8 of the Best Design Handoff Tools in 2021 | by Vincent Xia | Oct, 2021


Vincent Xia

This article listed 8 of the best design handoff tools, which can help the workflow from designers to developers to be much easier, faster and more efficient.

It is commonly known that design delivery/handoff is an important and indispensable workflow for UI designers. Design handoff affects the final implementation of the interface and the size of the fit. A solid design handoff means less development time, less back and forth communication and less room for mistakes.

So how can you deliver your design to developers efficiently? What kind of handoff tools can help you deliver your design without extra work?

In this article, I will explore 8 of the best design handoff tools, with the help of these tools, your design handoff workflow can be much easier, faster and efficient.

Let’s check and see.

Table of Contents:

  • The definiton of design handoff
  • The key steps of design workflow
  • What can design handoff tools do?
  • 8 of the best design handoff tools in 2021

By definition, design handoff is a stage during website or app development process where designers send the finished designs to developers for converting it to code.

However, I must make it clear that there is no such thing as a “finished design” state for digital products. Because we can always do more with this “finished design”. Therefore, “design delivery/hand-off” in this article refers to the designer passing on his or her design ideas to the developers.

Since design handoff refers to the end of a phase, it’s easy to make the mistake of focusing only on classic practices like uploading, exporting, and specifying designs (a mistake I often make). But there’s more to it than that. Design handoff is a complicated, frustrating, and often disastrous task. It not only involves a strong collaboration between designers and developers, but also means a lot to product team leaders and other managers.

Traditionally, a design workflow saw designers work in silos, between the discovery phase and development, to create pixel-perfect mockups based on a brief. Then, after client sign-off, they would throw the mock-ups over the wall to the developers.

However, it can be very difficult for developers to accurately translate a designer’s intent into a real-life feature or product. At the same time, designers often wonder why the finished product is different from their original designs.

Therefore, the designer-developer handoff is unfortunately not always smooth. It can be very time-consuming, costly, and sometimes it even leads to the failure of the entire product. But nowadays many designers work much more collaboratively with other teams (i.e. development, content strategy) throughout a project or with design handoff toos to bring a creative vision to life.

Below, I will list the key steps of a design workflow, which can help you get a clear and better understanding about this workflow.

  • At the very beginning, the designer can create or mock up their design by using different design tools, like Sketch, Figma, Photoshop etc.
  • After that, the finished design can be transferred to a design handoff tool, like Mockplus Cloud, Zeplin etc.
  • When the finished design is uploaded, the stakeholders or relevant parties of the project can check and review the design and they can make comments they need and also leave their feedback on the handoff tool.
  • After viewing the comments or feedback left by the stakeholders, the designers can fix the problems and renew or iterate the design, and then send the updated version to a handoff tool again.
  • Then, the finalized design sent to the handoff tool can be checked and inspected by the developer layer-by-layer.
  • At the last stage, each layer and element of the design can be converted or translated into code by the powerful code inspecting features of these handoff tools and the developer can use this code as the basis for developing an app or website.

As mentioned in the above steps, what role does a design handoff tool play during the website or app development process? How can design handoff tools help designers and developers work collaborately and more efficiently? Let’s move to the next part.

Generally speaking, design handoff tools could help designers export designs from the prototyping tool they are using to developers with assets marked.

Remove “guessing”

Without design handoff, what developers can do is “guessing”. Guessing can result in inaccuracies — for example the wrong colors being used, or an interaction behaving incorrectly — which in turn impacts user experience. With context lost and intent often misinterpreted, the final product version is often a set of features that don’t fully serve their intended purpose.

So, in order to improve collaboration, designers need to keep the development in mind; on the other hand, developers need to keep the design and end users’ needs in mind. More specifically, designers should be technically apt enough to design effectively for the medium; and developers should know enough design theory to collaborate effectively.

Collaborate more effectively

With the help of design handoff tools, designers and developers can collaborate more effectively. Designers do not have to spend a large amount of time manually writing design specs or creating style guides. Instead, developers can go straight to development using the handoff tools and save a lot of time and resource in the process.

In a nutshell, design handoff tools have three main advantages: the first one is helping designers export their designs from a designing tool; the second one is helping developers inspect and implement said design; last but not least, helping to facilitate feedback and collaboration between stakeholders.

In other words, a good handoff tool helps designers hand the design specs, prototypes and other related design resources over to developers, allowing them to code everything more accurately.

A successful design handoff involves a strong collaboration between designers and developers. Having a successful handoff is a critical part of creating a great product. However, with many people involved in the product creation, it is vital to maintain excellent communication and collaboration between the different sides.

A design handoff tool makes collaboration easier between designers, developers and stakeholders. Below, we list down the best handoff tools available in the market today, let’s check their main advantages and choose the one that meets your needs!

1. Zeplin

You can publish finalized designs from Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD and Photoshop with Zeplin. Developers can get a “locked” design to build from, while designers can iterate on the next great release. It can also leverage your investments in tools like Jira, Trello, Slack and VS Code through deep integrations with Zeplin.

