The annual Design Tools Survey is a free resource for creators, companies, and classrooms to educate themselves on the best tools for their individual needs. This year, over 3,000 designers shared their toolkits. While previous years have shown very clear winners in each category, I think you'll find this year to be different.
Thanks for another great Design Tools Survey! As always, the raw data is freely available to download and analyze.
These questions deal with a designer's background and employment situation. Each one paints a vivid landscape of the modern design industry. Understanding a designer's experience, team size, and role can help us understand why they use their specific tools. As you analyze and compare these various segments, consider how they might impact the results of the survey and create patterns in the data.
The titles "UX Designer" and "Product Designer" remain equally matched.
Over 130 unique job titles submitted, including: Design Ops, Management, Research, and Information Architecture.
Since 2017, the percentage of non-US respondents increased from 67% to 75%.
The majority of design teams continue to have 2–10 designers (same as previous years).
How do designers capture their thoughts? Once given a problem, what tools do they use to help them generate their best ideas? This could range from anywhere from long-form text to wireframes and UI. These tools begin to give us a glimpse into how designers do that—either for themselves, or to show others.
86% of respondents reported using pencil, paper, or a whiteboard for brainstorming.
Many respondents seem comfortable brainstormning within their chosen UI design tools (44% in Sketch).
User flows are an important but often forgotten part of digital design. Let's face it: modern UI tools were not built to easily draw arrows to express paths and relationships, but respondents seem determined to stick with them. While most respondents use Sketch, they're likely making use of plugins to accomplish this task (which is probably something I'll ask about next year).
Most respondents seem to prefer to remain in their primary tools while creating user flows.
5 of the top 10 tools in this category are web-based.
Wireframing refers to the preliminary designs created before worrying about higher-fidelity details such as fonts and colors. The rise of design systems has caused a decrease in wireframing in general (though one could argue quick, disposable exploration using design system patterns is still wireframing). Nevertheless, only one of the tools listed in the top 10 is still considered a true wireframing tool (Balsamiq).
The top three tools almost exactly mimic the "UI Design" category.
Interestingly, Axure received more votes in the wireframing category than in UI Design. It remains relatively popular in prototyping, however.
This year's wireframing newcomer is Whimsical. It grew almost 2x since last year to crack the wireframing top 10.
This is where most UI designers spend their time—in their design tool of choice. These tools are used to create high-fidelity mock-ups and interface designs. They're valued for their pixel-perfect design, responsive nature, and integration with other tools. As you can see by the small "Other" category here, there are very clear and distinct winners in this category.
Figma nearly doubled from 12% of all responses to 23% since last year.
This year Adobe XD surpassed it's older sibling, Adobe Photoshop.
Perhaps because it's much easier to switch tools, respondents who work alone are much more likely to use tools other than Sketch.
Prototyping helps designers create interactive experiences from their designs in order to test and showcase them. Prototyping has been the battleground of the design tools ecosystem for several years now. As you can tell by the graph below, usage is much more spread out in this category than any other. Seems there is still no clear winner.
Handoff tools convert designs into specs, measurements, and assets to make them easier to code and develop. Designers typically look for a handoff tool that is highly integrated with their UI design tool of choice. We've recently seen a trend of handoff functionality being builty directly into UI design tools (like Figma, Framer, and Adobe XD) but the top tool in this category is actually an independent tool that works with all the major players.
User testing tools allow designers to host moderated or unmoderated usability tests of prototypes or real products. This is the first year I have asked respondents about user testing tools (after many requests). Unfortunately, I didn't provide the right responeses to make this data actionable. Most respondents said they "don't use any tools for this"—but looking at the other responses, they clearly meant to indicate that they do it in-person or otherwise. Look for better data next year!
Most respondents don't use testing tools (though many custom answers indicate that they do testing in-person, without tools).
UserTesting is the leading user testing tool by a long shot.
Design Systems are a hot topic in 2019. A Design System helps design and development teams collaborate with highly-defined components and specifications. Some of these tools help to create documentation libraries (like Storybook and zeroheight) while others create reusable design symbols to be placed in such a library. A surprising number of respondents still don't have a design system (perhaps because they're at an agency or working alone), or aren't managing it with any tools.
As teams grow, they have an increasingly difficult time sharing files and collaborating together. Some teams side step this issue entirely with cloud-hosted tools such as Figma. Other teams invest in deliberate versioning tools like Abstract or Github. Either way, these tools help teams manage their designs together.
Respondents on teams of 10 or fewer designers were 27% less likely to use a file management tool.
Each year I like to ask respondents which tools they're most excited to try within the next year. 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). Take a look at what other respondents are looking to try.
While everyone seems to be excited about Figma, there's a massive "Other" category here full of different tools.
Each of the top five tools here combined UI design with prototyping. We may even see these two categories merge in future years.
Interestingly, the tools that grew the most this year are also the ones respondents are still most excited to try. Look for more growth next year.
People like you make this survey great! Thanks for participating in the third 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.