In the world of user interface and user experience design, Sketch was the undisputed king for years. It was the go-to platform for website designers looking to design next-level interfaces. Its unique features (flexible vector editing, easy grids, smart guides, etc.) brought the UI design industry to a whole new level.
But as the industry evolved, along came Figma, a web-based multi-platform collaborative system — a new Sketch alternative. But that begs the question: In a Figma vs Sketch matchup, which tool comes out ahead?
There are many key differences that might serve as deciding factors in whether you should choose Sketch or Figma for your UI design needs.
In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Figma vs Sketch so that you can make an informed decision between the two when choosing which one is best for your next responsive web design project.
What Is Figma?
Figma was seen by many as a revolutionary development in the world of UI design tools. It was the first major alternative to Sketch and was released in 2016. Its creation made it much easier for web designers to earn their salaries.
Unlike Sketch, which is local design software you have to download, Figma is an online tool that works through a browser. It’s also far more versatile when it comes to your operating system; it can be used on Windows or Mac systems, whereas Sketch is only available on Mac.
Figma has a collaborative design feature that allows you to share designs with members of your team who can work alongside you in real-time. This makes it far more appealing for design teams and clients who want a hand in the process.
There’s also no messy software installation with Figma. Since you access the service through a browser, you won’t have to worry about it eating up memory on your device or going through a complicated installation process. Of course, with Figma’s online nature, you’ll be at the mercy of the internet and won’t be able to work on your designs if you’re in an area with no connection.
If you’ve ever used Sketch in the past, one thing you’ll quickly realize when checking out the tool’s user interface is that it’s incredibly similar to Sketch in terms of design. This was an intentional move made by the developers. Modeling their user interface off of one that has been the industry standard for years ensures an easy transition for anyone switching over.
What Is Sketch?
Sketch is a system that most UI designers are intimately familiar with. It set the gold standard in UI design for years and opened up a new universe of functionality.
Before Sketch became a popular UI design platform, designers typically used Adobe Photoshop to bring their creations to life. However, anyone who has used Photoshop can tell you that it wasn’t created to design a customer-friendly website and was woefully inadequate for the task. It might be great for photo or email design, but it wasn’t meant for web designers.
Sketch is a native desktop app; this means that it must be locally installed on your computer. It doesn’t require an internet connection, but it also can’t be accessed from anywhere, unlike a web-based tool such as Figma.
Sketch is a vector graphics editor that was first released to the public in 2010. It made a difference in the design world because it was created specifically for digital designs, not print designs, like Photoshop.
While the software still has to be locally installed, a synced web app is also available for collaboration with design teams.
Key Features of Figma
Figma has many key features that make it a stellar and popular service throughout the UI design industry. For starters, it’s a collaborative system that allows designers to share their work with members of their teams and clients.
Design teams can easily work together to edit projects or make notes on various design elements in real time. This feature is incredibly useful in the modern business world, where many design teams work remotely and are spread throughout the world.
The collaborative sharing feature, which allows collaborators to leave comments wherever notes need to be made, is built into the system and comes at no additional cost.
This feature can be useful when dealing with clients, as they can guide you throughout the design progress. If you’re starting down a path the client dislikes, the client can catch the issue early and make a note before you get too far into the process and waste time.
You can also invite developers to explore your prototypes and export assets using a single link.
One of Figma’s main benefits is that the system doesn’t need to be downloaded directly onto a device. It’s a web-based application that’s accessed through a browser. Software downloads can often be complicated and eat up valuable hard drive space. By using the application online, you save on a lot of space, which is ultimately better for the speed and performance of your device.
It’s also quite easy to learn how to use Figma, thanks to several special tutorials specifically designed for new users. This takes the guesswork out of the learning process and helps you utilize Figma’s full functionality right from the start.
A plugin library is available for Figma, though it’s not extensive as of yet. This feature was made available in 2019, so the developer community is still growing.
Flexible vector manipulation is a hugely beneficial feature of Figma. When using this system, the vector editor is called vector networks. You can use vector networks to connect multiple lines to one singular point. This ultimately increases the production speeds of vector drawing and helps you get your project done quicker.
