What the actual heck is Sketch doing?

over 2 years ago from , Design Director

I have to vent a tad about Sketch. It makes me sad because I really like Sketch as a company. So, sorry about that everyone.

For the last couple of years I've been a big fan of Sketch. I switched my team over from Illustrator about 5 (or so?) years ago. I really respected the way that the Sketch team released features that were intentional and worked well. Once in awhile early release was buggy — but I could roll back and wait a week while bugs were ironed out. No big deal. Intentional features are still very much true to this day — prototyping off of artboards is much more convenient than hooking up screenshots in InVision. And IMO auto-layout is more intentional to use than the clown show Figma provides (to be fair, it's more flexible, I just like that Sketch pushes designers to think more comprehensibly about the structure of their components a bit more).

Recently though Sketch's roadmap has felt like a blackbox sliding through sticky molasses. I thought there was a video released at the end of 2019 showcasing improved prototyping, multi-user editing, and better handoff features. I'm still kind of waiting? It's Sept 2020... what's the scuttlebutt? So far the marquee things released aren't really all that aligned with what my design team actually needs help doing. Don't get me wrong I think Assistant's is neat, but micromanaging my designers' folder naming conventions is not nearly as helpful for my team as walking through a prototyping that supports hover states, web-friendly interactions (like drag), and timers to approximate loading states. "Oh I didn't realize that was on-hover!" says the engineer.

At this point my team has demanded we try out Figma for some of the above reasons. Hand-off is good enough, and Prototyping is marvellous in it. One key blocker for us is that the act of designing in Sketch still feels much much crisper. Your UI gets out of the way. It's not minimalist... it's system. Still... it's quickly becoming not enough. I care about my team's happiness, and see the window closing on my ability to use you. Before I give up on Sketch I thought I'd post this to... kind of let you know that you're losing people. I see it with all of the new young hires on the team. Sketch is the older slow program. I don't particularly like that. Especially given that Figma behaves like a thirsty VC-backed startup which I don't really love. I always appreciated your choice to keep your file format interoperable. It has truly helped the design industry grow its toolset.

What my team needs to do every day is manage our front-end library, work out design challenges with PM/Engineering, and occasionally articulate a harebrained idea they love to stakeholders via prototypes (also run user testing sessions, but those are better as a coded thing anyway).

I would really love it if you could please focus on making these things better.

Sincerely, ~ Your fan that is falling out of love with you


  • Ivan FrantarIvan Frantar, over 2 years ago

    Ultimately, we shouldn't fall in love with the tools we use. We should fall in love with the openness to change. If your team is asking for Figma ditch Sketch and forget it. Today I'm using Figma and I really REALLY love it, but if tomorrow comes a new tool and solves a problem Figma isn't, I won't hesitate a heart beat to try it and if this new app is sound, ditch Figma.

    Given the years of experience throughout my career, I feel that all the main design tools have really tiny differences purely for pixel pushing, which means you can pick up any of them and go with zero learning curve. Now, the reason I choose a design tool is how they help me, my team and stakeholders communicate and deliver better and stronger outcomes. Tools like Figma and Miro are doing this today for my product design. Everything else i.e. Sketch, Adobe CC, Invision, Abstract, Zeplin and whatever else, only if for some random reason, I'm requested to use them.

    4 points
  • Nelson TarucNelson Taruc, over 2 years ago

    Andrew's post is how I felt a few years ago. Sketch was a breath of fresh air compared to Illustrator and others. Symbols really changed workflows for the better.

    Fundamentally, Sketch's bet on Mac only isn't panning out. In fact, the initial reason I switched to Figma wasn't by choice: Our client only had PCs so we couldn't share design with them.

    Culturally, Sketch is a cloistered ecosystem. If you can't afford a Mac, you're out of luck. Contrast that with Figma, which runs on so many more devices accessible to more people worldwide. Figma's ability to build a global community of users, that's the killer feature every other tool is lacking.

    Still, I like Sketch and even though our team switched to Figma years ago, I still root for them to succeed — even if only to keep Figma on its toes, and the market competitive. That said, the hill that Sketch needs to climb gets steeper every day they don't ship the features they previewed a while back.

    3 points
    • Benoît ChabertBenoît Chabert, over 2 years ago

      Windows compatibility was so underestimated.

      For the entire game industry, that’s mostly what they’re running on so figma made so much sense.

      2 points
      • Chinmay Kulkarni, over 2 years ago

        Yeah I seriously couldn't understand them being exclusive to Mac (small team, not much time, fair enough). But like the barrier to entry was already set at about $2000 if you wanted to be a designer...

        No clue what their gameplan was for targeting the huge designer base in countries with a lower average montly income who simply cannot afford a macbook.

        1 point
  • Benoît ChabertBenoît Chabert, over 2 years ago

    Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing that out. I feel the exact same way. I remembered this week the video you’re talking about and again it seems like none of these things are going to happen this year.

    I also noticed the switch to figma taking over everything and it feels like they will win.

    I agree with some of the comments in here that we shouldn’t be bound to a tool and before probably this point it really felt like both were ok to use but I’m getting a feeling that it’s leaning towards figma more and more.

    1 point
  • vadim mikhnovvadim mikhnov, over 2 years ago

    Especially given that Figma behaves like a thirsty VC-backed startup

    Why “like”? Figma is a VC-backed startup. As is Sketch. Are they any different? They are similarly VC-backed. They behave quite similarly. They are both quite secretive, prone to hype up superficial nice-to-have as features as though they are the best thing ever. Both are shamelessly exploiting community for free promotion and ecosystem cultivating, although Figma seems to be doing much better job here, at least with support for plugin developers.

