What tools are we using for our craft?

We’ve partnered with the amazing team at General Assembly, and created this survey to better understand the state of the industry and get a clearer picture of the tools that designers use to craft the digital products that the world uses.

Let's start with the why

Some say, that in the product creation process, the tools don’t matter as much. “Tools don’t matter”, they say, “It’s the people that make the product that matter, and how they use the tools that they chose.”

While to some extent we believe this to be true, we still believe that when using the right tools for any given job is part of the art. It’s a matter of being efficient, it’s a matter of progression.

As the industry is moving so fast and it get’s easier to create digital tools, it’s our job to demand those tools, to always be on the lookout and be willing to make the change if needed from our old - not so efficient tools. If we don’t do that, if we don’t question ourselves, then we would never move this industry forward.

Being actively on the lookout, sharing your pains on social media and designer forums, is what makes creators make a move and craft tools that will solve those pains.

So, you see, we wanted to create this survey to question ourselves and to see if we can make the industry move just a little bit forward.

If we get one product company to check out this survey and see that they are less popular than another product company, it might make them take a better look at the problem they are solving for us, and hopefully create better features that will make us use them more, and therefore make them grow.

If we get even one designer out of the dozens of thousands that will see this survey to question herself and eventually decide to make a move to a tool that would make her more efficient, therefore making her available to take on more clients and earn more money, we would feel we’ve done our job.

It’s not only about tools

As we started seeing the results pour in, we realized that we have information not only about tools, but about product design teams’ workflows. As you will see, this report is split into “Tools”, and “Workflows”.

What we would like YOU to take away from this report

We have no interest in you checking this out for five minutes, and then continuing on with your day.

We want you to stop and reflect.
We want you to question your ways. Your workflow. We want you to question your ways.

We want you to question the tools that you use for your everyday job. The tools that you might have been using for years already and that put you in your comfort zone.

So today, we invite you to step out of your comfort zone. We invite you to check some new tools out. We invite you to progress. We invite you to question your ways.

This survey was all about the product design process, split into phases.

While going over this report, the questions that we would like you to ask yourself, in every phase, are: “When I work through this phase on a feature I’m working on, is the tool I’m using serving me best? Or can I find a tool that can save me time and headache in the process?”

Put brand loyalty aside, we’re free people.

Put your ego aside, so you can contemplate and ponder clearly about your own efficiency.

After you check out this report

We want to hear from you!

Have we moved the needle even by a bit?
Have we not?
Have we made you think?
Have we made you reflect on your own workflow?
Have we made you switch from one tool to another?

We are thrilled to know, so please - let us hear your voice! Tweet at us, mention us on Facebook, Instagram , or email us with your insights.

If you’re working in a product company that makes one of the tools we asked about - you’re welcome to ask us about anything. We are grateful for all your hard work building amazing tools for us, and if we can, we would love to help out.

We enjoyed putting this survey and report together, and as long as we are here we see it as our obligation to try and help us all advance into being better, more efficient craftsmen & women,

Yours Truly,

Sagi & David
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Let's begin!

Let’s have a look at the demographics of the people who answered this survey. In the survey we had:

1,185 participants

from 79 different countries

between the ages of 13 and up to 81+
(58% of the people are between the age of 25-35)

29% women and 70% men
(16 more people chose 'other')

We reached out to people not only through our newsletter to our own audience, but linked to this survey on multiple facebook groups, designer slack channels, subreddits, other design newsletters. We also pumped this on multiple networks where we know designers hang out such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, DN (and sorry but no Snapchat, we're still trying to figure it out).

The structure of this survey

You can check out the questions here: Let’s start with a disclaimer: We’re not perfect. Therefore we might have some missing parts, and we might have done this better. But in this survey we tried to take a look at the product design cycle as a whole, and have a look at the parts of the process that designers have the most to do with:

the product design workflow

So you see, we took the parts of:

  • UX Research (User testing tools, and tools to gathering preliminary data needed to get to the design phase)
  • Wireframing (or sketching, basically the part where a skeleton of the layout is being built)
  • UI Design
  • Micro-Interactions (we decided not to focus on low-fidelity prototyping but on a more interesting and trending phase that has been blowing up in the past two years with great new tools that came out)
  • Styleguide tools (ongoing effort in product teams, and a real challenge that most product teams struggle to find the right set of tools for these days)
  • External communication tools (this might hold some of the low-fidelity prototyping tools in it, but it’s all about how we present our designs to other people in the company/teams/stakeholders/clients
  • Designer to Developer communication tools
  • Front end development tools (for those that have a part in this process, and touching on the everlasting “should designers code” argument)

UX Research - Popular Tools

Since the UX Research phase is made of so many tools, we tried going for many kinds of tools that get different things done. Unfortunately, we did not split them into multiple questions, so we don't have a clear understanding of tools by category, but we do have some interesting data to show.
The questions we had for this phase were:

  • Have you done any analysis of how users are using your site/app in the past year? If so, which tool did you use the most?
  • Have you done any user testing in the past year?If so, which tool did you use the most?

