Yesterday, after a long quiet period Sketch announced their new version. Sketch 49. It come with some basic prototyping features and one of the main new updates was an official Apple integration for iOS 11 UI kit. It all sounds great, but if you take a closer look it starts to fall apart.
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room. Invision. They announced a couple of months ago their new product called Invision Studio. For a long time Invision has been the must-have plug-in for Sketch. They started creating plug-ins for sketch under the name Craft. Craft would allow you to quickly input data such as names, addresses, and photos in your design, quickly create rows of the same element without having to recreate the data in them, upload and share your library with other designers and helping with having an ultimate source of truth in the company, help create interactive prototypes and being able to share them with stakeholders and getting their feedback on it with comments, and more recently with Freehand, it allow designers to share their whole design file quickly and painlessly with all team members for a very quick turnaround of feedback.
All was great. Sketch and Invision seemed like best friends that complimented each other very well. However, there was one small problem. Sketch and Invision are two different platforms and as easy as Craft has made the process of switching between the two and keeping your files updated on the cloud, there still was a lot of friction. If you ever had to rely on a third-party software for a part of your design, then you know the pain when you update your designs in Sketch but all your work in the third-party is not updated.
This was the golden opportunity for Invision. But they knew that just replacing Sketch won’t be enough. Their product had to be miles ahead of Sketch to push users away from what has become the industry standard for interface design.
What they have created with Invision Studio, is a product that replaces Sketch and many of the plug-ins that most designers rely on in their workflow. There is a timeline-based animation. Craft is a living part of the application. Having everything created by the same company means that getting feedback from stakeholders is a lot more seamless now and you no longer have to leave the application to check on what others are saying.
And on top of that? It works on both macOS and Windows. Sketch only works on macOS. And the knockout punch: It’s free (terms apply)
Now let’s get back to Sketch and why the new update is too little, too late. The prototyping feature sounded amazing. You can now use Sketch Mirror to click around your design and get a feel for it. You can also share documents to the Sketch cloud and share them with stakeholders. Only if they have and iPhone that is. Sketch Mirror is an exclusive iOS app. Whereas Invision has an android counterpart to their mobile Invision app.
The second big news with Sketch 49 was the official Apple iOS 11 UI kit. I tried using it. Although it’s a welcome addition to the platform, it is not perfect. It’s actually not even good. Very basic UI elements are not re-sizable. Our team of two designers at our company creates much more flexible and comprehensive symbols to be used across the screens. It feels like the people at Apple that created the UI kit have very basic understanding of Sketch and its capabilities. See for yourself how resizing one of the elements effects it:
All hope is not lost for Sketch though. They are the industry standard as of right now. (Invision Studio hasn’t released publicly yet.) Sketch has a very rich developer community creating and updating plug-ins for the platform. We are yet to see what the plug-in situation for Studio is going to look like. There are many plug-ins for sure, whose features are not going to be available on Studio and that people just can’t live without. All of that is going to give Sketch a lot of time. A lot of time to play catch-up.
Sketch relies heavily on built-in iOS and macOS libraries to function. That makes it very difficult for them to make it compatible with Windows. On top of that, Sketch’s business model is completely different than Invision’s. You can see that any new designer getting started with UI Design is going to pick the free, cross-platform Studio over the $100 Sketch alternative.
Final note: I’ve been a huge proponent of Sketch over the past 3 years. I have encouraged many designers to make the switch from Illustrator/Photoshop to Sketch. I have even taken the time to teach some of them one-on-one. I’ve always wrote the Sketch teams with problems I’ve had with the app and almost everytime they have gotten back to me with an answer or saying that it will be fixed with the next update. But if I’m being honest with myself, if Invision Studio is as good as it is hyped up to be, I will be converting and won’t be hesitating. Our company already uses Invision for all the feedback loops and file-sharing with developers. Switching to Studio would be a no-brainer for us. I have recently gotten confirmation from the Studio team that I can simply open my Sketch files in Studio, which makes the transition even more effortless. However, I will be watching Sketch’s progress closely. I really hope with future versions they can bring more and more functionality to the platform and stay a strong competitive player in the industry. It is only through competitions like this that we get to see amazing new things by all players in the game. ❤️?