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The design process can be involved and lengthy by nature, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and waste time, too. Maybe you find you’re spending too much time prototyping your next design, or perhaps you spend too much time putting together specific elements. Maybe you’re just stuck in the planning phase and can’t even come up with a decent idea.

Whatever the reason, it happens to the best of us.

What you may not realize is that your productivity is suffering due to your reliance on the wrong resources, or a lack of them entirely. The problem with this is that you never know you’re using the wrong tools – or lacking them – unless you start trying out others. You need something to compare your current setup to.

That’s why we put together a list of eight design resources that will benefit efficiency.

Proto.io

When you’re prototyping, it generally involves working with a variety of tools. It would make things simpler if there was a comprehensive tool that could do everything you need.

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Proto.io is that tool. It’s important to understand that during the prototyping phase, you just need to come up with a solid example of your ideas. Proto.io allows you to build prototypes in a browser, with the assistance of a drag-and-drop interface. There’s no coding involved.

As an experienced designer this may seem preposterous, but consider the amount of time you can save with a tool like this.

You can apply a variety of touch and mouse events to your prototype, and employ a wide variety of design styles and elements. Furthermore, when you have a working prototype, you can test it on multiple devices and share it through collaborative tools.

Cost: $24 to $40 per month, 15-day free trial

Firefly

If you need something that offers a bit more when it comes to collaboration, Firefly is right up your alley. It is similar to Proto.io because it delivers a comprehensive portal for design, but it does teamwork so much better.

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At any point during the design and prototyping phases, team members can weigh in with suggestions, comments and more. This is a great development tool if you work with an entire team or a larger organization.

As you make adjustments to your design, the app makes backups and you can roll back to a previous version at any time. There’s support for team discussion, annotation and even interactive presentations.

Firefly simplifies the sharing and collaboration requirements of design, if and when they apply.

Cost: $19 to $29 per month, 14-day free trial

User Testing

After you’ve put together a design concept, working prototype and modeled the final product, you need to get user input. This step in the design process can take a long time, especially when it comes to gathering participants.

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User Testing is a research platform that can speed along this step. You upload the portion of your app or design you want to test, and then the platform handles the rest. You can create a custom test or you can let it create one for you.

As soon as the test goes live, users weigh in on your work. You’ll know everything you need to within an hour.

With a platform like this you’d expect to get generic results, but that’s definitely not the case here. In addition to metrics and usable stats, you’ll also get commentary videos of the people that experienced your design. They’ll provide suggestions for improvements, and explain whether or not they liked it.

It’s an invaluable tool.

Cost: $49 to $99

Muzli

Sometimes, to kick your mind or creative traits into gear, you need a bit of inspiration. Muzli is a Chrome extension that connects designers and creatives to an ever-expanding gallery of design content.

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The whole point is to inspire. This can save you hours you’d spend browsing and wasting time trying to find ideas and inspiration for your next project. Let’s be honest: The planning and brainstorming phase of the design process can be one of the most brutal for productivity.

Cost: Free

PNG Express

When you’re converting a website to a mobile version, it means you need to convert all the elements to a mobile-friendly size. This can mean resizing images and content, one by one. If you carry this out manually, it can be incredibly time-consuming and tedious.

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PNG Express automates that process and makes it so much faster.

Cost: $29 to $129

Color Adobe CC

Coming up with a matching color palette can be a real pain. That’s where Color Adobe CC comes in handy.

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It is a color-palette design platform that benefits from community support. If you are having a tough time creating your own color scheme, you can do a search for ideal palettes created by other users. It saves a lot of time and helps out significantly when you just want support from other designers.

Plus, it’s free.

Cost: Free

The Stocks

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At some point, you’ll need high-quality, beautiful images to use in your design. The Stocks is an aggregate platform that searches multiple stock photo platforms, and most of the content is free to use.

Cost: Free

Wave

Wave is a business accounting suite, but that’s not why we included it on the list. If you’re a freelance designer or you work with multiple teams, you’ll need a proper invoicing solution. Wave has a great invoicing service that makes the entire process easy.

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There are premium plans available, but the basic plan has more than enough features to sustain your business – and it’s free.

The invoice system is not fancy, but it does the job. What makes it ideal is that you can track expenses and investments along with the invoices you send out to clients. Trust us when we say it can save you a lot of time you’d otherwise spend managing finances.

Cost: Free

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