We asked Georgiy Chernyavsky, the lead for the UI Design and Prototyping with Figma track at Ambition Empower, to reflect on the rapid evolution of design tools. Here, he’s sharing his insights on the significance of staying updated in this fast-paced industry.
Times change, and tools for designers’ craft change with them. New pieces of software emerge, and designers adapt, learn new things, and change their workflows (hopefully for the better). Sometimes, it becomes difficult to keep up with the pace. Then why should designers bother? Would it not make more sense to develop generic, tool-agnostic workflows and standards that will make switching between tools and adopting new software capabilities easy? Well, there is a compelling reason for us designers to always stay on top of all things tooling: efficiency.
A decade ago, knowing how to use a particular piece of design software well was considered a great competitive benefit for a design practitioner. Today, I’d say it is not only expected for designers to know design tools (almost) perfectly but also adopt new features and new tools in general as they are released. And those new features, at times, can be life-changing.
Think of the latest 2023 Figma big release. Variables, smart prototyping, Developer Mode. All those things seriously questioned how we were previously used to designing with Figma. Then, should we disrupt our existing workflows and use the new techniques? Well, yes, because they make us achieve the same results but faster (or achieve more in the same amount of time, depending on which measurement you like more).
New design tool capabilities generally make us more efficient. For example, a tool like Microsoft PowerPoint can produce UI designs of as high quality as Figma. However, constructing a UI design for a web app page in PowerPoint would take an incredibly long time. On top of that, it would take even greater effort to communicate those PowerPoint designs to colleagues.
Away from slightly comic comparisons to more realistic. Think of how different prototyping with Figma became with the introduction of the Smart Animate feature. Suddenly, design prototypes became more realistic and better fit for usability testing and animation specifications.
The usability testing part here refers to the increased quality of the designs – better prototypes are more immersive and realistic for the research participants and can bring more realistic results. As for animation specification – being able to demo precisely how transitions and micro-interactions should work helped save an enormous amount of time on communication between designers and engineers.
My point is that with each new time-saving Figma feature and technique we learn, we become quicker and nimbler in our design iterations.
As for the universal workflows and standards I briefly mentioned above, those are also important. Such things are, e.g., design file lifecycle, design team file space structure, and standardized design file content – all of these help designers stay tool-agnostic and make it easier to move to other tools. On top of that, these standards help others around you – navigating, onboarding, and collaborating.
So, how do you stay on top of things that are constantly evolving? I spend at least a few hours each week looking out for design tooling and methodology news. At Mastercard, besides product and UI design, I am focused on bringing in the best practices around the design process and tooling. A larger part of this focus happens to be on Figma – I help define standards, collaboration flows, and best practices so that we are successful and efficient in our collaboration.
I’d encourage any design practitioner to join me in the UI Design and Prototyping track at Ambition Empower, both to stay on top of their tools, and to become an expert who helps and educates others. This will help you and your colleagues and improve your collaboration greatly. We all know a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.