Which UX/UI Design Software tool should I learn?

“Dude, who are you trying to convince. Sketch is OLD.”

That was a response I received when I sent out a newsletter a couple years ago with some tips on using Sketch software for UX/UI/Product Design.

I learned that people get really really passionate about this topic. You might as well ask get people talking about politics. Design software can be a hot button topic.

Figma. Adobe XD. Principle. Framer. Invision Studio. On and on…

I’m NOT here to argue the best tool or tell you which tool you should be using. Instead, I’m offering a timeless, bi-partisan framework for helping you decide where you should spend your time and how to make decisions when it comes to how much time you should spend on what software, and which software to skip.

Bold claim, I know. Let’s get started…

There is no clear standard

First the elephant in the room. The truth is, which software a UX/UI/Product Designer should call the “best” is a debate that has been going on for years. At the time of this writing there is still plenty of fragmentation in the Design community. There is no real ONE industry standard design tool that dominates marketshare of UX/UI Design. At least nothing like the way Adobe InDesign rules page layout design or the way Microsoft Excel dominates spreadsheets.

So which UX design software tool(s) should you be learning?

Here’s one solid way to cut through the noise and quickly figure out what you really need to learn. Browse job postings for the types of Design jobs that interest you, and scroll down to the “requirements” second of each of those job postings. You’ll see patterns as to what software skill requirements the job market is really asking for. This quickly separates the opinion of the loud critic on reddit from the real companies with actual job postings you actually aspire to. Having familiarity with multiple tools will make you a more marketable candidate for UX/UI/Product Design career opportunities when you’re ready to make your next move.

Major on the majors. Minor on the minors.

If you have fun dabbling in all the latest software tools, then by all means go for it! It certainly couldn’t hurt when compared to blowing a night watching Netflix. But don’t subscribe to those who feel as though you have to master all of the latest emerging tools. It makes more sense to spend the majority of your time with the tools that the majority of companies use.

Avoid the shiny software syndrome

It is considered super-cool in our field to be the first one on the team to “discover” the latest post on Medium that announces a hot new tool that you need an invite to download. Don’t assume the latest shiniest software is the best. Keep the hype in context. Make sure it has real merit in the real world with real projects before diving in. Don’t just do it because of the buzz.

Avoiding being stuck in your ways

Now let’s deal with the other extreme. When there is a new tool that is gaining traction in the industry, don’t just dismiss it as “oh shoot, here’s another tool I have to go learn”. Have an open mind and take it for a test drive. You don’t want to be viewed as the stubborn team member stuck in your old ways and resistant to adopting new tools.

Could you influence change at your organization?

If you find an excellent new tool, consider evangelizing it a bit around your organization with the other designers after you have the chance to play around with it. Demonstrate value by working on a project with the tool. It couldn’t hurt to be the one who introduces your team to the next go-to software tool that the designers can’t live without down the road.

It isn’t the tools though

Keep in mind, as a Designer, being an expert in the latest software tool isn’t as important as it may be other design fields. We spend a ton of our time outside of the software tool of choice, so don’t get too bogged down with this or fall into the trap of thinking that mastering softwares tools is how you get ahead in your career. At the end of the day, I have hired designers who had never used our primary tool (Adobe XD) at the company I work for. They had the other skills and competencies I was looking for, and they picked up on XD plenty fast that it was a non-issue.

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