Figma vs. Sketch: Why our agency made the switch
When Sketch hit the market in 2010, it revolutionized the industry by filling a major gap in web design tools. It was the first software to meet the need for mobile-responsive design, and it offered a more efficient workflow than Photoshop; it quickly became the industry standard. Now, Figma is the new kid on the block. Though very similar to Sketch, its innovations meet new preferences and demands. More and more agencies are now deciding: which software do we choose?
Our team first used Figma while collaborating with another local agency to produce the event Imagine Digital. We liked the experience so much that we started asking ourselves if it was time to make the switch. We did our research, huddled as a design team, and ultimately decided to make Figma our primary web design software. Here’s our rundown of the pros and cons, and why it was the right choice for us.
Figma’s biggest strength and differentiator matches our greatest need as an agency. It operates like Google Docs, allowing for live collaboration across multiple users and devices. (In this analogy, Sketch would be Microsoft Word.) This is game-changing; our design team can achieve a degree of efficiency that’s simply not possible by passing Sketch files back and forth. And with remote work now a major ongoing consideration, better virtual collaboration is crucial to our success.
One of our designers, Eric Hoang, summed up how collaborating on Figma affected his process for the better. “Figma has completely changed the way I work with the rest of the team,” he said. “It’s so seamless to collaborate, not just to work on the same project, but to get feedback too. I think back to the days of using Photoshop to design for web, and just laugh.”
Sketch introduced “Sketch Teams” to compete with Figma, and though it offers many similar features, we still prefer Figma’s platform because it’s built specifically for virtual collaboration.
Figma and Sketch each offer some cloud and desktop capabilities. However, Figma is primarily cloud-based, while Sketch is primarily desktop-based. And, you still need Sketch’s Mac-only desktop app to make use of its cloud features, which waters down its appeal.
We prefer Figma—a lightweight application and it automatically saves your work, so computer crashes are one less thing to worry about. Plus, it’s platform neutral, so whether you’re designing in the cloud or on the desktop, you can work across any type of device.
Our team had no trouble picking up Figma—its intuitive format and familiar keyboard shortcuts (same as Adobe) made for a minimal learning curve. Plus, quiz-style tutorials are a surprisingly fun way to discover new features.
The big differentiator that gives Figma an edge here, though, is its use of cascading styles, which enable designers to make fine-grained changes. For example, it’s simple to apply a font style to a single word inside of a paragraph, whereas Sketch’s layers make it more difficult to drill down to these details. Though some of Sketch’s limitations can be worked around with its impressive plugin library, our team appreciates Figma’s ease and control.
The way that we present work to clients is vital to our business, so great prototyping is always important. Unlike Sketch, which requires InVision to preview prototypes, Figma has a prototyping tool built in. And even better, it reflects back-end changes in real-time, making it easy to apply client feedback during live reviews.
Though there are some slight inconveniences to Figma’s tool, like asking clients to sign up for a free account to leave comments, we love an excuse to streamline our tech stack.
Our decision to switch to Figma prioritized design over development. Even amongst our development team, opinions vary over which software works better; there’s no clear winner. Some like that Sketch can run quickly on computers with high RAM and create higher-quality SVGs, but begrudge the price of annual updates. Figma fans praise how easy it is to export images without compression, and the fact that it’s free for them to use, but find the software less intuitive. Luckily for us, both systems give developers the flexibility to easily investigate styles and create functional sites that meet design standards.
When it comes down to it, we’re a small agency that needs our programs to be cost-effective. Though Figma offers subscriptions at various price points, the ‘Organization Plan’ we need costs $45 per editor, per month. It’s pricey, but the benefit of this version is that you can reassign seats when designers vary by project, and invite collaborators (like our PMs) to comment on files for free. Plus, it comes with additional design features that make it worth the investment.
Sketch only costs $9 per contributor per month—leagues cheaper. But, you need InVision to present effectively to clients. Pricing varies per enterprise, but we paid $2,700 for an annual InVision subscription, which is expensive for the limited way that we use it.
Bottom line: For an agency our size, the cost difference is negligible, and the benefit of reducing our tech stack is a major incentive. For larger teams, Figma’s cost per use could be a dealbreaker.
Is it worth the investment?
For the size of our team and the kind of work we do, collaboration is crucial, especially as remote work becomes a bigger part of our culture. That’s why we ultimately prefer Figma to Sketch: we can easily work on files together, stay on the same page as our developer, and share exciting prototypes with clients—no plugins needed.
That said, we will miss some of Sketch’s functionalities. Sketch’s artboard organization is undoubtedly more advanced than Figma’s—including the ability to link files—and their symbols panel makes site-wide changes a breeze. Without a similar organizational structure, creating larger projects on Figma can get messy, fast.
Still, collaboration takes priority. For larger organizations or teams that work on more complex projects, Figma might not be worth the investment of time and money. Evaluate your business’s preferences and needs to make the right choice for you.
Regardless of which technology you choose, both are evolving to stay competitive, meet the needs of designers, and set a new standard. We can’t wait for the updates and capabilities ahead.