Ask DN: Subscription based tools. Could there be a better system?

almost 3 years ago from , UI Designer

There are a lot of tools out there that I would like to be using but it's not sustainable with my wage to subscribe to them. If I were to break down the cost of all the tools I would like to be using, including web hosting, it would be something like this (some in AUD$):

  • Dropmark Pro - $5/month
  • Invision with multiple projects - $15/month
  • Proto.io Pro - $24/month
  • Web hosting - $20/month
  • Adobe - $50/month
  • UXPin $20/month

Total = $134/month or $1608/year

It's not a large amount of money if you're earning enough, but I would only use some of these tools every couple of months. In countries where the average wage is much lower, that would be a substantial dough.

I'm not complaining though, rather I'm addressing a problem. Some of these tools are very cheap and probably could be charging more. I do wonder though if there could be someone who would act as an agent to these companies so that the cost would be reduced. I'm no businesswoman but I imagine it would onboard more users, kind of like the social-buying model.

Thoughts? Or is there a company out there that already does this?


  • Andrew SmithAndrew Smith, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

    No. If you can't afford something, you just don't have it, it is as simple as that. I've been doing digital design for years and I've not needed to use every new tool out there, so I thought i'd give you some tips.

    Here are some free alternatives to your software:

    1. Dropmark pro? How about https://amb-1.com/. It's free and uses Dropbox to do the exact same thing.
    2. Invision? Google Slides will do just as good – you can share slides and comment on them just like invision. You can even do hotlinks to other slides!
    3. Proto.io? How about using Marvel? It's free https://marvelapp.com/
    4. Hosting. This one might be something you pay for – if you host with github pages though it's free for static / liquid sites. But lets say $20 is the price here for regular hosting
    5. Adobe. You don't need all of the adobe suite, heck, at best, you use photoshop / illustrator. Lets say you swap out these for non-subscription based items and go for one price products: You could use Affinityorhttps://www.sketchapp.com/ to cover both areas, both costing around $70 each 6.UXPin. Lets say you opt for regular paper. You save your money and you do the same things. Want to give a client something less sketched if your drawing skills aren't up to scratch? Transfer them over to https://wireframe.cc/ for some wireframing.

    Total: $20 per year + $70 one time payment for the software

    There is no problem with subscription based products, but don't be fooled into thinking you need them to survive in this industry. More often than not, these companies get bought by facebook and close down before you've had two years of work with them.

    Alternatively, if you must have the latest toolset, when you only do one job every few months, that job would need to earn you $268 - $402 to break even with your tools.

    11 points
  • Nathaniel PeralesNathaniel Perales, almost 3 years ago

    This discussion definitely needs a voice. I for one have a big issue with all the subscription fees. I understand companies need to make money, but overtime all this ends up costing quite a bit.

    3 points
    • Andrew SmithAndrew Smith, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

      It's the same with design, clients want a product, but after a while, it ends up costing quite a bit.

      0 points
      • Nathaniel PeralesNathaniel Perales, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

        This is kind of an irrelevant comment. I'm not comparing cost of tools vs cost of design. Every single tool has a subscription fee ranging from $5-$99 a month. Yes, as a designer I have the choice of what to use and I'm not agreeing that there should be some discount on using them all, I'm simply expressing that if I were to use everyone that may or may not be useful to me, I'd be shelling out close to $300/month. I am very efficient with my tools and still use Adobe CS6 specifically because I don't want to pay Adobe for the subscription. But I do think Sketch is a better business model for me. I would rather pay a one time fee every few years then a hefty fee every month forever. I support software developers and have never and will never torrent software because I know the amount of work is extremely hard. But I think for me a one time fee every couple years or every year works better than paying a subscription forever.

        At the same time I do pay for Harvest ($12) every month because it makes billing and time tracking so easy. I luckily get a business Dropbox account from one of my clients, so not something I have to worry about. And I pay for Backblaze ($5). But for example, Sketch and Coda are my tools of choice and the moment Panic or Bohemian Coding release a new upgrade, I will gladly pay for it because I don't ever want them to stop building their software.

        Hope this gives you an idea of my perspective.

        1 point
  • Freckley Freckleson, almost 3 years ago

    I didn't really start this conversation to get tips on frugality. It was more to see if there could be a better system, such as a one-stop-shop for all subscriptions with a bit of a discount.

    There is also the psychology around seeing money come out of your account for tools that you want, but haven't used in a while. If you were paying for all tools with a single monthly payment, then I wouldn't feel like my money is going down a well.

    There are some tools which are free but have simple functionality, though I would argue that we do to some extent need to keep up with technology. Stakeholders, developers and clients increasingly want to see interactive and animated prototypes. Also it's a nagging feeling knowing there are products out there which will double your productivity. It's like if you have a tap and a well, which do you use.

    I run a tight ship most months, and I still want people to consider those with smaller salaries.

    3 points
    • Andrew SmithAndrew Smith, almost 3 years ago

      It's the 'bit of discount' that really sticks out here. Are you willing to give your clients a 'bit of discount' too for the discount you received? We shouldn't have to sell software cheaper than it's value, it undermines the whole industry.

      If you have a tap and you can't afford the pipeline, it's not much use; I'd much prefer to muster in extra effort with the well, as it's within my means and achievable.

      If you're looking for a solution for your psychological reasoning behind seeing multiple amounts vanish from your account, go to the bank, set up an account, set up a monthly transfer of $134 per month and pay for all your software through the new account.

      2 points
  • Account deleted almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

    I'm not sure what the benefit is for larger companies to offer a discount as part of a larger bundle. As someone mentioned already in the comments, it devalues their product for no real reason. Why would adobe care to discount their rate if I use InVision (especially with Comet being in their stable)?

    Even for smaller companies this is a risky strategy. Inevitably you're always going to get complaints about having to pay for X software they never use... just to get a lower rate... why can't they remove X software and charge even cheaper?

    Essentially it sounds like you want a model similar to cable TV packages... and you can see how that structure is rapidly falling apart.

    The best way to do things is exactly the way it is now... not every app is for everyone... let us choose what we want (or don't want), and pay accordingly.

    Similarly, this is also best if one company goes out of business our becomes an inferior product. Your "value" is now greatly diminished if you were locked into a bundle of products.

    1 point
  • Freckley Freckleson, almost 3 years ago

    What if the small discount amounted to thousands of new users? What we do for money and what they do is completely different. I can only build one website per customer, so there will be no discounts. Invision can take on thousands of new customers with little impact on their labour, perhaps a couple of new servers and an extra support person.

    Adobe run a similar system to what I'm talking about, you can either get all of the software at a discount per program, or you can buy each individually at full price.

    The economy is proving to be more flexible and open to change than we could ever have imagined. Think the share economy.

    My idea isn't revolutionary, I could act as an agent myself by setting up a few business-level accounts for the prototyping software and then sell each team member allocation at a discounted rate. It's a flimsy idea but it's the same principle

    I'm not criticising anyone here, I just want to go a bit deeper into the conversation.

    1 point
  • Jernej Horvat, almost 3 years ago

    Subscription services are great. It makes products accessible and it also offers updates so that you can use the latest version at any given time.

    The $134/month example could probably be lowered. On the other hand this is the cost of doing the work just like a company that produces cars has monthly costs to maintain factories, assembly lines and so on.

    0 points
  • Freckley Freckleson, almost 3 years ago

    I forgot to include Usability Hub at $90/month

    0 points