InVision is Shutting Down. Stop Blaming Figma.

Over the past week I've seen a lot of folks saying that Figma is somehow to blame for InVision's shuttering. I have fond memories of using InVision and it's a bummer that it's going to be gone. But none of this should be news to anyone who has been paying attention for the past few years.

InVision logo
RIP InVision (source: InVision)

Last week InVision CEO Michael Shenkman announced that their "collaboration services" will be shutting down at the end of the year. With their flagship Freehand product having been sold to Miro late last year, this effectively marks the end of InVision.

Since last week's announcement I've seen a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth about how Figma is somehow to blame for InVision's slow demise. (Depending on whom you ask, Figma is also responsible for lazy designers, the decline of UX as a career, poor business practices, and probably other stuff that I don't know about).

Lest you think I'm a Figma stan, I confess that I use Figma almost every day and think it's a great tool. But while I like Figma, I don't feel any particular allegiance to it. It's a tool, it works fine, but so do others. I'm not here to defend Figma, but it's nonsense to assert that it alone is responsible for InVision's demise.

When InVision launched it was a great tool, especially for those unfortunate enough to be using Photoshop for UX and UI design. It was easy to export your layers into InVision and connect them up for prototyping or presentations. And of course most designers remember the omnipresence of "Sketch + InVision." For a while, it seemed as though everyone was producing their designs in Sketch and then sending them over to InVision for prototyping. It worked great, and the InVision Inspect feature made it much easier to communicate the details with development teams.

Time Moves On. You Should Too.

But as time wore on, it became clear that InVision had hitched their wagon a little too tightly to Sketch. Both Adobe XD and Figma went live in 2016, and both included native prototyping tools. It was obvious that Sketch would eventually do the same, and sure enough, they did. Suddenly, Sketch users didn't need to pay for a separate tool in order to build prototypes.

Screenshot of the Sketch homepage showing the InVision logo crossed out.
Ouch - Sketch just straight up says "No InVision needed." (source: Sketch)

InVision tried to get ahead of this inevitability by launching their own design tool called InVision Studio in 2017. Over the years I've used most UX design tools - Fireworks, Sketch, UXPin, Axure, XD, Figma, Balsamiq, Penpot, and probably others - and I found Invision Studio to be a half-assed attempt at best. It didn't help that InVision never really seemed to commit to the product and it didn't seem to evolve much. In early 2023 InVision finally called time and shut it down. (The original blog post appears to have been deleted and the Internet Archive doesn't seem to have an archived copy of it.)

InVision also launched its Design System Manager (DSM) in 2017. In 2019 we evaluated DSM at FinThrive to see if it would work for both the product and brand design teams. In terms of features, DSM seemed to be a good - if pricey - solution.

But there was a problem: DSM only worked with Sketch. Even their own Studio product couldn't manage assets in DSM. At the time, the entire UX design team was using Windows 10. So because InVision had tied itself to a Mac-only product, we unable to adopt their product.

I realize that for many (most?) designers, the thought of using Windows is anathema. But Windows is used by the vast majority of people around the world and it's perfectly suitable for design work. Unless you want to use Sketch, of course.

Over the past few years, InVision has shifted focus onto its Freehand whiteboarding product. I haven't used Freehand myself so I can't comment on its efficacy, but I can point out that the world does not need another whiteboarding product. Every company seems to have one - Microsoft, Figma, Miro, Google, and even Zoom offer whiteboard products. Maybe Freehand is really cool! I don't know, but it's safe to say that you'd better have one helluva good whiteboard to convince people to pay extra when they are probably already paying for at least one.

So yeah, I'll admit that I have fond memories of using InVision and it's kind of a bummer that it's going to be gone. But none of this should be news to anyone who has been paying attention. For whatever reason, InVision never really diversified, and did a crappy job when they did.

Is Figma the end-all, be-all design tool? No, but it's a good product and is far better at solving the challenges that designers face every day. This is just another case of a company failing to respond to the needs of its customers and ultimately fading away.

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