At REA Group we’re building a design system to help make it faster and easier for teams to create the next generation of property experiences.
We’re not alone in this space, many technology-led product companies are working on a design system that achieves greater efficiency and collaboration across product, design and engineering – the magic trifecta.
With these competencies in mind, we knew we had several pain points with our current design tool stack and in addition, an opportunity to streamline our design process.
I led a design tools working group to explore the best tools to help us achieve our goal. The options for choosing a design tool are huge; tools today are faster, packed with user interface features, and enable greater collaboration.
What came next, was magic…
I’ll get to that shortly.
We set an ambitious plan of attack to transition the design team to be up and running independently with a new tool within a six-week period. Our design tools team members certainly had their work cut out for them. We created a plan which included migration of current design tools and training to our new chosen tool, Figma. And I’ll come back to how we chose that tool later.
Our transition was executed smoothly. With the help of training sessions from the fine folks at Figma, we managed to bring product, design and engineering together and get delivery teams up to speed with the new software.
Our design team was up and running smoothly when the next obstacle struck us, something no one could have ever imagined or accounted for – a global pandemic. Our organisation, along with the rest of the world, was suddenly forced to work virtually, a concept that most people are familiar with but have not practiced in person, certainly not at this scale. In addition, the property market received a big shakeup and now, more than ever, we needed to collaborate and take solutions to market at light speed.
Thankfully, we had just implemented the perfect infrastructure for our design team to work remotely. Day-by-day product and engineering started to appear more and more in Figma. Figma started to become the open bookshelf not only for design but for everyone. We soon reached 700 employees working and collaborating in Figma.
Organically, we created a lower barrier of entry for non-designers to join the design process and in turn made design transparent and collaborative for everyone across the organisation. With this we have achieved our goal of creating an open design culture and including product and engineering in the early stage of the design process.
How did we decide which tool is best for us?
A one-tool-fits-all is an unlikely reality because designers and developers need many different features to meet our collective needs.
So, the questions we asked:
How can we build products, faster and better as a team?
How can we create an open design culture?
How can we include product and engineering into the design process?
We examined the popular design tools and found the most exciting idea to help us achieve our goal is collaboration, specifically across disciplines. After an extensive exploration of design tools, our mission became clear and so did the choice of tool.
Here’s where Figma stood out from the crowd – we decided that Figma was the best tool for our needs and embarked on the mission to switch tools and transition our 50 designers.
Let’s take a quick look back at history, the past decade has seen the digital landscape evolve at an unprecedented rate. New designers and tools have entered the market, and users’ needs are growing as they spend more time engaged with a screen.
The most obvious turning point is the shift from bitmap to vector-based tools such as Sketch and Illustrator which allow you to move at 10 times the speed to that of Photoshop. Sketch was built from the ground up for digital screen design and was an absolute game changer!
So, what is the future of design tooling? And what is the best tool for product teams like us wanting to achieve greater collaboration across all disciplines?
Browser-based tools such as Figma, a tool built with collaboration and product design in mind from the get-go. Designers in the industry have immediately gravitated towards Figma for the mind-blowing features, including multi-player, version history, prototyping, seamless file management and too many more to mention.
It’s worth noting Figma is not running this race alone – there are plenty of other great players in the game: Framer, UX Pin, Webflow and many more.