Top 5 collaboration tools for app designers

Our Digital Designer Jigz discusses the latest in collaboration tools for designers, and suggests the approach you should take for finding the perfect one for your business.

 

Last year was the year of prototyping tools. They caused a stir for those seeking the best way of demonstrating user flows and interactions.

But this year, it’s all about collaboration tools. If you’re confused about which of these will help your design team, I’ve done the hard work for you, with 5 collaboration tools listed below that are bound to have a big impact in 2018 and beyond.

1. Notism.io

We’ve used this in our design department, and for us, one of Notism’s greatest uses has been for internal sign-off.

There are two account types: ‘Design’ and ‘Motion’. A Design account allows users to upload designs, add annotations, prototype and update the status of designs.

Functionality-wise, it’s not all that different from other tools you may have come across, save for a few useful additions. The first being the ability to set up groups on projects – ideal when you want to display work to a client, or work alongside developers. Each group can be set up with their own permissions of ‘Editor’ or ‘Reviewer’, maintaining a level of control over who changes what.

Secondly, status updates. Similar to how developers use Jira to raise tickets, progressing them until they’re completed, in Notism a designer can label a design as ‘In Progress’ or ‘For Review’, and a notification is sent to the relevant project members. When the client or stakeholder is happy, they can approve the designs before exporting the final documents to PDF – but, if ever needed, you can also revisit older versions through their built in revisioning tool.

A Motion account includes all the same features as a Design account, but it’s used for video projects. Annotations can even be applied to individual frames, or specific areas of these frames using outlines.

Notism might be criticised for being a little clunky, but in terms of features and functionality, this is a powerful internal tool. Plus, it’s the only one currently available for motion project collaboration.

2. Notion.so

Notion is the most packed out tool yet. Most designers these days use a variety of tools on a project, all with different jobs – Jira, Basecamp, Confluence. Notion eliminates the need for all of them if you’re working internally.

You can set up workspaces for various company departments, determining role permissions for the users and assigning tasks. You can upload documents, notes and over 30 various media types, keeping all files in one place without having to jump between various services.

It even allows you to set up boards, assign tasks and update task statues – no more Trello or Jira. However, Notion only has a succinct selection of features, so if you’re used to the in-depth options of Jira and Trello which come with tickets, this might not be enough for you.

If you want to enhance client collaboration, Notion isn’t ideal – but, if it’s streamlined internal workings you need, look no further.

3. FIGMA

Figma has always been highly regarded for its prototyping capabilities, but over time,

features like design editing, adaptive designing, team libraries for design components and the ability to receive feedback have been implemented.

The result is a much stronger tool for small teams, where its simplistic approach to prototyping (and price) make it an attractive collaborative tool.

Currently there are only two Figma plans: ’Starter Team’ and ‘Professional Team’. But, there are indications of a ‘Enterprise’ plan with unified security and data retention policies. The ‘Professional Team’ plan allows users to have unlimited reign over projects, version history and advanced project permissions – it will be interesting to see what new features (if any) are released with a more advanced plan.

If you already have an Adobe CC licence, Sketch licence and so on, Figma most likely isn’t right for you. But, for small teams in need of a collaborative tool for prototyping, designing and getting quick design feedback, Figma should be on your radar. It ticks a lot of boxes which some of the more advanced tools don’t have, like catering to designer/developer handovers.

4. UXPIN

The UXPIN USP is that, once you reach the ’Systems’ package level, you can build and deliver documentation and pass it onto developers, clients and other key stakeholders within the platform.

Most tools lack this, forcing you to instead jump between areas of the website. UXPIN keeps you within its interface, while the clear UI and solid depiction of design work-flow effectively guides people through the design process, without it being too over-whelming.

Plus, UXPIN allows you to assign clients to each project without them needing to have a license. Clients can sign in and start commenting on the design work, and if team members change, users are interchangeable.

Then there’s price. Far cheaper than many full end-to-end tools out there, their starter package (from $9/month) gives the ability to set up an unlimited number of projects, with basic reviewer design features, prototyping and simple collaborations.

Ultimately, UXPIN packs a punch. A variety of company sizes can use it, but it all depends on budget vs feature requirements. Some tools charge over $80 a month for projects where the number of team members is capped – with UXPIN, you really get your money’s worth.

5. Zeplin.io

The primary use for Zeplin is their powerful inspection element, where developers can build pixel-perfect apps and websites. But there’s a lot more to this tool that helps to build a few designer/developer bridges.

For example, after uploading files, designers can set style guides for each project, which can be represented as a ‘snippet’ for the developer in their chosen language. Another few key features include:

  • Exporting assets from designs if they’ve been outlined in Photoshop or Sketch, helping to speed up development whilst reassuring clients that everything will be as designed
  • More team members and clients can be added to projects via email invites
  • Users can add functionality, text or imagery notes to designs, highlighting any questions or concerns for discussion

Even though Zeplin is purely for designers and developers, we know first-hand that it can also enhance a client’s understanding of a project. They can see the designs in full, flicking between versions, and as changes are made, the versions and messaging help leave an easy-to-follow trail of development.

Conclusion

These options represent a growing trend for using collaboration tools. Teams want to make things easier, and these tools help break down the walls built by constant back-and-forth emails, allowing everyone to work in sync even when doing so remotely.

But the above are also just a glimpse of what’s out there; while following the pack and opting for the most-used within the industry might seem like a good idea, you could end up paying for a service you don’t use. Focus on your budget, narrow down your must-have features, and you’ll land on the right tool for your team.

If you need any other app design advice though, be sure to contact us.