why-adobe-xd-is-better-than-sketch.

A designers view: Part 2.

Simon Fairhurst

After the success of my previous article, reaching over 25,000 reads and shares, I wanted to do a revision on comparing these two tools.

For those that didnt read my last article you can find it here:


Okay, so basically as expected, after continuous updates of Adobe XD I take back everything I said against it, and here’s why.

Now, although this article leans more towards Adobe XD, all opinions of UI/UX software generally comes down to personal preference, I mean, let’s be honest – they all pretty much do the same thing, right? Plus, most of them can communicate with each other these days too.

Anyway, let’s get started on comparing Sketch and Adobe XD.

Sketch has been around now for years. I remember being told 8 years ago by fellow designers to stop using photoshop and use Sketch because ‘everyone uses it’.

It took a while before I took the leap, and don’t get me wrong, I’m totally glad that I did, but the more I started experimenting with Sketch and other tools, the more issues I have found with it.

Plug-ins.

Plug-ins are great when it comes to tools that can make your day more efficient, but how much more efficient is it if the plugins are continuously breaking, updating, or crashing the software? UI Faces, Lorem Ipsum inputs, Unsplash image populating… all sound great, but when you‘re designing an e-commerce platform that’s 60 artboards, alongside mobile designs, symbols and styles, they don’t seem to work as efficiently as you think. Numerous times I’ve opened a sketch file ready to crack on with a deadline, only to find that plugins have corrupted, or need updating for 10 minutes before I can even start, and at least 30% of the time crashing Sketch entirely.

Now I know most plugins are 3rd party developed which is always unreliable, so we can’t really blame Sketch as such for this.

But all this said, plugins are everything to Sketch users from what I’ve gathered at events and talks with other UI and UX designers. Without plugins, Sketch is simply just a basic, vector format, design tool like any other.

Reliability.

As mentioned above, Sketch hasn’t been very efficient for myself or my design team of 6 who tested this alongside me. Working on large platforms it’s been great to be able to house everything in one file to share between designers, and the symbols are extremely handy when your entire project relies on module re-use, but the software is forever crashing!

Now I know you’re probably sat there reading this thinking “that’s just your machine not the software” – just to clarify, myself and all of my designers currently work on brand new 15” MacBook Pro’s – we’re definitely not lacking in equipment.

Not only does this software crash a lot, it also corrupts quite a bit too. Multiple times now we’ve packaged up a sketch file to send between each other, only to open it on another machine and the symbols be corrupted or the font styles disappearing. Not fantastic when you’re under pressure for a big deadline and need to work with another designer.

Experience.

Overall sketch feels like it’s very bulky, almost becoming as bulky as photoshop did after a long time of adobe adding more and more to it. When designing a website more than 5 pages it begins to lag massively. Even when compressing imagery and assets prior to importing them, it’s still not great to work on when you’re on a tight deadline. Due to this tool becoming bulky and laggy it also feels like the UI of the software is also becoming more and more overwhelming to use — there are so many options and functions crowding my canvas i barely have enough space to design!

I can’t help but feel that Sketch is going down that same route as Photoshop, and eventually they’ll hit a point where no one wants to use their laggy slow software anymore and wants to jump to the next big thing.

Overall

If you’re the type of designer who works with templates and modules and wants to quickly create webpages that look the same, by all means Sketch is for you: symbols, font styles, plugins like Abstract… are fantastic for efficiency. But if you’re the type of designer who wants to push the limits of design, create truly immersive experiences and build something unique, Sketch just doesn’t do this in my opinion.

No matter how many updates there are, I still get the feeling that this software has become dated, bulky and a chore to use, compared to others out there.

Maybe Sketch has overstayed it’s welcome in the Experience Design world? I don’t know, personally I just don’t like using it, and neither did my peers.

This software is still pretty much brand new, and it excites the crap out of me!

I know that I said in my last article that it’s very basic based on the BETA version, but the updates and improvements that I’ve received over the past 3–4 months have really turned this around for me and I genuinely think it’s up there with the best tool for UI/UX work alongside the likes of Figma.

Reliability.

I can honestly state, that this software has not once crashed on me nor the other 6 designers that use it alongside me, after using it for approximately 12 months. No matter what size images I put in there, no matter how many art boards or symbols/components, it’s honestly been truly reliable.

Adobe have recently introduced third party plugins too, just like Sketch, and it seems no matter how many plugins you add, the software maintains its reliability. No lag, no crashes – seamless. I’ve still yet to experience any of these corrupting too!

Sharing documents is also minimal effort, they’re (somehow) compressed so the file sizes aren’t ridiculously huge, and when opening on other people’s machines there’s never any corrupting of symbols or fonts or art boards, making it massively efficient to handover to someone else on your team in an instant. Symbols/components even link to your previous documents on the cloud (somehow) so even if you don’t have the original designs on your machine it still displays it exactly how it should be instead of a “missing link” thumbnail or prompt.

