June 22nd, 2020

Why we switched to Figma

What's expensive and inefficient for any design agency? Tons of tools, indeed. In the last few years, we've been working with a combination of Sketch, Abstract, and Invision. But they didn't answer our needs. So earlier this year, we decided to try Figma. The powerful tool quickly convinced us to start doing all design production work there. And when Corona hit Belgium, we were happy to discover Figma's full potential.

Imperfect workflows and too many tools

We were early Sketch/Invision adopters, with which we would design in Sketch and then build our prototype in Invision. This workflow allowed us to share our work with clients too. It worked well for a while, but we always ended up having trouble collaborating with multiple designers or external partners. Working together in one file and stay up-to-date was impossible.

Then we added Abstract, a versioning tool built on a Github-like system. In this system, designers work on branches created from a master design file. Abstract's promise was to allow multiple users to work seamlessly in the same file. We expected that this workflow, originally created for development projects, would also apply to design. But after a trial period, we simply weren’t feeling it.

It was difficult to keep track of every change you made and then commit when saving your Sketch file, for example. Second, you’re not actually working together in real-time, because everyone is in their own branch and unless you spend your day updating the master file, you won’t have a good set of up-to-date files. In the end, we spent more time dealing with problems like waiting for files to update, merge, or sync rather than actually designing.

Figma at the core of our current workflow

Our first experience

The first time we used Figma was in a project with multiple designers and an external designer. To top it all off, Corona had just made its entrance in Belgium so we were all working remotely. It was the perfect setting to test Figma and it turned out to be remarkably easy to work together in one file, everyone on their own page.

In our daily stand-up meetings, we could simply follow the person presenting via the multiplayer mode and when making changes, we didn’t need to sync, refresh, or wait anymore. The same thing happened when we facilitated our first remote workshops. All clients could simply be in the file with us, filling out the template we prepared with digital Post-its.

A powerful all-in-one tool

At the Leap Forward office, we like things running smoothly, and that's especially true for our workflow. Discovering Figma was a game-changer for us. Every step of the design process takes place in the same file. But the tool also works as a visual file management system, a design tool as powerful as Sketch, a prototyping tool like Invision or Sketch, a design system manager... By now, you probably agree that it's an awesome UI tool, but that's not what sets Figma apart from its competition.

Multiplayer mode engaged!

What distinguishes Figma from all other tools is its collaboration feature. First of all, it's intuitive to use. As a company that prides itself on co-creating products with its clients, it's an empowering tool for us to guide clients and receive contextualised feedback from them.

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A single source of truth

It's easy to find up-to-date files, have confidence that what you’re viewing matches what’s live, and jump right into creating something new. Figma also allows us to keep all files in one place, without having to wait to sync everything and out of date design files laying in a dark corner of a Google Drive folder. No more navigating between Sketch, Abstract, and Invision! No more loose PDFs!

Bringing different stakeholders together (breaking down the silos)

You'd think that quarantine would lead to stronger silos and isolate the stakeholders even more from one another. But with Figma, everyone can join one file, managers, designers, and developers. Designing an interface has never been a single person's job, but with this tool, it's possible to involve everyone in the process and gather relevant feedback, without compromising on quality or efficiency. And by saying 'everyone', we're even including Windows users!

A virtual workshop room & remote design sprints

While working remotely in these last three months, we had to find creative ways to offer workshops and design sprints to our clients. As you can probably guess, we used Figma for the process. Add your favourite video call platform and you've got a set up for successful workshops and design sprints. The best part is that you don’t have to decipher people's handwriting on digital Post-its anymore.

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A communication tool

To get the most out of the tool, you can also use Figma as a way to communicate. We'd recommend setting up a few rules and guidelines for the users, though. With a feature like "Comments", you can easily create interactive presentations.

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Fun team moments

Last but not least, it's an awesome tool to have fun with! In for a round of Pictionary? Just set up a few boards, communicate the rules as shown below, and start drawing! Who would have guessed Figma would be the best place to spend your next teambuilding?

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In the end, we feel like Figma isn't just another design tool, but rather an "enabler." It lets you create without adding many technical limitations. And you can use it to collaborate and communicate in a no-nonsense but versatile way. Our virtual workshops, remote design sprints, and Pictionary sessions have been this informational and entertaining! Have you tried Figma yet? What were your thoughts?

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Maïté Cretin

Product Designer

Maïté is a product designer who loves building products that solve real problems for actual users. She is interested in systemic problems always keeping in mind the bigger picture.