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20 of the best product design tools to use in 2023

There are a ton of tools available for us to build digital products, but what are the best in each class? Here's a list of my favorite software and tools that I'm happy to recommend to anyone.

Best design tool

Black banner showing speech bubbles with icons inside.


If you asked me just a few years ago which tool I used for app and interface design, I would not have hesitated to say Sketch. Now, I feel like Figma is the best design tool for web and mobile ui ux design that absolutely nails team collaboration.

Figma is browser based, which is great if you're switching between mac and PC. As a bonus, the plugin ecosystem is extremely healthy, and you're bound to find something that will end up saving you time.

I'll give Adobe XD a credit here as well, if I were to pick another product design tool that wasn't Figma, XD would be my next choice.

My favorite things about it

  • Cross platform availability
  • Robust plugin ecosystem
  • Designed with collaboration in mind
Learn more about Figma

Best design library

Screenshot of a mac app with design inspiration


I always recommend designers keep a library of their favorite designs. Over time, these reference libraries can be a great source of inspiration when you're hitting a wall creatively.

Eagle is one of my favorite apps on this list, because they've put so much thought into the organization process. You can easily tag, filter and rate items, and their chrome extention makes grabbing designs extremely simple.

My favorite things about it

  • Syncs to dropbox (no proprietary file formats)
  • One time cost
  • Supports video as well
Learn more about Eagle

Best illustration app

Colorful banner showing the affinity designer logo in the middle

Affinity Designer

I was unhappy and stuck in the Adobe platform for years, mostly due to the lack of competition when it came to Adobe Illustrator. Since the launch of Affinity Designer, I've escaped the clutches of Adobe, and have had no complaints since.

The great thing about affinity software is that the shortcuts are pretty similar to Adobe Illustrator, so most users will find it easy to switch over without too much of a learning curve.

My favorite things about it

  • Just as powerful as Illustrator
  • No subscription
  • Easy to switch over since the shortcuts from illustrator are similar
Learn more about Designer

Best password manager

website banner for 1pass with brower and phone visible


There is no reason everyone shouldn't be using a password manager at this point. They are easy to use, flexible, and offer a sense of security that generating your own passwords don't offer.

I started using 1password in 2011, and it's been a part of my daily workflow ever since. My favorite feature is having shared vaults, so I can share login details with my business partners to keep everything centralized.

There are a few alternative password managers out there, but none of them match the user experience and security of 1password.

My favorite things about it

  • Available on all platforms
  • 2FA integration saves a ton of time
  • It warns you if you've got weak passwords
Learn more about 1password

Best icon management app

Icon jar software showing a library of icons


This is another one of those little apps that I can't live without. Not only does IconJar allow you to organize and group your icon sets, it allows you to easily export, and drag and drop individual icons out to design software of your choice.

It's also nice for shared libraries for teams—we have a shared folder in dropbox with all the icon sets, which means everyone is able to pull from the same source.

My favorite things about it

  • Lots of icon packs support the iconjar format, making installs simple
  • Tons of organization option for those of us with lots of icons
  • Drag and drop directly into your design tool of choice
Learn more about IconJar

Best sketchbook

3 field note books on a white background

Field Notes

When I sketch out designs, I like to go pretty quick and loose. Using Field Notes is a great tool for creating because I don't feel like I'm "ruining" a nice sketch book during these frenzied sketching sessions.

My favorite things about them

  • Super cheap
  • Small size makes them easy to throw in a pocket
  • Comes in a variety of styles
Get Field Notes

Best app for motion design

Animation of a black squiggle line


Long gone are the days of firing up After Effects for simple animations destined for web. With the new Fable app, you can create animations with their intuitive timeline view, then export them to video, GIF, or even straight into Lottie.

The UI in Fable is very focused, allowing users to quickly create and preview motion graphics in real time, without all of the bloat of Adobe After Effects.

This app is pretty new, but I have a feeling it's going to get really popular in 2022.

My favorite things about it

  • Simple interface compared to After Effects
  • Quick tutorials ease you into the app
  • Lots of export options, incluing lottie
  • Web based, no downloads required
Learn more about Fable

Best analytics service

fathom analytics banner with features

Fathom Analytics

Like most people, I figured Google Analytics was "good enough", but I always hated using it's bloated interface. I switched over to Fathom earlier this year, and I don't see myself switching off anytime soon because of its amazing features.

