Tools of our trade

June 16, 2016 Martin Sitar

I often get asked what tools I use when designing and building products. Learning new tools is something I enjoy, and so my list tends to change from time to time but there are definitely a few must-haves. I’ve decided to compile this list of apps and plug-ins I‘m currently using, that fit perfectly into my product design workflow.

Sketch 3

Sketch has become my go-to design program. I love its simplicity, and how it doesn’t get in the way of creating beautiful work. My favourite thing about Sketch is that it feels like it has the best of Photoshop and Illustrator but without all of the clutter and un-necessary mess. It’s the perfect tool for designing user interfaces and building UX flows.

Craft

Craft is an awesome plugin by InVision that makes Sketch even more powerful. It saves me a ton of time when creating wireframes or mock-ups because it automates a lot of manual work. You can easily pull content from the web without having to leave Sketch. This comes in super handy when generating user names or profile photos. Craft also lets you duplicate content quickly while it loads new data for each element. Imagine you’re designing table view where each row has a different username and profile photo.

InVision

InVision is perfect for creating rough prototypes and getting a good sense of how everything fits together. I mainly use InVision to share prototypes with stakeholders, other designers, and to gather feedback on my work. Creating these rough prototypes helps ensure I’m not missing the bigger picture and helps me identify usability issues early. I typically like to iterate through a few versions of a specific flow before I focus on designing micro interactions.

Framer.js

If you haven’t heard of Framer I encourage you to check it out. It’s a very powerful prototyping tool where everything (pretty much) is done with code. It sounds scary but it’s a lot easier than you might think. Framer is a new tool I’ve recently decided to try and from what I’ve seen so far it’s quite powerful. You can build custom micro-interactions, perform calculations and use real data, all of which translates to kick-ass interactive prototypes.

Atom

Atom is my new favourite text editor. I don’t actually use a lot of its advanced features and packages but I love the simple interface and it gets the job done. It’s also free which is great.

XCode

About two years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to build iOS apps, and this is the tool to do it. XCode is an extremely powerful IDE that basically lets you build, test and deploy your apps to the app store. It’s a bit overwhelming at first but once you get used to the interface things start to happen and it‘s not too hard to get some code working.

Photoshop & Illustrator

I’ve left these two for last, and to be honest I find myself using them less and less. Adobe makes great products and playing around with XD gives me hope there might be something of value there (from what I’ve seen so far there is). But I feel as though Illustrator and Photoshop are going through an identity crisis. Each have so many tools, options, configurations and settings that just make them feel bloated and slow. That being said, I do believe it’s important to at least be familiar with these because they are great for accomplishing specific (but very different) tasks. Photoshop and Illustrator are still the dominant tools used in our industry, not knowing how to use them may close some doors and lower your marketability.

In closing, the skills you pick up are transferrable. As you try out more tools you’ll discover which ones work best for your specific needs. You’ll quickly develop your own preferences and working styles. I encourage you to always keep an eye out for better ways of doing things. You can never go wrong with learning something new.


Tools of our trade was originally published in Achievers Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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