The rise and fall of InVision
The sad slide of the once-darling design co.
The results of the UxTool’s 2020 Survey are in.
One of the biggest takeaways?
Things aren’t looking great for InVision.
What’s the damage, exactly?
Usage for prototyping & handoff is way down
In 2017 the Design Tools survey showed InVision leading its category as a prototyping tool with 60% of respondents indicating they used it.
In 2020 that share has fallen to 23% with more than half of that number only using it as a secondary tool.
The change in InVision usage for handoff has been only slightly less drastic, with a fall from its peak of 28% in 2017 to 18% in 2020.
Considering prototyping and handoff are basically the core value of the InVision platform, this is a pretty big deal.
Only a few short years ago InVision seemed like it had all the momentum in the world. They had massive user growth and were valued as high as $1.9 billion.
They’ve also continued to be a marketing juggernaut — producing podcasts, videos, blog posts, design resources, and basically every form of media you can imagine.
So then why is the company’s core product doing so poorly?
We can certainly point to the meteoric rise of Figma as being a key factor, but that alone is too simple. The actions taken by InVision (in response to the competitive landscape and to their own positioning within it) are also equally important.
This is all a long time coming
I remember when I first started using InVision when I was a student in a design program at my university. At the time I was pretty annoyed that there was no way for me to organize my prototypes into folders. It was a new product though, and the lack of folders was an obvious gap that was highly requested, so I didn’t worry about it too much. There was no way they wouldn’t be adding them soon — right?
It took 5 years.
“Spaces” (folders) have only just semi-recently released. Many other basic improvements have taken eons, if they’ve ever been addressed at all, and major feature improvements have seemed extremely lacking. I’m certainly not the only person to have these types of complaints. I won’t exhaust you with all of them here, but I’ve definitely heard similar things mentioned for years and years.
“InVision 7” is the big update that’s been promised as a panacea for many such issues for years. While it’s finally (sort of) rolling out in beta, it’s looking like it’s going to be far too little and far too late. It doesn’t seem like a particularly big leap forward, and still doesn’t offer many essential features already available in the current version.
Craft & Design System Manager
Adding to these problems are some of the other products that were kludged on to the core experience. For example, you have InVision Craft. Craft was an independent Sketch plugin that was acquired by InVision. The plugin added “export to InVision” functionality directly into the Sketch UI along with a few other features. Craft definitely helped the workflow but never really felt like it cohesively integrated to the overall product suite, and struggled with reliability. The prototyping features especially seem weirdly redundant with Invision’s existing workflow and functionality.
There was also InVision Design System Manager (DSM), an inexplicable product that mostly did a far worse job of exactly what native sketch symbol libraries were already meant to do. Since presumably recognizing this issue they’ve finally released a completely new version of DSM. The new version seems less redundant with Sketch libraries but at the cost of not really adding much value on top of them.
The cumulative result is a hodgepodge of apps built on top of apps and stitched together with yet more apps (many with both new and legacy versions existing at the same time). All of these with competing branding that makes it hard to keep track of what’s going on, and a lacking layer of experiential polish to boot.
I can’t say that saving themselves from decline would have been easy, though.
The reality is that Invision’s core product never made much sense as a long-term play in the first place. Any prototyping tool that exists separately from design functionality was always going to be clunky and limited. The relationship between the two can only ever be one-way.
From day one it was only a matter of time before companies like Sketch and Figma cannibalized prototyping and handoff features for their own applications, while improving those workflows in ways that weren’t previously possible. We haven’t fully reached that point yet, but we are very, very close now and the pace is only accelerating.
Seeing the writing on the wall, InVision did push to become a player in the UI design space. Unfortunately, the introduction of InVision Studio (the company’s answer to Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD) was largely a flop.
In 2017, survey respondents rated Studio as being the tool they were most excited about. In 2018 a modest ~7% of designers were actually using it.
Now in 2020 that percentage has dropped to ~4.5% — not exactly a category-redefining take-over.
I never actually tried Studio myself but I remember hearing noise about bugs and instability early on. The fact that it launched without live design capabilities also meant it didn’t really have any edge over Figma at the time.