The component feature is Figma’s version of Sketch’s signals feature. These respective features are elements that can be repeated across pages and edited together. Figma has a master component that stays in place. This can also be changed by copying the master component and editing it. Doing this updates each instance of the component throughout your work.
Key Features of Sketch
Sketch is no slouch in the feature department either, and it has powerful elements that have made it a mainstay of the industry for years.
The company launched a real-time collaboration app back in 2021. This relatively new feature essentially duplicates Figma’s collaboration feature. However, all collaborators must have paid subscriptions to Sketch and the Mac app installed on their devices to be able to use real-time collaboration.
Sketch has a browsable version history of designs, allowing users to go back to earlier versions if they change their minds and decide that they need to go back and start from an earlier point.
When using Sketch, you can invite viewers to the system to test your prototypes for usability. This is useful, as your testers can point out shortcomings or design flaws that completely slipped your notice.
Sketch users have the luxury of a huge selection of third-party integration plugins that have been curated over the years. This gives Sketch a huge leg up over Figma, which only opened up its platform for integration development in 2019.
Because of these integrations, you’ll find that Sketch is a highly customizable platform. Its plugins include translations, prototyping, developer handoff, and animations.
Sketch allows vector manipulation through connected points called nodes. It also has web inspector features that allow developers to inspect and export assets.
Sketch allows you to create independent styles. This includes personalization through different colors, text, and a library of effects.
The system also uses a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to click on and drag elements around the page. This makes it very easy to learn.
Pros & Cons of Using Figma
Figma has several advantages that make it one of the most sought-after Sketch alternatives on the market.
For starters, it has great accessibility and can be accessed on multiple platforms. It also features flexible vector manipulation and real-time collaboration, which makes it easy to work with a remote team and create some truly masterful UI designs.
It also has easy developer handoff, allowing you to move each project to the next step with only a few clicks.
It’s also incredibly easy to learn how to use Figma, thanks to its wealth of educational resources for new and experienced users alike.
Despite its many benefits, there are still a few drawbacks to Figma that can’t be ignored as you search for a UI design platform.
Figma is a much newer service than Sketch, and it only started rolling out integrations and apps in 2019. That means it features a small integration library that pales in comparison to what’s offered by the competition. However, given time, it’s likely to grow, and this negative will turn into a positive.
While using Figma via the web is ideal, you will need an internet connection to access its features. There is no offline mode available.
Pros & Cons of Using Sketch
There are many advantages to using Sketch. There are several reasons why it has been a go-to product throughout the design world for over a decade.
Its longevity is one of its advantages. Because it has been around for such a long time, many people are used to it. That means there’s a lot of guidance out there. This is a system many website designers learned on, so there are resources for anyone who wants to use Sketch to its full potential.
Sketch also has an incredible number of third-party integrations developed over time to provide the best possible, personalized Sketch experience.
Because this is a locally installed program, it can also work offline. This is a huge benefit for anyone with spotty internet service or someone who has to work on the go, where WiFi isn’t always available.
Sketch also has several drawbacks that might give aspiring users pause before making a purchase.
For instance, Sketch is only available on a Mac, so if you’re used to designing on a PC or simply can’t afford an expensive Mac laptop, then this system isn’t going to be available to you.
While it’s great that the company has created a real-time collaboration web app, the service is still new and limited. Given time, it’ll become a huge benefit, but for now, it’s far easier to collaborate using Figma.
You must install the Sketch software on your computer locally. This eats up hard drive space and could negatively impact the speed of your Mac.
Figma vs Sketch: A Head-to-Head Comparison
Now that we understand the basic advantages and disadvantages of Figma and Sketch, let’s compare the two head-to-head in several categories.
When it comes to collaborative design, Sketch only launched this capability in 2021 through the use of a web app. All of your collaborators will also need paid Sketch subscriptions, and the feature, much like the software itself, is only available on a Mac.
This cloud-based, collaborative feature works more like a Dropbox file-sharing system.
Figma allows for real-time collaboration on any platform. The system works in the same way as Google Docs, where users can work together on the same project and make visible changes and comments in real time. You can even see the mouse movements of other users, with no issues pertaining to syncing or lag time.
Sketch’s software is broken down into two different pricing plans.