We had tools like Fullstory and Hotjar besides giants like Google Analytics, and we didn't want to give multiple choice options because we were afraid that people would check items sparingly, even ones that they just played around with a demo of.
Here is a taste of the results from those questions:

  • Google Analytics was by far the most popular tool for the question: "Have you done any analysis of how users are using your site/app in the past year? If so, which tool did you use the most?" (39.4%)
  • After Google Analytics we have some tools such as HotJar (7.2%), Optimizely (3%), Fullstory (1.4%), and Optimal Workshop (1.4%) that showed stats over 1%.
  • 46% of designers have not done any user testing in the past year
  • Usertesting.com proved to be popular with a staggering 9.2%
  • As far as survey creation tools go, we have Google Forms in the lead with 9.1%, then Typeform with 5.6%, then Survey Monkey with 3.6%
  • We found out about a tool that we haven't heard of before, it's called Lookback and it got 3% (which is 36 people, that according to the question are claiming this as their main tool for user testing over the past year)
  • With more experience, designers tend to participate more in the process of research, starting with about 60% of the designers in the first year of experience and climbing to over 90% in their 20th year of experience.

The Wireframing Phase

  • Sketch is an obvious leader in this category with 31%, and it makes sense. If you take a look below ,at the next phase of UI Design, you'll see that the most popular tool for UI design is Sketch, and therefore it makes sense that designers will choose this over other wireframing tools since it's their go-to tool for any digital design work.
  • One thing that surprised us, is the small percentage for wireframing tools such as Axure and Balsamiq.

The UI Design Phase

  • Sketch is an obvious leader in this category with 48%
  • Figma is in there. Very small, but there.
  • About the in-browser designers: we will make sure next year to check if they mean they design with HTML/CSS or use web apps like Webflow/Webydo/other website builder tools
  • We forgot to mention an important tool - Affinity Designer. We'll include it next year. Might have had some Affinity Designer users there in the "Other" section
  • A quick cross-reference shows that 39% of mac users are NOT using sketch for UI Design, and are on average 2 years older than those who are using Sketch on their mac.
  • The group of mac users that do not use sketch is more likely to be involved in print design (11.3% of the group compared to 1.5% in the mac+Sketch group). In addition, the same group that has a mac but are not users of sketch are less likely to be involved in IOS design (7.3% of the group compared to 18.5% in the mac+Sketch)

Both the Wireframing and the UI Design phase had a high percentage of participation (close to 100%). While this might be obvious to UI design, it is not so obvious to Wireframing.

The Micro-Interactions Phase

  • 77.2% of the participants are involved in the micro-interactions phase of the workflow.
  • InVision was the clear leader among software options in this phase. It was chosen by 26.4% of all participants, however, if you look at it compared to the other software options (removing people who don't do micro-interactions at all, or use HTML and CSS) it has 46.6%.
  • Principle is a relatively new tool compared to some of the other options, having been released in August 2015, and has an impressive share of the market as the second most used software option after InVision. We are interested to see how it's adoption changes next year.
  • In general, when it comes to the micro-interactions & low fidelity prototyping phase, we see some new tools that are made specifically for this phase, and there is still a lot of opportunity in this phase.

Designers that do Front End

  • 66% of designers are doing some sort of coding.
  • The most common tool for coding is Sublime Text (37.5%), followed by Atom (19.3%). This might be because they are really good tools, but don’t forget - they are also free. This gives a big challenge to the tools that might be better, but are not free to use.
  • The most popular paid code editor is Coda, with 3.2%

Tools for mobile app design VS. website/web app design

Most of the designers that answered this survey are working on either Mobile App Design (15.8%) or Website Design (65.3%).

So here are some stats on Mobile VS Web designers

  • mac OS X is more popular among Mobile app designers, makes sense since it's the platform where the iOS mobile apps are not only designed, but developed
  • Average age of mobile designers is 31.5, Average age of website designers is 32. Almost no difference.
  • Mobile designers' average experience in their field is 6.2 years VS Website designers that their average experience in their field is 7 years
  • Mobile designers are using Sketch more than Website designers (45% vs 31% for wireframing, 67% vs 48% for UI Design)
  • Other than Sketch for wireframing - Pen and paper, Auxure and Photoshop are the next tools with about the same use amongst mobile and website designers
  • For the UI Design phase, Photoshop is 2nd place after Sketch, and website designers tend to use it more than mobile designers (26% VS. 17%)
  • The thing that we see here is the opportunity for any micro-interaction tool to develop features for web designers.

Tools for creating styleguides

Being in the product design industry, it feels there is a common pain on how to create styleguides for organizations. So we explored that with a multiple choice question in this survey, and here are the results.

  • We see tools such as Frontify & Jekyll as gaining popularity