How It’s Changing the Way We Collaborate in Design

Source: Figma Design

Figma is a vector application which allows you to design, prototype, and feedback. The product contains many features to improve collaboration. These include team libraries, developer handoff, real-time collaboration, and cross-platform compatibility. This combination of features and accessibility has lead to increasing adoption of Figma. One of Figma’s primary targets is designers working within teams. It’s having a significant impact on the way we design and empowering other individuals to contribute to the design phase of a project. We’re going to look at the different ways Figma is changing the landscape in terms of how we collaborate.

Team Libraries

Team Libraries is a feature similar to that launched by Sketch recently. It enables designers to produce components which can then be shared across a team inside Figma. For other members of the team, they can then pull these components into a design file at any point. This increases efficiency while also ensuring consistency of design elements across documents. If the designer or designers wish to update a library component, they can do so just once. It will then push these changes to all files containing the component. The team member working on this document will then be notified of the update.

Source: Figma Design

Once the primary design elements such as buttons are defined, the impact on workflow is impressive. New screens and mockups can be produced quickly and with ease. No time is wasted recreating elements or copying updates from another file. Everything is kept up to date in real-time and there are no backward steps as with traditional design softwares.

Creating a design system with Figma is particularly useful when working with multiple designers or alongside other teams. In these cases it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of design changes. Over time it can lead to gross inconsistencies between design files and hurt your final product output. Not to mention the mess it can contribute to on the development side.

Top companies like Microsoft, Uber, and Slack are using Figma for its collaborative features such as Team Libraries. These companies are renowned for establishing some of the most high quality design language and systems. It offers an insight into how Figma can work across teams, even at some of the world’s largest technology firms.

Developer Handoff

In the product design industry, collaboration with developers is an integral part of the build process. If it’s easy for developers and engineers to work with a design file, the end product will be more representative of the original design. Figma has a specific tab which is titled ‘Code’. From here, they can inspect, export, and copy CSS, iOS, and Android code. It speeds up their workflow considerably. It also ensures that your carefully-defined styles are reproduced with accuracy.

Source: Figma Design

The prototyping feature inside Figma also aids the handoff process to developers. Designers can link elements and screens to produce a comprehensive interactive mockup. This helps communicate the flow and transitions to developers. It can reduce the typical back and forth as it’s attempted to be explained via text or phone.

Real-time Collaboration

Figma’s real-time collaboration is an impressive feat of modern computer engineering. It allows multiple team members to work on a design file at once. All the while, the application remains quick and snappy as a result of its web-based architecture.

It’s not just designers who can collaborate in this manner. You can have team members ranging from developers to marketers, all working on the file in real-time. This is all possible without having to worry about your original design files being disrupted in any way. Along with the version history which Figma stores, it’s also possible to enable advanced permissions. You can set a team member the ability to only edit text components when you give them access to the Figma. This is especially useful for marketers and copywriters who can work on the written aspect of the designs.

Source: Figma

Features like this are making the design process not just more efficient, but more inclusive too. As collaboration is aligned and improved, the end product will also improve.

Cross-platform Compatibility

A sticking point for many potential instances of collaboration is cross-platform compatibility. Take Sketch, for example. It’s a Mac-only product. This means it instantly excludes any team members from the process who uses Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS. This restriction inhibits the important aspect of collaboration. A large number of developers and marketers use these operating systems as their daily driver. The exclusion of support for them makes the design process much less open.

Source: Figma

Figma supports Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome OS. It’s also accessible via the Chrome browser. This means collaborators are not required to download or install the application. This is particularly useful in traditional workplaces, educational institutions, and public spaces. In these circumstances, new applications are often not allowed to be installed.

It’s not just cross-platform compatibility that can be an excluding factor. Other aspects such as cost can contribute to this. Someone wishing to collaborate via Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator would be set back around $25/month. A Sketch licence would cost $99, and an Affinity Designer licence around $60. Figma is not excluded from this issue but does offer an ongoing cost as opposed to a one-off fee. This costs $15/month/user but allows collaborators to rescind their licence when no longer required.

Feedback

Feedback is a crucial aspect of collaboration and working within a team. Most designers use a tool like Marvel or InVision to source feedback. The issue here is the designs must be uploaded or synced first. This process has been refined for Sketch and Photoshop users with the release of plugins. However, it is still not perfect and InVision in particular is known to be sluggish with large projects. Put simply, it’s another step which requires another payment payment plan and login. Not to mention the process of organising image files and managing users and invites.

Source: Figma

Figma incorporates this into its application. Users can feedback directly onto the design and discuss changes, ideas, and additions. This eliminates the need for a secondary tool and allows you to spend more time designing as opposed to managing a feedback platform. It also integrates with Slack. This allows team members to collaborate just by signing in with their Slack login. It also pushes configurable comment notifications to Slack so team members can review and respond to them.

Figma is building an all-in-one tool which encompasses the entirety of the product design process. It’s eliminating third-party tools like Zeplin and InVision. These were previously a necessity for developer handoff and feedback. The design process is more collaboration-based than ever before. The benefits of using a tool based around this are becoming apparent to design-driven firms.

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