Of all the debates that rage in modern design, few carry more opinions with them than the debate over the prototyping tool you choose to use. To fully understand the source of the positions that designers will take in this conversation, it helps to have a grasp on how we got here.
From Adobe to now
Less than a decade ago, when we talked about design tools there was really only one choice — Adobe and its suite of tools built for graphic design. Yes, creating interfaces in Photoshop and Illustrator were less than ideal, but we endured.
Shortly thereafter, Sketch arrived and the landscape began shifting. What was once a field dominated by Adobe saw its incumbent leader losing ground to a plucky upstart. Today, when you are searching for a job you're just as likely to see Sketch as Adobe Creative Suite listed under tools you'll likely use in your next design job.
However, Sketch's unique status as Mac-only forces many designers to seek out alternatives so they can participate as well. Additionally, Sketch only solved part of the problem. Designing for interfaces was certainly easier, but we wanted to be able to see our work in motion — which led to new companies like InVision and Marvel providing a prototyping solution that worked with whatever interface design tool you decided to use.
Regardless of whether you stayed in an aging stack of Adobe tools or migrated to Sketch and a prototyping tool, you were still duct taping a design process together for prototyping.
Then along comes Figma.
Figma was changed our perspective on what a design tool could do in a number of key ways.
Available on every platform
While there have certainly been attempts at web-based design tools before, none have been nearly as robust as Figma. Windows, Mac, Chromebook, whatever. If the machine has access to a web browser, Figma can be used. The fact that you can open your work in a web browser and have access to all of your tools unlocks many of the features that follow.
Built for collaboration
Unlike the design tools that preceded it, Figma could be opened by multiple users at the same time without having to install any additional software. Suddenly, you could send files to anyone for review without jumping through additional hoops. While this alone would be enough to draw interest, the fact that multiple designers can work within the same file at the same time puts Figma in a league of its own.
Freemium pricing model
Another big roadblock in adoption for most new tools is cost. Sketch was able to charge from the very beginning because Adobe was so prohibitively expensive. The prices of all tools has fallen over the years as tools have moved to subscription models, but Figma is free to use from the start and you only begin paying as you add team members.
Automatic cloud hosting
Because the files you send around for collaboration can be opened anywhere, the work needs to be centrally accessible. That means that hosting on your computer simply isn't an option. While there are many options available for cloud storage for sharing, Figma simply stores your work in the cloud automatically. This removes the need for you to pay for an additional cloud storage service to enable all the nifty collaborative options that Figma delivers out of the box.act
Prototyping comes standard
While its rivals are beginning to challenge on this point, building simple prototypes has always been available with Figma. Additionally, Figma integrates with more robust prototyping tools like Principle which allows you to stretch your prototype beyond what can be done in Figma alone (but you can also do connect to Principle in Sketch as well).
To get started with Figma, the first thing you'll need to do is create an account. Without an account, there isn't a way for Figma to save your work or allow you to work on multiple machines.