If you ever used any design tool like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch, you probably used the Group feature to manage more than one object as a layer. After the introduction of Figma’s frame feature, these two concepts often began to be confused with each other. Add in Figma’s section feature, and confusion abounds.
These three features aren’t interchangeable — they have significant differences. In this article, I will highlight the differences and usage areas of frame, section, and group properties.
- Figma frames
- Figma groups
- Figma sections
What are Figma frames?
Figma’s frame feature allows you to add layers directly to a container with a specific device or screen size. Artboards in other design tools serve a similar function, helping you create and implement your designs in a chosen area of the canvas.
Frames also have the ability to contain other frames, making it easier to manage and work on complex designs.
When to use Figma frames
Several additional functions can be applied to frames, such as:
Layout grids help align and create a visual structure within the frame, ensuring that your designs maintain a cohesive look and feel regardless of the device or platform on which they are viewed.
Grids reduce the number of decisions you need to make when defining layouts, streamlining the design process and making it more efficient. This not only saves time but also ensures a consistent and harmonious visual structure throughout your designs, regardless of the variety of different device types.
Auto layout is a feature used by frames. It helps to structure adaptable design elements such as creating buttons with adaptable lengths, lists with items that can be added or removed easily, and aligning them properly. The working mechanism is understanding and responding to the number and sizes of elements and the spaces between them.
With the help of auto layout, you can adjust the direction of the design layout, choosing between columns or rows. You can add padding, which provides you to define the whitespace enclosing the objects within the frame. Moreover, because it gives you control over the spacing between the items, you can create alignment and visual consistency easily.
The constraints feature allows for precise control over the behavior of layers while the frame is resizing.
In the horizontal direction, constraints can be applied along the x-axis.
The left constraint keeps the layer’s position up relative to the left side of the frame, while the right constraint does the same relative to the right side.
The left and right constraints ensure that the sizes and positions of the layers are maintained relative to both sides of the frame, in the case of possible growth or shrinkage along the x-axis while the frame is resizing.
The center constraint ensures position of the layer relative to the horizontal center of the frame.
Similarly, in the vertical direction, constraints are applied along the y-axis.
The top constraint ensures the position of the layer relative to the top of the frame as the bottom constraint does the same relative to the bottom.
The top and bottom constraint ensures that the size and position of the layer are maintained relative to both the top and bottom of the frame, which is providing growth or shrinkage along the y-axis when the frame is resizing.
Figma frames provide you the ability to establish interactions and transitions within your prototypes. Also, they offer different kinds of interactive features, such as clickable areas, hotspots, and animations, which can be implemented within frames to simulate the flows and demonstrate the functionality of your designs. Frames don’t only help you create realistic representations of your designs, but they also help test them in a practical context.
What are Figma groups?
The group feature in Figma provides a way to combine multiple elements within the canvas. Constraints are not applicable to the grouped objects because the group feature doesn’t include relative positioning.
Additionally, unlike frames, groups don’t have the ability to show any stylistic properties. Basically, groups help to organize elements and keep the canvas tidy, while frames offer more advanced features such as constraints, auto layout, etc.
When to use Figma groups
The group feature is helpful if you want to switch some clusters of layers as visible or hidden easily according to your design decisions. When you use groups in a frame, with the help of the constraint feature of the frame, they will resize in proportion to your movement on the frame simultaneously and dynamically.
When they are compared with groups, it can be said that the frame feature gives the opportunity to have a more systematic and responsive design because it can give a simultaneous reaction according to your sizing actions. Thus, we can say that for more complex design ideas and needs, frame is a more preferable and usable function than group.
What are Figma sections?
Sections, which is a default top-level element on the canvas and has its own layer type in Figma, offer several functionalities, such as:
- They allow you to designate specific areas on the canvas for collaboration or ideation purposes
- Sections help organize files, making navigation within your design projects easier
- You can create links to a grouping of designs using sections, providing clarity on what’s ready for implementation during developer handoff.
- Sections can contain other sections and any other layer type, but they cannot be contained within frames or groups. (Because, as I specified above, they are the top-level element on the canvas and have their own layer type)
When to use Figma sections
When it comes to prototyping, sections play a significant role. They enable you to group and organize prototypes and allow you to create connections that link flows across different parts of the prototype.
If you are in a Figma presentation, Figma remembers the last viewed frame within a section, ensuring that when you return, that frame is displayed first, enhancing the overall user experience, which is very important for user tests specifically.
In summary, in Figma, the group feature is useful for bringing objects together and moving them as a single layer, the same as the other design tools.
However, if your intention is to use these design elements for more complex purposes, the frame feature will be much more useful. Frames possess alignment and responsiveness capabilities. Additionally, Frames allow prototyping functionality different from groups.
Sections, on the other hand, are containers that can hold groups, frames, or other sections inside. They help to keep design elements together and enable prototyping in complex designs easily.
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