Many different design tools came out in the last couple of years, and they have revolutionized the entire industry. It’s become difficult to remember what digital design was like before them. When comparing Figma vs Sketch, though, which comes out ahead?
Digital design tools unified a lot of design components under one roof, and these two tools are leaders in the space for a good reason.
There’s an enormous number of options. This can be both good and bad. The good thing is there’s a program or tool for anything you can imagine. The bad thing about it is that too many choices can often be overwhelming.
You can take a look here at some of the most popular design tools. They all have great features and will make designing a joy.
Design tools all have a similar basic principle. They serve as a testing ground for your design ideas. They have different features and limitations, though. So, you’ll do best to inform yourself as much as you can.
Most tools offer features for designing UX and UI projects. This means they’re focused on projects that stay in digital spaces. They might be websites, apps or social media campaigns for example. Social media ads are one of the most popular forms of advertising. It stands to reason that a lot of thought goes into the design.
Being able to work on both UX and UI elements at the same time is a massive advantage. That’s why most of the design tools embraced this a-bit-of-both approach.
Whether you’re creating a website app or something else, there’s a tool for you. In design finding the right tool is often a matter of trial and error. But, sometimes you can strike lucky on your first try.
But, for cases that aren’t the exception research is paramount. You should always keep in mind what your project is. Think about what features would best suit your design needs. That way you can ensure your design is consistent and pleasing to the eye.
Sometimes, you need snazzy fonts and flashy backdrops. Other times you need elegance, sleekness and polish. And sometimes you need a healthy mix of both principles. That’s where research comes in.
However, no research can beat the actual experience. That’s why trying out different tools is the best way to find the right one. It’s kind of like shoe shopping isn’t it? It’s probably more interesting, though. Yes, I said it. We’ve all had some nightmarish shopping experience.
How does research help you in that quest? Well, in simplest terms, it rules out what you don’t want. It narrows down the options. And that alone can be of immense help. But, it doesn’t bring you to the final option in most cases.
In this article we’ll try and give a side by side comparison of two among the most popular design tools. As we’ll see, they both have their advantages and shortcomings. Deciding between them is largely a matter of preference.
The two tools we’ll take a look at are Figma and Sketch. At first glance, they might seem quite similar. But, upon a better look they’re two different things altogether.
Of the two, Sketch came out earlier, in 2010. It had tools necessary for both UX and UI design. This means it’s suitable for designing UX/UI prototypes for websites and mobile apps.
Figma debuted for public in 2016. It has a relatively late date of inception. But, it has gained momentum at an incredible pace.
In the next section, we will take a look at both platforms separately. Then, we will make a side by side comparison of the two. That way you’ll be able to have all the facts and figures clear and in the open.
Example of a design in Sketch
As we’ve said, Sketch came out in 2010. The Dutch company Sketch B.V. developed it and published it. It’s a vector based graphics editor.
Vector based tools are becoming the norm in digital design. Why, someone could ask? It’s because you can scale vector based designs to any size. You can do that without sacrificing the quality of the rendering.
Now one might think that this mostly pertains to printable materials. They’d be wrong, though. Digital designs must translate to a vast number of screens with different resolutions. The design must be neat and clear on all of them.
That’s why having a vector based design tool is so important. It streamlines the entire design process. Without them, designers would have to make the same kind of design for different resolutions. A menial nightmare job in other words, you will agree.
Let’s get to Sketch’s brass tacks, shall we?
Sketch helps you build beautiful interfaces and prototypes for any kind of design brief. It has many great features that suit all kinds of ideas. It also offers plugins that further assist you in your designing.
One of these is the Vectary plugin. It allows you to create full 3D mockups and elements. It gives you complete control over angles and perspectives. This means you can customize the 3D elements in your design to your taste and sensibilities.
Another great Sketch plugin is Chart. As the name suggests, it allows you to create charts inside Sketch. It supports random, tabular and JSON data. You can update and customize the data in a matter of moments.
Overflow is also a very helpful plugin. With it you can convert your Artboards into screens in Overflow. This turns your designs into playable user flow diagrams. This is great for testing out your ideas.
Flow is an extension that allows you to create UI animations. You can import, animate and export your Sketch designs without a hitch.
Lokalise is another awesome extension. It helps designers translate, preview and download Sketch files in many different languages.
Scribble is an extension that improves the team communication on a shared project. With it, you can upload your design and your team members can in turn edit the copy in the browser. Then you can sync the changes to your design. Nifty, isn’t it?
