Top 3 app design tools compared

Design is an industry that moves fast, with methodologies and programs sometimes not even lasting a couple of years before they are obsolete. Design tools are subject to the same scrutiny, although there are three design tools that have managed to hold strong and attract interest from the most creative of minds. Let’s look at Figma, Adobe XD and Sketch which are the key choices for most mobile app design teams, and compare how these vector design tools shape up to be the prevailing design tool.

A closer look at Sketch

Chances are that Sketch is the design tool you are most familiar with, as it has been dominating this space for longer and most design professionals are either using it still or have a deep understanding of how to use it from past projects. Its popularity is largely due to Adobe discontinuing Fireworks, with masses flocking to Mac and finding Sketch to be worth the slight price hike.

The benefits of using Sketch:

  • Easier to use than Photoshop
  • Utilises Pages and Artboards
  • Better design export assets

The shortfalls of using Sketch:

  • Only can be used as a Desktop app on Apple computers
  • It is made for UX/UI primarily, so fewer design features
  • Does not have a CMYK profile in the program

Despite Sketch really targeting UX/UI projects and being only accessible on Mac computers, it retains its spot as the most popular design tool option. It begs the question – does the market share go to whoever is first in the market?

A closer look at Figma

Unlike other design tools, Figma is a web app and can be run on a browser which makes it accessible on every operating system. Unlike Sketch, Figma is a great option for offices that have different operating systems and are collaborating with one another. It is also one of the preferred tools for web development, with Sketch pivoting toward UX/UI projects and not including the full scope of design features for all design briefs.

The benefits of using Figma:

  • Artboards are better than Sketch and Adobe XD
  • Accessible on all operating systems
  • More responsive as it is run on a web browser

The shortfalls of using Figma:

  • You need to be online to be working on Figma
  • With shared use, it is unclear who is the project owner or who made last edits
  • Requires a Graphic Card

For group projects or tasks with many stakeholders, Figma is a great option as many people can be in the project and working on it at the same time – which is a huge benefit of being a web-based program. If you are one to work offline – watch out as Figma is only working when there is a connection.

A closer look at Adobe XD

It’s hard to believe that Adobe XD is not the most popular of these three design tools based on the saturation Adobe has in the design industry. Adobe XD made a splash when it was first released for free and called itself the one-stop-shop for app development, web design and all UX/UI projects. Like most of the Adobe suite, it was packed with features and has carved out a healthy following, although it is no longer free.

The benefits of using Adobe XD:

  • Affordably priced at $9.99/month
  • Accessible for Windows
  • Integrates with other Adobe products

The shortfalls of using Adobe XD:

  • Updates are few and infrequent
  • The user base is not large and so limited community
  • Need additional Adobe products (Illustrator) for full design capability

It seems that one of the biggest critiques from designers is that Adobe XD does not have the same ease of use as Figma or Sketch. While Figma and Sketch dominate in their space respectively, Adobe XD appears to have a little from each camp but requires follow up Adobe products to fully deliver a project.


Being measured and methodical are common traits in designers, and so any new or seasoned professional should be trialling each of the three design tools with a prototype to decide what best meets the needs of the brief. If there is anything we missed in this round-up, leave a comment – we would love to hear which of the three you use and why!

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