30+ Useful Chrome Extensions for Web Designers

Original Source: https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/google-chrome-extensions-designers/

A list of most handy Chrome extensions specifically for web designers and developers.

The post 30+ Useful Chrome Extensions for Web Designers appeared first on Hongkiat.

Visit hongkiat.com for full content.

Collective #510

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/tympanus/~3/aYXqTy6zs64/

C510_whatisdesignsys

What is a Design System?

Varun Vachhar and Catherine Maritan take the conversation of Design Systems past style guides and component libraries and get into breaking down silos between development and design.

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C510_Glicky

Glicky

Glicky is an in-browser task runner for modern web development.

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C510_svelte

Svelte 3: Rethinking reactivity

Read all about the new Svelte 3, the component framework that runs at build time.

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C510_commit

Commit messages guide

A guide to understanding the importance of commit messages and how to write them well.

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C510_3dscan

Only CSS: 3D Scan

A stunning demo of a 3D scan animation made only with CSS. By Yusuke Nakaya.

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C510_names

Inclusively Hidden

Scott O’Hara highlights the methods of hiding content that are most appropriate for modern web development, and notes the accessibility impacts of each.

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C510_figma

Sketch vs Figma, Adobe XD, And Other UI Design Applications

Ashish Bogawat summarizes the unique features of the new Sketch alternatives.

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C510_mockit

MockIt

MockIt gives you an interface to configure and create mock APIs for your applications.

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C510_cors

CORS Tutorial: A Guide to Cross-Origin Resource Sharing

Learn all about Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, how it protects you, and how to enable CORS in your applications. By Steve Hobbs.

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C510_TinyMirror

Tiny Mirror

Davy Wybiral made an insane little webcam, right inside of a favicon! Check out the demo.

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C510_things

Introducing Mozilla WebThings

Ben Francis introduces Mozilla WebThings, an open platform for monitoring and controlling devices over the web.

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C510_hovercard

Fading out siblings on hover in CSS

Trys Mudford shows how to make a special hover effect with a neat trick.

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C510_christools

Getting started with Javascript – The right tools and resources

Chris Heilman talks about how to get started with Javascript, and where to find the right resources. You can read the transcript here.

Watch it

Screen-Shot-2019-04-22-at-22.47.25

Mouse Trail

Noah Yamamoto explains how to create an artsy mouse trail animation.

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C510_GB

GB Studio

A free and easy to use retro adventure game creator for your favourite handheld video game system.

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C510_genart

Giving Generative Art Its Due

Jason Bailey writes about Automat und Mensch, a show on the history of generative art.

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C510_names

Naming things to improve accessibility

Hidde de Vries explains how browsers decide on the names for links, form fields, tables and form groups.

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C510_AI4Animation

AI4Animation – for JavaScript & Three.js

A port of the AI4Animation project, for use with Three.js on the web. It explores the possibilities of using artificial intelligence to generate realtime character animations.

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C510_directionhover

Direction aware hover effect

Tobias Reich made this great hover effect that starts from where you hover with the mouse.

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C510_rotatedoverlays

From Our Blog
How to Create and Animate Rotated Overlays

A tutorial on how to create and animate rotated overlays, or “reveal” elements, for interesting page transition effects.

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Collective #510 was written by Pedro Botelho and published on Codrops.

20 Freshest Web Designs, April 2019

Original Source: https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2019/04/20-freshest-web-designs-april-2019/

Welcome to our roundup of the best new sites to be launched (or relaunched with significant updates) in the last four weeks.

After last month’s flirtation with monochrome, this month’s set of sites return to the overriding trend of 2019: color. Huge images are still popular, and parallax is still finding its way into our scrolling experiences. Enjoy!

Middle Fork Rapid Transit

Middle Fork Rapid Transit is an adventure vacation company that transports you over 100 miles down the Middle Fork river in Idaho. Its site packs in as much as one of its trips, and there’s tons of little details to get you fired up; I love the animated raft, and the grub looks amazing.

To Taste

To Taste is my favorite recipe site of the moment. Packed with food ideas for every occasion and palette, the simple site is laid out perfectly for browsing, and choosing something to make is a culinary treat. What really makes it, as with all food sites, is the mouth-watering photography.

The Face

Style bible The Face returned from oblivion this month, with a new team behind the iconic publication. Its site opens as daringly as you’d expect, before slowing to a more traditional, and more usable blog format.

Kia ProCeed

The site for the new Kia ProCeed is precisely the type of site we used to build back in the day. With interactive video, a unique navigation system based on established design patterns, and carefully designed usability, it’s an enticing experience.

Hiraeth

Co-founded by Rooney Mara, Hiraeth is a fashion label that produces desirable clothes free from any animal product. Its elegant site exudes quality with generous white space, and an almost Scandinavian minimalism, matching the garments perfectly.

Future of Sustainability

According to some estimates, we have just 12 years until we face not just climate change, but climate breakdown. Future of Sustainability wants to inspire you to change the 2020s, before it’s too late. It communicates a complex, and difficult message engagingly.

Nicholas Jackson

Nicholas Jackson is a New York based designer and art director. His portfolio site is a bold, confident expression of the work he loves to do for clients including Canon, The Wall Street Journal, The NY times, and Siemens.

Mansi

Mansi makes some of the best pasta this side of Naples, and it has an equally delicious website. Dotted throughout the site are pasta shapes, some of them animated, making Mansi’s site the most appropriate exponent of the blob trend I’ve seen to date.

Azab

Azab is an architecture firm with a love of mouse trails. Despite most designers abandoning them more than a decade ago, Azab’s site is built entirely around the path of your mouse on the screen. It’s surprisingly compelling.

Corpus

Corpus is an all-natural, all-vegan company producing deodorants that don’t harm you, or the planet. Its site intriguingly turns a standard e-commerce layout on its head, by presenting products up front, and the traditional hero video, down below.

Calidad Beer

Calidad Beer is a Mexican-style beer, brewed in California. With Levis-worthy art direction, and brand appropriate animation, its site is ideal for an unknown company trying to tap into a saturated market. Constantly reinforced, the brand identity is key here.

DEMO

The Design in Motion Festival, or DEMO for short, takes place in Amsterdam in November, when 80 screens in the central train station will showcase the best motion design work. The site itself features beautiful interactive lettering that Saul Bass would be proud of.

Camille Pawlak

The online portfolio of Camille Pawlak is based around a beautiful central animation that rotates as it transforms into the next project. It’s a simple, but elegant way to navigate between projects, and the work that she’s showcasing is excellent too.

Green Chameleon

Green Chameleon’s site is only temporary, with a full website redesign on the horizon. But with a portfolio like this, packed with parallax effects, and dead simple navigation, I think the Bristol agency should stick with what it’s got.

Flwr

Flwr is a New Zealand based florist with a modern approach. Its site uses text to mask its beautiful photography, creating an intriguing and inviting mini-site. It even embraces the split-screen trend to great effect.

Daly

Daly is a PR agency founded by Alex Daly, from her contacts built helping some of the world’s most successful crowdfund campaigns reach their targets. Its site is bold, colorful, and fun. The period after its name isn’t new, but I love the way it follows you down the page as you scroll.

Pacto Navio

When the finest Cuban rum is introduced to French wine making traditions, you get Pacto Navio. The rum, distilled near Havana, is served by a beautifully art directed site, featuring brand illustrations, and a distinctly Caribbean feeling.

Cheval Blanc

The French have a reputation for refined hospitality, and that trend is reflected in their love of sophisticated web sites. The site for Cheval Blanc is no exception, with a just-right level of parallax scrolling and refined typography.

Staat

Staat is a design agency specializing in event design for some of the world’s best known names. Its site features video case studies of its work, and the site itself takes a step backwards and allows the portfolio to shine.

Festa da Francofonia 2019

The 2019 festival for Francophones, is a festival celebrating the 220 million people worldwide who speak the French language. Celebrated from Morocco to Canada, the event’s site is a colorful, international feeling affair, appropriate for a multi-cultural event.

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Fully-Immersive Brand Identity for The Revolution Hotel

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/abduzeedo/~3/dkWDtybVq2Q/fully-immersive-brand-identity-revolution-hotel

Fully-Immersive Brand Identity for The Revolution Hotel
Fantastic & Experimental Brand Identity for The Revolution Hotel

abduzeedoApr 19, 2019

Adam&Co. is a Boston-based multi-disciplinary creative consultancy founded and led by award-winning creative director, Adam Larson in partnership with executive producer, Allison Doherty. With 20+ years working with clients across nearly every industry, The Revolution Hotel is Adam&Co.’s first fully-immersive brand identity project.

