The 2018 Design Tools Survey is live! Take the survey

The 2017 Annual

Design Tools Survey

For the last two years I have wanted to host a design tools survey but feared it wouldn't gain enough momentum to be worthwhile. Early in December 2017 I bit the bullet and constructed a survey in one weekend. The results blew me away—nearly two thousand people participated and shared the survey. The insights are equally as surprising.

You can access the original raw data here. If you'd like to help, you can share this page on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever the kids use these days.

Take a look.

Taylor

Table of Contents

  1. The 2017 Designer's Toolkit
  2. Demographics
  3. Brainstorming & Ideation Tools
  4. Wireframing Tools
  5. Interface Design Tools
  6. Prototyping Tools
  7. Handoff Tools
  8. Design System Tools
  9. File Management & Version Control Tools
  10. Monitoring Tools
  11. Most Exciting Tools of 2018

The 2017 Designer's Toolkit

According to the 1,979 participants in the 2017 survey, these are the most popular tools of the year.

  • Brainstorming & Ideation
    Pencil and Paper
  • Wireframing
    Sketch
  • Interface Design
    Sketch
  • Prototyping
    InVision
  • Handoff
    InVision
  • Design System
    Sketch
  • File Management
    Google Drive
  • Monitoring
    Hotjar

Demographics

A total of 1,979 respondents participated in the survey. Please note that all questions were optional, so not all statistics will add up perfectly. As expected, the highest amount of respondents were from the US, but over 100 countries participated overall.

Responses By Country

Percentage of US Respondents

Job Titles of Respondents

Years of Experience

Platforms Used

Size of Design Team

I'm really happy with the even spread of experience—it means the responses aren't colored by young or old designers, but instead should evenly represent designers of all shapes and sizes.

The "Size of Design Team" question was ambiguous and poorly structured, so I don't think the data is very accurate. For example: should a freelancer mark themselves as "freelancer" or "Team of 1"? Next year, I'll ask about company size and team size in separate questions.

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Brainstorming & Ideation Tools

This category is by far the most diverse. Look at how many "other" tools aren't even listed here! (Other responses included Lucidchart, InDesign, Affinity Designer, InVision Boards, etc.) The term "brainstorming" is too broad to have any real significance, though, so next year I hope to break this question into other areas like "Documenting Ideas" or "Gathering Requirements."

It's comforting to know that participants aren't afraid to get away from the computer. Most design thinking still happens at the whiteboard or on paper, but a significant amount of respondents are still exploring ideas in Sketch.

Wireframing Tools

This data proves that you don't need another app to wireframe—you only need the discipline to stay away from colors, fonts, and other distractions. I did a brief exploration into smaller demographics (like Product Managers) and found that the Sketch usage, while still dominant, was much lower.

Most memorable response: "Wire framing? oh, you mean when I take LSD and I envision the layout?"

Interface Design Tools

Don't let anyone fool you: Sketch is still king. These responses are the least varied of any other category, which tells me that the UI design world is less fragmented than we may think.

Interface Design for Mac Users

Interface Design for Windows Users

The survey gathered a much smaller sample size of Windows users, and 26 of them confusingly reported using Sketch on Windows (Maybe through a virtual machine?). Interestingly, Photoshop continues to dominate on Windows machines.

Prototyping Tools

The average number of protoyping tools used by respondents was 2.98. If it takes a designer at least three tools to accomplish their goal, we're likely to see a lot more movement in this category. Next year, I would like to split this question into more specific categories: clickable prototypes and motion design.

I knew InVision was popular, but I didn't realize it was this popular. Good to see classic code still taking second place, though.

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Handoff Tools

These helpful handoff tools have spread like wildfire during the past few years. I've been waiting for Sketch to release their own handoff tool (Sketch Cloud anyone?) but utom keeps blowing us away with the amazing Sketch Measure. Nevertheless, InVision takes the cake on yet another category.

Most memorable response: "OS X Finder."

Design System Tools

A significant chunk of respondents skipped this question entirely.

This graph is sure to change in 2018 when InVision Studio and InVision Design System Manager make their debut. For now, however, native Sketch Libraries seem to be sufficient for most participants.

Most memorable response: "None, need to work on that. :("

File Management & Version Control Tools

Responses show that this question is easily segmented:

  • Standard management through Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
  • Git versioning through Github, Bitbucket, Gitlab, Plant.io, etc.
  • A custom, internal management system
  • No management at all

I expect these numbers to change as certain apps (InVision, Figma) continue to gain traction while offering native versioning systems.

Most memorable response: "OneDrive (it sucks)."

Monitoring Tools

I was surprised to see that most respondents didn't interact with these kinds of tools. If you don't, you should. The insights provided from capturing user interaction is extremely valuable. If you're looking to pick your own monitoring tool, you can compare them here.

Most memorable response: "Nothin', muffin."

Most Exciting Tools of 2018

Here's what to look out for in 2018. InVision has been marketing their new InVision Studio UI design tool, and everyone is anxious to try it. Framer and frontend code seem to always be on a desiger's "maybe some day" list. Maybe this year is the year!

Most memorable response: "None. Can we just stick to one that works? Designers are already pretty tired as it stands."

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Ideas for Next Year

Some respondents were kind enough to share their thoughts for how I could improve the survey. Here are just a few examples:

How about a question asking which plugins (e.g. Sketch) designers are using?

You're missing writing tools. Content IS design. Stop drawing boxes, everyone. Start making meaning.

You could create a group for designing UI Interaction/Animation too

Would love to know the best data / user research tool for native apps.

These are all great ideas. I've already mentioned some new categories to add next year, and I'd also like to add a "None" option to each question to know how many participants don't have tools for that part of their workflow. This was a great learning experience and I can't wait until the 2018 survey.

Thanks for your participation!

This survey was a ton of fun. I'm grateful to everyone who participated and promoted the survey. If you're still looking for ways to help out, please share these results with your friends and coworkers! If you'd like to be notified about the survey next year, sign up for the survey at the bottom of this page. Keep in touch!