It used to be the case that if you wanted to design a website or mobile app, you were at the mercy of Adobe, whose Photoshop and Illustrator tools were the only options for serious designers. But, as all designers well know, these products have their limitations. Photoshop, notably, was designed for photo editing first and evolved over time to become a screen design tool, with features added on top of the existing framework. Designers often complained of how bloated and clunky Adobe’s tools were.
And then along came Sketch, a digital design toolkit created specifically to meet the needs of screen designers. For designers, Sketch was a welcome change from the Adobe Creative Cloud, and the low price point didn’t hurt either. Sketch eventually partnered with InVision, a collaborative prototyping tool. The partnership allows designers to add animations to designs created with Sketch and receive feedback in real time.
Never one to be left behind, in 2016 Adobe launched Adobe XD, a user experience design tool that allows users to design and animate prototypes. Now InVision has upped the ante even further with the announcement of what the company calls “the world’s most powerful screen design tool” -- InVision Studio.
As mentioned earlier, InVision began as a prototyping tool that made it easy for teams to collaborate and give feedback on designs. It made client and stakeholder presentations easier because working demos could be put together quickly and shared easily. But InVision didn’t have a native design tool, so it seems natural that the logical next step would be to create one, bringing the entire design and prototyping process under one roof.
Some key features of InVision’s new tool, which is currently in beta with a full launch slated for January 2018, include:
Design plus prototyping
InVision Studio will allow designers to create and animate layouts all within one ecosystem, where previously these processes had been fractured, necessitating the use of many different tools. This more unified, harmonious experience should save designers time and frustration. According to the InVision Studio website: “Intuitive, frictionless rapid prototyping and advanced animation help you unlock new dimensions of screen design.”
Designing for multiple screen resolutions is part of every designer’s job, but it can be a time-consuming task, to say the least. InVision Studio makes responsive design a core tenet of the software. The tool makes the task of designing for multiple devices much simpler -- to adjust the size of a layout the user can simply click and drag to make adjustments automatically.
As with InVision’s original offering, collaboration is a major selling point of Studio. The platform allows stakeholders and team members to comment and offer feedback on designs within the tool itself, eliminating the need for endless back and forth on design edits.
InVision Studio will allow users to develop their own apps for the platform, creating add-ons and kits that Studio users can find in an InVision app store.
The Run Down
Both InVision and Sketch were created as responses to the lack of good options for screen designers. InVision filled a hole in the market by allowing designers to create quick prototypes from their designs. Sketch became a worthy Adobe challenger by honing in on the features that mattered most to screen designers and designing a more user-friendly platform.
With the launch of Studio, InVision becomes a standalone Adobe competitor, with capabilities that match those of Adobe XD. InVision is also now competing directly with Sketch, which has a devoted user base. It remains to be seen if the platform will be able to convert users from Sketch or Adobe XD, but it does present an enticing alternative. Notably, InVision Studio will be available for Windows and Mac while Sketch remains exclusive to Mac, so it may be successful in wooing Windows-based designers looking for an Adobe alternative.
The advent of Sketch and InVision Studio have helped democratize the design tool landscape. Both platforms are focused on the needs of today’s digital designer, which is a refreshing change from legacy Adobe tools. Their rise signals a demand for simpler, more effective tools that free up design time to be used in ideation and creation rather than the more menial aspects of pixel pushing.
Increased competition among screen design tools is a positive trend for designers. This competition forces the creators of each tool to work harder at satisfying users by providing the best possible product at a fair price. The success of Sketch and the advent of InVision Studio both demonstrate that the future of design tools is one where a holistic approach to user experience design is the one that wins.