There’s a lot of UX, CX and UIX tools around these days, some only related to design and other added with functionality to also use them as (let’s call it) prototyping tools. I make this difference as when looking to it (at least from my perspective) as an interaction designer - doing flowcharts, customer experience, wireframes and also pixel precise mock-ups.
Despite how you would call someone doing this profession, I’ll stick with the term UX designer as that (from my perspective) covers the whole package and doesn’t seduce us to trendy and catchy - and a little polarising terms.
In this post I’m not going to say what’s best - but just try to explain from my own experience (and other fellow UX designers) what tools are valuable - each for their own reasons. As I work on Mac, the software (at least the desktop app) I’m going to discuss will be mainly those running on Mac - not only the most hot & trendy ones - but merely chosen on what they can do, their efficiency and moreover the result.
The result on which I’m targeting - as it’s 2019 - is the fact that a tool should be able to wireframe, do pixel precise design and have a form of functionality in them to create responsive views as well and wishfully make some of interactive click trough prototype - this all in an efficient and moreover logical way. That said - let’s kick off with the first one!
I’ll start with Sketch as it’s on the moment one of most popular tools around. Launched a few years ago as a specific tool for UX design it got it’s strengths - but also some mayor cons if you ask me.
What I like on Sketch is it’s clear and moreover simple interface. There’s not more tools then you actually need to create a nice UX design or mockup! Also they were one of the first pieces of software to add “artboards” what was really an eyeopener compared to Illustrator or any other tool (Fireworks had pages - a few will remember).
No need to mention the nice ‘have-to thingy’ that known used viewport sizes (like mobile and desktop) are already added by default. Of course you need to upgrade to to the latest version - to also have the current sizes in there.
Another nice feature is the ability to add plugins to extend the functionality - and there’s a lot around these days! Not all of them have the same quality but it’s cool it possible to also make for example animated gifs or duplicate symbols instantly.
But - and that’s really a mayor ‘but’ these plugin’s extend Sketch in some way but there are - first of all no core functionality. Sketch doesn’t turn into a dedicated animation tool with a plugin and neither into a dedicated prototyping tool with interaction functionality.
The last thing thing I want to say about Sketch is their license model - which caused me - and a lot of other designers (who were already fed up by Adobe’s licence model) to move to other tools. As an early adapter of Sketch - contributing to the tool with all the glitches that it had (and still got) they dared to ask a full price for upgrading to a new version - on a yearly base.
Personally as I pay for my software I didn’t see the added value anymore so I moved over to Affinity Designer.
For those who never heard of AD - a quick introduction. Made by Serif software it’s what they called during the beta period - ‘The Illustrator Killer’. And yeh they kept their promise - they build a professional design tool from ground up!
Working with it for over 3 years now I can truly say this is a solid piece of underestimated (and underdog) software far more efficient, faster and honest then Adobe Illustrator. But wait - I hear you guys thinking - we’re talking UX Design up here!
What’s nice on AD is that it’s fast - blazing fast - even on older machines and Windows based systems - and just like Sketch it got just the tools you need - but then more solid. It’s vector functionality, snapping objects, handling fonts and especially exporting them to SVG is just sublime!
Artboards are also in AD the starting point and can easily be scaled, exported or printed (who doesn’t love to print wireframes on A3 portrait and just glue them!). No presets for mobile or desktop viewports when creating new artboards - but even that is just a glitch compared to the overall workflow of AD.
The big handles (to scale and move) objects and symbols are great make this tool really cool for fastly creating wireframes and just ‘throw and snap’ objects. This was my favourite tool for 2016 - 2018 (RIP) and mainly because it (just like Sketch) the functionality to create a responsive prototype - on he same time I’nm taking about.
It got some functionality to make objects relative to their parent (or group) object but this is not very solid - it takes more time to correct it all the time then actually work with it. The lack for this - as it’s 2019 decided me to do some research for a tool (online and desktop) that could fulfil my needs.
As I like (besides reading reviews and see what’s hot) also like to install, check and test tools - (I’m still a interaction designer) - I recently came along Sparkle. Presented as a “make your own static website” tool - I had my doubts. Another DIY static website tool?
Yeah that’s what it basically is, and sounds pretty corny in way - I (even) could hear myself thinking. But no - the way this software is being designed with it’s options to create a design (as in Sketch and AD - nothing less, but actually more) is almost sublime!
The ability to create pages (or artboards) and make several views modes for them (mobile, tablet and desktop) is just genius. Objects that’s being added on one view also appear on the other ones and can be customised by colour, shape and action. Yes I said 'action' - on any object actions can be applied pretty easy like a link or animation which can be previewed in the browser.
Did you say browser I hear you thinking - yes preview your ‘website’ (or wireframe or mockup) interactive and responsive with a build-in server - in your browser! When you also want the client to have peek - upload it to a server.
There are a lot these tools around - but this one got some serious ambitions to also attract pro’s as it looks slick, it’s solid and fast. The only con I can find is that it is not able to export pages to PDF (but there’s some great screenshot tools in Chrome), and layers or symbols functionality - but I must be honest - so many pro’s will make Sparkle my 2019 tool!