The key element of building any website or piece of software is the user experience, but this is often completely overlooked by the developer, or added in as an afterthought at the end. This is actually the opposite of how it should work. A good user experience will almost always win out over the best technology or deepest feature set.
When working on user experience, you need to consider the flow, navigation and layout of your product, and then get feedback from actual users and iteratively incorporate that feedback back into your product. These eight tools are either completely free or offer a free set of features to get you started. They cover all of the steps mentioned above, and should be part of a basic set of tools every designer or developer should own to begin optimizing their applications or websites.
XMind is a cross-platform tool for developing mind maps. These are useful in laying out product logic and flow, organizing ideas and designing a navigational heirarchy.
Gliffy is a tool for creating flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans and more, directly from your browser.
Pencil is an open-source wireframe tool for creating user interfaces. Android and iOS stencils are built-in for prototyping mobile apps.
FileSquare allows you to build visual mockups from a deck of images. Load up the images, define the hotlinks and you’ll quickly have a prototype. There’s even an iOS app for testing directly on the device.
With Polldaddy, you can create online polls and surveys in minutes.
Visual Website Optimizer
Visual Website Optimizer allows you to easily create A/B and Multivariate test, heatmaps and more.
Record and playback user sessions with Inspectlet. See how actual users interact with your site, and follow along in real-time or accelerated.
Pingdom will help you optimize your site by showing you what’s slowing your site down and offering hints to improve your score.