My favorite things about it

  • They don't track invasive data, meaning no cookie notices to your users
  • A simple interface that only shows you important data
  • Fully GDPR compliant
  • Unlimited websites on a single plan
Learn more about Fathom

Best app for color accessibility

Laptop open on a colorful background showing the Contrast mac app


This is a little mac app that lives in your status bar, which tells you if there is enough contrast in your design to meet accessibility guidelines for various users.

It's pretty simple to use, you just click the eyedropper, select a color on your design (say the background), then click the other eyedropper, and select the item you want to compare the contrast to (say the body type). Once both are selected, it will show you the rating according to the Web Content and Accessibility Guidelines.

I've got my whole design team using this tool in our workflow, and find myself using it daily.

My favorite things about it

  • Menu bar app that stays out of the way
  • Build in educational docs
Learn more about Contrast

Best app to find measurements

Screenshot of the pixelsnap mac app showing a measurement

Pixel Snap 2

This is a recent discovery of mine, and I've already found it useful on a number of occasions. Pixel Snap allows you to measure the distance between two objects, whether it's in your design, or on some random webpage. They did a really great job with edge detection in this version, and its reliability is unmatched.

My favorite things about it

  • Intuitive shortcuts for easy use
  • Very polished piece of software
Learn more about Pixel Snap

Best communication app

Screenshot of the slack messaging app interface


This is a pretty obvious one at this point, but I figure I'd add it anyways. I work as part of a remote team, and communication is essential. With Slack, we have private channels for the team, and separate channels for contractors and clients that allow for quick, real time collaboration.

My favorite things about it

  • It's not Microsoft Teams
  • Cross team communication
  • Tons of plugin options available
Learn more about Slack

Best prototyping app for mac

Interface of the protopie mac app showing it's controls


I've been a principle user for a long time, and can work pretty fast and effectively within it. Their small dev team means they ship updates slowly, and at at this point their competition has not only caught up, but surpassed them in features.

Protopie is a great little app that allows me to do everything I could do in Principle, but with the added benefit of hardware specific controls and logic.

There might be a little bit of a learning curve, but this tool allows you to create things that just aren't possible with other prototyping tools.

My favorite things about it

  • Logic opens up a ton of possibilities
  • Device specific controls that others don't offer (haptic feedback, camera access)
  • Sharing to web allows you to easily share prototypes
Learn more about Protopie

Best project organization app

A table view of data in the notion software


This is hands down my favorite browser based tool I've discovered in a long time, and recommend it to all product designers.

Before using notion, I would have project information scattered throughout Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and wherever random locations files tend to find themselves in. Since switching to Notion, I have a central hub of all of my information, split into projects that's easily accessible wherever I am.

It really has been a game changer for me, and I haven't even hit the limitations of their free plan yet with my existing projects.

They have a small team, but you can tell they listen to their users when it comes to feedback. I always look forward to the changelog when a new version is released.

My favorite things about it

  • It's so open-ended that it matches a variety of organization styles
  • Loads quick, especially switching between projects
  • The free plan is extremely generous
Learn more about Notion

Best VPN app

blufvpn banner image of heart dancing


Since I work remote, I tend to have to access a variety of public wifi, through coffee shops, co-working spaces, airports, or otherwise.

At this point, I've been using VPN software enough that I can't imagine not having it on when I'm using these public access points. If you're a remote worker, take the extra step to ensure your connection is private, it's been the best few dollars a month I've spent.

Sept 2022 update: After dealing with so many connection issues and slow speeds with NordVPN, I started looking at other options.

I ended up trying (and loving) BlufVPN and am happy to continue using them going forward. Plus it's cheap!

My favorite things about it

  • Easy to use interface
  • The design feels a cut above compared to other VPN apps
Learn more about BlufVPN

Best PDF editor

Image of iPad with PDF app open

PDF Expert

Readdle is one of my favorite mac software studios just because of the amount of attention to detail in all of their products.

PDF expert is the fastest way to sign, edit, or modify any PDF without having to bring it into a vector editing program.

Highly recommended if you're dealing with contracts.