There are many, many more extensions for you to have fun with. It would take far too long to go into them all. So, go ahead and explore. You won’t be disappointed.
One of the shortcomings of Sketch is that it’s only available for Mac. In such a competitive market, that can indeed be a handicap. But, if you’re working in a predominantly Mac environment, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Let’s take a look at the pricing.
Sketch doesn’t offer a free plan. This can deter some designers. But, it does offer a free trial. This allows you to test it out and see if you like it. No muss, no fuss.
As far as paid plans go, there are two options.
The individual plan has a one-time fee of $99. Unlike a subscription, you only have to worry about paying once. That’s a pretty good deal. With the individual plan, you get access to the Mac app. You also get one year of free cloud saving. You also get one year of unlimited storage and version history. After that it’s an annual subscription of $79. If you don’t want it, don’t sweat. It’s completely optional.
The teams plan costs $9 per contributor per month or $99 on an annual basis. The annual payment is a great deal. Even if you only have two contributors, it comes out cheaper with the $99 subscription. The team plan grants access to the Mac app for all contributors. They have a Sketch account and a shared cloud workspace. It also offers free cloud access for unlimited viewers. This means you can keep all your clients in the loop. You also have the option of team management. This means you can add or remove contributors as you need.
That was it for our first contestant. Now, we’ll take a look at the proverbial new kid on the block: Figma.
Example of a UI kit being edited in Figma
We’ve already said that Figma came out six years after Sketch. That’s one big head start for Sketch. So, Figma had to have something to draw customers to it. It had to stand out. It had to offer something original and unavailable up until then.
For Figma, this was making collaboration between contributors possible. That’s not to say it didn’t exist before that. Collaboration existed as long as design. But, Figma made it a thousand times simpler.
Before we talk about that, let’s take a quick look at Figma. As we’ve said, it became mass available in 2016. Figma is a vector-based graphics and prototyping tool. This means it’s suitable for a variety of projects. You can design and prototype software with the same tool. That wasn’t such a new thing when Figma made its debut. But it bears repeating how handy that is.
Another good thing about Figma is that it’s cloud-hosted. You don’t need to install any software. It’s all available in your browser. This might not seem like much of a feature, but you’d be surprised. Think about it. It means all your projects are available to you anytime, on any device or operating system.
This is the point where we circle back to the collaboration principle. Figma’s in-browser availability means the entire team can be in touch without hassle. No matter which operating system they’re working with, they can work together. How very peace and love-y.
A lot of digital giants have opted for Figma. Companies such as Twitter, Uber and Zoom recognized its potential and worth. They praise Figma’s tidiness and organisation. It’s a neat registry of hundreds of different design elements. You can find anything you need with ease.
Let’s take a look at some of the features Figma brings to the table.
One of them is the ability to store all elements of a project in an easy access library. This means the days of lost or misplaced elements are gone. Every contributor has all the elements on hand. This allows for even easier communication.
Figma also has embedded comments. This again allows for all the contributors and clients to be informed. It shows the progress of the project and keeps a clear record of ideas. The chances of miscommunication are brought to a minimum.
This ties into the version history feature. It keeps a record of previous versions. Version history tracks all changes made to the project. It also shows which contributor made which change.
Another nice Figma feature is the easy export feature. You can export your designs via a live link. This is much easier than sharing a flat pdf.
As we’ve said before, Figma offers both UX and UI prototyping tools. You can keep the entire designing and prototyping process close to one another.
Figma offers a built-in image database and templates for quicker design. It also has a smart selection tool. It adjusts spacing, arrangement and organisation automatically.
It also has drag and drop accessible libraries. Figma operates with open type font features. This gives you a wide selection of different fonts that work well on any display.
Figma also offers many different icon sets. Within them you can find almost anything you can think of. Find the article on icons here(hyperlink needed) if you want to know more.
Now, let’s take a look at Figma’s plans and pricing.
One of the best things about Figma design is their free plan. It gives you all the Figma tools without any restrictions. It’s great for starting business and freelance work. It does come with a couple of limitations, though. The number of contributors is limited to two. And you can only work on up to three projects at the time. The version history is also limited to 30 days.
The cheapest paid plan is the professional plan. It comes at $15 per contributor per month. Beside all the great Figma features in the free plan, it offers lots more. With it you get unlimited version history. You also get invite-only projects and a shareable team library. It’s a versatile plan and a great value.
