The digital product design community is currently split between Sketch, Photoshop, and Illustrator when it comes to “design tool of choice,” with Sketch gaining serious ground the past few years. Design blogs are stuffed with Sketch vs. Photoshop debates, with Sketch coming out tops in most instances. As a result, Bohemian Coding (the makers of Sketch) has eaten into Adobe’s dominance in the design tool market.
Still in beta (and just released for Windows 10), XD is Adobe’s answer to Sketch. Like Sketch, it’s been designed from scratch specifically for the job of designing digital products (unlike Photoshop and Illustrator which were designed for photo editing and drawing, respectively). Adobe touts the ability to “Switch easily from wireframing, visual design, interaction design, prototyping, preview and sharing, all in one powerful tool.”
In XD, clicks are kept to a minimum, many features are automatic, and what you lose in image editing you gain in simple, minimalist UI. Both the design and prototype environments are clutter-free. XD tracks very closely to the look and feel of Sketch, a welcome feature, actually, since Adobe users can occasionally suffer from “feature overload” when trying to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.
XD is super easy to use right out of the gate, especially if you’re familiar with other Adobe products. The XD feature set is still quite limited—for instance the November 2016 release introduced layers and symbols—but it is safe to assume we’ll see heavy support from Adobe. Expect to see collaborative editing in real time, plus versioning with thumbnails.
One of the things I like most about XD is the ability to build a quick, sharable prototype without leaving the file I’m working on or installing external plugins. Design specs, commenting, asset downloading, style guides…XD will (hopefully) allow hassle-free sharing and interaction between designers and developers (and a few trusted clients, for the bold at heart) all inside a browser.
Another strong benefit for designers is the Repeat Grid feature, which could dramatically change their workflow. Say goodbye to repetitive adjustments. You can easily replicate a set of objects, then later change the attributes in one grid and see it cleanly update in all grids.
These leaps forward in prototyping will definitely push Sketch and other tools to follow suit with similar features. Adobe is also working on both iOS and Android apps for previewing purposes. Pretty nifty.
It’s not there yet, but I’m guessing that by the end of the year XD will be a viable alternative to Sketch. Adobe’s considerable footprint in the market (and our lives) will mean XD will continue to get a lot of attention as it creeps out of beta. It won’t be an open-and-shut case. Sketch 4 is pretty amazing, and at present is considerably better for UX and interface design.
It also has a pretty loyal following already, but XD’s innovative features will force Bohemian Coding to keep pace. Although that means a mass exodus is unlikely, we’re going to start seeing XD pop up as a strong contender in those Sketch vs. Photoshop debates.
Photos by Adobe
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