WHY I MADE THE SWITCH TO FIGMA AND WHAT I FOUND ALONG THE WAY
As my product design work expanded with more complexity and higher fidelity, I decided to explore switching from Sketch+Invision to Figma to see if it fits my own & my team’s workflow. In this post, I’m going to share my findings, and key considerations for anyone who’s interested in making the transition.
Sketch+Invision have always been widely regarded as the current industry standard for UX & UI design for the past few years and were also the go-to tools for my design work. But by mid 2019, we had a lot of tool choices including Adobe XD, Marvel, Framer, Figma and many more. Among these, Figma had long been on top of my radar, as it’s gained extreme popularity as an all-in-one tool for real-time team collaboration on a UX/Design project.
So, what is it that got me interested in actually transitioning into Figma? One of the products I was working on has evolved with more complexity in design & development, and I felt the Sketch+Invision design workflow became slow and quite challenging to keep track of design updates among multiple versions of designs. I strongly felt the need to better manage the design library and ensure efficiency and consistency across screens and components. The main product I was working on was a web-based platform. As the sole UX & UI Designer, I was working with a product owner and a team of developers, communicating with them daily and operating mostly remotely.
Switching: Overall Experience
Switching from Sketch to Figma has been a pretty smooth process, since importing an existing sketch file into Figma works with impressive accuracy. Also, since there are virtually no significant differences between the two, getting used to the new tool was quite easy.
Here are some of the highlights I found about Figma:
With Figma, since it’s an all-in-one tool for the entire workflow from design, prototyping to commenting in one place, I found it a huge time-saver that freed me from switching between different tools.
2. Speed & Performance
The biggest advantage I found with Figma is speed.
In my experience, when working with large files (30+ artboards) Figma loads and reacts much faster than Sketch+Invision. This allows me to iterate WAY faster in Figma and get feedback quicker.
3. Easy Library Management
As with any decent size design project, building a design library takes time and effort. But in the long-term having a single source of truth helps increase efficiency and consistency. In Sketch, the way to maintain a shared design library is to keep a sketch library file and link it to another sketch file. Collaboration between designers required sharing sketch files with each other and then consolidating new changes - this is quite a tedious and messy process.
Figma’s approach to library management is a centralized repository of components called ‘Team Library’. The cloud-based system with real-time collaboration adds a huge advantage to Figma, since whenever I push an update to the design library, all the linked files can be updated with one click, without having to manually share or consolidate individual files between collaborators.
4. Prototyping with Animation
Sketch+InVision can handle most of the basic prototyping work like creating hotspots and adding simple transition animations quickly and easily. But it’s impossible to prototype multiple fixed elements (header and side nav) on a page without using some creative hacks.
Also, more advanced prototyping capability requires an advanced prototyping tool like Principle, exporting it as an animated gif, and then adding it to InVision (which notably has a limit for image size, preventing larger gifs from being imported). Switching to Figma allows me to prototype at higher fidelity much more quickly, which benefits not only my design process but helps communicate transitions and animations in-context way better with my team.
This is another one of Figma’s advantages of being a cloud-based tool. It allows you to restore older versions instantly, which is especially useful when multiple users are editing the same file, and you can isolate individual edits of each user without having to email / sharing files at all.
Besides the nice things, I’ve also found some pitfalls with Figma:
1. A Figma Frame Has Two Types of URLs
This is a very specific but an important one that worths attention if you’re collaborating with a team. It took me and my team a while to realize that in Figma there are two types of URLs - (Work URL & Presentation URL). The Work URL is permanent while Presentation URLs change with prototyping - This means when adding a prototype URL to user stories, you have to be careful that you’re adding a Work URL, not Presentation URL.
2. Sketch Wins in Plugin Ecosystems
This a definitely an advantage of Sketch. It out-numbers Figma in third-party plugins and has way more integrations than any other design tools out there. Figma has currently a relatively smaller library of plugins, that said, I found it more than enough for my day-to-day design work needs.
Overall, switching to Figma for a complex product like this has been a great experience that improved my product design work and collaboration with my team. Currently I still actively use both Sketch + InVision and Figma depending on different product needs.
There are for sure a ton of capabilities in these tools I have yet to discover, but I’ll continue to explore deeper as I continue working with them :)