The Revolution presented Adam&Co. the opportunity to build a new, dynamic hotel brand from the ground up, extending their expertise into the physical realm through a multifaceted approach to experiential branding. Adam&Co. created and managed the strategic vision, branding, design, and art curation for the first-of-its-kind, boutique hotel in Boston’s historic South End.

About the Project

Boston has a unique way of defining and breaking convention, dating back to the American Revolution in 1775. It’s rich history is why so many people travel from all over the world, to visit the city that started it all. Adam&Co.’s creative vision for the hotel celebrates the city’s vibrant past and it’s continued efforts toward shaping the future.

Catering to today’s experience-seeking global travelers, The Revolution was built to evoke the city’s revolutionary spirit through the integration of art and installations, showcasing historical figures, innovations, and events specific to Boston, recontextualized and juxtaposed through modern applications, creating a balanced mix of the old and the new. Featured artists include Tristan Eaton, The Individuals Collective, and Adam&Co.

The Revolution was built to evoke the city’s revolutionary spirit through the integration of art…

About The Revolution Hotel

The Revolution boasts a variety of room options, including standard king with private bath, quads and triples with bunk beds and shared bathrooms, and long-term stay lofts with kitchenettes, and oversized bathrooms. The hotel also features a cafe, a gym, a large co-working space with a bar, as well as a forthcoming restaurant with outdoor patio for dining and events.

Also in the works is a proprietary augmented reality app that will allow visitors a chance to navigate the content of the hotel in more depth through curated video content.

The building’s history and architecture became a great source of inspiration when approaching the design of the hotel. An adaptive reuse project, the building itself dates back to the 1880’s when it became one of the first YWCAs in the country, a place dedicated to the empowerment of women. In 1953, a Mid-Century Modern addition was added to serve as a dormitory for young women who were joining the workforce after WWII. The developers, architects and design team all took great care to celebrate its original use as well as to embrace, preserve, and expose its original architecture.

Adam&Co. commissioned world-renown Los Angeles’ street artist Tristan Eaton to create a 65 ft. mural that is the centerpiece of the hotel’s lobby, and the first Boston mural by Tristan. Inspired by the famous murals at the nearby Boston Public Library, and created entirely by freehand spray paint, the mural combines carefully rendered portraits of influential Bostonians with various excerpts of the city’s history, and contributions to pop culture. Tristan also designed custom carpeting that lines the halls of the guest floors.

Here is an exclusive BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH TRISTAN EATON  

To celebrate our lineage in science, technology and innovation, Adam&Co. partnered with Boston-based Individuals Collective to create a three-story sculptural installation featuring objects that represent significant inventions from the area. The “Innovation Tower” includes everything from microwaves and car parts, to old computers, microchips, transmitters, telephones, safety razors, Converse sneakers, basketballs, volleyballs, and typewriters.

Additional art throughout the hotel includes custom wallpapers, custom stencil murals, and framed art installations all designed by Adam&Co. Adam&Co.

The Revolution Hotel is the first hotel on the east coast to be managed by the boutique hotel management company Provenance Hotels. It is owned and was developed by the Mount Vernon Company, with Creative Direction provided by Adam&Co., designed in partnership with PCA Architects.

Fully-Immersive Brand Identity

Hotel Photos

Screen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.35.59 PMHttps   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 5Screen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.36.40 PM CopyHttps   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 4IMG 9795Screen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.36.08 PMMerlin 148292406 3c9e80b7 Bcf0 4ed5 B25d C627371aa9c0 SuperJumboIMG 9803000 Garden Level 0810Screen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.35.33 PMScreen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.33.49 PMHttps   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 10Https   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 14Https   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 12Https   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 8Https   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 11Https   Hypebeast.com Image 2018 12 Revolution Hotel Boston Inside Look Tristan Eaton 13Screen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.34.14 PMScreen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.33.18 PMScreen Shot 2019 04 09 At 9.34.31 PMBunker RoomBunk Beds

Behind the scenes: Art Instalations – tristaneaton.com

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Branding

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Behind the scenes: Design Process

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How to Create and Animate Rotated Overlays

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/tympanus/~3/p3DSKDxEkMw/

Today we’d like to explore a specific reveal effect with you. If you saw the Crossroads Slideshow a while back, you might have noticed the page transition when the content is shown after an image gets clicked. We call this type of transitions a “reveal” animation because some content is already there while an overlay element animates out, revealing what’s underneath.

To make such an effect is pretty straightforward: simply place an overlay with the same or different color of the page background and animate it out of the viewport; whatever is under it will show. But there are two challenges here: one is if you’d like the overlay itself to have some content which you want to conceal, i.e. which you want to get cut off while hiding it and not simply move along with the parent when animating it out. The other challenge is to add a rotation and guarantee that the overlay covers the whole screen so that no gaps are shown when you move it out. When combining these two effects, things get really interesting.

So let’s tackle these two challenges in this little tip today and show some of the many possibilities for how to use these techniques in a page design.

The demos are kindly sponsored by Northwestern: Earn your MS degree entirely online. If you would like to sponsor one of our demos, find out more here.

Attention: Highly experimental prototyping, please view in a capable browser.

The reveal effect

The beauty of the reveal effect is that the technique is very simple, yet the result is so interesting: take any element that has its overflow set to “hidden” and animate it in some direction, while animating its child in the opposite direction. This creates a “cut off” look, the content appears to be steady in one place, as if we’re animating some kind of clipping mask. Yet we are only translating elements.

Under the hood, you can see what’s happening here:

Reveal_step1.2019-04-18 15_09_21

We simply move a container up. Now, let’s keep the content in place by reversing that movement and translating it in the opposite direction:

Reveal_opposite.2019-04-18 15_09_21

One last step is to add overflow: hidden to the parent:

Reveal_final2019-04-18 15_09_21

And that’s it! Now, if you want to spice things up a bit, you can add a different duration or easing to the reverse element or other animations to the inner elements.

Adding a rotation

The effect becomes a little bit more complicated when we want to add a rotation. When we rotate an element it will create gaps and not cover the background entirely anymore. So we need to make sure that it’s width and height is set in such a way that when rotated, there are no gaps.

Technically, we’re want the (minimum) bounding box of a rotated rectangle.

The following Stackoverflow thread gave us the right formula for our case: How to scale a rotated rectangle to always fit another rectangle

We only need to find the correct width and height, so the following bit is interesting to us:

“When you rotate an axis-aligned rectangle of width w and height h by an angle ɸ, the width and height of the rotated rectangle’s axis-aligned bounding box are:

W = w·|cos ɸ| + h·|sin ɸ|
H = w·|sin ɸ| + h·|cos ɸ|

(The notation |x| denotes an absolute value.)”

Additionally, we have to make sure that we keep the previous structure in place and that we show the content straight. So we need to rotate the content back. To ease our animation and not tinker with calculations we avoid moving the rotated content, but instead we’ll use the resized container for the motion.

In total we will use three containers to achieve all that:

<div class=”content content–first”><!– only rotated –>
<div class=”content__move”><!– resized and moved –>
<div class=”content__reverse”><!– reverse rotation –>
<!– … –>
</div>
</div>
</div>

If you look at the x-ray view of one of the demos, you can see the rotation and calculation of the new width and height:

Revealers_xray

Given this structure, there are really endless possibilities for rotated reveal and overlay animations.

Reveal2.2019-04-18 16_26_24

Think of multiple overlays. Think of matching animations of the elements that are being revealed or the ones that get hidden.

Reveal3.2019-04-18 16_28_20

There’s so much to explore!

Reveal5.2019-04-18 17_56_58

Have a look at our little compilation, we hope you enjoy it!

How to Create and Animate Rotated Overlays was written by Mary Lou and published on Codrops.

The User’s Perspective: Using Story Structure To Stand In Your User’s Shoes

Original Source: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2019/04/user-perspective-story-structure/

The User’s Perspective: Using Story Structure To Stand In Your User’s Shoes

The User’s Perspective: Using Story Structure To Stand In Your User’s Shoes

John Rhea

2019-04-16T16:00:16+02:00
2019-04-19T16:36:08+00:00

Every user interaction with your website is part of a story. The user—the hero—finds themselves on a journey through your website on the way to their goal. If you can see this journey from their perspective, you can better understand what they need at each step, and align your goals with theirs.