The organisation plan is the most extensive and most expensive one. It costs $45 per editor per month. It brings all sorts of features necessary for large companies. You get organisation wide design system, centralized teams and plugin administration. It also brings a single sign-on option and improved security. This plan is only available for an annual subscription.
Figma also offers discounts for students and educators. If you get an annual subscription for the professional plan, it costs $12.
Comparing the two
We will now compare Sketch and Figma. There will be no score numbers. Rather, we’ll focus on their strengths and weaknesses without making scoreboards. This comparison serves more as a guide for people to see what fits them best. So, let’s get into the details.
First, we’ll take a look at the features that both tools offer. It’s understandable there are a lot of similarities. After all, both tools have the same purpose.
Being the older tool, Sketch has a longer history of tweaks and updates. It has a clear interface and it runs like a well-oiled machine by now. Sketch also has a huge plugin library. These plugins allow you to design faster and easier. Plugins are a sort of shortcut to various design elements you might need.
As we’ve said in the Sketch section of this article, there are also third-party plugins. This means you’re not limited to the plugins available in Sketch itself. There are virtually no limits to your creativity.
But, you shouldn’t dismiss Figma’s plugins and templates, which are growing by the day. There are many premade Figma templates for wireframes, flowcharts, diagrams and many more design elements. This makes design streamlined and simple.
Example of a Figma template
There are so many available, and they are customizable. They’re templates. They’re the foundation that you can breathe uniqueness into.
Practicality – how operable are they?
Next we’ll look at accessibility and availability of the two tools. Designers often have their little quirks. One can apply this to anyone working in a creative field. Creation is not an altogether rational process. Emotions and subjectivity play a big part in matters of design.
All designers have their preferences. They can be color schemes, drawing styles and formats. But, they’re not limited to that. Some designers prefer working on certain kinds of operating systems or devices. Whatever gets those creative juices flowing. Inspiration can be a ghastly tricky thing.
We’ve already said that Sketch is only available for iOS. This can be a deal-breaker for some designers. But, if you work in a Mac environment this should be a non-issue. Sketch has great features and is very versatile within its milieu.
Figma is browser-based. This means it’s available on any device with any operating systems, making it a perfect tool for designers on-the-go. Its availability is also what allows the collaboration between the contributors. It allows the communication between contributors and clients to run without a hitch.
Everyone can get their voice heard because the project is available to all. Sketch also developed the possibility of collaboration in the meantime. But, collaboration and communication is Figma’s claim to fame. It was in their brand from the very beginning.
Pricing is a deciding factor in many cases. That’s understandable. Our finances often dictate our decisions. It becomes obvious in matters of career and business. So, let’s look at the pricing of these two awesome tools.
It’s important to note you should always test what you’re getting. You should see if you like the product. In this case, the product is the design tool of your choice. Sometimes everything looks great on paper. But, you get disappointed once you try it.
Vice versa is also possible. You could think a tool won’t suit your need. Then, you’re pleasantly surprised when you use it.
As we’ve said, Sketch doesn’t offer a free version. But you do get a free trial. That’s more than enough time to see if you like it.
Sketch has the option of a one-time fee. That’s great news for everyone dreading keeping track of their design expenses. The one-time purchase costs $99. It gives you access to the Sketch app. It also gives you one year of unlimited version history, storage and free cloud saving. After one year you can get all these things for an annual subscription of $79.
The team plan costs $9 per contributor per month. You can also pay an annual fee of $99. With the team plan all contributors have access to the app. They also have a shared cloud workspace. The team plan brings free access to unlimited viewers.
Figma doesn’t offer a free trial. It does one better: it offers a free plan. Best of all, no features are restricted to paid plans. This is great news for starting businesses and freelance designers. Figma made it easy for anyone to get into digital design.
But, there are some restrictions with the free plan. You can only have two contributors. The number of projects is also limited. The version history is available for 30 days.
Now, for the paid plans. There are several options. The professional plan costs $15 per contributor per month. With it you get unlimited version history and shareable team libraries. It’s great for small and medium size businesses.
The organisation plan costs $45 per contributor per month. And, it’s only available on an annual basis. It’s suitable for large businesses. It brings all sorts of features useful for bigger teams. They include a single sign-on, centralised administration and advanced security.
There are many design tools out there. You should try as many as you can. That way you’ll be sure to choose the one that’s best for you.
There’s no wrong choice between Sketch and Figma. They both have awesome features and tools for UX/UI design. It’s a matter of personal preference in the largest amount. So, go and try them out. The possibilities will amaze you.
Last updated: September 11, 2020