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A bit about myself - I'm an 18 year old amateur graphic designer who works primarily in Photoshop and Illustrator. I've also been trying to learn coding for the last couple of years. I have developed a few basic games in Unity, have learnt a bit of basic frontend dev, and currently I'm learning Flutter.

My question that has always puzzled me is, why do we need UI/UX design software such as Figma/Adobe XD/Sketch?

I've never felt the need to design a mockup in Figma first, and then replicate it in whatever app I'm making. Or even if I do need a reference, I've always just used Illustrator to design it. I just can't get why UX design software is needed.

I'm not hating, I'm very new to this, and I'm simply trying to understand the use cases.

Thank you!

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    There's a lot of overlap between many of the core Adobe line. PS can do paths and make gifs, but it's primarily a static raster editor. IL can do some raster and typesetting and 3D, but it's primarily a vector editor. ID can do some vectors and framing, but it's primarily a typesetter. Each specializes in something, but you may not appreciate the unique features before really exploring them methodically. Sometimes I have to push students deeper to realize that the tool they're most comfortable with may not be the best one for the job. You can drive a nail in with the butt of a screwdriver :) Apr 20 at 10:59
  • Adobe XD etc can be used to "demo" the design and showing possible interactions. Illustrator is just an image editor right? So to implement these transitions you would have to design multiple images and then show them "quickly"... it would be a mess to demonstrate an actual workflow.
    – Bakuriu
    Apr 21 at 17:23

4 Answers 4

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Because not everyone is working alone.

Of course when you're the developer of your own design you don't need to sketch everything. I don't need to do it for my own app I'm developing either.

But in a workplace where you are only the UX designer and not the developer, you do it as a handoff for the actual developer. And for that purpose Illustrator is absolutely horrendous. You don't see any font, color or margin information. In Figma you do, you can click into every object live in the file and check its properties.

Check this link to see what I mean: Use the Inspect panel - Figma

(Aside from that Illustrator is not designed for layouting and thus is absolutely inefficient at it in comparison to Figma, see e.g. auto-layout)

enter image description here

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    (This is for Figma, haven't used Adobe) As well as multiple team members leaving comments, seeing the cursors of other team members when discussing the design remotely, being able to leave links to particular UX elements in a design doc and many other features that are needed for collaborative development.
    – Eugene
    Apr 20 at 22:44
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It is true you can design your app in Illustrator but where XD or Figma really shine is user testing. It is not called user experience (UX) for nothing.

Sure you can print out your designs from Illustrator and do a user test with paper prototypes. But why would you want to do that when there is software that can do it for you?

There is nothing wrong with implementing your designs made in Illustrator. Once you have coded your application you can give it to users for testing. After they found usability problems you can always code some parts of the application again. And after a little more testing you have to change your code again. And again, and again...

But why you would want to do all that work? With Figma and XD you get prototypes for testing without a need for implementation. These prototypes may not have all the functionality a finished app has but testing them can yield almost the same usability problems as testing an implemented app.

There are software that can mimic app behaviour even better than Figma and XD like InVision Studio.

In the end it all comes to fidelity of your prototypes. You can with low fidelity (lo-fi) prototypes such as paper prototypes. Or you can go with the highest fidelity (hi-fi) of implementing apps. Or something in between with Figma and XD.

It really depends on how much work you are willing to put in when you iterate your designs after every user test.

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    And it really depends on how proficient you are with these apps. If you take almost as long building an interface in XD as building it in HTML - just build it in HTML. But if you are experienced at XD you can click together complex interactive interfaces in an hour, which would take several days in the real technology.
    – Falco
    Apr 21 at 13:04
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The answer is simple: it is not about the tool. It is about the common toolset the team is using.

Figma, the current "unicorn" of the design industry became the default because everyone can use it. For example, if it is needed take the files from you and continue to work on them, and vice versa. Or the developers and other stakeholders are already familiar with it, so the handover process is more fluid if there is only one tool everyone has to know.

Figma is just a tool in the line. A few years and another one will emerge and replace it. Adobe XD, Sketch, etc. are just the same. One tool that everyone can use. There is no worst scenario, when each feature was created in different design tools, the handover is also done in another, and so on.

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  • I disagree with this. It is also about the tool. Figma has features tailored to UI design, which make it much more efficient than everyone agreeing on any other tool.
    – spiral
    Apr 21 at 7:56
  • I've been using design tools since I got my first computer, an Amiga 500 Plus. I switched from being "web designer" to UX 10 years ago, so I've seen and used a dozen of different tools in my life. We were able to design apps, webpages in Photoshop as well. Tools just come and go. Sketch, Adobe XD, InVision Studio... Axure, etc. are also tailored for UI design. Figma is one of them, not the only one tool you can use. Using Figma has plenty of benefits, but a good designer can switch in no time to another tool....as it happened with most of us with Sketch, and before that with Axure, UXPin, etc Apr 21 at 8:19
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why is Figma/Adobe XD needed?

Short answer: it isn't; just as Illustrator isn't needed to do graphic design, or Unity isn't needed to develop videogames. But boy do they help a lot.

Long answer: As you pointed out, you can make UI designs in any other graphical design program; you could even do it on paper first if you needed a reference. Software, as any other kind of tool, isn't needed to do a job.

But specialized software, as any other kind of specialized tool, is made to help make easier a specific type of job, and provide people with specific tools related to the job they're intended to make.

If you develop an app, and you work alone on every aspect on it, you might be able to do everything with a small set of tools. And that's ok; as long as you can get the work done, you don't really need another tool.

But, if you specifically make GUIs for a lot of different projects of different people, or to provide/sell them as assets and resources, or work on a big project for a company, a UI/UX tool comes in handy to work faster and cleaner; to help you comply to design standards; to let you see how your UI will behave on different screens sizes with different layouts without actually having to physically have all of them... in essence, a UI/UX software helps UI/UX people in their UI/UX tasks.


Now, there are also other aspects about UX software: things like how UX is an entire separated topic on its own, or language designs, or how it focus not only on the looks but also on the functionality; but I believe those are only important IF you wish to get more into UX specifically.

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    Have used Figma for an area which is often overlooked; physical hardware UX. With a specialised tool we can simulate a set of buttons, LEDs and LCD displays that show state changes as people use the devices. It's very important to get customers to experience look and feel before going to the time and money of injection moulding and building the full BOM
    – GrantB
    Apr 21 at 19:58

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