Let the tools go: time to start focusing on solutions

Disclaimer: This article is a small reminder to myself. I came up with it after spending a whole day trying out a design tool. While doing so, my goal was to do something nice so I could share it on Twitter, tag the company that made the tool, and expect some likes and follows.

Have you ever shared your work on a platform? Probably many times. Out of those, how many times have you been asked for the tools/software you used to come up with that work? Again, probably a lot.

Lately, a lot of companies have been coming out with new products that may work as solutions for designers and creatives. InVision with Studio, Zeplin with new integrations, Principle and Sketch with new updates, Jaiku with a new animation/prototyping alternative, Monday with a Trello alternative (and a huge marketing campaign with its new name), and many more.

While it's great that companies are still putting out stuff that we need as a community, sometimes we can fall into this 'obsession' towards tool creators and their products.

You don't know what I'm talking about?

Ok, let me tell you a very short story using a dialogue sample.

Creative: 'Hey guys! Check out the new app we launched. Would love to get some feedback'.
Reply: 'Tried it out for a couple of minutes. Performance has been great so far. Looking forward to trying it out through the week. What's the development background?
Creative: 'It was built using PHP, with CodeIgniter as our main back end framework. That's the main structure for the app'.
Reply: 'Why CodeIgniter? PHP is dead. Have you considered using something better? Like Express.js, way better results.'

Have you ever seen this? I see it all the time, specially on Twitter.

Let me show you a real example.

A designer named Luboš Volkov shared a really smart idea on Twitter:

Check it out here

A couple of responses later, this happened:

Using AE for app demos is strange? Really? How strange!?

Gladly Luboš didn't care that much, and he replied with honesty.

What calls my attention is this: why do you waste your time commenting about tools? The guy just shared something. He thought about a way to take advantage of the phone notch when using it on a landscape mode.

The eternal debates about whether you should use Adobe XD, Figma or Sketch, or whether you should learn JS over PHP over Ruby in 2018 are no news. They've been here for a long time.

The worse part of those debates, is that they lead to nothing useful. They typically lead to influencing people to do something because they are supposed to do so, and not because it's what's best for the particular situation.

Let's say you are a junior designer, you've been working in the field for a year, and you are coming up with your first side project. You just finished your main screens, and you are thinking about building a prototype, but you've never done one before. So, you go to social media and start asking about the best ways of building one. While doing so, you make clear that you are using Sketch to design your product, and that you need to have a quick prototype to show it around so you can validate your ideas.

Next, a huge debate is born on your (let's say) Twitter thread about different prototyping tools available on the market right now. After reading and replying a bunch of comments, you come up with the conclusion that you should wait till you get your InVision Studio early access, because with it, you will be able to come up with something way better than what you could do with something like Sketch's own prototyping system.

You trusted those people, because they were some sort of mentors for you. Someone with a couple of thousands of followers and some nice amount of Dribbble likes told you to do something, and you followed his/her advice.

Months later, your Studio early access hasn't shown up on your inbox yet. You realize you delayed your side project creation because of a damn tool. So you go to Sketch, make a quick prototype, and after trying it out, you come up with the conclusion that your product sucks, because it doesn't solve the problem it was supposed to solve.

You wasted months because of tools, while your product had a design problem that could be solved not with tools, but with design.

Tools won't make you a better creative, they just help you reaching a final product on a certain amount of time

But tool feedback will slow you down. What you need to look for is feedback on the solution you came up with.

Have you ever seen a Spotify redesign on a portfolio? Every time I see something like that, I get amazed. People spend THOUSANDS of hours, and they made stuff look visually incredible. At a first glance, you think the solution they came up with is amazing.

Then you start looking at it with depth, you realize the product they created is completely useless. It lacks with the basic experience that would allow me as a user to solve a problem, like playing a damn song. It creates a frustration on me, because I can't do what I want to.

Five minutes later you realize that the product you are trying out is visually beautiful, but doesn't work.

Dear creator, the problem is you spent a lot of time trying to make something visually incredible, trendy, and using the tools you were supposed to use. You got hundreds of likes and new followers.

But your obsession of getting likes, followers, and social media reputation led you to forget about the solutions you were supposed to come up with.

This way, all you learn is making things look pretty. This way, all you achieve is becoming nothing but a pixel pusher.

Juan Martín Germano

Written by

I help startups and entrepreneurs scale visibility through Product Design and Strategy / imgermi.com

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