A while back we shared a post about Sketch, why we converted, and what we love about it.
It has now become an integral part of our workflow but that didn’t stop us from trying out
other tools. As designers we need to have an extensive skillset, and a large repertoire of
tools we can put that skillset to use in. And sometimes, we come across a tool that proves
very welcoming and accomodating to our skills and working style. Adobe XD, is one of
Released in 2016, Adobe XD (the XD stands for experience design), was a little late to the
world of UX/Prototyping tools. But it seems like Adobe made good use of both time and
money and unveiled a seriously worthy contender to Sketch, Figma, and Invision. We gave
it a spin, truly enjoyed the experience, and decided to share it with you with the hope of
sparking your curiosity. If you are a creative cloud subscriber, you have access to the app
and can use it without limitation, but if you don’t have a subscription and would like to try it
you can still download it standalone for free but will only be able to work on one active
project at a time.
When you first open up Adobe XD, you are prompted to answer a few questions about your
skills, intent, and career. You may have the urge to quickly dismiss this as yet another data
vacuum, but it actually serves the purpose of customizing what you are greeted with,
namely a tutorial and walkthrough. Once you get past this step, you are greeted with an
interface that seems out of the norm for Adobe, a style that seems to have become the
standard for tools in this domain, one that we love being greeted with. That style can be
summed up as clean, modern, and clutter-free.
If you have any experience with Adobe products, the learning curve for XD is practically
non-existent, and if you don’t it’s an hour or so of entertaining poking and prodding. Similar
to its competition, Adobe has integrated both prototyping and designing into one tool and
have given users a tabbed layout to switch between the two.
The design space gives you the usual tools you would expect (pen, shapes, border, fill, etc.)
with a few extras that we think are very well thought out. One example is the ease with
which you can make masks. Judging by the number of tutorials online for creating masks,
this procedure is generally counter-intuitive in other Adobe products. In XD, however, it is
as simple as placing a shape over the object you wish to mask, selecting both, and hitting
the shortcut Cmd+Shift+M. It’s fast and it makes sense.
Another feature that really proves Adobe’s intent on making XD a true UX tool, is the
Repeat Grid. Iterations of the same icon, image, or text are very common in apps and it’s
hardly any fun creating them manually. By choosing the object you wish to clone, clicking
Repeat Grid, and dragging its bounding box, you can replicate it in both the horizontal and
vertical direction. You can even customize the spacing between them.
Over on the prototyping side of XD, you have, in essence, one option - connecting
artboards or layers that have transitions between them. Once clicked on, a blue arrow
appears on the border of your selection. You can either drag this to where you want the
transition to go to or choose from a dropdown in the options panel that pops up when
clicked. Adobe have been working hard at adding many features in this tab. A handy one is
Auto-animate, which aids in creating familiar interactions such as dragging.
Which you can click on and choose transitions and animations
After playing around with it for some time and racking up the artboards we also realized
how fast and smooth XD handles itself. It seems like Adobe have finally put in considerable
effort in memory management. Additionally, XD benefits from both the ecosystem (sharing
assets and importing files), and the financial prowess of Adobe - notable in their emphasis
on and encouragement of plugin development, an area they need to play serious catchup
What we liked greatly outweighed what we didn’t like about XD but there are some things
we think need ironing. For starters, we are not given text editing capabilities. For example,
there is no option to add an understroke and, if so inclined, you’d have to add strokes
under each line. Likewise, image editing capabilities are also an area that needs
improvement. The slightest modification has to be done in another program. There’s also
no way, currently, of designing hover states and individually scrollable areas. Finally, you
can only share your work with others through a public link that has no password protection
option, a security gap we think needs fixing.
We should, however, emphasise Adobe is taking into consideration the voice of the
community and are adding most of the missing features we mentioned and more. You can
look at what is requested, what is being worked on, and what is in their backlog here.
There’s a lot of activity and competition in the UX/Prototyping field, leaving us designers
with many options to choose from. Of those options, some are clearly taking the lead, and
Adobe XD seems to be one of them. The app works better than expected and Adobe have
shown their intent clearly through their rapid iterations and close communication with their
users. If you haven’t yet, we recommend you give it a try. Be prepared to be delightfully