Design tools in 2022 for startups | by Maxence Mauduit | Jan, 2022

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We are a small team working for a dynamic startup. The design team accounts for 6 people, 4 product designers dispatched into different missions, and 2 brand/visual designers working for our Marcom team. The following list of tools is what we think fits best our needs.

One of our public UI libraries on Figma Community. A thumbnail, with a mobile mockups using the UI components from the library.
One of our public UI libraries on Figma Community

Figma remains our main Design tool across teams for the 4th year!

The tool is just getting better and better every day and answers most of our needs. This year has seen many amazing updates and there is no way we would trade Figma for any other option.

In this past quarter, we took the time to test Framer, and while the tool is getting pretty great, it doesn’t fully answer our needs nor fits a small team like ours. It is a great option for React/Web-based products, but that is less of an obvious choice for companies working on Native apps and SDKs like ours.

The accent on collaboration

Figma is just years ahead of Sketch and Framer thanks to the effort put into making Figma a collaborative tool that isn’t only made for Designers.

By far the best option to maintain a design system

Our team manages a complex SDK-based line of products. And this is all maintained by a small team. So we’ve built a couple of UI libraries answering different needs, ruled by a single design system built upon similar philosophy and methods. Figma perfectly covers our needs, providing easy-to-maintain UI libraries, even supporting branching, which we use very frequently to iterate on our components.

A much better prototyping tool

Thanks to interactive components, and a recently updated app, Figma got much more capable when it comes to prototyping capabilities. Again, for a small team like us, having a tool that does it all is a much more cost-worthy option to go with.

💡 If you are not convinced, you should have a look at the Figma community. This is the largest Design assets base I have ever seen. A huge time saver in order to have quick mockups done in no time with amazing quality assets!

Well, not completely even if I wish we could.

This year we took the decision to remove Adobe Master suites from all Product Designers toolbox so that they can fully focus on… well, product Design. It was a big decision, we always thoughts that we needed a license just in case we would need to create a quick Lottie animation on After Effects or edit a PDF right before a client meeting. But in fact that rarely happened and we found alternatives in most cases. So after a test period of 6 months, all Product Designers agreed to let it go! We’ve been very happy since then.

Adobe suite remains used in our Marketing/Communication team.

💡 Many of the things Adobe could do are now available for free online (thinking PDF compression or editing, video compression). Below, in my personal toolbox, I will also suggest a few great alternatives to Adobe products.

The team’s Opportunity Solution Tree workshop on Figjam!

We used to have a Miro account, we also played with Whimsical for some time. But now that Figjam is here, we don’t use anything else anymore.

Figjam is still in beta but plans to be launched officially in February. Our team already secured the budget for company-wide license coverage. The tool is really great and is getting even better after every update.

Online Scrums, live presentations, graphs, retrospectives, demo days, pretty much everything collaborative we do lately is hosted on Figjam with most of our employees knowing how to use it! I should also mention that all our product managers love it and are daily using Figjam for various purposes.

💡 We love the fact that we can copy/paste anything from Figma to Figjam and that we can also connect any of our UI libraries to Figjam too.

We drastically simplified our toolbox to allow designers to focus.

During the early time of this pandemic, our team suffered from a reorganization and a drop in resources (this also explains why we haven’t posted a similar article last year).

But we overcame it by making hard choices and optimizing what we had. This was a great lesson that is clearly reflected in today’s decision to simplify our toolbox even more.

Our company also built a strong data-mart that provides all the insights we need to make informed decisions and for now, we aren’t using any other tools to run user tests or customer interviews (done in-person or via Google Form). This is something we will consider as we will grow in numbers this year.

To wrap up I would also like to give you the list of other products I use for my personal use and side projects.

I also decided to drop Adobe at home, which meant for me to find a few replacement solutions!

Website making

Readymag & Hugo

Screenshot from https://readymag.com/

For quick Website making for an event of so, I’ve found Readymag one of the best options out there. The simplicity and free-form of this online solution are really great.

For more custom options and more optimized/faster websites, I use Hugo Framework to generate static websites. It works great and the learning curve isn’t as stiff as other solutions.



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