Here’s some bits from a Twitter thread I was able to find that offer some additional thoughts:
This last comment here especially makes sense to me based on InVision’s track record in other areas. They just don’t really seem to do a great job of iterating on the experience of products they’ve already built.
“InVision Freehand” is worth a mention because it actually is a pretty neat little white-boarding tool.
That being said, it’s currently being overwhelmingly crushed by Miro in both feature-set and usage. From what I can see, Freehand by itself is unlikely to be all that important of a factor in the grand scheme of things.
What’s going on behind the scenes?
Employee reviews of InVision on glassdoor.com tell an interesting story. When sorting by “oldest first” the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. but “recent first” paints a different picture. While there are still many positive reviews, the majority of those in the last year or so seem to lean negative.
I’ve gone ahead and yoinked some of the more illuminating comments. I won’t pretend this is even close to a balanced or objective representation of all the reviews, just some cherry-picked selections that stood out to me:
Poor product strategy. Growth plan based on aspiration, not backed by data or solid plan
Weak senior leadership, especially on marketing; shady product practices, especially surrounding V7 release; seems company has lost its way, focusing on marketing instead of product
- CEO clearly not capable of running a company of this size
- Product has not improved AT ALL in 3 years → Enterprise customers churn left and right and competitors are eating us alive
- Sales quota has products baked into it that have not yet shipped (and probably never will)
- Ill-conceived freemium model means that some large companies are paying peanuts for the tool (bad for sales people)
- Flip-flopping all over strategic decisions
- burning through money fast
Advice to Management
You’re selling a product to customer’s that know exactly what they want already. It’s like selling a car or a smartphone. It’s plainly feature driven. Just put in the features they want and try to keep up with your competitors at a competitive price point…
…They know what they want/need — just give it to them. I believe the multiple reorgs and folks leaving are all due to trying to sell a sub optimal product. You can have the leanest, most efficient sales org in the world but if the product isn’t good, nothing will help you sell more
- This place has completely lost it’s way. It has been tough to watch the downfall and backwards slide of the company, leadership, product, and most importantly, revenue, over the past few years. When I joined, we were by far the leading software solution in the space, but our cockiness and lack of innovation has built a trojan horse for other companies like Figma to literally eat our business from the inside out.
— Top-level Exec leaders took way to long to understand the competitive threat, and regardless of what we roll out, it’s now too little too late.
— We have lost a ton of trust with once loyal customers who don’t believe we can execute on a product vision, if they can even understand what our product vision is.
— There have been several rounds of large layoffs, including of top performers across Engineering, Product, and the Customer team. There is no rhyme or reason behind this, other than shaving $$ off the top line in order to survive another half of a year churning business.
— The product and pricing model are backwards. We charge like an Enterprise product, but don’t have several of the table stakes SaaS Enterprise features so real, sophisticated buyers refuse to engage at our price point. — Most importantly, we still can’t truly articulate a singular mission or clear product vision and build confidence internally that we can execute against it.
InVision isn’t necessarily a bad company to work for. They just have a lot of inexperienced people in positions of power and they’re making a lot of poor decisions that are negatively affecting the future of the company.
The narrative that’s pretty clearly emerging is this:
InVision focused on marketing, sales, enterprise integrations, support staff, and basically everything under the sun except for the one thing that you’d think a design-centric company would remember:
Actually having an exceptional product.
So is that it for InVision then?
It could be that the InVision we see is already doomed, but as an outsider to the company I won’t claim to have the full picture for sure. At the absolute least, it’s clear the company no longer holds the market-leading position it once did.
Given this reality, those still using InVision products should probably take a moment to consider if it’s still the best choice for their needs, and for how long they expect that to hold true.
But even if InVision continues on its current trajectory it won’t completely disappear overnight. It may be possible to hold on for long enough to turn things around. It’s not like the competitors have totally perfected their own offerings either.
Crazier comebacks have happened. I’d like to see it, and it’s not impossible.
But as for right now?
It’s not looking good.