After reading an article about design tool memory usage I removed Figma from my computer this morning. I will likely never encounter the scenarios tested in the article, but the fact that it could happen bothers me. I’ve been thinking about ditching Figma for a while due to other issues that I’ll describe here.
Annoyances with Figma
Figma allows animated plugin icons, similar to the flashy cringe of the WordPress.org plugin repository. These strobing, fading, and wiggly little icons infested a section of Figma’s sidebar, filling my peripheral vision with infinite distractions. The animations also break icon recognition, which is important for reducing cognitive load and staying in the zone.
Figma demands to be constantly connected to the Internet, which isn’t a problem most of the time. But when I lose connection there’s no rectangles getting drawn. I used to deliberately disable my connection because immersion is an incredible feeling while designing. I can’t do that with Figma.
Figma uses an alert dialog to ask when to install an update. Alerts are supposed to be used for super important things; they prevent interaction with the app and demand a choice. They’re used for file save prompts when you’re exiting an app, emptying the Trash, and other actions that need confirmation before destructive actions occur. Using them to notify users about frequent app updates results in a poor experience: the update alert will show up and prevent you from using Figma until you deal with it.
And finally, the login screen. If I had to pick one thing I dislike the most about Figma, it’s this bad boy. Imagine my reality: Excited to draw new rectangles to keep the existential thoughts away, you launch Figma. It’s been over 21 days since your last spark of inspiration, so Figma loads a nice white page with a big black button prompting you to log in. You move your cursor to click the button, but there’s been 3-5 app updates since then—here comes the update alert to block your path to the button. You decide to install the update now because who knows what’s broken if you don’t. Figma quits and relaunches. Now you can log in! But in the middle of the annoyance, that little spark of inspiration has been snuffed out. Maybe it will return in another 21 days.
In the above screenshot, the Figma window is sitting on my desktop where I last used it. Alert dialogs are placed center horizontally and slightly up from the vertical center of the screen. Hidden behind the update alert, there’s a “Sign in with Figma” heading and a big button inconsistently labeled “Log in with browser”.
What I’m using instead of Figma
I’m going back to Affinity Designer. I used Figma to mock up website layouts alongside Designer for icons and other vector work, so it will be an easy transition. I don’t need collaboration features, I need a design tool that performs with few distractions and works offline.
Sketch looks great but I can’t justify the subscription. Penpot is a web app like Figma so it’s off the table. But you know what is on the table? Paper. I’ve been doing rough sketches on paper lately and it’s great. I stopped a while back in an effort to get better at design tools, but I’ve since realized that design tools lock you in and paper doesn’t. And it’s easier to move to a design tool off a paper sketch, rather than doing everything on the computer. Paper is good.