My first article on websites and story structure, Once Upon a Time: Using Story Structure for Better Engagement, goes into more depth on story structure (the frame around which we build the house of a story) and how it works. But here’s a quick refresher before we jump into implications:

The Hero’s Journey

Most stories follow a simple structure that Joseph Campbell in his seminal work, Hero with a Thousand Faces, called the Hero’s Journey. We’ll simplify it to a hybrid of the plot structure you learned in high school and the Hero’s Journey. We’ll then take that and apply it to how a user interacts with a website.

The Hero’s journey begins in the ordinary world. An inciting incident happens to draw the hero into the story. The hero prepares to face the ordeal/climax. The hero actually faces the ordeal. Then the hero must return to the ordinary world, his problem solved by the story.

Once upon a time… a hero went on a journey. (Large preview)

Ordinary World
The ordinary world is where the user starts (their every day) before they’ve met your website.

Inciting Incident/Call To Adventure
Near the beginning of any story, something will happen to the hero that will push (or pull) them into the story (the inciting incident/call to adventure). It will give them a problem they need to resolve. Similarly, a user has a problem they need to be solved, and your website might be just the thing to solve it. Sometimes though, a hero would rather stay in their safe, ordinary world. It’s too much cognitive trouble for the user to check out a new site. But their problem — their call to adventure — will not be ignored. It will drive the user into interacting with your site.

Preparation/Rising Action
They’ve found your website and they think it might work to solve their problem, but they need to gather information and prepare to make a final decision.

The Ordeal/Climax
In stories, the ordeal is usually the fight with the big monster, but here it’s the fight to decide to use your site. Whether they love the video game news you cover or need the pen you sell or believe in the graphic design prowess of your agency, they have to make the choice to engage.

The Road Back/Falling Action
Having made the decision to engage, the road back is about moving forward with that purchase, regular reading, or requesting the quote.

Resolution
Where they apply your website to their problem and their problem is *mightily* solved!

Return With Elixir
The user returns to the ordinary world and tells everyone about their heroic journey.

The User’s Perspective

Seeing the website from the user’s perspective is the most important part of this. The Hero’s Journey, as I use it, is a framework for better understanding your user and their state of mind during any given interaction on your site. If you understand where they are in their story, you can get a clearer picture of where and how you fit in (or don’t) to their story. Knowing where you are or how you can change your relationship to the user will make a world of difference in how you run your website, email campaigns, and any other interaction you have with them.

Numerous unsubscribes might not be a rejection of the product, but that you sent too many emails without enough value. Great testimonials that don’t drive engagement might be too vague or focused on how great you are, not what solutions you solve. A high bounce rate on your sign up page might be because you focused more on your goals and not enough on your users’ goals. Your greatest fans might not be talking about you to their friends, not because they don’t like you, but because you haven’t given them the opportunity for or incentivized the sharing. Let’s look at a few of these problems.

Plan For The Refusal Of The Call To Adventure

Often the hero doesn’t want to engage in the story or the user doesn’t want to expend the cognitive energy to look at another new site. But your user has come to your site because of their call to adventure—the problem that has pushed them to seek a solution—even if they don’t want to. If you can plan for a user’s initial rejection of you and your site, you’ll be ready to counteract it and mollify their concerns.

Follow up or reminder emails are one way to help the user engage. This is not a license to stuff your content down someone’s throat. But if we know that one or even seven user touches aren’t enough to draw someone in and engage them with your site, you can create two or eight or thirty-seven user touches.

Sometimes these touches need to happen outside of your website; you need to reach out to users rather than wait for them to come back to you. One important thing here, though, is not to send the same email thirty-seven times. The user already refused that first touch. The story’s hero rarely gets pulled into the story by the same thing that happens again, but rather the same bare facts looked at differently.

So vary your approach. Do email, social media, advertising, reward/referral programs, and so on. Or use the same medium with a different take on the same bare facts and/or new information that builds on the previous touches. Above all, though, ensure every touch has value. If it doesn’t, each additional touch will get more annoying and the user will reject your call forever.

Nick Stephenson is an author who tries to help other authors sell more books. He has a course called Your First 10K Readers and recently launched a campaign with the overall purpose of getting people to register for the course.

Before he opened registration, though, he sent a series of emails. The first was a thanks-for-signing-up-to-the-email-list-and-here’s-a-helpful-case-study email. He also said he would send you the first video in a three-part series in about five minutes. The second email came six minutes later and had a summary of what’s covered in the video and a link to the video itself. The next day he emailed with a personal story about his own struggles and a link to an article on why authors fail (something authors are very concerned about). Day 3 saw email number four… you know what? Let’s just make a chart.

Day
Value/Purpose
Email #

1
Case Study
1

1
Video 1 of 3
2

2
Personal Story and Why Authors Fail Article
3

3
Video 2 of 3
4

4
Honest discussion of his author revenue and a relevant podcast episode
5

5
Video 3 of 3
6

6
Testimonial Video
7

7
Registration Opens Tomorrow
8

8
Registration Info and a pitch on how working for yourself is awesome
9

By this point, he’s hooked a lot of users. They’ve had a week of high quality, free content related to their concerns. He’s paid it forward and now they can take it to the next level.

I’m sure some people unsubscribed, but I’m also sure a lot more people will be buying his course than with one or even two emails. He’s given you every opportunity to refuse the call and done eight different emails with resources in various formats to pull you back in and get you going on the journey.

I’ve Traveled This Road Before

It takes a lot less work to follow a path than to strike a new one. If you have testimonials, they can be signposts in the wilderness. While some of them can and should refer to the ordeal (things that might prevent a user from engaging with you), the majority of them should refer to how the product/website/thing will solve whatever problem the user set out to solve.

“This article was amazing!” says the author’s mother, or “I’m so proud of how he turned out… it was touch-and-go there for a while,” says the author’s father. While these are positive (mostly), they aren’t helpful. They tell you nothing about the article.

Testimonials should talk about the road traveled: “This article was awesome because it helped me see where we were going wrong, how to correct course, and how to blow our competitor out of the water,” says the author’s competitor. The testimonials can connect with the user where they are and show them how the story unfolded.

This testimonial for ChowNow talks about where they’ve been and why ChowNow worked better than their previous setup.

“Life before ChowNow was very chaotic — we got a lot of phone calls, a lot of mistyped orders. So with ChowNow, the ability to see the order from the customer makes it so streamlined.” John Sungkamee, Owner, Emporium Thai Cuisine

“I struggled with the same things you did, but this website helped me through.” (Large preview)

So often we hear a big promise in testimonials. “Five stars”, “best film of the year,” or “my son always does great.” But they don’t give us any idea of what it took to get where they are, that special world the testifier now lives in. And, even if that company isn’t selling a scam, your results will vary.

We want to trumpet our best clients, but we also want to ground those promises in unasterisked language. If we don’t, the user’s ordeal may be dealing with our broken promises, picking up the pieces and beginning their search all over again.

The Ordeal Is Not Their Goal

While you need to help users solve any problems preventing them from choosing you in their ordeal, the real goal is for them to have their problem solved. It’s easy to get these confused because your ordeal in your story is getting the user to buy in and engage with your site.

Your goal is for them to buy in/engage and your ordeal is getting them to do that. Their goal is having their problem solved and their ordeal is choosing you to solve that problem. If you conflate your goal and their goal then their problem won’t get solved and they won’t have a good experience with you.

This crops up whenever you push sales and profits over customer happiness. Andrew Mason, founder of Groupon, in his interview with Alex Bloomberg on the podcast “Without Fail”, discusses some of his regrets about his time at Groupon. The company started out with a one-deal-a-day email — something he felt was a core of the business. But under pressure to meet the growth numbers their investors wanted (their company goals), they tried things that weren’t in line with the customer’s goals.

Note: I have edited the below for length and clarity. The relevant section of the interview starts at about 29:10.

Alex: “There was one other part of this [resignation] letter that says, ‘my biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our company’s customers.’ What did you mean by that?”

