Anti prototyping tool high horse.

Lately I've heard a lot of design/developer types being extremely cynical towards prototyping tools. Claiming that if people "just took a weekend to learn swift the engineer wouldn't have to rebuild it" and a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon for this ideology. I have a few issues with this thought process though.

1. Execution vs Exploration

One of the main reasons I believe prototyping tools should exist, is that for now, they are so much more agile than using xcode/swift. Core to what it means to design is exploration. The easier it is to use a tool better we become at finding solutions. There is a reason websites are typically designed in photoshop/sketch and not just designed by coding them. When I can change a screen/flow of a design in  seconds/minutes I can iterate far faster than in code. 

2. What do I want to be good at?

We all have so many ways we can all be spending our time. Some designers focus on band posters or typography, while others focus on interfaces. I personally have a list of things I would like to be better at to improve as a designer: motion design, typography, empathy, patterns trends etc, and the actual act of crafting the software itself is interesting to me but if I'm honest is really far down that list. And so what happens in 2 years when coding my prototypes requires me to learn another iteration of a language?

I made this prototype for my upcoming app Markdone in about 10 minutes in the new Principleformac prototyping tool, and my ability to tweak it and change it to continue to explore far exceeds anything I could achieve in Xcode. You should check it out. It feels like Sketch just added interaction tools to their software. I honestly think we'll all be designing directly inside of Principle or a new version of sketch with built in interaction tools in the very near future. 

Very few people are good at both code and design, and even fewer are great, and almost no-one has the energy to stay good at both and keep pace with ever changing trends and best practices. And as more and more jobs get replaced with tech do we really want to narrow everyone down to the same job title? 

Sketch vs Illustrator

There are already plenty of people out there telling you why to switch from Photoshop to Sketch, but drastically fewer discussing it from the angle of switching from Illustrator. As someone who does the line share of my design work in Illustrator I’d like to highlight some of the biggest reasons to switch if Illustrator was your tool of choice.

I’ve been convinced ever since I first heard about Sketch, that it was superior to Illustrator on many fronts and that it was the future of design.  Although it wasn’t quite ready for primetime, they had a lot of key concept that proved that an app that could do things differently than Illustrator was needed for the design community; But until the latest release, 3.0, they hadn’t yet proven that it could replace the things that didn’t need to changed about Illustrator. Up until now Sketch was the utopia we all dreamed of but lacked an atmosphere we could breathe in. 

Sketch 3 brings so many of the features to the table that we all needed to realistically jump the fence and move the bulk of our design work over.

Here are the most refreshing changes when moving from Illustrator:

Robust Export Features - Exporting is listed at 1x 2x 1.5x etc instead of awkward percentages.

One of the biggest hassles with Illustrator has always been that if you want well rendered assets you had to first export everything to photoshop or you ended up with sub par assets. Sketch from what I can tell renders assets just as well as photoshop.

Automatic separate layer panels for artboards; Items jump from panel to panel when moving them from artboard to artboard. 

Color picker reticle automatically zooms in to a single pixel level, with constant display of color values overlayed on top of the reticle.

Styles are no longer mixed with the use of the eyedropper tool, freeing the eye dropper from the confines of picking or applying the wrong thing at the wrong time. 

Easiy insertable artboards at tons of handy sizes; you want an iPad Retina in landscape? No more need to recall or lookup dimensions just drop it in with a single click. 

Smart guides seem to be more intuitive and “just work” the way you expect them to. Less unexpected snapping to undesirable locations. 

Built in Mirror companion app for iOS. If you’ve used illustrator for interface design you’re no stranger to the fact that Illustrator is severely lacking a mirror/preview app that isn’t a hassle and total productivity killer. 

Still missing from Sketch:

Glyphs panels and universal color swatches would still be nice to see.

Minus a couple items still missing from Sketch I would definitely reccomend it to anyone designing interfaces. I’ve been using it for about month now designing a new mobile app and its helped my productivity and creativity a great deal by getting out of the way and letting me focus more energy on design and less energy on fighting the software I’m using.