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Rise of the Screen Design Tools

The design industry is currently experiencing a major shift when it comes to designing user interfaces for clients. For years, everyone has been using Photoshop and Illustrator when creating designs. It’s a standard workflow that we’re still using up to this day. But with the constant changes in mobile computing and the different design specifications required for the growing list of devices, the industry needs a more “specialized” tool for the job.

 

There are 3 major software companies that are currently offering their own application designed for creating UI/UX - and we’ve used all of them. All 3 are blazingly fast due to a more focused toolset and less feature bloat present on current design tools. They also have their own unique feature set that separates them from the rest of the applications on this list.

Sketch

 

Sketch has been around for quite some time now and It’s one of the first and most popular design tools available. It’s a vector program that lets you design for almost every major device available. It’s latest update now also allows you to create interactive prototypes right inside the app without any plugins.

 

 

One of the powerful features of sketch not currently available on any app is its plugin system. It allows users to extend its functionality through the use of open source 3rd party plugins. This allows sketch to have new features not available on the default installation.

 

The only drawback of the app is it’s only available exclusively for the mac and there are no plans to release it on the windows platform.

Adobe XD

 

Adobe also released their own screen design focused app that will replace Photoshop and Illustrator when designing user interface and experiences. Dubbed as “Project Comet” when it was first announced, It is now getting widespread attention due to some amazing features that will change how designers and developers work together.

 

 

One of this features is you can directly publish your work from XD to Adobe’s Creative Cloud servers. Once published, you can then generate a public link that you can share with your teammates or clients with built in feedback system. Another unique feature of XD is its ability to generate style guides that developers can use once the design is converted into code. We actually published an article about XD’s top 5 features here.

 

XD’s main advantage over its competitors is it’s availability on both Mac and Windows platform. And since it’s developed by Adobe, you can directly import your old Photoshop and Illustrator designs directly inside XD and continue where you left off. Neat!

InVision Studio

 

InVision started off as a project management platform for designers. Their platform is currently being used by big names in the industry like Netflix, Twitter, and Airbnb just to name a few. They are now creating their own screen design app called InVision Studio. The app is not released yet and is only available via VIP invites. Fortunately, we got exclusive access and we’ve been testing it for some time now on some of our design projects - and It’s amazing.

 

 

Most of its basic features are similar to Sketch and Adobe XD. It’s quite surprising because the workflow is very similar with those two apps. We think Invision gathered all of the best features from Sketch and XD (which is a good thing), improved upon it (by adding additional features), and then added it to Invision Studio. Each of Studio’s features is like twice as good compared to Sketch and XD.

 

One of the app’s main highlight is its integration to Invision’s platform. It unlocks a whole bunch of new features that can help you manage your design projects with ease. You can still use the app normally without any Invision account though, so that’s a good thing.

Our Pick

All 3 apps listed here are great and they all offer the same basic functionality when it comes to designing interfaces both for desktop and mobile. They also have their own unique features that separates them from other design tools available in the market today. After testing every single one of them, we ultimately settled down to one app that we will be using as our daily driver in every design project - and that will be Adobe XD.

 

 

The main reason for this is well, It’s Adobe. We cover a lot of “disciplines” when it comes to design and we’ve been using Adobe’s ecosystem in all of our projects. Compatibility is very important to us and knowing that projects we did in Photoshop or Illustrator will still work on XD is a big plus. We also discovered that XD can open Sketch files too which is amazing.

 

Another reason is it’s cross platform. We can continue our work whether we are on Mac or Windows. Since our team is a mixture of both Mac and Windows users, we don’t have to worry about design collaborations anymore. We are confident that every version of the file will work on any platform as long as XD is installed.

 

As stated earlier in this article, all 3 apps were amazing in its own right. We’ve studied every single features of these apps and tried to use it in different real world scenarios. In the end, flexibility and compatibility are still the main features we always try to look out for (specially when trying to migrate to a new app) and Adobe XD both have it.

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