Adobe announced an intent to acquire Figma for ~$20 billion today. I’ve had mixed feelings thinking about it throughout the day, while also trying to get work done with my projects.
On the one hand I’ve grown to value the tool and all that it allows me to do as a designer. My career started back with much older software. Macromedia Flash 4 was the first application I used to build websites, illustrations, and print graphics. Yup, you heard that right. To this day it still stands as my favorite tool for manipulating bezier curves. But, thanks to my high school ROP teacher, Ms. Jane, I moved on and converted to Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign respectively. I also picked up Dreamweaver, and eventually Fireworks.
Sketch came into the picture years later, but my brain couldn’t quite process how to fit it into my workflow. InVision came and went, along with Marvel POP, Balsamiq, and everything else I could get my hands on. So many fantastic tools, so many amazing teams. Adobe XD also floated through for a period of time.
Flash forward to 2022. Figma is one of the core application in my work for building out interfaces and designs.
It is, however, just a tool. The most important thing I’ve learned over the years, as tools have come and gone, is a way of thinking. I still haven’t figured out, in fact I feel like I know less now than years in the past.
Now, when I’m working with a team to build an application or workflow, I approach the project with an absence of tools in mind. That means holding off on Figma for as long as possible, even holding off on wireframes or mockups. Instead, I ask a ton of questions to try and understand what the software accomplishes already, where things need to go with the business, and what users need. This stuff is the heart of building great software, and it’s where I can see pushing myself and continuing to learn for decades to come.
Only after the work of understanding and shaping the software, after sketching out flows and drawings, after going back and forth and writing up How Might We statements, Jobs to Be Done, Acceptance Criteria, etc., after all the other things have been thought through, only then will I crack open Figma.
By the time I have a screen up in this fantastic app I already have an idea of the UX, a high level understanding of the components for UI, along with a million questions that still need to be answered.
Where Figma helps come in is in converging toward shipping something, and getting things out into the world. Even then it’s sometimes not necessary. Some fantastic engineers I’ve worked with will just take sketches and move them directly into code.
Now, I’ve spent some time talking about what I do without Figma. Does that mean the tool isn’t valuable? On the contrary, it’s enabled a way of thinking and working that was near impossible five years ago. I can collaborate live or async with product teams around the world. Like Google Docs, but for designers, it’s helped push the speed at which we can get things shipped. I love it, and I hope this tool is around for years to come.
My point, and the one I try to share whenever possible, is that good UX, good product design, comes with the thinking and asking, not so much with the tool.
Congrats to the Figma team! And, I’m excited to see what other tools appear in the space.