Some of the best tools teams can use for research don’t involve fancy UX design tools, but rather things you already have. Hitting the right combination of buttons to take a screenshot from an iPhone or Android device can often get the job done. However, if your research involves getting input from potential users, there are several options for setting up simple surveys. Depending on your sample size, both Wufoo and Typeform offer free and inexpensive plans and easy to use interfaces to design, distribute, and collect data.
Ideation Phase (Brainstorming)
In the days before COVID-19 and the #stayathome reality we live in now, whiteboards, easel pads, and plain pen and paper were some of the most popular options for brainstorming with a team. Many teams relied on that face to face energy to develop the best ideas. Now apps like InVision Freehand give you access to a digital whiteboard that allows real-time collaboration and brainstorming. Or, for even more power and features, check out Figma. Also, consider running flexible video conference software like Google meet at the same time to add voice and video to your brainstorming session.
Design Phase (Wireframe Tools)
When it comes to the design phase, having access to the best wireframing tools can help your team work at their maximum level of productivity. Sketch is currently known as the industry standard wireframe tool, but if you are already using Figma, it has all the tools you need built in. Adobe XD still has some room to grow but is gaining popularity and shows a massive amount of potential.
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Prototype (Prototyping Tools)
When the team is ready to create a clickable prototype, InVision is currently one of the best prototyping tools available. The cloud-based tool makes it easy to create and share with clients for comments and feedback.
Motion / Interaction Design
If you are already using Figma for its collaboration, web design tools, or wireframing tools, it can also be used for simple micro-animations and transitions. If you need more power, Principle or After Effects are excellent choices for complex non-standard animations.
When creating the 3-5 minute video or showreel for your pitching presentation, consider Adobe After Effects. It is especially helpful if your workflow already includes After Effects for creating your animations and transitions.
More than ever, during our current #stayathome situation, you need to ensure that you can complete adequate user testing in a distributed manner. For that, you will need cloud-based tools. Fortunately, there are many options available. Lookback provides a tool for recording user interactions and uploading them to the cloud. For those working with website design tools, User Testing allows you to run unmoderated user tests on your website. For an even simpler solution, you can use Google meet to do remote usability tests. Share screens and observe as people interact with your website or app.
Version control is essential for ensuring that your versions are correctly maintained and tracked. For this, Abstract is an entire ecosystem to keep your project is on track throughout the workflow. For less complicated projects, Plant works seamlessly with Sketch to ensure you can restore any previous version or your file.
At some point, it is time to take all of your work done in your wireframe tools, prototyping tools, web design tools, and all your other collaboration and UX tools and hand them off to the developers. A lot of your work may be for nothing if you don’t get this part right. Fortunately, Zeplin was designed for just this. The developers of this application created it specifically to improve collaboration between designers and engineers to make your handoff as smooth as possible.
Even with all these great tools, you still need to make sure that your team is getting the work done on time. For that, there are a host of task management tools that are a perfect complement to your UX tools. Asana was built to help teams like yours organize, track, and manage their work. Jira is a tracking platform designed explicitly for agile-based project management. Redmine is an extremely flexible open-source, web-based project management platform built on the Ruby on Rails framework.
Especially since very few teams currently have the luxury of sharing a workspace, a robust communication platform is essential. Slack has quickly become the industry standard for teams across the tech industry and beyond.
Choosing the Best UX Design Tools for Your Team
As you can see, there are a variety of tools available. It is merely a matter of finding the right tools for your team and project. A lot of your decision will be based on the size and makeup of your team. Let’s say you are working on a smaller group with maybe a project manager, one or two UX/UI designers, and a front end developer. You could quickly assemble a stack of tools that will get the job done. For instance, the combination of Sketch, InVision, Principle or After Effects, and Zeplin could offer your team everything they need from design through handoff.
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Creating your own stack of UX tools may be a cost-effective way to get started with a small team with limited needs. Many of these apps have free or low-cost options. However, it is crucial to be aware of the limitations. Each application requires a separate license, and there is limited integration between each tool. This can make it cumbersome to keep track of licenses, team access, and project resources.
Another option would be to use one tool for the entire process. A comprehensive platform like Figma unites all of the necessary UX tools in one platform. This platform can handle design, client interaction, prototyping, and developer handoff. The single-platform solution makes it simpler to manage team access and accounts. It also reduces the time and effort needed for the initial setup and preparing each project. In the long-run, it can be more cost-effective to have one license. With one single cloud-based service, collaborating with a distributed team is much simpler and more effective.
Just keep in mind that, as the size of the team and the complexity of the project grow, there will be even more things to consider. When you reach the point of a massive project with two or three parties involved, client-side product owners, UX teams on the client side and on your side, and two teams of developers, you will need additional tools. These may include a cloud-based symbol library to provide a single source of truth when it comes to design elements and components, and a more robust version control system for tracking changes in source code.
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