15 tools to facilitate collaboration in product design
Nowadays, being a Creative working on product design could be challenging. Every day, after you got your favorite cup of coffee, for the rest of the day, you need to be a User Experience Designer, User Interface Designer, Product Designer, Workshoper, Researcher, Facilitator, and be at every meeting. It is a daily routine for you.
As a Designer, you are probably a part of each step of the product design process. If I am right, you and your team are overwhelmed by requests, asap tasks, and problems that need to be solved quickly. There is too much information around you. It would be best if you learned which are essential in product design and only information noise. Being always on the same page is difficult and time-consuming.
You work in changing environments (Agile, Kanban, SCRUM), where all diverse teams have their processes, needs, and internal languages. In most cases, you need to be a unicorn. Catch the beat, move a design from an abstract idea to a finished product. Understand different project factors. One of them is the right workflow. It can keep you on track and facilitate close collaboration with clients, businesses, and, finally, users’ needs.
Sure, but is it possible? I think - “Houston, we have a problem!”.
So, what can you do? Ask the right questions.
- How might I better organize the product design workflow and give value to the team, project, and organization by the end of the day?
- How might I help create a winning design team workflow?
- How might I pool my talents to develop designs that are so much more than merely pleasant to look at?
Soft skills and the transparent design process are essential factors for better product design. However, there is something more, which gives you a key for winning, especially in the newborn reality (post-Covid) - the right product design tools.
Below, there are four groups with a list of tools, which can help you in your daily work as a Designer.
Tools to facilitate communication in product design
During the day, you mainly work in the formula "together but alone", it means that you have tasks, which are assigned to you only. It is essential to be in touch with team members and clients. When designing a product in CrustLab, the efficient flow of information is helped by:
We all know Google tools such as Meet, Calendar, E-mail, and Drive. I will give you a few tips about them:
- Don't delete emails, especially when you have a long-term project (ex. Web Application design).
- Only mention one thread per email.
- Use tags and colors for better grouping.
World time buddy
Remote work means collaborating with people from all over the world, often from different time zones. With the World Time Buddy tool, you can put all of your colleagues from other time zones and see where you have overlapped, identify "together time" and "alone time".
It is a communicator for daily activities with some extra features. One is quite impressive. When you have a video call on Slack and share the screen, you have the opportunity to draw on that screen. It could help you better communicate product design ideas.
Tools to facilitate documentation in product design
The possibility of creating, collecting, distributing, and communicating results as much as access to the project documentation at any moment of work is a key-value for better product design.
With these cloud resources, you can get ideas to share with your colleagues easily, get feedback, and work together on it.
Here are a few tips about how Google Docs can help you with the product design:
- It is useful when you do research, and you need a place to collect notes, benchmark, interviews, and other draws, which are not official project documentation yet.
- It is good to use comments and suggestions. People from the team will have an information background.
- Use colors to communicate your idea clearer.
- The voice typing feature is an incredible hack when you need to do the transcript of the interview. You can save a lot of time. It is not perfect, but still unbelievable.
It is free for personal use. When the project moves forward, and you need a workspace for the Documentation with a clear structure, the Notion is for you. You can create your company systems for knowledge management, note-taking, data management, project management, among others. The Notion’s mobile app has a great user experience, so you can always be on the page with a team.
"The pandemic has shown us that there is more to documentation than just 'docs.' Documentation is what enables us to get what we need." – Rebecca Abara, Etsy - 10/14/2020 at Distributed2020.
Tools to facilitate product design
The heart of product design, however, lies elsewhere. It is time for tools that will facilitate the essence of your work. The applications described below allow you to design directly in the browser, which definitely enables group work.
Miro/Mural (virtual whiteboard)
They are collaborative whiteboards with digital sticky notes, where you can group them, vote for the best ones, and do all this while a timer counts down. You can use both web applications to facilitate workshops like Design Sprint, Strategy Workshop, MVP design workshops, Brainstorming with the client, or do a review with your remote team. Miro has a free plan, and Mural has a one-month free trial.
Are you designing the MVP version of the product and already have test scenarios ready but no testers? No worries, you can visit User Interviews and find the specific audience you need to test your ideas.
Figma has a free account, and it is a cloud application. What does it mean for you?
- You can work on mac or windows.
- You can collaborate with other designers at the same time.
- You can invite people from outside the company, for example, from the client-side. It has significant value for you. Your partners can follow your work at any time and give you fast feedback using comments.
The cloud solution has a dark side. The application works only when you are online. Rarely but sometimes I don’t have access to my files for one or two hours. If you decide to use Figma, do backups whenever you finish your work.
Sketch App started using primary symbols (components). It took product design to another level. You can create one item (ex. button) and use a reference for it. Why is it important? Whenever you change the primary symbol, their references change too. Developers work similarly.
Sketch App has one more value. It has an open code library. When Designer meets Developer, magic could happen. I will tell you a short story. In Cracow (Poland), a Front-End Developer from Brainly wanted to know how Designers work and how they use Design tools. He discovered that Sketch App has an open code library, and he can "hack" the App. He created a tool that generates the component (ex. button), which is the same in the Developers and Designers libraries. If it sounds interesting, keep reading.
One of the next steps of your product design is passing on the project to the Developers Team. Figma has a tool for that. If you use Sketch App, Zeplin is the best tool to collaborate with Developers. They will look at your project from their perspective, numbers, and CSS.
However, it is a pain point for both sides. We all are humans, and we try to understand problems and find solutions using our perspective. It is a common situation where the client accepts a designer's project, but developers deliver something different. It is a gap, and all we know is the problem.
Software Development and Product Design Companies are trying to reduce that gap. These two tools: html-sketchapp and React Sketch.app, make it much more comfortable. Both work similarly. The developer collaborates with a designer, and he first creates a new item (ex. button). Next step, he runs one of the scripts above and generates our "button" with two of the same version:
- one goes to the developers component library
- the second one (a copy) goes to the designer's components library as a Sketch App Symbol
Warring: These scripts work only with Sketch App (uses the open code library).
From that moment, two teams have the same elements and use them for their job, and there is no gap. It is not an easy way, but it is possible. Pixel Perfect can be great again. I recommend you checking the Brainly website and Web Application to see how html-sketchapp works in practice. Or check out alternative tools like Kactus and Abstract.
Summary: Both scripts are suitable for a more significant project. In the long-term, they could reduce cost, keep the project consistent even when the team rotates.
Tools to facilitate analysis in product design
Qualitative, Quantitative data can help you understand, learn more about your audience, find answers to your questions, and verify the business hypothesis. Measuring your clients’ behavior enables you to uncover what is hidden behind the metrics, real problems, and needs. It is crucial for product design. There are a lot of methods and tools to do this.
In my opinion, Google Analytics is the best choice for quantitative research. For qualitative, it depends. Right questions help you take the right tools or methods.
Future of the product design tools
Newborn reality (post-Covid) speeds up the change in how we think about remote work and how we use design tools, either. In my opinion, we will work remotely more in the future. What does it mean? There will be more and more product design tools on the market. Right now, it is more than we need. See the list of The 2020 UX Research Tools Map.
Remember, the right tools give you:
- more efficient work,
- the simplified connection between teams,
- improved products quality,
- shorter working time.
Before you pick one of them, make sure that it will add value not only for you but also for your team, organization, or clients. Product design is a team game.