Here’s the full story:
I started working with graphics at the age of 14. This is two decades ago. When I started Photoshop was available in version 5.0. It’s these two decades that I have been a Photoshop user. I know the tool, I know its weaknesses and its mighty power.
As most graphic designers who found their way into UX I’ve used Photoshop for all kinds of jobs. From editing photos (which it still does better than any other tool on the market) to drawing all kinds of icons. From building wireframes to crafting polished user interfaces. Photoshop simply was my tool of trade. It lived in my Dock nicely besides Illustrator for vector illustrations and icons and InDesign for print stuff.
I guess it would still be the same today, but as it says in the song: The times they are a-changing.
It might have been about two years since I first used Sketch in a professional project. Before I always played around with it when new versions hit the floor, but I never really got used to it.
And boy did it change the way I work …
Today I rarely open up Photoshop anymore. It occurs that I have to crop an image or something. That’s when ol’ Photoshop gets its 15 minutes of fame and the happy Dock icon jumps around for some seconds, just to be closed right after the job is done.
This is different with Sketch nowadays. It’s always open. It the one tool that I use the most in my daily business. (Besides the browser, to be fair)
My first weeks with Sketch were tricky. The UI seamed so empty. This little amount of features irritated me. Was this new kid on the block ready for prime time?
Yes it was. It took over my workflow in a matter of days. I created all new concepts and files in Sketch. And sooner than later I realized that there was now way back for me. Sketch was now part of our team! 🙌
Then, in October 2015, Adobe announced Project Comet, their new tool specially designed for UX designers. It clearly showed that they were on to something. But it was just an announcement yet. It took a few month until the first version of then Adobe Xd to be tested publicly was available. And I tested it immediately. But since it was just a beta and lacking most of the features I love working with Sketch I skipped the test quite fast. And did not look into the tool for months. I realized that update were shipped thanks to Creative Cloud, but I still had the picture of the unfinished beta in my mind.
Thanks to the great community behind Sketch and companies like inVision who put quite some effort into creating stunning plugins for Sketch the tool got even more valuable and irreplaceable for my team and me. With inVisions Craft Plugin Sketch was able to host a pattern library, add dummy data with just a click and create shareable prototypes right from within Sketch in seconds.
As it should be clear now: Their is now really reason to doubt that Sketch is my favorite tool for prototyping and crafting user interfaces.
But once again something happened in the background, that got louder and louder every week. More and more designers jumped on the Adobe Xd wagon and cheered for the tool that now obviously could do more than in my previous test.
So for the past weeks I kept a close eye on the Xd community. Read a lot of articles, watched a lot of videos. The tool looks really awesome now. (And I’m talking features, not UI here.)
Last weekend I had the pleasure to participate in the UX Camp Europe in Berlin. The barcamp was mainly sponsored by Adobe and they left no doubt how much they wanted every participant to check out Adobe Xd and get familiar with their open development approach. They even offered tasty waffles featuring the Adobe Xd logo!
I managed to check out different sessions with the Xd team showcasing how they develop the product and where their roadmap might lead them. It was stunning to realize that this is no small project inside Adobe with a bunch of people trying to get their market share back. According to their information the team host not less than 100+ developers (plus designer, product mangers …) working on Xd. This also explains the speed in which they are currently shipping new features.
So will this change our tool belt back to be mostly Adobe exclusive? Let’s try to have a look into the crystal ball:
For now I think I will not replace Sketch. The ecosystem of plugins and the features of the tool just works for us perfectly. And we are missing critical features in Xd that exist in Sketch, like constraints for symbols, nesting of symbols the usage of dummy content with clicking buttons and not juggling around with dragging and dropping from the finder.
“Adobe Xd is stepping up every month to become more powerful than Sketch soon.”
But I think this might change in the really near future. Adobe Xd is stepping up every month and the preview I got to see at UX Camp Europe featuring visual versioning (could replace the Github-like Abstract in our tool belt) and collaborative designing paints a picture in my mind of a tool that is getting more powerful (and performant) than Sketch pretty soon.
I even already talked to my team and we’ve decided to dedicate some days in one of the next sprints to get a deeper understanding of the performance and capabilities of Xd.
tl;dr: Is Xd worth the switch?
For me the answer today is no. It’s not there yet. But I think it will be. And I think it will change the workflow of UX designers for the better, when the time arrives.
I’ll keep an eye on you Xd!