Just a little while (past week), we've announced Craft-Styles by Invision LABS and today Invision announced that they acquired Silver Flows to bring prototyping live in Sketch.
What a time to be a designer whatever you are in the field of UI/UX, Interaction Design, Product Design or a Graphic Designer in transition. There are many incredible design tools out there and we are lucky to have such a variety to get things done or to integrate into our workflow. But now the thing is, which one is the right tool or the ultimate tool for my personal work? Your studio? Your organization? To be honest, there aren't any right or wrong answers. It all depends on what are the needs and what are the things you wanna accomplish. On my recent experience, I was asked to integrate Atomic.io into my design process as an experiment. I was surprisingly amazed by how it has changed since my last use of Atomic which was probably about two years ago. I will share with you the things that I liked and what I disliked, so here goes.
Disclaimer: That is NOT a sponsored post, my opinion and feedback shared in this article are explicitly based on my own user experience. Thank you for reading!
What is Atomic.io
Atomic is a prototyping tool that puts advanced interactive design features like logic, data, and variables. The first win for me is the fact that Atomic is browser-based, you can have the freedom to either prototype designs whenever you are on a Mac or PC. I am personally a Mac user (for Sketch) but some companies/startups out there are building their development structure in relation to PCs. On Atomic, you will be able as features:
- Basically design from scratch in Atomic or you can import your design
- Add interactions like gestures, user inputs, events and keyboard interactions.
- Learn Atomic through ultra-quick tutorials that teach you everything from the basics right through to advanced features.
- Animate your prototypes using One-click page transitions or finely controlled keyframe animations.
- Build reusable interactive components help you quickly scale designs while maintaining consistency.
- Introducing external data sources to create dynamic, realistic interaction designs.
- Create logic to handle complex, personalized user journeys.
- Share components, data, templates and more with your team via Atomic’s built-in libraries.
- Share links, provide feedback, design simultaneously.
- Access your designs anywhere through the Cloud
Since I haven't played with Atomic in years, it was almost like a new experience. At first glance, there is a hint of Sketch in Dark Mode but you have your toolbar on the left side instead of on the top. In Atomic, at the top, you will have what I called: Create Toolbar. You will be able to create a component, a mask, introduce a scroll and group your elements/layers. On the right side, you will have your alignment options, layout options, and appearance options. What's different though are the sections: Image (Inheritance), Actions (for your hotspots) and CSS (custom or export).
Understanding Component vs Interaction Hotspot
I would be honest, it took me a little bit of time to understand the intent of making a component and creating your interaction hotspot. It's very different but once you understand their properties, everything else goes pretty smoothly. You have to understand that if you wanna create an interactive component or shall we say a UI element. You will have to define its different state first because placing it into your prototype to make an interactive hotspot. It's a bit tricky at the beginning but totally right after your first try.
Well as I mentioned before, I just like the fact that you are working within the browser. It's pretty fast and one thing that worked pretty well for me was the integration with Sketch. Yes! You can work on your low-fi and hi-fi prototypes in Sketch and simply sync it to Atomic. I can hear some designers mentioning the fact there are already those functions on Sketch, let's say we are doing different experiments with our process. If you wanna learn more about the Atomic Sketch plugin. Tip: before you sync your artboard to Atomic, make sure your settings are fixed with the project (on Atomic).
Aside from the tool itself, I would say I love the community support around Atomic, you can supercharge your workflow with prototyping samples, resources, UI kits, navigation samples, tutorials and more. I would like to share a story where I had an issue during prototyping and I contacted Atomic for help. What's a game-changer is the functionality to collaborate and share links between us and the experts. Imagine sending a link from my prototype and one of their experts replied a new link with an updated functioning prototype with a tutorial on how to reproduce. It wasn't a company who sent them that email, it was an individual (me) asking for help. To me, that's awesome and one of the reasons why I am writing this article. Furthermore, this tool is completely free with full access to their features, unlimited prototypes, unlimited projects, and no usage limits. *Drop the mic
I wish the design tool feature was a little bit more robust like Figma for example so whenever you wanna design straight into Atomic, it feels more intuitive. I haven't played long enough with Atomic but I had this feeling during my participation. I wanted to experiment without thinking that I could do the "same thing" on Sketch or at the least it feels like a vector tool for example.
We can go more in-depth Atomic for our next article, maybe a tutorial? Let us know of your thoughts, do you use Atomic? What was your experience and do you still use it? What are your design tools that you use every day? You can tweet me @AoiroStudio.