Andrew: “Groupon started out with these really tight principles about how the site was going to work and really being pro customer. As we expanded and as we went after growth at various points, people in the company would say, ‘hey why don’t we try running two deals a day? Why don’t we start sending two emails a day?’ And I think that sounds awful, like who wants that? Who wants to get two emails every single day from a company? And they’d be like, ‘Well sure, it sounds awful to you. But we’re a data driven company. Why don’t we let the data decide?’ …And we’d do a test and it would show that maybe people would unsubscribe at a slightly higher rate but the increase in purchasing would more than make up for it. You’d get in a situation like: ‘OK, I guess we can do this. It doesn’t feel right, but it does seem like a rational decision.’ …And of course the problem was when you’re in hypergrowth like [we were] …you don’t have time to see what is going to happen to the data in the long term. The churn caught up with [us]. And people unsubscribed at higher rates and then before [we] knew it, the service had turned into… a vestige of what it once was.”

— Without Fail, Groupon’s Andrew Mason: Pt. 2, The Fall (Oct. 8, 2018)

Tools For The Return With The Elixir

Your users have been on a journey. They’ve conquered their ordeal and done what you hoped they would, purchased your product, consumed your content or otherwise engaged with you. These are your favorite people. They’re about to go back to their ordinary world, to where they came from. Right here at this pivot is when you want to give them tools to tell how awesome their experience was. Give them the opportunity to leave a testimonial or review, offer a friends-and-family discount, or to share your content.

SunTrust allows electronic check deposit through their mobile app. For a long while, right after a deposit, they would ask you if you wanted to rate their app. That’s the best time to ask. The user has just put money in their account and are feeling the best they can while using the app.

suntrust app check deposit screen

“Money, money, money! Review us please?” (Large preview)

The only problem was is that they asked you after every deposit. So if you had twelve checks to put in after your birthday, they’d ask you every time. By the third check number, this was rage inducing and I’m certain they got negative reviews. They asked at the right time, but pestered rather than nudged and — harkening back to the refusal of the call section — they didn’t vary their approach or provide value with each user touch.

Note: Suntrust has since, thankfully, changed this behavior and no longer requests a rating after every deposit.

Whatever issue you’re trying to solve, the Hero’s Journey helps you see through your user’s eyes. You’ll better understand their triumphs and pain and be ready to take your user interactions to the next level.

So get out there, put on some user shoes, and make your users heroic!

Smashing Editorial
(cc, il)

Collective #509

Original Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/tympanus/~3/k4M5W74SpTg/

C509_WOTW

Inspirational Website of the Week: Greater Than Avatars

A stunning design with great balance and details. Our pick this week.

Get inspired

C509_NW

This content is sponsored via Thought Leaders
Northwestern MS in Information Design and Strategy

Prepare for a range of dynamic communication roles and build the in-demand skills needed to drive user interactions.

Apply Now

C509_trends

Web Design Trends 2019

A very inspirational list of fundamental web design trends for 2019.

Read it

C509_hints

Optimizing Performance With Resource Hints

Learn how you can use Resource Hints to help the browser stay one step ahead of the user in this article by Drew McLellan.

Read it

C509_solar

Solar CSSystem

All the solar system’s planets made with CSS by Rob DiMarzo.

Check it out

C509_diagonal

Diagonal Containers in CSS

A tutorial by Sebastiano Guerriero, where he shows how to create full-width, diagonal sections in CSS using the clip-path property.

Read it

C509_cassie

Limitation Breeds Creativity

Cassie Evans’ great talk at Bytes Conf 2019.

Watch it

C509_3d

js-cloudimage-360-view

A simple, interactive resource that can be used to provide a virtual tour of your product.

Check it out

C509_movingmouse

Simulating Mouse Movement

Louis Hoebregts shows how to simulate a moving mouse using the Simplex noise algorithm.

Read it

C509_notre

Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox

An scrollable WebGL presentation that visualizes why Notre-Dame was all but assured to go up in flames.

Check it out

C509_cube

cube.js

In case you didn’t know about it: Cube.js is an open source modular framework to build analytical web applications.

Check it out

C509_animatedgrid

Animated grid

A hypnotizing animated grid demo made by David A.

Check it out

C509_visualprogram

A graphical introduction to dynamic programming

Avik Das wrote and illustrated this visual introduction to dynamic programming.

Read it

C509_includinghtml

HTML Includes That Work Today

Scott Jehl describes an experimental technique for including another file directly into a page.

Read it

C509_ascii

ASCII WARP GITHUB

Ibrahim Tanyalcin shows how you can use LexiconMonoSeq to animate ASCII.

Check it out

C509_matt

ToneJS + canvas-sketch

An interactive and generative site made with canvas-sketch and Tone.js. By Matt DesLauriers.

Check it out

C509_slideshow

Fullscreen Scroll Slideshow

Yoichi Kobayashi created this useful fullscreen slideshow that works on scroll.

Check it out

C509_solid

Solid Template

Solid is a simple and responsive HTML landing page template for startups.

Check it out

C509_particles

Particles 101

Tibix’s tutorial on how to make animations based on moving particles.

Read it

C509_cssdrone

Only CSS: STARFOX Arwing Drone

Yusuke Nakaya created this stunning CSS-only flying drone demo.

Check it out

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URL equalizer

So much coding goodness in just a couple of tweets. A realtime favicon waveform follows.

Check it out

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Nicedoc.io

Nicedoc.io aims to reduce the documentation friction, converting any markup file hosted on github.com into great looking documentation.

Check it out

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IMGBIN

A place to find free PNG images for your next wild collage.

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C509_demos3

From Our Blog
Awesome Demos Roundup #3

The third collection of beautiful, creative experiments that we’ve found around the web.

Check it out

Collective #509 was written by Pedro Botelho and published on Codrops.

Optimizing Performance With Resource Hints

Original Source: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2019/04/optimization-performance-resource-hints/

Optimizing Performance With Resource Hints

Optimizing Performance With Resource Hints

Drew McLellan

2019-04-17T12:30:16+02:00
2019-04-19T15:05:47+00:00

Modern web browsers use all sorts of techniques to help improve page load performance by guessing what the user may be likely to do next. The browser doesn’t know much about our site or application as a whole, though, and often the best insights about what a user may be likely to do come from us, the developer.

Take the example of paginated content, like a photo album. We know that if the user is looking at a photo in an album, the chance of them clicking the ‘next’ link to view the following image in the album is pretty high. The browser, however, doesn’t really know that of all the links on the page, that’s the one the user is most likely to click. To a browser, all those links carry equal weight.

What if the browser could somehow know where the user was going next and could fetch the next page ahead of time so that when the user clicks the link the page load is much, much faster? That’s in principal what Resource Hints are. They’re a way for the developer to tell the browser about what’s likely to happen in the future so that the browser can factor that into its choices for how it loads resources.

All these resource hints use the rel attribute of the <link> element that you’ll be familiar with finding in the <head> of your HTML documents. In this article we’ll take a look at the main types of Resource Hints and when and where we can use them in our pages. We’ll go from the small and subtle hints through to the big guns at the end.

DNS Prefetching

A DNS lookup is the process of turning a human-friendly domain name like example.com into the machine-friendly IP address like 123.54.92.4 that is actually needed in order to fetch a resource.

Every time you type a URL in the browser address bar, follow a link in a page or even load a resource like an image from a different domain, the browser needs to do a DNS lookup to find the server that holds the resource we’ve requested. For a busy page with lots of external resources (like perhaps a news website with loads of ads and trackers), there might be dozens of DNS lookups required per page.

The browser caches the results of these lookups, but they can be slow. One performance optimization technique is to reduce the number of DNS lookups required by organizing resources onto fewer domains. When that’s not possible, you can warn the browser about the domains it’s going to need to look up with the dns-prefetch resource hint.

<link rel=”dns-prefetch” href=”https://images.example.com”>

When the browser encounters this hint, it can start resolving the images.example.com domain name as soon as possible, even though it doesn’t know how it’ll be used yet. This enables the browser to get ahead of the game and do more work in parallel, decreasing the overall load time.

When Should I Use dns-prefetch?

Use dns-prefetch when your page uses resources from a different domain, to give the browser a head start. Browser support is really great, but if a browser doesn’t support it then no harm done — the prefetch just doesn’t happen.

Don’t prefetch any domains you’re not using, and if you find yourself wanting to prefetch a large number of domains you might be better to look at why all those domains are needed and if anything can be done to reduce the number.

Preconnecting

One step on from DNS prefetching is preconnecting to a server. Establishing a connection to a server hosting a resource takes several steps:

DNS lookup (as we’ve just discussed);
TCP handshake
A brief “conversation” between the browser and server to create the connection.
TLS negotiation on HTTPS sites
This verifies that the certificate information is valid and correct for the connection.

