Figma Wants Designers to Collaborate Google-docs Style

Screens had been completely different a decade in the past; thicker, wider, tethered to partitions. There had been screens in our pockets again then as properly, although they weren’t but as hungry for eyes.

Today’s screens are much more superior than those from 2007, however lots of the instruments graphic designers use to fill them with digital interfaces have not modified a lot. In truth, lots of designers nonetheless use Photoshop—the trade commonplace since earlier than the iPhone days—to design the look of your Slack notifications and the structure of your Instagram feed.

In the previous few years, a crop of nimble newcomers has emerged to woo graphic designers away from Adobe’s brawny graphics editor. The hottest is a instrument known as Sketch, which affords lots of Photoshop’s options however is simpler to make use of and particularly made for interface designers. Competition has turn out to be so fierce that Adobe final yr launched a beta model of its personal purpose-built interface-design instrument, the straightforwardly named Adobe Experience Design CC (aka Adobe XD).

This is all somewhat inside-baseball and perhaps somewhat boring, I am going to admit. But contemplate that these instruments are literally locked in a battle for the loyalties of designers at at this time’s strongest corporations—designers who will use the successful app to develop digital merchandise for years to come back.

Today, that melee will get extra fascinating as an interface design instrument known as Figma takes a big step towards the middle of the ring. The browser-based instrument helps designers make digital merchandise as a gaggle, letting a number of folks collaborate in actual time as they draw, drag, and edit components on the display screen. Figma technically launched final September, and since then, has made paying shoppers out of huge fish like Microsoft, Uber, and Slack. But at this time, the startup unveiled two key options that ought to give Sketch and Adobe pause—and can probably earn it a number of extra corporations for its trophy wall.

The first enhancement, “code mode,” provides builders entry to the code that underlies a challenge’s feel and appear. The second, “prototype mode,” lets designers construct, current, and modify working prototypes of digital merchandise. Both modes work from instantly inside Figma, a selection meant to ease tensions that may emerge between designers and the code-minded non-designers they collaborate with.

Code mode permits engineers to examine Figma initiatives in view-only mode, touch upon design selections, and duplicate the code they should construct the product.


When it launched final yr, Figma captured designers’ attentions with two options: Live collaboration and model management. The identical approach you may work in Google Docs with a number of folks concurrently, a lot of of us can be part of forces on a challenge in Figma. Tweaks and edits save instantly to the cloud, preserving an in depth report of every challenge’s historical past and maintaining collaborators from overwriting every others’ work.

This real-time, all-in-one surroundings is a boon for design professionals, who’ve lengthy relied on cobbled-together workflows involving a number of applications, plug-ins, and cloud providers. You may design a display screen in Photoshop, put it aside to the cloud utilizing Dropbox, then share a hyperlink to that Dropbox folder together with your collaborators—who then need to undergo the identical steps to share their revisions with you.

Figma’s new prototyping mode permits a number of designers to develop, modify, and show working prototypes with out leaving Figma’s browser-based software. Here, a designer connects completely different frames of an app with movement strains that may later enable them to show its performance.


“The first time I used Figma was in a design review,” says Trello product designer Adam Simms, who makes use of the instrument to create extensions for his firm’s standard challenge administration app. “I sent ten developers a preview link to my project, and they all jumped into a live demonstration of the design. When they realized they were looking at the source files, and they could follow me around on screen, the experience completely changed. It turned into this interactive feedback loop, where they were able to comment on things as I was going through them.”

Collaboration is not Figma’s solely sturdy go well with. A browser-based app, it really works whether or not your collaborators are utilizing Macs, Windows PCs, or Linux laptops. (Adobe XD solely runs on Windows and Mac, and Sketch is Mac-only.) On the opposite hand, Sketch and Adobe are higher at working offline. The former advantages from a wealthy community of third occasion plug-ins, the latter from integration with Adobe’s suite of merchandise—to not point out the corporate’s design heritage.

In any case, probably the most salient information is that competitors has spurred all of those corporations to deal with workflow points which have bedeviled designers for years. But the battle for the hearts and minds of Silicon Valley’s designers is in its early days. The options they’re going to prize most, and who will present them first, remains to be being discovered.

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