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UX design needs better UX design tools

The article Sketch is not a UX design tool by Pauli Olavi Ojala opened my eyes (Elmar Kruitwagen, Lead Design) about what we are missing in the field of digital design creation.

A quick rewind. In short his statement:

“The popular design app for Mac is a refined evolution of the “pen-and-paper simulator”, but does not attempt to model user experiences. Even the people who built an entire React renderer just to be able to use Sketch for UX design are looking to switch away from it. The future is somewhere else…

…30 years after Illustrator first shipped, and very little has changed in this corner of the design tool space”

I agree with this idea. Through the years I used several design tools and maybe the power of design tools got even worse. Take Flash for instance. You can say a lot about the era of Flash and the typical websites that were produced with it, but it was an amazing powerful tool. Anything digital could be made part of your creation: 3D, video, animations, programming, interaction. And it had ‘memory’. You could build upon libraries and your own selfmade components.

Yes Sketch (and it’s open structure with plugins) is evolving quickly, trying to give designers intuitive tools to kickstart new digital designs or evolve existing ones. At Digital Natives we recently created a responsive and cloud-based UI toolkit with Sketch and Abstractapp (more about that next time). But Sketch is mostly useful for the UI part of UX. It doesn’t come close to fully ‘natural’ digital product creation.

In the digital world we got the advantage our end products live in virtual environments and therefore have the potential to be reshaped instantly.

For instance, what if you could:

  • model, shape, iterate, dummy-test your ideas in a live environment;
  • include flow as an aspect of your creation;
  • or the structure / architecture of your designs;
  • the appearance influenced by time, usage or data;
  • keep an organised memory of inventions;

Furthermore there is the problem of transferring realised results to the development phase. With most tools a full translation and thereby rebuild of static designs into a final live webproduct is still needed. How can we make designers and developers part of the same creation process?

I don’t think digital designers should become coders by the way. I actually believe the opposite. Coding requires a different mindset and designers already got enough tasks on their plate. But that’s another topic.

The new tools suggested in the article are an interesting step into the right direction. I tested React Studio briefly and the features are very promising. But indeed the learning curve feels high. Also the lack of a lean approach and low ‘intuitiveness’ makes the tool not a winner yet (for me).

My thoughts for now: with all the current focus on digital technology and the financial support companies and startups are getting, we must be able to do a better job at inventing UX design tools which are more holistic and bridge the gap between designers and developers. It can save time, make the creation process more sustainable and provide a new focus to creativity.

Got any ideas, tips, questions or suggestions? We would be happy to hear them!

Wij ontwikkelen digitale platforms en diensten voor voorwaarts denkende bedrijven.

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