This typically happens once per server and takes up valuable time — especially if the server is very distant from the browser and network latency is high. (This is where globally distributed CDNs really help!) In the same way that prefetching DNS can help the browser get ahead of the game before it sees what’s coming, pre-connecting to a server can make sure that when the browser gets to the part of the page where a resource is needed, the slow work of establishing the connection has already taken place and the line is open and ready to go.

<link rel=”preconnect” href=”https://scripts.example.com”>

When Should I Use preconnect?

Again, browser support is strong and there’s no harm if a browser doesn’t support preconnecting — the result will be just as it was before. Consider using preconnect when you know for sure that you’re going to be accessing a resource and you want get ahead.

Be careful not to preconnect and then not use the connection, as this will both slow your page down and tie up a tiny amount of resource on the server you connect to too.

Prefetching The Next Page

The two hints we’ve looked at so far are primarily focussed on resources within the page being loaded. They might be useful to help the browser get ahead on images, scripts or fonts, for example. The next couple of hints are concerned more with navigation and predicting where the user might go after the page that’s currently being loaded.

The first of these is prefetching, and its link tag might look like this:

<link rel=”prefetch” href=”https://example.com/news/?page=2″ as=”document”>

This tells the browser that it can go ahead and fetch a page in the background so that it’s ready to go when requested. There’s a bit of a gamble here because you have to preempt where you think the user will navigate next. Get it right, and the next page might appear to load really quickly. Get it wrong, and you’ve wasted time and resources in downloading something that isn’t going to be used. If the user is on a metered connection like a limited mobile phone plan, you might actually cost them real money.

When a prefetch takes place, the browser does the DNS lookup and makes the server connection we’ve seen in the previous two types of hint, but then goes a step further and actually requests and downloads the files. It stops at that point, however, and the files are not parsed or executed and they are in no way applied to the current page. They’re just requested and kept ready.

You might think of a prefetch as being a bit like adding a file to the browser’s cache. Instead of needing to go out to the server and download it when the user clicks the link, the file can be pulled out of memory and used much quicker.

The as Attribute

In the example above, you can see that we’re setting the as attribute to as="document". This is an optional attribute that tells that browser that what we’re fetching should be handled as a document (i.e. a web page). This enables the browser to set the same sort of request headers and security policies as if we’d just followed a link to a new page.

There are lots of possible values for the as attribute by enabling the browser to handle different types of prefetch in the appropriate way.

Value of as
Type of resource

audio
Sound and music files

video
Video

Track
Video or audio WebVTT tracks

script
JavaScript files

style
CSS style sheets

font
Web fonts

image
Images

fetch
XHR and Fetch API requests

worker
Web workers

embed
Multimedia <embed> requests

object
Multimedia <object> requests

document
Web pages

The different values that can be used to specify resource types with the as attribute.

When Should I Use prefetch?

Again prefetch has great browser support. You should use it when you have a reasonable amount of certainty of the user might follow through your site if you believe that speeding up the navigation will positively impact the user experience. This should be weighed against the risk of wasting resources by possibly fetching a resource that isn’t then used.

Prerendering The Next Page

With prefetch, we’ve seen how the browser can download the files in the background ready to use, but also noted that nothing more was done with them at that point. Prerendering goes one step further and executes the files, doing pretty much all the work required to display the page except for actually displaying it.

This might include parsing the resource for any subresources such as JavaScript files and images and prefetching those as well.

<link rel=”prerender” href=”https://example.com/news/?page=2″>

This really can make the following page load feel instantaneous, with the sort of snappy load performance you might see when hitting your browser’s back button. The gamble is even greater here, however, as you’re not only spending time requesting and downloading the files, but executing them along with any JavaScript and such. This could use up memory and CPU (and therefore battery) that the user won’t see the benefit for if they end up not requesting the page.

When Should I Use prerender?

Browser support for prerender is currently very restricted, with really only Chrome and old IE (not Edge) offering support for the option. This might limit its usefulness unless you happen to be specifically targeting Chrome. Again it’s a case of “no harm, no foul” as the user won’t see the benefit but it won’t cause any issues for them if not.

Putting Resource Hints To Use

We’ve already seen how resource hints can be used in the <head> of an HTML document using the <link> tag. That’s probably the most convenient way to do it, but you can also achieve the same with the Link: HTTP header.

For example, to prefetch with an HTTP header:

Link: <https://example.com/logo.png>; rel=prefetch; as=image;

You can also use JavaScript to dynamically apply resource hints, perhaps in response to use interaction. To use an example from the W3C spec document:

var hint = document.createElement(“link”);
hint.rel = “prefetch”;
hint.as = “document”;
hint.href = “/article/part3.html”;
document.head.appendChild(hint);

This opens up some interesting possibilities, as it’s potentially easier to predict where the user might navigate next based on how they interact with the page.

Things To Note

We’ve looked at four progressively more aggressive ways of preloading resources, from the lightest touch of just resolving DNS through to rending a complete page ready to go in the background. It’s important to remember that these hints are just that; they’re hints of ways the browser could optimize performance. They’re not directives. The browser can take our suggestions and use its best judgement in deciding how to respond.

This might mean that on a busy or overstretched device, the browser doesn’t attempt to respond to the hints at all. If the browser knows it’s on a metered connection, it might prefetch DNS but not entire resources, for example. If memory is low, the browser might again decide that it’s not worth fetching the next page until the current one has been offloaded.

The reality is that on a desktop browser, the hints will likely all be followed as the developer suggests, but be aware that it’s up to the browser in every case.

The Importance Of Maintenance

If you’ve worked with the web for more than a couple of years, you’ll be familiar with the fact that if something on a page is unseen then it can often become neglected. Hidden metadata (such as page descriptions) is a good example of this. If the people looking after the site can’t readily see the data, then it can easily become neglected and drift out of date.

This is a real risk with resource hints. As the code is hidden away and goes pretty much undetected in use, it would be very easy for the page to change and any resource hints to go un-updated. The consequence of say, prefetching a page that you don’t use, means that the tools you’ve put in place to improve the performances of your site are then actively harming it. So having good procedures in place to key your resource hints up to date becomes really, really important.

Resources

“Resource Hints specification,” W3C
“Speed Up Next-Page Navigations With Prefetching,” Addy Osmani

Smashing Editorial
(il)

Sketch vs Figma, Adobe XD, And Other UI Design Applications

Original Source: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2019/04/sketch-figma-adobe-xd-ui-design-applications/

Sketch vs Figma, Adobe XD, And Other UI Design Applications

Sketch vs Figma, Adobe XD, And Other UI Design Applications

Ashish Bogawat

2019-04-19T11:00:16+02:00
2019-04-19T13:35:39+00:00

For a while now, Sketch has been the application of choice for many UX and UI designers. However, we have lately seen many new contenders for Sketch’s position #1 as a universal UI design tool. Two apps that I think stand out mostly from the rest (and that have made the biggest strides in their development) are Figma and Adobe XD.

This article is oriented towards user interface designers and developers. I’ll try to summarize my thoughts on how Figma and Adobe XD compete with Sketch and what unique features each one of them brings to the table. I will also reference some other alternative apps that are aiming to become leaders in the same niche.

Note: To profit from the article, you don’t need to have prior experience with Sketch, Figma, or Adobe XD. Still, if you have some experience with at least one of these apps, it will certainly help.

Table of Contents

The Sketch Competitors (And Where It All Started For Us)

Figma
Adobe XD
Others

Similarities And Differences
User Interfaces

The Basics: Artboards And Pages
Grids And Layout
Drawing And Editing Tools
Symbols
Styles
Designing With Data
Plugins And Integrations
Prototyping, Interaction, And Motion Design
Collaboration

Which One Is Right For You?
References And Further Reading

The Sketch Competitors (And Where It All Started For Us)

A while ago, Adobe Fireworks was the preferred user interface design app for our entire team. Fireworks was flexible, easy to use, and with the help of many free extensions was fitting perfectly in our design workflow. When Adobe discontinued Fireworks, the only alternative we had left was Sketch. We made the switch (and it was an expensive one, considering we had also to move from Windows to Mac), but the gain in productivity was huge, and we never regretted the choice made.

