In this series, we would like to share our adventures finding the right tool to do better design research. TL;DR: We found what we were looking for with Eagle. We will also share how we are using this amazing tool in the second and third parts.
A little bit of context
Our team has been growing rapidly in the last year. We have now 5 UX Designers in our team. This brings new opportunities, but also new challenges for our design process. One of the aspects we focused on was the design research phase.
So far, whenever we needed to design a new app from scratch or improve an existing feature, we instinctively did some kind of informal design research to inform our design decisions. Our research included visuals, such as screenshots and infographics from contemporaries and competitors.
The growing pain of design research
But with an expanding team the task got quickly pretty daunting. We started to take screenshots of what we saw on our screen, but then how to make sense of all this information? And what about the visuals our teammates collected too?
So we did what we do best as designers: find a solution to our problem. And so began our quest for the perfect tool for the job. We weren’t sure of what we were looking for. Only that we would need a tool to collect quickly a lot of images, share them easily with the team, and organize them in a proper way so that we could search for what we need at any time.
What are the tools out there?
We started looking for a solution in a very organic way, through discovery on Product Hunt, or pure luck. Here is an exhaustive list of the tools we tried:
InVision has a feature named “Boards” that helps designers collect inspirations in a very nice way. The main problem with this solution is that it’s hard to organize images. There is also no way to search for specific images, or notes, which makes it very difficult to do research for a specific topic.
Google offers a lot of great tools to collaborate, such as Google Docs, or Google Slides. And since we are already using the whole suite of apps we thought this could be a good fit that wouldn’t disrupt our workflow too much. So we started creating slides for each feature and pasted images we found online on it. But once again, it’s not easy to search for specific topics, we had to add tags on the slide itself, but we could see more than one slide at a time. It was also super cumbersome to add new slides when we were running out of space on the previous one. Plus, the need to reorganize manually the grid of images ended up being very time consuming and kind of frustrating to have such a great tool not working for us.
Note: we are still using Google Slides for design research, but at a later stage, to show our findings as a curated set of images.
We also quickly explored Pinterest’s potential. It is a well-known tool to quickly gather images online in boards that you could share with other people. That seemed like a great option, but we realized quickly that the search functionality was not working at all for our purpose.
We then tried this not well-known, and — let’s admit it — a bit buggy, tool. And at our great surprise, we found in its tagging system, a great way to organize and categorize our growing stock of images. Unfortunately, the search functionality let us down once again. So close…
Once we knew the tagging system is a must-have, we were more selective on the tools to try. Introducing Eagle: this tool came as a providence. Not a lot of documentation, but a promising set of features we have been seeking for so long. We will describe its features more extensively in the following articles.
Why did we pick Eagle?
Long story short, we found in this tool a great balance of collaboration, organization, and search capabilities. No compromises.
A few other aspects we looked into:
OS: Eagle is available on Mac and Windows platforms. We also needed a cloud storage service to share our findings with the team. More of this in part 2.
Image Formats: we can add an extensive list of image formats in our library, such as JPG, PSD, MP4, GIF, and SVG.
Price: in the era of freemium, it might be hard to convince a company to get yet another paid tool on a monthly basis. But the beauty of Eagle is that we only pay once and it’s very affordable from the get-go. If you weren’t convinced, the price makes it easy to start using it right away.
What we learned
This article was a quick introduction to our design research process and our quest to find the best tool for the job. In part 2 of this series, we will dig deeper into how we use Eagle.
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