A spotlight on Adobe XD: perfecting UX design software

With new advances in software and technology being released seemingly everyday, this is an incredibly exciting time in the field of design, specifically UX/UI design. The importance of these practices to the user journey and experience has never been more important to both businesses and the designers who work for them.

But UX/UI design can be tedious, it can involve a lot of repetitive design tweaks, and flicking between several apps in order to put together a fully working comp often comes with snags and bugs, no matter how well they integrate with each other.

There are several apps that have been released in an effort to woo designers with a more ergonomic way to create and showcase working prototypes, and Adobe XD is one of the most recent in a long line of innovative apps, but how does it stack up?

For one, Adobe XD is beautiful to use. XD truly allows you to design, prototype, edit and share all in one program, no need to upload designs, install plugins, export artboards or synchronise. Adobe XD is your one stop through from wireframing to prototyping. XD’s intuitive fully comprehensive system also allows you to switch between design and prototype mode in just one click, allowing designers to create multi screen experiences and transform them into working prototypes at breakneck speed. Apply transitions, fades and easing effects to your designs instantly, and if you change your designs, your prototypes update immediately without the need to re-export or synchronise.

Adobe XD also makes use of the now widely recognised “symbols” function in order to streamline placing and managing of content across wireframes and designs. The software also utilises an ergonomic “snap-too measuring tools” to ensure designs are pixel perfect from the off. Combined with the ability to instantly import Illustrator and PSD files, colour swatches and paragraph/text style from existing adobe documents, and you have a powerful set of tools to put together consistent and beautiful prototypes.

However XD isn’t all rules and rigidity. Your symbols have override options, allowing you to create generic CTA’s and gallery modules that you can drop in across your artboards, and then customise them to individually fit the needs of each specific instance. All this without sacrificing styling or group editing functionality.

“Adobe XD prides itself on working how designers think, and in some instances this really shines through.”

XD prides itself on working "how designers think" and in some instances this really shines through. The incredibly useful “grid and repeat” tool has had a massive upgrade from its illustrator counterpart, allowing you to duplicate several elements rapidly and manage spacing and placement with ease. This nifty tool along with XD’s sophisticated masking elements allow you to have complete mastery over your creation, without having to put in the tedious leg work repetitive set creation.

I’ve used the word ergonomics a lot in this post, and for good reason. Adobe XD bring an almost complete arsenal of pre-set screen sizes for you to create with minimal fuss, minimising set up time for your documents. Safe in the knowledge that you artboards are standard industry sizes from the beginning, you can duplicate and create them rapidly throughout your project with no worries of incorrect sizing or margins. And with an artboard limit in the high hundreds, XD frees you up to create complex and thorough prototypes quickly and without worry. XD’s layering system functions nicely alongside its ability to house a ridiculous amount of art-boards, using “contextual layers”. These only display the layers for the current area your working on, to save the awkward scroll as you fly through your layers looking for whichever key line you have accidentally highlighted.

Once you have (with one single click) transformed your designs to working prototype, you can show them across any screen size you desire, allowing you to show both colleagues and clients the prototypes in situ. This is also becoming the standard across display software, but Adobe XD shines here by having a vast number of devices readily available to preview. Another handy quirk is that any symbols edited on your desktop flats will reflect these changes on your IOS and Android prototypes, even when overrides are present.

Feedback is also easily received within the programme, utilising a similar to style to competitor, InVision, of pinning comments to artboards. Making it clearer to both the designer and the client to communicate amends.

“Adobe XD isn’t the be-all and end-all of UI/UX design, but it's certainly raising the game and putting other industry leaders such as Sketch App and InVision on their toes.”

Now Adobe XD isn’t the be-all and end-all of UI/UX design, but it is certainly raising the game and putting other industry leaders such as Sketch app and InVision on their toes. Some of the transitions aren’t the most awe inspiring, the snap tools can occasionally get underfoot when XD interferes with your asset placement a little too enthusiastically, and occasionally the prototyping map can be finicky to work around. However these are all minor gripes that we have already been dealing with across most software, and I fully expect designers to take these in their stride and for Adobe to smooth out these kinks in future updates.

All and all, Adobe XD is a masterful attempt at a UX design program with strikingly useful UX. Updates are already occurring to iron out the minor gripes mentioned above, and those are most definitely minor at best. It’s an exciting time to be a UX designer, and an exciting time to see Adobe challenge the upstarts to their design software throne.

SoftwareSam Douglas