out my in-depth reviews of the following niche types of software too:

What's Next?

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. 

To keep on top of the latest insights from top thinkers in the industry, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.