January 26, 2019

UX Prototyping Tools: Adobe XD Impressions

As part of my UX Design course with CareerFoundry, I wanted to use the opportunity to "check out" as many prototyping tools as reasonably possible. In this post I wanted to reflect on my "checking out" experience so far and hopefully help anyone who is also planning to dip their toes into UX software.

Since I'm not a seasoned UX Designer, I cannot speak about these tools in the business context, so I won't be considering such things as collaboration, version management or handover options. My impressions will be purely from the position of someone who is interested to learn and who isn't bound by IT policies or contracts.

So, if you want to explore some UX tools too (or maybe you're a fellow CareerFoundry student) - keep reading! In this post I'm looking at Adobe XD.

My criteria

I'm doing the UX course part-time, while combining it with a full-time job, reading a lot, and painting Warhammer 40K miniatures. Not to mention the often-forgotten household management duties. So, with the limited time resources in mind, my criteria for tool evaluation were:
  • quick to learn or at least to start using
  • sufficiently long trial period
  • easy to use across 3+ devices
  • Windows-compatible
  • preview your work on a mobile device
  • convenient (or at least usable) for user testing, including remote test

Adobe XD

Free plan: yes, with Adobe CC 
Runs on: iOS and Windows 10+ 

Adobe XD and low-fidelity mockups for my first Flashcards app.

As I mentioned earlier, I needed an application that would be easy to use across 3+ devices. Since one of my devices still has Windows 7 on it, I knew that I won't be sticking with Adobe XD. However, it was free, it was all the buzz in the social media and I wanted to see what the hype was all about.

What I liked

  • Quite easy to learn. It gives you a basic onboarding, so you get the idea of what to do relatively quickly. 
  • Collections of ready-made assets and wireframes to speed up your prototyping process.
  • Possibility to create components and styles to speed up the changes.
  • A very nifty "Repeat Grid" tool, which lets you magically and effortlessly create rows or columns of repetitive elements just by resizing your selection.
  • Added benefit: Adobe XD can read Sketch files.

What I didn't like

  • Everything else. 
  • Inconsistent performance. It was constantly freezing or crashing on one of the laptops. And I mean constantly - I had to restart it every 15 minutes since it kept freezing for no apparent reasons. On another device it would sometimes bug out, like the Alt-key would no longer work, some options would no longer respond (until you restart or alt-tab out of it).
  • Bizarre UI on Windows. As in, remember all the nice "File", "Object", "Layer" menus in either Photoshop or any other program that you might be using regularly? None of this is available in XD. Essential functions like "Save" or "Open" are hidden either under the "hamburger" menu or in the right-click menus. In general, it is extremely hard to find things in XD, because a lot of time they appear only contextually. 
  • While UI is quite frustrating as it is, it is also very different from the iOS version of the program. This makes it rather challenging to follow any tutorials, because most of the time you have to pause the video and go snooping through the menus to find the command you need.
  • Complete lack of basic features such as rulers (!!) or guides (?!) or even an ability to center text. 
  • Extremely awkward "symbol" system. A "symbol" in XD is a reusable object. As you create instances of this object in your prototypes, if you make a change to the source object, the changes will be automatically inherited by all instances. Which is very cool and handy, but, there is no way 
  • Rather hard to preview your stuff on a mobile device. Or, to be more precise, it's quite a journey to figure out how and by the end of it you don't feel as justly rewarded for your efforts. Also - you need to install fonts on your mobile phone to view your prototype properly (say what?!)
In short: avoid if you can (although you probably cannot, because your company already got hooked by Adobe, so you'll be sticking with their subpar product whether you want it or not). I know that some people are very happy about it, but I'm not one of them.

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