There are now numerous prototyping tools out there and 2018 is shaping up to be a great year for designers and a competitive one for companies. Many of the tools out there are relatively budget friendly and are extremely competitive in terms of features and functionality, so which tool should you be using? Prototyping can help clients to understand user journeys, provide a detailed preview of what a final product may look like, and can help facilitate effective communication between designer and client. The projects I find myself working on vary greatly from organization to organization, and so do my requirements for creating an effective prototype. Sometimes the requirement might be to produce something within an extremely short time frame and in other instances advanced functionality may be required. So far I haven't been able to choose a definitive favorite prototyping tool, so I thought I would take the time to go over some of the pros and cons of the prototyping software I've used most recently.

Adobe XD

Adobe XD (Experience Design), is a lightweight vector editor and prototyping tool that was first announced at Adobe MAX 2015 as Project Comet. It launched in March 2016 as part of the Creative Cloud, and has received near constant updates since. Compared to other software out there, such as Sketch which Bohemian Coding launched in 2010, Adobe XD is still new to the game but has quickly garnered huge support for being part of the already popular Adobe family and an interface which is both a breeze to use and easy to learn no matter what tool you used previously.

Pros:
  • Part of an already great ecosystem from Adobe
  • User-friendly interface in true Adobe fashion
  • Can be used for vector mockups from scratch
  • Prototype sharing where prototypes can be updated iteratively
Cons:
  • Creating detailed functionality can get messy
  • Windows support limited to Windows 10 only. Read why here.
  • No animation support
  • No CSS or code export

Sketch

Sketch is a extremely popular, streamlined vector graphics editor with a huge library of useful plugins that is quickly becoming an industry standard. While Adobe XD is frequently compared to Sketch, it is important to point out that until quite recently (Feb 2018) Sketch did not offer prototyping functionality like Adobe XD, if you wanted to turn your design into a clickable prototype you would need to switch to another solution like InVision, Framer, Principle, or another plugin/tool. Lucky for us, as of version 49, Sketch natively supports prototyping. Unfortunately, Sketch is only available on Mac OS so unless you have an Apple machine, you are out of luck.

Pros:
  • Highly extensible platform. Sketch has tons of great third-party plugins to add major functionality.
  • User-friendly interface in true Adobe fashion
  • Can be used for vector mockups from scratch
  • Prototype sharing where prototypes can be updated iteratively
Cons:
  • Only available on macOS
  • Limited capabilities for more complex work
  • Unexpected crashes and malfunctions
  • Third party plugins, while extremely useful, require ongoing support from their developers

InVision Studio

InVision Studio is vector editor and prototyping tool that is currently in early access. InVision's Studio design tool is a new addition to InVision's collaborative prototyping tool which has been around since 2011, and aims to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Adobe XD and Sketch. Before Studio, InVision was primarily used on top of other design tools like Photoshop and Sketch, allowing users to upload their screens and animations to create functional prototypes and then share them with peers and clients to receive feedback. With Studio, designers will have access to advanced features like animation, responsive design, an open api, version control and a shared assets feature which allows for better collaboration between design teams.

Pros:
  • Adaptive layout engine enabling responsive design
  • History mode showing all past iterations of a mockup
  • Shared design system for team collaboration
  • Integrated animation system is a breeze
Cons:
  • Still in early access

Conclusion

If you are a Windows 10 user who can't use the MacOS only Sketch or a current Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber and you're looking for a program that can handle your workflow from start to finish Adobe XD is your best bet. I prefer InVision as a prototyping tool over that of Adobe XD and InVision remains a great choice for designers using Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator for mockups who are simply looking for a way to prototype them effectively. I am very excited for the release of InVision Studio and expect some strong competition against Adobe XD from InVision in the future as it combines advanced design functionality with InVision's already great prototyping functionality.