For a while now, Sketch has been the application of choice not only for our team but for many other user interface designers. But in the last couple of years, a number of competitors started to seriously rival Sketch as the current tool #1. Given how rapidly these new competitor apps have improved, our team was tempted to try some of them out and even considered switching over. In this article, I’m hoping to give you a comprehensive comparison of the top contenders of Sketch in the UI design tools arena.

Although it feels like a week doesn’t go by without a new screen design app launching, only a few of them have matured enough to stand up to Sketch’s currently leading position. The two that I think come the closest are Figma and Adobe XD. Both apps have fully functional free versions — making the entry barrier for new users much lower.

XD has versions for Mac and Windows, while Figma supports Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS — pretty much any operating system on which a modern modern browser can be installed and run.

Sketch, Figma and Adobe XD logos

Comparing Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD. (Large preview)

Figma

Figma is a web app; you can run it in a browser and therefore on pretty much any operating system. That’s one aspect completely in contrast with Sketch, which has been a Mac-only app. Contrary to my presumptions, Figma runs perfectly smooth and even trumps Sketch’s responsiveness in a number of areas. Here’s an example:

Why I choose @figmadesign over Sketch. pic.twitter.com/sZRO97tlNO

— Housseynou Fall (@HousseynouFall) 19. Dezember 2017

A lot has been said about how Figma compares with Sketch, but the race has only been heating up with the recent updates to both apps.

Figma’s success has the developers of Sketch reconsidering their native-only approach. The company recently raised $20 million to help it add more features — including a web version of Sketch app.

Adobe XD

Although an entire generation of designers grew up using Adobe Photoshop for design, it was never built with user interface designers in mind. Adobe realized this and started working from the ground up on a new app called XD. Although it took a while for XD to get up-to-speed with Sketch in terms of features, Adobe seems to have taken it very seriously in the last year. New features — and some of them quite powerful — are being added to the app almost every month, to a point where I can actually consider it a viable alternative at this point.

Others

Figma and Adobe XD are by no means the only contenders to Sketch’s leadership. Although it may seem like a new one joins the race every few weeks, some are clearly ahead at this point — just not in the same league as the ones above, in my opinion.

Framer X
Although Framer started off as a code based tool for creating prototypes, they have been steadily adding design capabilities. The latest iteration is Framer X, which can be termed as a UI design tool with the ability to code interactions and animations for finer control and flexibility.
InVision Studio
InVision started as the best way to share design mockups with colleagues and clients. Over the years though, they have added features to the app and also built Studio as a standalone app for UI design, prototypes, and animations. (Studio is probably based off of Macaw, which InVision bought in early 2016.)
Gravit
This is another UI design app that has been slowly but steadily improving in the background. Corel bought Gravit a few months ago, which means we might soon start seeing it gain more features and traction within the community.

“Another up and coming category of apps in this domain are the ones that combine design and code to output actual production-ready code that developers can directly use in their apps. Framer X actually does this to an extent, but apps like Alva, Modulz, and Supernova take things one level further. I will not dig into these here because all of them are in very early stages of development, but I wanted to point them out because that’s where the future of UI design tools seems to be headed.”

As a design consultancy, we — me and my team at Kritii Design — end up adapting to whatever toolset clients use. I saw the gradual shift from Photoshop to Sketch over the years, but in the last year or so we have seen a sudden switch from Sketch to Figma. Sketch is still the dominant tool in most teams, but Figma — and even XD in some cases — have begun to find favor with larger teams. I’m yet to come across a group that prefers any of the other options, but I’m assuming that divergence is not very far.

Similarities And Differences

I’ve been a Sketch user for three years now and consider myself a power user. I’ve been trying Figma on and off for about a year now, but much more so in the last couple of months. Adobe XD is fairly new to me — about a month since I started experimenting with it. As such, the comparison below is based on my experience with all three apps. I’ll also include snippets about other apps that seem to do certain things better, but it’s mostly just those three.

User Interfaces

I will not get into the details of the user interfaces of each app because all three share an almost identical interface: layers panel on the left, the canvas is in the middle, properties panel on the right, and tools toolbar at the top. Safe to say Figma and XD’s interfaces are heavily inspired by what Sketch started with.

Note: The right panel (which lets you control the properties of the objects on the canvas) is called Inspector in Sketch app, Properties in Figma Design, and Property Inspector in Adobe XD. They all do the same thing though.

The Basics: Artboards And Pages

When you create a new file in Sketch or Figma, you are on ‘Page 1’ by default, with a plain canvas staring at you. You can create artboards on the page, or add more pages. You can choose from a bunch of presets (for iPhone/Android phones, or for the web), or just drag any size you need.

Adobe XD does not support multiple pages yet. Just a canvas that you can add artboards to. Given how large some of my projects can get, I find this extremely limiting.

Artboards in Figma are called frames, and they’re much more powerful than Sketch. While Sketch stopped supporting nested artboards a few versions ago, Figma actually encourages nesting of frames. So you can have a frame for the screen, and then frames for the header, footer, lists, and so on. Each frame can have its own layout grid and can be set to clip content when resized.

Nested frames in Figma

The header, list and tab bar are frames nested within a frame for the entire screen in Figma. (Large preview)

When you create a new document in Adobe XD, it explicitly asks you to choose from a preset list of artboard sizes. You can choose “Custom,” of course. The preset selection in baked in the way XD lets you preview the designs. Anything beyond the preset height scrolls by default. When you increase the height of the artboard, XD adds a marker to show the original height of the device frame.

Device height indicator in Adobe XD

A blue line shows the height of the selected device’s viewport to help position content appropriately ‘above the fold’. (Large preview)

One thing Sketch does differently from the other two applications is that it adds a ‘Symbols’ page that holds all your symbols by default. You can decide not to send symbols to this page when you create them, but I’ve never seen anyone doing that. It actually makes a lot of sense to centralize all the symbols, so they are easy to organize.

Summary

Sketch and Figma support pages and artboards, although Figma’s artboards (or frames) — are more flexible because they can be nested. Adobe XD supports only artboards.

Grids And Layout

All three apps let you overlay grids on top of the artboards. In Adobe XD, you can use a square grid or a column grid. Sketch allows for both at the same time, plus allows for columns as well and rows in the layout grid.

Figma lets you add as many as you want of each type — grid, columns, and rows. Another example of the attention to detail in Figma — when you set the gutter to 0, it automatically switches from showing filled columns to showing lines only.

Comparing layout grid options in the three apps.

Figma takes layout grids a step further by allowing grids on frames (which can be nested) as well as individual components. One interesting possibility with the latter is that you can use them as guides for padding when working with resizable components.

All three apps also let you set constraints to define how elements will scale or move when their containers are resized. Moreover, they all employ an almost identical user interface to set and manage those constraints. Figma was the first of the lot with this UI concept. Sketch followed and improved upon it in their latest release, and Adobe XD introduced the feature in September 2018.

Object resizing constraints in the three apps

The object resizing and constraints UI in all three apps. (Large preview)

In Figma, constraints work only on elements inside a frame, not groups (like in Sketch and Adobe XD). It is mildly annoying because you can set constraints, but they just don’t work when you resize the group. But Figma does actively encourage you to use nested frames which are much more powerful than groups. Another advantage with Figma is that when using layout grids, constraints apply to the column or cell the element is inside.

In Figma, layout constraints apply to columns when a layout grid is added.

Summary

All three apps let you use grids and column layouts inside artboards. Figma’s implementation feels more powerful because you can nest frames and therefore have separate grids for sections of a screen. Support for constraints in all three is pretty good and more-or-less at par.

Drawing And Editing Tools

Neither of these apps have the advanced vector tools like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer. What you get are the bare basics — rectangle tool, ellipse tool, polygon tool, and a free form vector drawing tool. Plus boolean capabilities to combine and subtract shapes. For most user interface design needs, these are just fine.

That is not to say that you cannot create complex vector artwork in any of these apps. The images below represent what each app is capable of, if you’re willing to spend the time learning all of the tools and features.

Examples of vector artwork in all three apps

Examples of illustrations created in all three apps. From left to right: Nikola Lazarevic in Sketch, Mentie Omotejowho in Figma, and Matej Novak in Adobe XD (check each link to see the originals). (Large preview)

Sketch has been my staple design tool for a few years now and I’ve never felt the need to go to Adobe Illustrator for any of the icons and the occasional illustration I needed in my designs. You get the usual rectangle, ellipse and polygon shapes, a bezier tool for everything else, and even a freeform line tool that probably only makes sense if you use a tablet/stylus.

