Huge news: Figma will no longer be free from April 2021

Last Modified: Apr 21st, 2021 - Category: Blog Articles About UX, UI, Research and Development, News
Figma UI not free anymore?

Well, sorta.

In what is perhaps the most anticipated event in the history of UI software, Figma announced that from April 21, 2021, it changes its access model.

In an email sent to subscribers of the application, Figma announced that it is moving to a model that preserves free, but in a more restrictive way.

The Figma UI announcement is for free subscribers, and the title is simply “Your starter plan is changing soon”. There have been no announcements for paid subscribers, so we assume that everything will remain the same.

April 21 update: make sure to check Figma’s new features announcement that goes with the new paid model

Figma’s announcement

1) Work with unlimited editors in the team space
We are removing the two-editor limit in the team space, which means you’ll now be able to collaborate more freely with unlimited editors! This is something many Starter users have asked us for. In order to introduce unlimited editors for free, we’ll be adding a new limit of three files in the team space. Each file will also have a limit of three pages.

2) Drafts is your personal space
Files in your Drafts will continue to be available to unlimited viewers. However, in order to co-edit with others, you’ll need to move the file to a team space.

Excerpt from Figma’s email

What does it mean for designers? Figma is still free or not?

New Figma terms
The new Figma terms (source: Figma)

For those who want to know how the new changes to the Figma app affect them, the answer is: it depends.

For individual designers, the limit of 3 files, each one of them with a limit of 3 pages may prove to be sufficient.

However, for small companies or designers who work collaboratively, it can be a major change, as these limits are very low, which will force them to switch to a paid plan.

Figma teams limit
Now you will need to create Teams… which have limits, of course.

The cheapest plan is called Professional, which is $144 for each editor, billed annually. That is, $12 per month per editor or seat.

For those in the world of UX and especially UI, the novelty is shocking, since it goes from being free to being the most expensive of the software for user interface design (at least counting the top 3. There are more expensive ones like Axure RP). As an example, Sketch charges $99 per year for team version and personal version, although in the latter case the annual renewal is $79

Figma’s business plan

As we said at the beginning, this “novelty” was completely expected. For at least 2 years, the UX world has been discussing the date when Figma would start charging what was free, and how it planned to do so.

In terms of business and marketing analysis, the strategy was brilliant. Figma with its freemium model (well, actually free for almost all cases) took over the Windows market and does battle on the Mac, making even Adobe have to offer its UI tool for free.

On the other hand, Sketch (leading for now) clearly has fewer features than Figma and XD. Not counting the fact that it only works for Mac users, which forces Windows users to choose between Figma and XD (there are many other tools, but none compete to the same level in popularity).

Now, how much did Figma grow in 2020?

We don’t know yet, as the data available is from 2019. But based on this announcement, we believe the growth was so great that it reached the traction they were looking for, giving them the confidence to make this move.

Everyone is doing it, why not us?

So, is this ethical? It is debatable.

In our opinion it is ethical as it was completely to be expected, not a surprise at all. The same will happen with Adobe XD (in case anyone has any questions).

And let’s remember that Sketch was originally a payment “for life” … until it stopped being so and began an annual subscription model. With one caveat: You can use Sketch “for life” … up to the latest version that you managed to update with your subscription.

Therefore, legally they did not lie.

The ethics and morals of this movement can be discussed, and obviously we can frame it within what is known as a dark pattern. But it is legal.

And whether we like it or not, this is how all freemium software behaves or will behave: at some point, it comes time to cash in on the efforts that the company has made for years.

Is there room for new actors in the UI software world?

The design and development of user interfaces has had historical contenders that today are completely relegated, such as Axure, UXPin or even Photoshop.

But there are other newer and more exciting UI design software, such as Framer X and InVision Studio. The latter has a very important user base in its collaborative environment, which can have a great influence. However, thus far InVision Studio (which is not the same as InVision), falls short and has disappointed its users.

Is there a way to make up for these changes?

In its announcement, Figma acknowledges the obvious: there will be a lot of people who will have to pay. We’re talking tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands (based on Sketch figures and its over 1 million subscriptors). So they offer a 90 days free trial on their Professional Plan

We know that this update may impact your workflow, so we wanted to give you an early heads up. To help make this transition as smooth as possible, we’d like to offer you 90 days free on our Professional plan, where you’ll get unlimited editors, files, and access to other features. To do so, save this link, which will activate on April 21. (If you lose it, don’t worry—we’ll remind you in an upcoming email.) 

Excerpt from Figma’s email

Conclusion: free meals have to end one day

Just accept it and have peace of mind: this had to be over at some point.

Now is time for decisions.

These decisions are really difficult, because they add to the enormous amount of expenses that UX design studios have. For example, here at Dorve UX we already use the Figma Professional Plan (and it’s amazing), plus Sketch, InVision, Zeplin, Adobe Suite, servers, and much more. Which is a very important amount to pay per month or year.

In our opinion, the logical move for most regular users will be to “marry” to a single tool and let the REAL battle begin.

I mean: instead of using multiple tools, just because they are free, users will need to be selective and use ONLY ONE tool. And there you will have a carnage!

Because… you know, there’s a lot of money to take, and winner will take it all. Will it be Figma? Guess we’ll have to wait (or… Adobe makes the “Macromedia play” again, buys Figma and destroys it 😉 )

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