Which tool to choose for training? If you are asking this question, then this article will be a real godsend. We’ll go over the crucial aspects of Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, compare and figure out which tool is right for you.
The market today is oversaturated with UI design tools. Many companies have followed Sketch’s lead with its flexible, simple, and effective UI design tool, to gain a share in the design tools market. Based on UX tools. co’s 2020 Design Tools Survey, Figma was in the lead in the past year, while quite a few tools (Sketch, Adobe XD) are catching up today.
Based on observing the growth of these tools, my own experience with them, as well as the experience of other designers, I believe that in the next year or two, Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD are likely to take off with renewed vigor.
One of the most frequently asked questions to me was: “Do I need to learn Sketch or some other tools?” For the sake of brevity of this article, we’ll only focus on the top three tools according to the survey: Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD.
Let’s start with the main requirement of each tool, the operating system. Many people don’t know that Sketch is a program for Macintosh systems. So, if you’re on a Windows or Linux machine, you’re limited to Figma or Adobe XD.
Another key (and often decisive) factor for most users. Below is a summary of the pricing for each program’s package:
• Sketch: $ 99, one-time payment. One free update per year. If you want to use the new features, you will have to pay $ 79 for each year;
• Figma: Limit to 3 free projects, unlimited files, and 2 editors;
• Adobe XD: Free with unlimited projects/files and unlimited sharing until October 2020. From October, there is a limit for 1 general project and 2 editors.
Editing a project
A significant amount of design time is spent managing the layout. Choosing a tool with a well thought out editor is critical to productivity.
Sketch has a Smart layout feature that allows you to do things like automatically resize a layer when the content length/size changes. For example, the window is automatically sized to fit the text.
Figma offers a similar set of features to Sketch in this area, plus automatic features like drag-and-drop reordering of content.
Adobe XD has a Content-Aware layout feature that helps fill layer groups when content is resized. Compared to the functions applied to layers in other tools, this function in Adobe XD is unique.
If you work with other designers, all three tools provide ways to share files. In the context of this article, we’ll focus on the collaboration features that come with default programs without installing any plugins.
In Sketch, files are stored in the cloud. This allows you to share them with other users and makes it possible to edit in the same way as it works in other cloud services. It is also possible to write versions. Historically, Sketch has been combined with other tools like Invision or Zeplin for collaboration features such as design sharing. Sketch is evolving to offer better versions of these features but still lags slightly behind its competitors in 2021.
Figma burst into the world of designers with its real-time collaboration capability that allows multiple people to view/edit the same file at the same time. It has been one of the most unique features in the UI design tool market in recent years. However, it is only useful to a design team that works on the same project at the same time. The live editing/preview feature is handy in meaning that anyone viewing the project will always see the latest changes and how it happened. In addition to fast collaboration, Figma also has a version control system, a design and validation system that works on par with other tools.
Adobe XD launched its co-authoring feature back in November 2019 with features such as multi-user editing and file version control. Plus, XD has the same sets of sharing features as other tools.
People with a good computer shouldn’t notice a significant difference in the effectiveness of the tools presented. Program performance issues will become more noticeable when working with an impressive number of artboards/frames, external plugins, and graphic resources in the file.
When using Sketch, I often encounter sluggish interactions when working with a file containing more than a few dozen artboards on a single canvas. Also, I’ve seen posts where people were experiencing performance issues using third party plugins.
I’ve rarely experienced performance issues with Figma. Considering that it is a browser-based tool (there is also a desktop version), performance is less dependent on hardware, and in most cases, it works quite fast. As with Sketch, plugins may take a while to load depending on content and functionality, which is not that important.
As far as Adobe XD is concerned, I have not encountered global performance issues.
Features of prototyping
There is a lot to discuss when it comes to prototyping tools as there are more specialized prototyping tools out there on the market. However, it is helpful to have a little understanding of the prototyping capabilities of all three tools.
Sketch supports onscreen links to create an interactive prototype using hotspots. The prototype can be previewed locally or shared with others via Sketch Cloud. Plus, it’s nice to have features like “fixed scroll position” and “keep scroll position after click” keeping Sketch on par with Invision and what it has to offer for prototyping.
The main difference is in transition effects, where Figma has a Smart Animate feature (automatically animating the state of two frames). Using it, you can create more complex prototypes.
Adobe XD has more prototyping capabilities. In addition to all the features, Figma and Sketch, Adobe XD has more options to offer, such as adding a keyboard, gamepad, and voice triggers for a more specialized experience.
In this aspect, Adobe XD wins out with slightly more input options.
All three tools come with their plugin ecosystems.
Sketch has acquired a large library with all sorts of useful plugins to speed up the workflow or expand its functionality.
Figma plugins have been supported since August 2019. Since then, a large number of plugins have appeared, although there are still not as many of them as in other tools.
Adobe XD launched its plugin ecosystem in 2018. Perhaps it is not yet on a par with Sketch, but the dynamics of development looks promising. Among all three tools, Adobe XD has (in my opinion) a pleasant experience in finding and managing plugins.
When choosing a design tool, you are going to spend time learning on, a lot of attention is paid to how quickly that tool develops.
Based on Sketch’s update log, they’ve updated their product the most over the past year (on average 1 significant update per month). It was likely due to their latest funding in early 2019, which provided an opportunity to catch up. The key phrase here is “catch up”, because, in truth, Sketch is inferior in its capabilities to Figma and Adobe XD. Considering Sketch launched years ahead of its competitors, it is surprising that it is on par with other competing design tools.
Figma is adding new features at the same speed as Sketch. It’s worth noting that Figma has released more features dedicated to integrating with other tools such as Maze (for testing) and Framer Web (for prototyping). Thus, Figma works well with designers or teams that use additional tools to improve the design process.
The pace of updates to Adobe XD is impressive. It originally launched (considering the beta launch in late 2017) with problems. But less than two years later, it has become a strong contender for other tools. XD is not as widely integrated with third-party design or development tools, but it is closely related to the Adobe suite.
So which tool should you choose?
Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD are great tools for creating user interface designs. If you are a beginner and are choosing which path to take, I recommend Figma as a starting point. If you’re looking for a design tool that can create more complex prototypes (such as with voice input triggers), Adobe XD is your go-to. Ultimately, your employer/team may choose the tool for you, but the good news is that all three tools are very similar. This means if you learn one tool, most of the knowledge comes in handy when moving to another.