The Sketch Standard plan costs $9 per editor per month. It also comes with unlimited free viewers.
The Business plan’s pricing is a mystery, as Sketch doesn’t make this information publicly available. To qualify for the Business plan, you need a minimum of 25 editors.
This comes with annual pricing only — there is no month-to-month option. This means it’s going to be a large upfront investment.
The Sketch business plan includes single sign-on, unlimited storage on the cloud, invoice billing, live chat technical support, a dedicated customer success manager, and customized security reviews and terms.
Figma’s pricing is far more transparent and comes in different pricing plans.
Figma’s Starter plan is free of charge, but it has some limitations. You can only work on three Figma files and three FigJam files.
However, it also comes with unlimited personal files and collaborators. You can use plugins, templates, and widgets at no cost. The free plan even includes the use of the Figma mobile app.
The Professional plan on Figma is $12 per editor per month when billed annually. If you want a month-to-month option, you’re looking at $15 per editor per month.
When using the Professional plan, you get unlimited Figma files, an unlimited version history, and sharing permission. You can even make certain projects private if you want to limit access. Furthermore, you can get team libraries and the ability to record audio conversations with collaborators.
The Organization plan costs $45 per editor per month and only comes with annual billing.
With this plan, you can create organization-wide libraries. You can also design system analytics and conduct branching and merging.
Centralized file management and single sign-on are included in the Organization plan, and admin and billing are unified. You can also use private widgets and plugins.
Figma’s most expensive plan is the Enterprise plan. It costs $75 per editor per month and $5 per FigJam editor per month. This plan offers annual billing only and allows for more flexible controls and advanced security.
Ease of Use/Getting Started
The two services share similar interfaces, which means that once you learn how to use one, it’s very easy to switch between them.
Figma offers how-to guides and instructional videos to bring new users up to speed quickly. Sketch has limited information guides available through official channels, but the system has been around for a long time, and there’s plenty of information out there.
Extensibility (Plugins & Integrations)
Sketch has a large number of plugins and integrations available. This huge app library is similar to WordPress’s impressive library of themes and plugins. It’s responsible for the enhanced personalization you can use throughout the Sketch experience.
Figma added integrations back in 2019, but sadly, few options remain available.
Common integration functions include but are not limited to:
- Developer handoff
Figma is great for remote teams because of its real-time collaboration features. Additionally, its
grids and constraints are flexible, allowing you to create responsive and resizable layouts.
Sketch uses a group resizing feature, but it limits you to only four options.
Figma’s vector networks improve on the path model. Lines and curves no longer have to form a single chain. Instead, they can go between any two points.
Figma also has excellent developer handoff features when it’s time to provide the UI to the developer to get ready to publish.
Sketch can use its integrations to make up for many of its feature shortcomings. For example, Zeplin is an app that can be used for developer handoff.
Performance & Speed
Your speed can be affected by many things, from the space on your hard drive to the WordPress theme you choose for your website. Figma has no reported speed or lag issues, and collaborative design sessions can occur in real time.
Sketch is locally installed software on a Mac, so internet speeds won’t affect its performance. As a result, it boasts high performance and speeds and can operate even when your device is offline.
Figma offers more UI triggers when prototyping. These triggers include:
- On click
- While hovering
- On drag
Figma also includes a stable prototype preview that is superior to what’s offered on Sketch. You can make use of standard transitions between prototype screens. This includes moving in or out at will.
Figma even uses a Smart Animate feature that lets you create advanced animations with just a few clicks. However, Figma doesn’t include linking between pages to connect your frames.
Sketch has prototyping plugins that make the entire process smoother. These include Mockplus Cloud, InVision Craft, and Flinto.
Figma and Sketch are popular UI design platforms on which you can develop many stellar, customer-friendly websites. As for which you should use, it mostly depends on what you’re looking for. This is as true for choosing your UI design tool as it is for your email client.
If you work primarily on a Mac and prefer to work offline, thus utilizing a vast library of integrations to help create a more personalized experience, then Sketch is for you.
If you want a free option, work on a PC, need flexible collaboration and want to use flexible vector manipulation, then Figma might be the answer you’re looking for.
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