My favorite things about it

  • Clean interface
  • Fast and easy to use
Learn more about BlufVPN

Best web development tool

Slanted screenshot of the webflow i nterface


This is another one of those tools that have changed my process for web design.

Before discovering Webflow, my job typically involved doing the strategy and design for a site, then passing it off to a developer for full code implementation. This isn't a bad way to go about things, but I really hit the wall when it came to getting momentum on personal projects—changes were slow, and got expensive over time.

With Webflow, not only can I design the whole site, but develop it myself without code. Their CMS tool is crazy powerful, and everything on this site you're on now has been built and optimized for it, whether it's design articles, or shop items spanning a variety of categories.

Their version control tool is also awesome. If you manage to screw something up it doesn't matter, as Webflow automatically creates backups often, and you can restore from where you'd like with a single click.

My favorite things about it

  • So many great tutorials are available to get good quickly
  • Custom code opens up any limitations of the service
  • Tons of no-code automation tools tie into Webflow
Learn more about Webflow

Best font management app

Right font software showing a variety of fonts


I've used a variety of Font Management software over the years, but the latest release of RightFont is my favorite. It's got a simple interface, has Google Font integration, and has auto-activation for most popular design tools.

I have a type library organized by category in Dropbox, and whenever I need to set up a new machine, I simply have to drag and drop it into RightFont.

My favorite things about it

  • Lots of organization options
  • Auto-activation is amazing
Learn more about RightFont

Best place to buy fonts

banner for fontshop showing off typefaces


When it comes to type, we typically have two ways to go about things. Grab a free font from somewhere like Google Fonts, not have to worry about licensing fees, but have to deal with your project looking like a million others.

The other way is to license a single typeface that's perfect for your project, and much less used overall. Fontshop has an absolutely massive collection of great paid fonts, as well as some that are free. Licensing is pretty affordable compared to buying off single type foundries, so this is a place I find myself often going for new projects.

My favorite things about it

  • One of the biggest collections available
  • Fair pricing
Learn more about Fontshop

Best writing app for mac

banner with grammarly logo and icon illustrations


There doesn’t feel like much competition in the writing space, which shows how dominant Grammarly is.

I’ve been a paid subscriber since 2017, and I can’t see myself switching off any time soon. While their free plan gives you a taste of the app, the actual value comes from the extra benefits from premium.

If you do writing in any sort of capacity, I highly recommend you just sign up for a single month, then run a piece of your writing through it. I think you’ll be surprised at what it uncovers.

My favorite things about it

  • Their app runs in pretty much any text field on your mac/pc, allowing you to use it anywhere
  • They have their own keyboard for mobile apps
  • I've learned more about how to improve my writing from this tool than any other.
Learn more about Grammarly

Best image compression tool

Mac app window showing ImageOptim UI


Every image that I add to this site first gets run through the ImageOptim Mac app.

It's great because I can bulk upload files, doesn't require an internet connection like other services, and it saves me at least 70% on file size.

If you're a designer doing any web work at all and don't have access to server side image compression, grab ImageOptim and just drag and drop your assets into it.

My favorite things about it

  • Offline access
  • The drag and drop makes using the app a breeze
  • It's free
Learn more about ImageOptim

Best web hosting platform

Blue banner showing the namecheap logo in the center


I've been using Namecheap for a while now, and it's mostly because of their overall design of their site and mobile apps. Things are easy to find, customer support is quick, and like the name says, they're pretty cheap.

My favorite things about it

  • Customer support is fast, web chat is always available
  • Simple interface compared to other hosting platforms
  • Mobile apps are nice
Learn more about Namecheap

Best wordpress hosting

Colorful banner for the web hosting service wpengine

WP Engine

When I do need to work with a client on a Wordpress project, I like to stick with a higher end host like WP Engine.

They'll manage the server itself, update Wordpress, protect against vulnerabilities, and give you access to 24/7 support. When it comes to client hosting, I tend to take as little risk as possible, and WP Engine is one of the most recommended in the business.

They may not be the cheapest option, but when you've hit a snag and need to contact customer support, you'll see the benefit over the cheaper guys (HostGator, I'm looking at you).

My favorite things about it

  • Best in class customer service
Learn more about WP Engine

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