Figma has an advantage in this department due to what they call ‘vector networks’. If you ever used Adobe Flash to draw, this will seem very familiar. Rather than try to describe it though, I’ll just show you what it does…

Figma’s vector networks in action.

Figma’s shape tools also feel a step ahead of Sketch. For ellipses, there is now the ability to easily carve out pies and donuts — a great feature for anyone who has tried to use Sketch’s dash settings to create donut charts. Corners of a rectangle can be dragged in to set the corner radius without bothering with the Properties panel.

Creating a donut chart in Figma.

Adobe XD falls behind here given it doesn’t even come with a polygon tool as of now. You also cannot align individual bezier nodes on a path, or change the roundness of these nodes — something we use very often to create smooth line graphs in dashboards.

Once you have added elements to your design, all three apps let you group them, arrange them above or below each other, align and distribute selected objects evenly, and so on.

One standout feature in XD is something called Repeat grid. It lets you create one item and repeat it in a list or grid, each with similar properties, but unique content. Figma’s answer to this is Smart selection. Rather than specify something as a list or grid, Figma lets you select a bunch of elements that are already a list or a grid, then arrange them by spacing them out evenly and easily sorting them via drag-n-drop.

Comparing XD’s Repeat grid feature with Figma’s smart selection.

Summary

Although none of the apps can hold a candle to the power of Illustrator or Affinity Designer when it comes to illustrations, they do provide an adequate enough drawing toolset for day-to-day UI design stuff. Figma’s vector networks place it ahead of the other two in terms of flexibility.

Symbols

All three apps support symbols — elements that all share the same properties and can be updated in one go. How they implement them though, changes quite dramatically from app to app.

Sketch
In Sketch, converting something to a symbol will send it to a page called “Symbols” by default, creating an instance of it in place of the selected elements. This clear separation between the symbol and its instances is by design. An instance of a symbol can only be updated in certain ways — size, text, images; while nested symbols can be updated via the Inspector panel on the right. To edit the original symbol, you can double-click it to go to the “Symbols” page and make changes. Any changes you make there will be applied to all instances of the symbol.

“You can set it so that symbols don’t get sent to the separate page, but I don’t know anyone who does that. Symbols in Sketch are designed to live on their own page.”

Starting with Sketch version 53, you can now select elements inside a symbol instance and then use the Overrides panel to change the content for just that element. This is an improvement from earlier when you could only select the entire instance.

Editing a symbol instance in Sketch.

Figma
In Figma, symbols are called components. When you create a component, it stays in place and is denoted as the ‘Master Component’. Copying it elsewhere in the design creates instances by default. Instances can be edited in a place like you would do with any other group, with the exception that placement of elements cannot be changed. You can change text, color, size and even swap nested symbols — all inline. This definitely feels more flexible than Sketch’s approach while at the same time putting adequate constraints in place as to not mess with the original component. For example, deleting the master component does not affect the instances. You can simply ‘recover’ the master component at any time and continue making changes.

Editing a component instance in Figma.

Adobe XD
Adobe XD’s symbols are the least powerful at the moment. It does not have the concept of a master symbol and instances. Every instance is a clone of the symbol, so any changes to any instance is applied to all the others. They’re also extremely limited in what you can customize per instance — which is basically text and background images.

All three apps support reusing symbols across files.

In Sketch, any file can be added as a library, which enables you to add its symbols and styles to any other file you have open. Changes made in the original library document can be synced in the files that use those symbols, as long as you open them and click the notification.

Adobe XD takes a more simplistic approach for its ‘linked symbols’. Copying a symbol from one document to another automatically links the two. Changes made to the symbol in any document show up as notifications in the others, giving you the ability to review and apply them within the other documents.

Figma’s approach is a centralized repository of components called ‘Team Library’. Everyone on a team with the right access can add components to the team library. Any changes made to the components in the library show up as notifications, allowing you to review and update them in the files you have open.

Summary

All three apps support symbols, but XD’s version is so basic it might as well not exist. Figma’s approach to editing a symbol — or component — instance is much more intuitive and powerful than Sketch’s, although the latter has been catching up in recent versions. Both have strong library features for easy management and collaboration.

Styles

Styles are one of the most basic elements of a design system. The ability to save sets of element properties, apply them to multiple elements and apply changes across the boards, is extremely helpful when working on medium to large design projects. All three apps include support for styles, but the implementation varies a fair bit.

Sketch supports two style types — text styles and layer styles. Text styles include all font properties, color, and effects. Layer styles include fills, borders, and effects. As is obvious from the names, text styles apply only to text elements and layer styles to everything else. Starting with version 52, Sketch lets you override styles for elements inside of symbol instances. This is a huge upgrade to the utility of symbols in Sketch, eliminating a lot of hacky ways you would have to go through in the past for something as simple as changing icon colors inside symbol instances.

Layer and Text styles in Sketch

Layer and Text styles in Sketch. (Large preview)

Figma takes a dramatically different approach by making styles cascade. That means you can save styles for text (font, size, weight, line-height, etc.), colors or effects (drop shadows, blurs, etc.), and then mix and match them on elements. For example, the font properties and color on a text block are independently changeable. This makes it possible to have a different color for a word inside a paragraph, something you can’t do in Sketch.

Color, Text and Effect Styles in Figma

Color, Text and Effect Styles in Figma. (Large preview)

Styles in XD are limited to character styles for text elements. You can save colors and apply them from the library, but there is no way to save a set of characteristics (fill, border, shadow, and so on) as an individual style.

Summary

All three apps support text styles. Sketch also has layer styles that can be applied to non-text elements. Figma breaks styles down by characteristic and lets you mix and match them to get the result you need. It can be more flexible or too open-ended, depending on what your use case is.

Designing With Data

One of my most used Sketch plugins is Content Generator, which allowed me to quickly populate my designs with realistic dummy data instead of the usual lorem ipsum and John Doe and the likes. With the release of version 52, Sketch eliminated the need for that plugin by introducing built-in support for importing data. Now you can easily add realistic names, addresses, phone numbers, even photos in your design. A couple of sets are built in, but you can add more as you need.

External data source in Sketch

You can add and manage external data sets from Sketch preferences. (Large preview)

The Adobe XD team demoed some work-in-progress support for built-in functionality at Adobe’s MAX conference, but we don’t know when that will make it into the product itself. The one feature that has already made it in is the ability to drag-n-drop a TXT file onto an element in a repeat grid — or a bunch of images onto an image in a repeat grid — to populate all items in the grid with that data. What’s more exciting to me though, is the plugin ecosystem that is bringing in much more powerful ways of importing realistic and real-time data in XD. Case in point are the Airtable and Google Sheets plugins, which allow you to connect with the apps and pull in data from spreadsheets in real time.

Figma lags behind Sketch and XD in this regard. As of now, there doesn’t seem to be any way to populate realistic content inside elements in Figma, other than copy-pasting the bits of content one by one.

Summary

Adobe XD finally takes the lead with a much more capable API that lets you pull in live data, not just static data like Sketch does. Figma has a lot of catch up to do on this front.

Plugins And Integrations

This is where Sketch’s position as the most popular UI design application shines. With a huge library of plugins and new ones coming every few days, Sketch has no rivals when it comes to its ecosystem of plugins and integrations. From plugins for animation, prototyping and version control, helpers for managing text, styles, to connectors for popular apps, there is a plugin for everything you can think of. Here are some of my favorites:

Sketch Runner
Quick access to every tool and command inside the app, like Spotlight for Sketch.

Sketch Measure
Free, local alternative to developer handoff tools like Zeplin.

Craft
A suite of super useful plugins, including prototyping, external data and library management. (You can read more about Craft for Sketch in Christian Krammer’s article “Craft For Sketch Plugin: Designing With Real Data.”)

Angle
A quick way to add your designs to device mockups at various angles.

Artboard Tricks
A bunch of helpers for managing artboards in Sketch.

As the leader of the pack, Sketch also enjoys the largest list of integrations with third-party apps. Be it prototyping and sharing via InVision, developer handoff via Zeplin, version control via Abstract or Plant, most apps have direct integration with Sketch, with the ability to import, sync or preview Sketch files.

