To this day, Avocode supports two design formats - Photoshop and Sketch. These design tools are different, because they were builtin different times for different reasons. Photoshop was built in 1988 to edit photographs, while Sketch was built in 2010 to design digital products for web and mobile. Yet these days, these products are used for the same thing as if they were equals - designing for the web.
It's no surprise that Sketch, with other progressive design tools, has kicked off a new era of design. We knew that the Sketch file layer-stack probably differs from the one in Photoshop, but in order to find out how much, and what the implications are, we dove into over 1,000,000 Photoshop and Sketch designs which were uploaded into Avocode in 2016.
The result is our 2016 Web Design Report.
Feel free to check it out, share, and comment. We worked with some wonderful illustrators who helped give our report more colors. Take a look ;).
Now I'd like to share some of our insights that we realized while we were compiling this report. I'll try to be brief and cover most of our findings in three points.
In 2016, there were more than 50% fewer layer effects in all Sketch and Photoshop designs than the year before. For example, there are 58% less Drop Shadow effects in Photoshop files and 48% less Gradient Fill effects in Sketch designs.
The appearance of white color in Photoshop designs has decreased by 20% and increased by 23% when it comes to Sketch designs.
The usage of blending modes has dropped by 21% per design among Photoshop designs, and by 3.5% among Sketch designs between 2015 and 2016.
The number of Smart Objects dropped from 5.19 to 2.68 per Photoshop design on avg. while the number of Symbols has changed from 0.04 to 0.3 per Sketch artboard (that's 760% growth).
All of this means that designs are generally getting more simple and flat. The simplistic and lightweight design trail is still being forged by Sketch.
Most developers probably wait for the design file to arrive before they start coding. But what about the design changes? This is where the design file size becomes crucial. The bigger the file, the more difficult it is to open it, change it, share it, open it again, and inspect it. In some cases - when either the designer or developer decides it's not really worth it, the final design changes and touches happen only in the coding process and without any design template or even without a design consultation.
Designers are starting to realize this, and with more back and forth hand-off, design files are indeed becoming smaller. In 2016, the average Photoshop design file size has decreased by 300% compared to the previous year. When it comes to Sketch files, we saw a 66% file size drop. This, of course, correlates with the design layer stack changes which are described above.
Here I need to point out a critical difference between Sketch and Photoshop files. Photoshop designs were changed only 2x (on average) and Sketch designs 4.5x on average before they were coded. While the number of Photoshop design versions is the same for the past two years, the number of Sketch design versions keeps growing. It seems that Sketch files are more easily changed and therefore shared.
Check out this site and download our 2016 Web Design Full Report to see more data, charts and insights.
We asked some of our designer friends about their opinion.
“I think that new tools going mainstream drive new behaviours. Sketch has introduced this new wave of what feels like 'design technicians,' going a lot further with design files than we did with Photoshop.”
“I definitely think tool proliferation leads to design trends. If you track the improvement of speed/ease-of-use for Photoshop features such as gradients and shadows in the 90s, you can see more and more major brands such as Coca-Cola adopting these styles. Likewise, in recent years, web design trends evolved closely with increasing browser adoption for technologies like CSS3 and HTML5 canvas. When you give designers a new tool or technique, they’re going to use it!”
“I believe trends come from communities of designers who build new things based on works of other designers. The tool only becomes attached to the trend when a designer reveals how they've created it through a tutorial, screenshare, etc.”
“For sure, I think we saw this very clearly in the 80s when designers started using computers and we saw an explosion of neon colors and complex 3D lettering! But I think we can still see this happening today, but at a slower rate. Who knows, the next big design trend might be in VR!”
“Yes, in a way, tools always have limits if you think about it. When tools evolve, possibilities evolve too, and design follows. Of course this is not the only and main reason, but i think it has an impact. We all try the new features of a soft's new version when it is released, at least just for fun or by curiosity, and we'll eventually get new ideas using them. Meaning new styles, new trends, etc…”
“For me personally, no, they can't. But in the future, maybe. We shall see. Times are changing fast and we should all adapt.”
“I guess design tools could be partly trendsetting if they would hold some sort of monopoly on the market. They can give you some hints, guidelines, but also creative restrictions if you focus too much on them. That way the creative process might get a bit unified in the final outcome - how people approach design problems and how they think. But again. A tool will always be just a tool - it's the idea, that makes the real impact, and sets new trends. A design tool shouldn't be your primary focus if you want to think at least a bit outside the box.”
“I think it´s certain people who create trends, so tools are just the medium.”
Can design tools create new design trends? Let us know in the comments.