Technology stack used for Product Design
When I decided to transition myself to a digital Product Design space, things turned out to be frustrating. Not only terms associated with the role (like UI, UX, Wireframes, Interactive etc.) were hard to figure out, but the tools themselves. I knew that it was all about graphic design, as I was doing things previously, but I didn’t know for sure what tools are the best for it and how different I have to use them from print design.
So I decided to share my tech stack, in order to help some of you to focus on what best worked for me so far, so you won’t need to spend much time researching, but jump straight to design itself, because that’s what it’s all about.
Remember, any of this software could be learned in the matter of days, if not hours, so it shouldn’t be your main goal. Because knowing certain software if a supplement, not a substitute to your work.
This is not an ultimate list, but armed with this stack will let you execute 99% of all tasks in UI/UX Design space.
TOOLS BY WORK TYPE
Typical daily UI/UX Design activity comes down to design and non-design work, so the tools I’ve listed below are grouped into 2 different categories.
Design activities themselves are pretty much straightforward and are associated with making the interface itself.
Non-Design activities, on the other hand, are everything else you have to do to be able to 1) create designs that suit the exact user needs 2) as well as to help development team to implement your designs into actual working product.
As I’ve already mentioned, the vast majority of your Product Design work comes down to manipulating with graphic design software. Below is my list of top tools that cover each and every task I need to perform when making an interface.
Lately it became my primary and most favorite app for interface design. It’s light, easy to use and extremely powerful. It’s graphics are vector, so the quality of your designs is going to be very hight, and the design process itself is fast and easy. Sketch initially was designed to create iOS and Mac based interfaces, but now is covering pretty much any platform you may design for.
Note. Works only on Mac computers.
Literally any Adobe product is awesome and can do anything that is required from a Designer. Photoshop is powerful, professional, customizable and the top tool on the market since the Digital Graphic Design appeared as a discipline. Sometimes knowing only this tool helps you to accomplish almost anything you need to. So I consider this app as a must have and know for any Designer. Especially due to the fact that UI/UX Designer job in most cases comes down not only to Interface Design activities, but also to Branding, Promo Design, Photo Retouching and more, and Photoshop has a power to help you with all of that.
The best tool for vector graphics I’ve ever worked with. If you know Photoshop and Illustrator, you literally can do anything that is required from a Graphic Designer prospective. And that’s 100% proved by me in the past. Currently I use Illustrator to create any custom icons, illustrations and other graphics, as well as rapid wireframing during live design sessions with my team.
One of the best Prototyping tools I’ve ever used. InVision is an online platform, that imports your interfaces as screenshots, and then allows you to create hotspots with links to other screens/states so your interfaces are “brought to life” by simulating interactions, just as it would be working in production. The app is extremely integrated, and whenever you hit “Save” in your working file, whether it is Sketch or Photoshop – screens are automatically added/updated to InVision prototype, so you always have the latest version of it. Plus, this is a collaborative platform and is perfect for team work. One additional hack of mine, that worked just great for me and my team, is the ability to use comments (tour points) on screens as specs of how particular parts of interface should work. By doing so I literally don’t have to create any documentation of my interface.
Nova days in many situations designer needs to be able to show designs to stakeholders to get their decision of what design is going to be developed, and to pass that design to developers so they could be able to develop exactly what you’ve designed. After Effects is great for simulating those fancy interface animations and interactions, so everyone on the team could be on the same page about what exact experience your users will get.
Axure is an interactive wireframing tool, that allows you to create low-to-high fidelity wireframes with interactions on them. Though wireframing is a basic activity of UX design, honestly I haven’t been using it for a while, because fast and easy Sketch+InVision workflow replaced all those activities for me. However, sometimes you really need to wireframe your ideas before you go to actual design, and tools like Axure are great for that.
As a Designer, however, you need more than just to create the graphic look and functional operations of your interface. Among most frequent non-design activities are the ability to communicate to everyone on the team your design decisions, to help others to implement the design exactly how you see it, as well as to make those design decisions based not only on your’s or you stakeholder’s assumptions, but based on actual user’s needs. Below are the tools I use to make sure that I’m designing the right thing and help development team to be on the same page with me.
The development process and techniques are different from those that we use as Designers. Developers don’t use graphic design software to implement our designs into actual apps. They write code to make everything look and work the way we designed it. Zeplin helps designers to hand-off their designs to Developers, so that those can examine it properly and implement it with maximum accuracy. The app imports your designs from Sketch with a plugin, and analyzes them in the way, so that Developer can figure out what colors, sizes, fonts, constrains etc. are used in the design and easily translate them into code. Back in the days this was done by pages of detailed documentation and guidelines that we, Designers, created to explain how everything should work, but with tools like Zeplin this step became much easier, faster and fun.
Flawless’ purpose is to make pixel-perfect possible interface specifically on iOS platform. Tool helps mobile developers to compare final implementation with initial design right inside iOS simulator (iPhone simulator inside Xcode). It’s useful if you want to spot visual difference on the fly, and quickly make changes to Xcode.
For communication teams may use different messaging apps (like Skype, HipChat, Viber, Hangouts etc.), emails and even tools like InVision. But Slack brings best of all worlds together. You can keep all your conversations in separate channels, considering them as different meeting rooms, so you can focus on what’s important, but still stay in the same place without loosing the track of what’s happening on a bigger picture. Also it’s extremely integrated. You can stream activity from numerous tools directly to certain channels, and be always alert of what’s happening not only in Slack, but InVision, MailChimp, Dev Environments, Typeform entries and many more.
Simple, beautiful and customizable way to collect survey entries, feedback, research and more. You, as a User Interface Designer, design specifically for Users, but not for yourself, or for your clients, or employer, or stakeholders. Sure, satisfying last three is vital for success of your work, but they’ll be satisfied only if your users are satisfied, while using products you’ve designed. Among numerous tools on the market, Typeform is my favorite for it’s power and simplicity combined.
There are tons of project management tools on the market. But Trello turned out to be my favorite for it’s ease of setting up, clean visual workflow (thanks to their card system) and integration abilities. I’ve been using it as a road mapping tool, chaotic notes/ideas bucket and planning list.
Despite the huge number of tools available to manage your tasks, non of them, except Resolvd, understands professional language of both Designers and Developers. This task manager app helps you to automate many of your routine professional task management activities by analyzing the body of the task and automatically helping you to categorize, sort, priorities, schedule, assign that task and more. It also has an advanced collaboration and task based communication abilities, and lately my team and I completely moved almost all of our product related communication activity to Resolvd.
I’ve created this list to share my experience and hopefully be helpful to my peers on their way to a better design. However, I’m not claiming to know everything or state that my list is an ultimate cure from any professional pain we may experience.
So please, share your thoughts, preferences or objections. I’d be happy to learn from you back.
Just remember, it’s not about tools you’re using, it’s about how you use them and do you really having fun using them! 😉
Leave comments if you have any questions or tips. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience.
As always, thanks for reading. I highly appreciate your interest and support. Check out my blog for more articles, and share it, if you like it.