Here are some main advantages of Zeplin:

  • Integrate with Jira, Slack and Trello, always keeping the team up to date;
  • Offer effective team collaboration through its commenting feature;
  • Stakeholders can access up to date design resources, get notified of changes;
  • Add notes directly on designs to communicate ideas, feedback or to ask for technical details.

2. Mockplus

Mockplus is an all-in-one collaboration and handoff tool for designers and developers to prototype, collaborate and handoff designs in one place.

Over the last couple of years, Mockplus has increasingly gained popularity and is now trusted and used by designers all over the world. Mockplus’s flexible workflow integrates the whole process of product demand, design, and development. Mockplus supports seamless cooperation, task management, and creates a flexible workflow based on the uploaded major designs. Simple design and ease of use is at the core of Mockplus.

Here are some main advantages of of Mockplus:

  • Upload prototypes from Axure, Justinmind, Mockplus and documents;
  • Import designs with assets from Sketch, Adobe XD, PhotoShop and Figma;
  • Create UI flow and interactive prototypes with drag-and-drop;
  • Comment, review, test and iterate designs with simple clicks;
  • Inspect, copy and download design specs, assets, code snippets with one click;
  • It connects designing and developing closely;
  • It makes design handoff more effectively.

3. Avocode

Avocode is pure handoff and collaboration tool that helps developers build web and mobile apps exactly like how they were designed. Its slogan says: Meet 1-click design hand-off tool for review, design feedback, and development — for all design tools. It also says: Whatever design tool you use, Avocode Handoff will manage.

Here are some main advantages of Avocode:

  • Save time on manual coding & get code directly from layer styles;
  • Drag & drop design file format in Avocode in the browser and access all layers & specs;
  • Adjust the code output and speed things up with project-wide synced variables;
  • Features like commenting and annotating for team collaboration;
  • Access designs even without internet connection.

4. Sympli

Sympli Handoff is a set of tools for automated handoff of designs, specs, style guides, and assets from designers to developers and stakeholders.

Sympli Handoff Software automatically turns Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD & Photoshop designs into assets and specs providing design references, access to design systems, and code snippets for developers.

Here are some main advantages of Sympli:

  • All updates to the main design file and its copies can be remembered;
  • Collect feedback from stakeholders with inline comments;
  • Streamline workflow with Jira and Slack integrations;
  • Team collaboration features like commenting or annotations.

5. InVision

InVision is the platform for inclusive collaboration within digital product design and development. InVision Inspect is a handoff tool made by the cloud-based design platform InVision. This tool is the company’s response to help make the design handoff process easier for the designers & developers. It is recommended for its technical handoff for smaller projects.

Here are some main advantages of InVision:

  • Personalized specs for interruption-free development;
  • Turn design to code with developer-ready specs;
  • Integrate with Jira, Confluence, Storybook, and Trello;
  • Offer a live chat feature that is very useful for remote teams.

6. Marvel

It is acknowledged that Marvel is well-known for being one of the easiest design tools to master with its ultra-friendly user interface. With its newly-enhanced importing features now fully-syncing interactions (most design handoff tools don’t sync interactions), there’s less reason to use it for prototyping, and more reason to use it as a handoff and collaboration tool.

Here are some main advantages of Marvel:

  • Automatically create specs and design handoff for developers, saving your team hours of manual work;
  • Instantly turn designs into code, specs and assets;
  • Always in sync with the latest design changes;
  • Handoff works with Sketch or designs created in Marvel.

7. Figma

Figma is a collaborative interface design tool that is taking the design world by storm. Unlike Sketch, which runs as a stand-alone MacOS application, Figma is entirely browser-based, so it works not only on Macs, but also on PCS running Windows or Linux, and even chromebooks (a client version is available now). It also provides a Web API, which is free! Since its launch, it has become more and more popular among UI designers, and many design teams have embraced Figma.

Here are some main advantages of Figma:

  • All design work, from ideation to execution, can be found in one place;
  • An iterative design flow with live collaboration;
  • A shared language between design and development;
  • Connect everyone in the design process.

8. Adobe

The new release of Adobe Creative Cloud gives you all the best creative apps and services, so you can stay more connected and creative wherever you’re inspired.

Adobe is an Adobe product that lets teams collaborate at scale. They offer an easy-to-use platform for design teams that work on different types of projects including mobile apps, websites, games, voice interfaces, and so on!

Here are some main advantages of Adobe:

  • Co-editing where you can edit the design in real-time with others;
  • Everything is synced so that workflow can be improved;
  • Create custom names for colors and character styles to use in coding;
  • Follow conversations and feedback from stakeholders directly.

Design handoff is a key step in every project. It is important to keep up with the latest design handoff tools and techniques. Think carefully before choosing the right one that meets your needs. It depends on the expected level of collaboration with other team members, the size of the team, the usage involved, and the platform/operating system it runs on. More importantly, it relies on other tools that you may need to integrate to maintain a seamless product design workflow.

We have only listed down the top design handoff tools for this year. However, there are actually more tools out there that you can explore. Let us know what you think about these tools. Have you used any of these tools in the past? Or do suggest any tool that we did not cover in this article? Do let us know in the comment section below.



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