Adobe XD — Clean and simple software UI design and layout

Experience.

The layout of Adobe XD just feels massively intuitive to me. Adobe have successfully cut out all of the bulls*** and stuck to basics – the way I as a designer, love it. There’s nothing spectacular or unique about the interface, just the tools you need, when you need them.

The speed that the software processes things is incredible, and has a massive drive for efficiency, there’s absolutely no lag when using it – how Adobe have managed this, I’ve no idea, but it’s fantastic as a designer to work on something that feels so solid.

It’s incredibly simple – dragging a photo into a shape in XD quickly makes a mask for you. Dropping in an SVG icon instantly converts it to an editable vector shape that you can play with straight away, resizing modules is done responsively so you don’t have to fiddle with the layers… these are the simple things that make your life as a designer so much easier, and you don’t realise just how incredible these things are, until you experience this with XD.

https://dribbble.com/shots/5856492-Restaurant-Finding-App-Concept

Auto-Animate.

Just saying “auto-animate” gives me goosebumps as a UI designer. I want to show a CTA roll over, I want to demonstrate to a client which direction a carousel should scroll, I want to present an experience not just a flat graphic. It all adds to the selling of an idea, the up sell of an experience over just a design, the push for more budget to really do something cool.

Before Adobe XD, we struggled for time and budget to create motion video to demonstrate these ideas using software such as After FX and Premier Pro, and for me, 50% of the time that impacted the effect that the concept had on the client for buying into the experience. Now, we don’t have to worry about the time to create videos, because it’s just so ridiculously simple to do in Adobe XD.

Within XD you can even screen record your prototype auto-animations, exporting a short video to demonstrate these animations. Useful for both client presentations and hand overs to development to build!

I won’t bore you with a step by step guide specifics on how to do the auto-animate, this article isn’t a tutorial, but it’s so simple and effective you will kick yourself if you don’t try it.

Simple, custom, animations and transitions, that help you sell the dream. By far the best feature. No plug ins required. Well done Adobe.

Prototyping.

I used to absolutely HATE having to export visuals from photoshop/sketch to upload them to Invision, and do the same every time there was a slight amendment. And before you ask, Yes, i did use the “Craft” plugin for a short while, but this alone had many of its own issues: art boards not appearing, things accidentally being overwritten, comments going missing from Invision when you replace an art board, artboards being duplicated…etc what a loads of hassle! On top of this, I also used to use the app ‘Overflow’ for pretty much every client, which is essentially a glorified user journey diagram.

With Adobe XD you don’t have to worry about any of this, it’s all built into the same software. You can rapidly switch between “Design” and “Prototype” whenever you like. Got a quick text change? Make it and publish it within seconds, no exporting visuals. No exporting and replacing, so no duplicates are made. When you’re linking it all up under the “prototype” tab, you see all of the user journeys right there in front of you, no need for another piece of software to demonstrate this.

And the best part (in my opinion) about all of this, is when you export a prototype link that opens in a browser for your client, it’s all displayed as vector format, meaning everything is super high-resolution, making your work look 10 times better than it ever did as a pixelated JPG export on InVison.

There are still downsides to this which I’m hoping Adobe rectify in upcoming updates.

  • Storing prototype links is an issue. With Invision it’s easy, you login, and all of your prototypes are there in one place. with Adobe however the links seem to be nested within multiple pages of your adobe account, and can be difficult to find when you’re in a rush. Majority of the time, it easier to find the core XD file, open it up, and export the link again.
  • Commenting on prototypes – I as a designer, don’t like this in general. I personally think it’s great when working with internal teams to comment on sections as you discuss them, but from a client to designer perspective I think it’s poor communication and client management. It’s hard to keep track of what the amends are, it’s easy for the client to scope creep under the Account manager/Project managers nose, and there’s always risk of losing comments when updating visuals, meaning you’ve no backup document to rely on in future (if there’s any circumstance you’d ever have to). But this is a broader issue across multiple prototyping tools like InVision in my opinion.

Development Hand Over

The first time I used Zeplin as a plug-in for Sketch I was amazed. No longer would I have to export all assets for development, no longer would I have to explain every decision on padding and font sizes and alignment, I simply drag my sketch file into Zeplin, and invite the developer to it, everything they need is there.

Adobe have (thankfully) incorporated the best parts of Zeplin, into their software. No need to export from XD, no need to drag the file anywhere to generate the link. Simply click “share” in the top right, and “Share for Development” from the dropdown. A quick URL is generated and away you go. Once again, this is built into the software, so cut out the monthly fee of Zeplin and do yourself a favour.

Overall.

Adobe XD is dope. It’s fast, it’s reliable, it’s efficient, it’s intelligent, and it’s bloody free! That, I can’t wrap my head around, something THIS useful, owned by Adobe, is FREE. Whaaaaaaaaaat?

Thanks for reading. If you want to hit me up on social, feel free to!

Twitter: @ siimonfairhurst

Instagram: @ siimonfairhurst

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