Plugin manager in Sketch

You can enable, disable, update and delete plugins from Sketch preferences. (Large preview)

Plugins in XD launched as recently as a few months ago, but things are already looking quite good. Adobe, with its marketing might, was able to get a lot of companies and developers onboard to launch their plugin ecosystem with a bang. Although not as vast as Sketch’s, the list of plugins for XD is pretty good and growing at a quick pace. Here are some highlights:

Dribbble
Post your designs to Dribbble right from inside XD.

Data Populator
Pull in live data from JSON files into your mockups.

Rename It
Powerful batch renaming for layers and artboards.

Content Generator
Generate random content for different elements in your design.

Airtable & Google Sheets
Bring real data from spreadsheets into your designs in real time.

The Airtable plugin I mentioned above is an example of app integrations that XD is quickly getting very good at. There are also integrations with usertesting.com, Cloudapp, Dribbble and more.

Plugin manager in XD

You can quickly browse and install plugins directly from inside XD. (Large preview)

As far as plugin management goes, XD does a much better job with a nice UI to find, read about and install all plugins. For Sketch, you need to find the plugin on the web, download it and launch the .sketchplugin file to install it. You can disable or remove them from the preferences screen, but not much else.

Figma falls short on the plugins front when compared to Sketch and even XD. It does not have a plugin API specifically, but Figma did open up some APIs for integrations with other apps earlier this year. Apart from built-in integration with Principle, Zeplin, Avocode and Dribbble, the result has been mostly things you can do with your files outside of Figma — like this PDF exporter, the ability to push assets from Figma to Github using Relay, and so on.

In March 2018, Kris Rasmussen from Figma said the following about the plans to add extensions:

“We have watched as our competitors added extension models which granted developers freedom at the expense of quality, robustness, and predictability. We’re eager to leverage the incredible collective brainpower of the Figma community in making our tool better, but we’re not going to introduce extensions until we are confident our extension model is robust. There’s no estimated date just yet, but we are actively exploring how to build this in a solid way.”

Summary

Again, Figma has some catching up to do on the plugins front, especially when compared to Sketch’s huge ecosystem, or Adobe’s powerful APIs and marketing might to get more developers onboard.

Prototyping, Interaction, And Motion Design

Sketch and Figma started off as static design apps, whereas Adobe XD launched with the built-in ability to link screens together to build low-fidelity prototypes. Figma added the prototyping functionality in mid-2017, while Sketch added prototyping in early 2018. As of today, all three apps let you create prototypes and share them with others.

Sketch and Figma’s prototyping tools were mostly limited to linking individual elements to other artboards on click/tap or hover, with a limited selection of transition effects. Figma just pulled ahead with the introduction of overlays in December 2018. This — combined with the fact that Figma’s frames are more flexible than Sketch’s rigid artboard structure — opens up the ability to prototype menus, dialog boxes and more. Both apps have support for other prototyping apps, though. Figma has an integration with Principle and Sketch with pretty much every prototyping tool out there.

While Figma lets you share the prototypes with a simple link (the perks of being in the cloud), with Sketch you need to upload your file to the Sketch cloud before you can share it with others.

Prototype controls in Sketch and Figma

Comparing the prototype controls in Sketch and Figma. (Large preview)

Adobe XD’s October 2018 release pushed it way ahead in the race when it comes to prototyping. It now does everything I mentioned above, but includes two more powerful features:

Auto-animate
Where designers had to pull their designs into apps like Principle or After Effects to add motion design, some of it is built into XD now. It works by automatically moving elements with the same name when transitioning from one screen to another. This may sound simple, but the kind of effects you can generate are pretty spectacular.

Adding animations to prototypes using ‘Auto animate’ in XD.

Voice prototypes
You can now trigger interactions in XD by voice commands, and even include speech responses to triggers. This is a huge addition that makes it easy to prototype conversational user interfaces in XD, something that is not possible in Sketch, Figma, or any of the leading prototyping apps out there.

If animation is important to you, one app to look out for is InVision Studio. It has a timeline based animation workflow, something none of the other apps on this list can boast of. Or if you’re comfortable getting your code on, Framer’s code based interaction model is definitely something to explore.

Summary

Adobe XD has the most powerful prototyping toolset of the three apps, with voice and auto animate leading the way. Sketch has rudimentary prototyping capabilities, but Figma’s implementation feels more seamless when it comes to sharing and gathering feedback.

Collaboration

Sketch and Adobe XD are traditional desktop apps — built for designers to work in isolation and share their designs when ready. Figma, on the other hand, was built for collaboration in mind, more like Google Docs for designers.

In Figma, multiple users can work on the same document at the same time. You can see colored cursors moving around the design when others are viewing or editing the design you’re on. This can take some getting used to, but in situations where we have multiple designers working on a project, this can be a godsend. The cherry on top is the ability to view the design from another designer’s perspective. Just click the user’s avatar in the header and you can see exactly what she is seeing and follow along.

Collaborative design in Figma, à la Google Docs.

Going beyond collaborative editing, sharing your work is also more streamlined in Figma than in the other apps. You can either invite others to see or edit a design or simply send a URL to the design file or prototype preview.

Developers who are viewing the file can get specs for the design elements — a la Zeplin or Avocode — and export any image assets they need. The assets don’t even need to be set to export like in Sketch.

Note: For Figma designs, there are three levels of access: 1) owner 2) can edit, and 3) can view. We use “can view” to give developers access to all the specs, and the ability to export assets as and when they need them.

Figma also has a built-in commenting system which is important when reviewing designs with broader teams and clients. Today, I rely on a combination of Sketch and InVision to achieve this.

Sketch allows you to upload files to its cloud services, and then share a link for others to view. Ensuring that the latest version is in the cloud is up to you, though. This can be a big risk if you have developers working off of a design that may not be current. XD’s December 2018 release added the ability to save files to the cloud, and you can decide which files to save in the cloud and which ones locally. This addresses the problem with maintaining latest versions in the cloud.

Summary

This is where Figma’s web-based roots really shine. It leaves the other two far behind on the collaboration front with built-in sharing, commenting and the single-source-of-truth approach. Sketch and XD are adding sharing features at a good pace, but their file-first approach is holding them back.

Which One Is Right For You?

If you’re a user interface designer, you can’t go wrong with either of the three apps that I have covered here. Or the others that I touched upon just briefly. They all will get the job done, but with varying levels of productivity.

If a native desktop app is necessary for you, and you don’t care about a Windows — or a Linux — version, Sketch is the best bet right now. Adobe XD is getting better at breakneck speed, but it is not as good as Sketch yet for day-to-day design tasks.

If you’re on Windows though, or if motion design is part of your requirements, Adobe XD is your best shot. Sketch simply does not have any animation capabilities and it doesn’t look like that a Windows version could appear on the horizon any time soon. For animation, InVision Studio might also be something you can look at. And if you’re comfortable with code, Framer X provides the most flexibility of the lot.

For me though, at this moment Figma strikes the best balance between features, usability, and performance. Yes, you need to be online to use it (unless you have a file open, in which case you can edit it offline). No, it doesn’t have plugins or any animation capabilities. But if UI design mockups are your core requirement, Figma does a far better job for creating, sharing and collaborating with others than either Sketch or Adobe XD. It has a very generous free tier, it is available on any platform that can run a modern browser, and it’s very actively in development, with new features and updates coming in faster than I can keep up learning them all.

In my team, for example, there seems to be an even split between folks who prefer Sketch or Figma. I’m myself beginning to lean in on Figma myself, but also use Adobe XD every now and then for some quick motion design experiment.

And if you’re looking for an even shorter tl;dr summary — trust Meng To:

“My thoughts on design tools and why you should pick them.
Figma: collaboration and all-in-one
Sketch: maturity and plugins
Framer: code and advanced prototyping
Studio: free and animation
XD: speed and adobe platform”

References And Further Reading

Sketch

“A Look Back At Sketch In 2018,” Sketch, Medium
“Plugins,” Sketch
Sketch App Sources (Free and premium design resources for Sketch App)

Figma

“Figma Tips And Tricks,” Tom Johnson, Medium
“Best Practices: Components, Styles, And Shared Libraries,” Thomas Lowry, Figma Blog
“When To Use Groups Versus Frames In Figma,” Thomas Lowry, Figma Blog
“We Refreshed Figma’s UI: An Inside Look At Our Process,” Rasmus Andersson, Figma Blog

Adobe XD

“60+ Major Features In The Last Year,” Andrew Shorten, Twitter
“StudioAmigos (A curated collection of free resources for Invision Studio)

Smashing Editorial
(mb, yk, il)

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