There are many different platforms available that allow you to design UIs, websites, icons and much more. They are all available online. With each platform, you might be able to use them in the browser or they might require you to download them. They also might be free or require you to purchase it. As there are so many tools out there, we thought we would list some of the better ones that we know of. So take a look at our guide to User Interface (UI), and website design platforms.
Each platform is different in its own way. They can be made for a specific operating system while others are only available to be used in a browser. These different platforms all have their merits and should be considered if you were looking at designing a website or UI. The platforms that we will cover in this article will be Affinity Designer, Figma, Sketch and Gravit Designer.
Adobe Fireworks was the king of design once upon a time. It however lost that crown due to Adobes ‘feature freeze’ in 2013. This meant that Adobe was no longer going to be updating Fireworks, but would continue supporting it. This was okay for a while as it still had a lot of usability. This however changed as more design platforms got released. They offered new and exciting tools and opened up the world of design; causing more and more people to move away from Fireworks.
Affinity Designer is one of two programs that Affinity have developed. The other is Affinity Photo which focuses on image manipulation and editing. Both platforms are priced at £48.99 which isn’t a bad price to pay for such a high-quality design platform.
This platform is available on both Mac OS and Windows which means that most computers will be able to run it. This means more people have access to the program for their designing needs. With more than 10,000 customer reviews, it’s worth looking at. Particularly as it is rated 5 stars!
Years of updates and improvements
Affinity Designer was launched back in October 2014. This means that it has been around for a few years; long enough to have gone through many different changes. Over the years, the program has been updated to include more features and improve old ones. Furthermore, it means that it has enabled the community of designers and developers to offer feedback to Affinity; furthering the development of the program.
Due to the programs performance and capabilities, it received many awards. This is a massive achievement for a design platform. One of the awards was Apple’s Editor’s Choice which it received from day one. It then went on to feature as one of the best new apps of 2014; which is a great achievement. Finally, it received another award which was the Apple Design Award which was at WWDC in June 2015. These awards show that this is a high-quality platform if you can get past the price.
Figma is a program that offers its users a simple UI with quick and easy to use tools. Completely UI focused, Figma allows designers to create a wide variety of components and put them together to create a design. With its easy to use tools, you can quickly get to grips with what does what and create something.
Team based platform
Working alone isn’t always the best. This is what Figma believes. This platform is team based to get a collaboration of people working on the same project; not necessarily from the same computer. As this platform is available on Windows, Mac OS and even Linux, every computer can access it. This can either be through using the browser or downloading the desktop app. Either way, this platform is free to use; it just requires you to sign up.
As I have already mentioned, this is a team based UI design platform. Components created using Figma are then able to be saved so they can be reused elsewhere on the design. This doesn’t necessarily mean by the original creator. Team libraries are created to allow everyone to have access to the components being used in the design. Advanced permissions are also available to stop other team members from being able to access certain parts or components of the design. Team members however are also able to comment on the design. This can be to ask questions, offer feedback or even give out specific tasks.
Live device preview
The UI’s that you create on Figma can be made responsive to the screen size. This comes with a live device preview so if you are trying to create an application for mobile phones; you can check how it looks throughout the design process. These are also pixel perfect to ensure what you see, is what others will see.
Sketch is an example of a program that is made for a specific operating system. Made purely for Mac OS, Sketch is a high-quality and in-depth UI design platform. This program is quite costly with the price set at $99 (roughly converting to £76.59). This is much more expensive than Affinity Designer, but with good reason.
Used by big names
There are many great features to using this tool. This might explain why large companies like Apple, Facebook, SEGA, Etsy, Sound Cloud, PayPal, Twitch and many others have used this program. Continuing Sketch’s claim to fame; it has received many awards over the years. Currently, it has been awarded Apple Design Award: Mac Developer Showcase 2012 Winner, Best of 2014, Best of 2012, Net App of the Year and #1 For UI & Wireframing. It also received two ratings which were 4.5 Stars from DigtalArts and 4 Stars from Macworld.
When creating a design, you would want access to every part of the design. Some programs require you to go through a complex path to find certain parts of the design. Sketch removes this and ensures that there are no hidden paths. Instead, everything in the design is listed within the layer’s list. With these layers, you can further control where everything is listed. You can create groups that group many layers together to be clean up the list. There is then a search bar that enables you to look through all the layers if you are looking for something specific.
Precise editing tools
The editing tool itself has many great features. It offers users complete control and a variety of editing tools. Using this tool while editing a UI, you can change the positioning, orientation and size of different parts of the design. Multiple parts can even be changed at the same time! Creating layer styles is also possible with Sketch so that a specific style can be reused across the design. When this is then changed; it changes every instance it has been used making this process much quicker. There are so many tools available when using Sketch; we would be here forever just talking about them!
Like Figma, elements of the design can be reused when needed. This means you can quickly build up a design if it requires the same elements throughout the design. Alongside this, Sketch also offers an instant preview ability. This allows you to view your design on different devices immediately by using their downloadable app. This application however, is only available for iPhones and iPads.
Gravit Designer is a fast growing and very clean UI and Icon creation platform. It is free and accessible online through your browser or can be downloaded directly. There is no sign up required unlike Figma meaning that you can quickly start using the tool. Gravit Designer is a rather unique cross-platform design platform. It is one of the few design platforms that has been made available on a variety of different devices and operating systems and are still developing it to operate on more. Currently, it is available on Mac OS, Windows (there are even options for 64-Bit and 32-Bit downloads!), Linux, Chrome OS and they are working on making it available for iPad and Android.
With the platform being available for so many different devices, it ensures that everyone can access the tool when they need it; no matter the type of computer (soon to include mobile devices as well). It is very easy to understand and use due to its clean UI. This makes it easy to get to grips with the platform in a short amount of time.
If you are looking for a quick and easy to use platform that doesn’t cost anything, Gravit Designer is perfect. It can be used for illustrations, website design, UI design, presentations, print and icon creation. This makes this platform an outstanding and useful resource if you are planning on designing something. With its usability, it also offers an adjustable UI so it can be altered to suit the user.
Range of styling options and features
Pixel precision is key when designing a high-quality icon or designing an exceptional website. This is exactly what you get from Gravit Designer. Throughout the creation, it keeps everything pixel perfect and does the same when you are exporting it. As with Sketch, this program also offers a very easy to understand layer list that allows you to group everything together. This gives you the chance to organise everything to your liking.
Further features of Gravit Designer include the ability to use a wide variation of styling. This includes fills, borders and blending modes as well as many others. You get ultimate control over your design. As you would expect, there are different fonts and styling options when adding text.
Range of information sources
Stepping away from the main features of this program, there is a blog that you can access which has tips and tricks on using their platform. From designing a professional logo to editing images; there are some easy guides to get started when looking at using this platform for your own needs. Another source of information is their discussion page. This is almost like a forum where people can request features for future updates, ask questions and report bugs. These are answered by the community and actual members of the Gravit Designer team.
UI & Website Design Platforms – The Conclusion
There are many tools out there, more than what have been mentioned within this article. Some will require you to pay for them, others will need a subscription and others are free. These platforms are not necessarily ‘better’ than each other, but instead offers a different way and UI for you to use. Each platforms will suit different people and it is up to you to find what platform works best for your needs.
- Graphic Design,