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Why do “design” tools still exist?

The development process evolved many years ago but design tools are still rooted in waterfall development

When I started my career in design and web development, people still debated waterfall vs. agile. Agile development promised a more adaptive and responsive workflow and was largely adopted. But the underlying nature of design tools never caught on.

Design tools became faster, cheaper, and easier to use over the years, but their output is basically the same.

Designs are created in design tools and are handed off to engineers to code just like they were decades ago.

As soon as the code is deployed, the problems begin.

No matter how hard product teams try to maintain a 1 to 1 relationship between design and code, it just never happens. In fact, the closer teams get to a 1 to 1 relationship, the more it defeats the point.

The more designers add complexity to design files, the more difficult it is to pick apart and use.

How much time is wasted perfecting and updating designs as a digital product evolves?

After the initial design system is defined and the UI components are coded, further time in design tools is unnecessary. Designers should focus on user research and ideation instead of pixel-perfection.

Hacking a design together in the browser can be much faster than making changes to the original design in a design application.

Also, most “design” decisions are made by people without design in their title. Software constantly evolves to address users’ needs, and design tools often get in the way.

But there’s a better way…

Old way 🤬 😤 🤯

  1. Have an idea or requirement to add a small tweak or feature 💡
  2. Find the original design file 🕵️
  3. Figure out how the file is constructed 🤔
  4. Get frustrated because you notice unrelated inconsistencies 😖
  5. Forget what you were originally doing 😕
  6. Realize hours passed and you haven’t accomplished the original task 😞

New way 🚀 🦄 😎

  1. Have an idea or requirement to add a small tweak or feature 💡
  2. Take a screenshot(s), quickly update the design, and add comments 🧐
  3. Share the iteration with the team in Trello, Jira, or whatever 😁

This process has saved me countless hours and communication nightmares.

What my new process looks like with NextUX

I’m creating an iteration platform built around this process called MockVisual. It enables the whole team to add contextual feedback on websites and web apps and rapidly iterate. NextUX provides simple tools to cut up designs, rearrange, and add elements to communicate new directions.

I guarantee most designers will resist this new tool because it’s out of their comfort zone. As a designer, I understand. I was reluctant to accept new tools and processes too. This is probably why most users of NextUX are engineers and product managers.

Development has changed; it’s about time our tools did too. Designers will come around, eventually.




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Andrew Coyle

Andrew Coyle

Building @mockvisual (YC S19) • Formerly @Flexport @Google @Intuit • Interested in platforms

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