Like many other agencies, we routinely evaluate our design processes and tools to ensure that we optimise ourselves to make the most out of the latest technology.
We’ve used and tried almost all the mainstream digitally-orientated design software under the sun, including InVision Studio, Axure, Adobe XD and even UXPin. However, the last significant change in our workflow tool we made to our daily driver was from Adobe Photoshop+Illustrator to the famous Sketch+Invision combo.
The sea of software is ever-changing, and we’ve seen the flow and ebb of popularity in different software. Despite our agile adoption mentality, we are still careful to ensure any change to our processes has a positive outcome, both from cost-efficiency and time-maximising perspectives.
Following much curiosity and nagging from our digital design team this year, followed by a small-scale test, we’ve finally migrated our team toolset to Figma. It has been a long time coming, as Sketch has been a lifesaver many times, but we are happy with our decision since the move several months ago.
Here are the three main reasons why we’ve made the switch when compared to Sketch+InVision:
One: More refined collaboration
- Commenting is tightly integrated within a single workflow location. Comments made on the prototype will also show up in the assigned location in the design file for fewer “missed” comments.
- One great feature is the ‘voice call’ function for people working simultaneously within the same design file, where chat sessions can be initiated on an ad-hoc basis.
- We used to use Miro and InVision’s Freehand tool, but FigJam is miles better than Freehand and almost matches the level of Miro; this is an optionally paid-for live whiteboard tool that is highly recommended to keep the workflow in a single location.
- Whilst our team are all MacOS users, our clients aren’t. Therefore with Figma not limited to MacOS only, our Chromebook- or PC-using collaborators can join in on the design action. In a pinch, some of us can even pick up the design on a tablet web browser.
- We found Figma is generally more stable for real-time collaborative designing. Sketch often slowed down when more people joined in, or the design files became too big.
- InVision didn’t directly allow real-time prototype spotlighting when reviewing with other people and relied on screen share technologies.
Two: Shallow learning curve and a short transition
- Many keyboard shortcuts in Sketch are the same in Figma, with similar tools, and some vector manipulation tools are even better in Figma. This has made our team adjustments very minimal in learning how to use it.
- The UI and UX of the software are very intuitive and make finding things much quicker. There is also easy access to the widgets library with little installation effort, as it is web-based, expanding on the existing Figma functionality.
- The lack of constant time-consuming updates every time we open up Sketch is the area of the most noticeable reduction of team complaints. Crashes come in second. There are minor updates on the native application (for those of us choosing to use it), but the update file sizes are smaller and, therefore, quicker to jump back into the design file faster.
Three: More integrated prototyping process
- Having to use the Craft plugin, design updates require syncing or pushing. We know Sketch has equivalent Cloud previews, but it feels fragmented and not entirely tied together as a cohesive prototyping tool.
- With Figma, we can make live changes whilst live-previewing on devices, which literally means as we move something on our desktop, we also see it adjust in real-time on our mobile. This is such an incredible feature for controlling pixel-perfect designing and during QA or testing.
- We’ve noticed more advanced smart animations are available for us to create a more realistic representation of the end product. We can apply more animation states in each element, which can also be set up at the component level.
- Animated GIFs appear in prototypes, adding interactive motion and polish to our design compared to static prototypes in Craft. This also makes it easier for us during the front-end development briefing/handover.
- Jumping between design and prototype is much faster, and we can set up multiple UX journey starting points (called flows) within the prototypes.
Pricing-wise, another bonus is that we’ve seen a monthly cost-saving moving from Sketch+InVision to a Figma+FigJam subscription. We also feel Figma’s success is mainly due to them truly understanding the importance of remote working collaboration as a software solution.
While we’ve witnessed Sketch make leaps in its real-time collaboration features, it feels janky and rushed and has become very bloated, similar to how Adobe evolved its products. There’s no telling if Figma may also become bloated in the future, especially with the recent acquisition by Adobe. We certainly pray that Adobe can learn from its past and doesn’t allow that to happen.
For now, Figma is our primary design tool, and we highly recommend other agencies try it out if they can.