2020 Design Tools Survey

Ever since COVID-19 began to change the way we live, I've wondered how it would change the way we work. The rise of video conferencing and remote work was obvious, but what about a highly-collaborative activity such as design? How can designers collaborate with stakeholders and developers—or test their designs with customers—if they're confined to their home? Find the answers here below in the responses of over 4,000 designers. As always, the results are freely available for download for creators, companies, and classrooms.

Thanks to everyone who has supported or participated in the survey each year. Stay safe and healthy!


Taylor PalmerTaylor, December 2020

Introduction

Understanding the background of respondents helps interpret survey data. As you observe trends and patterns in the data, you may realize these patterns differ from your own experience because respondents are at larger companies, have more designers on their team, or are in a different phase of their career. Familiarize yourself with the respondent demographics before jumping in.

Generally, the demographics of respondents is nearly identical to last year, with a few exceptions I noted as Key Insights. I think we can safely assume that the sampling of respondents remained the same while the industry has changed drastically (as seen in the shifts in tools in later sections).

Key Insights

  • 1

    The titles UX Designer and Product Designer remain tightly locked as the most popular design titles.

  • 2

    I shifted the language of the question about the number of designers at the repondent's company. Now we can see that about 6% of respondents work at companies with 100+ designers and how that size affects their tools of choice.

  • 3

    25% of respondents used Windows as one of their platforms for design this year (up from 18% last year).

  • 4

    Several newcomers to the top respondent countries: Russia, Israel, and Brazil! Also, responses from France grew by over 100%.

4100

Survey Responses
  • 959 USA

  • 190 France

  • 179 Germany

  • 175 UK

  • 155 Russia

  • 139 Canada

  • 131 Israel

  • 1,945 Other

Which best describes your role?

What types of experiences are you designing?

How many years of experience do you have?

How many employees work at your current place of employment?

How many designers are there at your place of employment?

Which platform(s) do you primarily use for design?

Introduction

Tools in this category do their best to replicate the experience of whiteboards, sticky notes, and notebooks in a way that allows others to participate. This category is still comparatively very new. Given our current situation of remote work, I expect to see a great amount of innovation and excitement in the coming years. Because most design tools already lend themselves to an infinite canvas with multiple types of media, many respondents seem to remain in their primary UI tool, but other interesting tools (like Miro) are growing rapidly.

Key Insights

  • 1

    Miro had absolutely massive growth this year, likely due to an increase in remote workers. Miro grew from being used by 5% of respondents in 2019 to 33% in 2020.

  • 2

    Most respondents are generally satisfied with the tools they're currently using. Most tools averaged a rating of at least 3.5 out of 5, while Whimsical achieved a great score of 4.5

  • 3

    Impressive 129 responses for Mural when it wasn't a provided response to this question (but will be next year!)

  • 4

    Multiple tools in this category are used more as secondary tools than primary tools, likely as brainstorms and rough ideas translate into design deliverables.

  • 5

    You'll find much cleaner data for this category this year since I removed "Pencil and paper" as an option and instead asked the question directly about software. We can still abstract use of physical tools from the question about using software.

Highly rated brainstorming and ideation tools*

How would you rate this tool for brainstorming and ideation?

Whimsical4.5
Miro4.4
Mural4.2
Figma4.2
Balsamiq3.9

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for brainstorming and ideation?

Which software do you use for brainstorming and ideation?

Introduction

These are tools used to create flowcharts, process diagrams, user flows, user journeys, etc. This is an interesting category as it represents a layer of information between brainstorming and UI design. Tools in this category should help designers and other practicioners express relationships and connections. As you'll see from later responses, designers continue to create user flows within their UI tool of choice.

Key Insights

  • 1

    The nearly 500 respondents who use Whimsical are highly satisfied with a rating of 4.5 (with very similar satisfactions for Overflow.io and Miro).

  • 2

    This category has a fewer tools than others (notice how small the "Other" bar is in the graph below) which represents a good opportunity for these key players to keep growing.

  • 3

    A decent showing from Omnigraffle and Flowmapp, neither of which were listed as default responses.

Highly rated user flows and site maps tools*

How would you rate this tool for user flows and site maps?

Whimsical4.5
Overflow.io4.4
Miro4.2
Figma4.0
Lucidchart4.0

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for user flows and site maps?

Which software do you use for user flows and site maps?

Introduction

When Figma first announced their "multiplayer" feature, designers scoffed at the idea of allowing other people into their files. The idea of live collaboration on design documents evoked thoughts of hovering art directors and controlling stakeholders. Slowly and steadily, however, Figma gained momentum and demonstrated the benefits of online tools: autosaving, link sharing, live collaboration, and more. Shortly thereafter, 2020 arrived with its global pandemics and natural disasters and—well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

Key Insights

  • 1

    66% of designers use Figma for UI design, as opposed to 37% in 2019. This huge growth is likely due to the rise of remote work in 2020.

  • 2

    This section has a steep drop off after the first three tools. Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD are emerging as winners.

  • 3

    As expected, nearly every respondent (96%) does some form of interface design.

Highly rated interface design tools*

How would you rate this tool for interface design?

Figma4.7
Affinity Designer4.5
UXPin4.5
Framer4.5
Sketch4.5

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for interface design?

Which software do you use for interface design?