    The actual difference is that Sketch has slicker UI, while Figma is more performant and used to ship new actually important features faster. Most importantly being “cloud first” is at least half of the solution for the version control and design system CI and it's really hard to go back from that (even if Sketch now has an integrated cloud which is supposedly smoother than Google Drive, Dropbox or whatever). Figma slowed down somewhat these days though, becoming another slow giant with unresolved issues and features that community has been asking them for years which are maybe coming some day and maybe not.

    1 point
    • , over 2 years ago

      I noticed Figma slowing down. There was a spell in 2018/19 where they were announcing new killer features every 2-3 months. I would expect to hear a sales outreach from them in the next 6 months. That's exactly what InVision did (it transitioned from product-led growth -> sales-led growth very quickly).

      For Sketch I don't feel like that's true. They haven't acted like a VC yet. No salesmanship — just product growth. From my understanding Sketch was purposefully kept quite small in footprint, and only recently took VC to grow their teams significantly so I suspect it's a cultural thing (in a good way). Sketch doesn't really seem to hype much, either — the video last year was the first time I'd even seen an attempt at it. But here we are a year later and there's no delivery — so I guess they just don't do roadmaps or deadlines well. I respect that to some degree...

      I think Figma being so accessible via a URL is what makes them good. But I have to say the organization and file management is poor, and dragging things in a design full of stacks is a flabbergasting experience fraught with frustration. But it does a lot, so here we are.

      1 point
      • vadim mikhnovvadim mikhnov, over 2 years ago

        I agree with the observations, but Sketch slowed down to the pace where Adobe XD delivers features that were a top of the mind back when Sketch 3 was taking the industry by force, i.e. components with states.

        Figma definitely invests more effort into community outreach (streams, social media presence etc.) as well as corporate sales. That seems to be working for them. They're eating the market share previously occupied by Sketch. It may be of sustainable. Future will tell.

        1 point
        • , over 2 years ago

          It's interesting. I think for me I would've liked Sketch to just have released better prototyping and hand-off (their Cloud/Teams features are actually pretty good too!)

          But instead it has felt like 9 months of radio silence w a few minor prototyping features. And I'm going in to budget meetings and thinking "Okay so Figma can get rid of these things for me... and the younger designers dig the all in one..."

          One thing Sketch has it its almost more universally loved more for just straight up layout and design. Their interaction model isn't as convoluted (Figma really seems to overburden their drag interaction w Stacks) But that's slowly becoming not enough.

          1 point
  • John Doe, over 2 years ago

    yup, same experience, jumped from Illustrator->Sketch->Figma.

    Figma took the lead by storm, they did three crucial things that made them jump ahead:

    • Offering a free tier was crucial for gaining new users
    • Multiplayer - made it extremely easy to collab
    • Web based! Any Windows user could use it. Windows user base was a huge untapped market.


    *Artboards: *

    I loved how on earlier versions I could place artboards on top of each other, but sadly Sketch got rid of this functionality, and slowly I began to resent it, for this and plugins breaking with each update.

    Figma embraced the "artboards can go on top of one another" as its foundation.

    *Plugins: *

    Sketch relied way too much on third-party plugins to do some basic stuff, and on doing things their way.

    They should have integrated the most popular functionality provided by third-party plugins. They never had an ecosystem, one had to rely on browsing internet for plugins, buying some, and hoping the developer updated it. Got burned by some plugins breaking and the developer never updating them.


    They got blinded by InVision and the whole extra functionality it provided:

    • Comments
    • Prototyping
    • Asset sharing , when in reality they should have launched their own prototyping features ages ago.


    Again, relying on a third-party service for a feature that was very needed for developer hand-off.

    Anima App

    Auto-layout, enough said.

    Prototyping animations

    Doing a dance to make animations in Principle and/or After Effects, or any other app, to explain something. And wasting hours on end.

    Abstract/Plant/etc for Version Control

    Ugh, last comment to avoid making this a long(er) rant, but having to install another plugin just for version control was too much. Managing file versions felt like a full-time job...

    And what did Figma do?

    Figma integrated all of them making the need for all the extra software, the extra plugins, third-part services, version control, etc, not needed anymore. Plus many other features.

    I opened Sketch not so long ago, feels very snappy since it's a system application, but they need to jump ahead.

    Sketch has kept releasing small updates, the sketch.cloud thing that works half-way, but still not doing major leaps, not doing any major undertaking.

    Haven't renewed my Sketch license, it lapsed recently, don't know if I will renew it for the time being...

    1 point
    • , over 2 years ago

      At one point Adobe "integrated" all design software and it was pretty bad at innovating. I'm pretty much trapped in Figma if I have to go that route. The integrated nature actually worries me a bit.

      1 point
      • John Doe, over 2 years ago

        Great observation.

        Sketch shot their own foot with their open .Sketch format. It made it very easy for any third-party tool to integrate with Sketch, but sadly, at the same time it also made it easy for Figma to import Sketch files and run with them.

        Moving away from Figma once you're in it? Don't think it will be easy.

        0 points
  • J. C.J. C., over 2 years ago

    Jumped from Illustrator to Sketch in, I think, 2016, no regrets and never really missed it. Started in a new team in 2018 and had to switch to Figma. I was a bit ambivalent at first, but after a short while it really clicked, especially after learning and understanding its awesome component system. Never looked back.

    1 point