2018 designer workflow tools - are they worth it?

11 months ago from , UI nerd

Am just getting back into the consulting game (after being away for a few years) and am seeing UI/UX job posts everywhere that list proficiency in "industry standard design tools" such as "Sketch, Figma, Xd, FramerX, etc."

I've always considered these tools as more of addons to something like Photoshop (or at most second step after PS) - and yet it seems that a lot of them are promoting themselves as replacements for it and the message is catching on i.e. these design job/contracting gigs are not even mentioning PS any more which kind of makes me feel old - am wondering if this is what happened to the Corel people a decade or so ago :)

For example - to me - Sketch seems nice (for working within already set UI kits and prototypes), but it also looks like a more design-oriented Dreamweaver to me (am not that crazy about something else generating code for me - don't think you ever trust that completely). Xd seems similar. Figma looks more geared towards collaborative prototyping. Framer seems great for interaction design/animation (great for like prototyping - but seems that with those nice UI animation showcased on Dribbble people still resort to something like After Effects). And all of them are seems to be trying to go in the direction of compontent-based design - so exporting ready made elements for something like React, etc. + have basic path editing (and try to SVGify everything). To me these two last points are again more about prototyping - not sure if generated code and performance would/could cause problems later on in live/complex projects.

Are people really using these tools as full on replacements for PS? And not just prototyping? Lets say you're starting a brand new project and have complete design freedom (+ want to go beyond simple wireframe mockups) i.e. need to produce the first few 1:1 design mockups - how would you go about it?

Note:am not trying to diss any of these tools - am genuinely curious what "modern" design workflows look like and am looking to upgrade my own. My background is UI frontend - both code and design (tools of the trade mostly PS and a code editor so far - unless I'm just doing wireframes or animated mockups)


  • Jess EddyJess Eddy, 11 months ago

    The short answer - IMHO is yes (these tools are a full replacement for PS).

    Most people I know moved on from Photoshop years ago now. It's not a great layout tool, especially compared to the current tools on the market. I don't think it was ever intended for layouts, everyone just adopted it as there were barely any other tools on the market at the time (late 90's).

    Sketch is a digital design tool with some ability to export code but I wouldn't say it's a huge feature of the software and I would guess that many people never use it.

    I won't comment on all the design tools as there are heaps of articles online that compare these tools.

    I will say that with symbols and libraries, Sketch cuts down on time spent designing - compared to Photoshop by a significant amount! It's designed for digital design, Photoshop was designed to be a photo and graphics editor.

    After transitioning to Sketch more than a few years ago I can't believe I ever designed in Photoshop and will never go back.

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    • Veljko SVeljko S, 11 months ago

      Have tried Sketch a little over a year ago and have plans to retry it on my next project - but the problem I have with it is that PS is self sufficient (can pretty much do anything design-wise with it) whereas dunno if Sketch is. Not a huge fan of the "PS is a photo editor" argument - on a complex interface, you'll still have a fair amount of raster assets to edit/design and not sure that Sketch can cut it there. Even vector assets are a stretch too (if you're creating/editing them). Heck I've edited videos with PS and did more than one animated GIF with it too.

      It seems to me that where Sketch excels the most is organisation (reusing design patterns or icon libraries, artboards, etc.) but in terms of actual design tools its (still) weaker.

      In my mind the ideal workflow (when working on a new complex app beyond wireframes) still might be to start in Photoshop for lets say 2-4 key/mood screens and develop the overall look of the application. And then possibly patternise the UI elements and jump into Sketch to build-up the app screen-by-screen.

      Can see the benefit of that on larger project and/or those where you work with other designers. For smaller ones dunno.

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