Top UI design tools for Mac

Primary tools used on Mac

Top UI design used on Windows

Primary tools used on Windows

Introduction

Prototyping used to require a complicated series of tools to achieve a desired outcome. Now, as more UI design tools release native prototyping functionality, this category is stabilizing. The dust is finally settling after several years where a prototyping tool seemed to emerge every month. Most repsondents seem to migrate toward simple hotspot prototyping tools while using more complex tools as secondary options.

Key Insights

  • 1

    In 2017, InVision led this category with more than twice the votes of the next most popular tool (HTML). It was unseated by Sketch in 2019. Now, Figma has taken that throne. Where will we be three years from now?

  • 2

    Respondents seem to reserve higher fidelity tools like ProtoPie and Principle as backups when their main prototyping tools don't cut it.

  • 3

    Adobe XD also surpassed InVision as a prototyping solution as it continues to hold steady year over year.

  • 4

    42% of respondents reported only using one tool for their prototyping needs. The number of prototyping tools used per respondent dropped from nearly 3.5 in 2018 to nearly 1.6 in 2020.

Highly rated UI prototyping tools*

How would you rate this tool for UI prototyping?

Webflow4.7
ProtoPie4.5
UXPin4.5
Framer4.3
Axure4.3

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for UI prototyping?

Which software do you use for UI prototyping?

Prototyping through the years

Top prototyping tools used with Sketch

The primary prototyping tools of respondents who use Sketch as their primary UI design tool

Introduction

How can other access, reference, and recreate a design after a designer finishes their work? Many third-party plugins have attempted to solve this issue over the years, but native handoff functionality is winning out in some of the bigger tools. This is another category that has become more simplified over the years as younger tools develop a more robust feature set. You'll still a few third-party tools with a strong hold on the market, but I don't think you'll find the results surprising.

Data warning

I failed to add Sketch as a possible answer to this question for the first 1,300 (30%) responses or so. I've cleaned up most of the data to consolidate the answers, but Sketch is likely ranking much lower in this category than it should. My apologies!

Key Insights

  • 1

    As expected, most respondents who use Figma for UI design stick with it for handoff.

  • 2

    Zeplin still has a strong hold on this category (with a high satisfaction rating of 4.2), and further analysis shows that most of the usage is tied to Sketch (see the graph below).

  • 3

    We're not able to draw many other strong conclusion without better data for Sketch. Look for better data next year!

Highly rated developer handoff tools*

How would you rate this tool for developer handoff?

Zeplin4.2
Figma4.2
Adobe XD3.9
Abstract3.9
InVision3.7

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for developer handoff?

Which software do you use for developer handoff?

Data warning

I failed to add Sketch as a possible answer to this question for the first 1,300 (30%) responses or so. I've cleaned up most of the data to consolidate the answers, but Sketch is likely ranking much lower in this category than it should. My apologies!

Tools most commonly used with Zeplin

Introduction

As design tools become more robust and established, we're seeing an increase in the ability to consistently reuse components and tokens. While almost 20% of respondents reported that they weren't using a design system in 2019, that number dropped the 9% in 2020 (which may be attributable to the increased feature set of the more popular UI tools). Either way, here's how repondents are curating, documenting, and reusing their design systems in 2020.

Key Insights

  • 1

    Adobe XD grew 10x from being used by 1% of respondents in 2019 to 11% for managing a design system.

  • 2

    Figma received the same boost in this category as they did in previous ones. Their efforts to create a full design suite have clearly paid off with growth from usage by 26% of 2019 respondents to 47% in 2020.

  • 3

    Strong showing from Storybook for managing UI components in code. While this is geared for web components, I would love to understand how respondents are managing this for other platforms.

Highly rated managing design systems tools*

How would you rate this tool for managing design systems?

Figma4.3
zeroheight4.2
Storybook3.8
Adobe XD3.8
Sketch3.8

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for managing design systems?

Which software do you use for managing design systems?

Key Insights

Highly rated versioning and file management tools*

How would you rate this tool for versioning and file management?

Github4.4
Bitbucket4.3
Abstract4
Figma3.9
Dropbox3.9

*With more than 100 total votes in this category

Do you use software for versioning and file management?

Which software do you use for versioning and file management?

Introduction

Each year I like to ask respondents which tools they're most excited to try. It doesn't always predict the future, but occasionally we'll get a glimpse of something on the horizon (for example, Figma was the #1 most exciting tool last year, we saw that play out this year without a doubt). Take a look at what other respondents are looking to try.

Key Insights

  • 1

    I had to double check the numbers on Figma in this category. No, it's not a mistake.

  • 2

    Respondents seem to be developing an interest in 3d tools (such as Blender and Cinema 4d.

  • 3

    There were several surprise appearances from Notion in multiple categories. It didn't always make it onto the graphs, but it's clearly becoming a popular solution from designers.

  • 4

    See that massive "Other" category on the graph below? There's a lot of great data to dig into here if you download the raw data.

Which tools are you most excited to try in 2021?

Thanks for reading!

People like you make this survey great! Thanks for participating in the fourth annual UXtools.co Design Tools Survey. Hopefully you learned something interesting—or maybe found a new tool to try! If you have any questions, reach out to taylor@uxtools.co.

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I usually only send two emails per year: to take the survey, and see the results. If that's too much, I get it. Still friends?