A deep dive on design tools to help collaboration

5 cloud-based apps to use with your team (with business cases)

cA real team creating a Figma prototype in 1 day to be user tested the next.

TL;DR I’m a product designer and I’ve worked in and with many companies using many different tools. Some ruled. Some sucked. I’m sharing this to help you get your team on THE hot tools right now.

I was product-side for a number of years. If you are too, or in any controlled business, you’ll know that you often have to make a good case for using a new tool.

So to help, I’ve put together a list of potential candidates with a business case next to each. No amount of hinting or even flat-out asking is going to help unless you’ve got a well-formed business case around it.

And as a sweetener, all of these tools are in the cloud, which means you can use a PC or Mac and be in a different location entirely and they all (aside from one) have a free trial — so you can start using and start demoing the possibilities, making it an essential part of the way you work!

Work isn’t where you go, it’s what you do, so here’s a whistle-stop tour of the best tools in the cloud to help collaboration, each with a business case to help you build your case.

Figma

https://www.figma.com/

What they say: Design, prototype, and collaborate all in the browser — with Figma.

What it is: An online design tool.

Why use it?: Cloud-based high-quality design tool that anyone can use and has prototyping baked in. It enables the whole team to create, feedback and user test prototypes, user interface designs and create design systems.

Business case: This is quite an easy one. Cross-browser — ✅. Always up to date — ✅. $15 per editor per month is much better than $99 per year for Sketch which is only available for Mac and you can’t easily user test or share it amongst your team. If you’ve already signed up to Adobe Creative Cloud, make the case that Figma is cheaper and more up to date. Use InVision? You don’t need that anymore. You can also share that Figma is used by Deliveroo, Dropbox and Slack to get your Head of Design in for the case!

https://www.figma.com/

Mural

https://mural.co/

What they say: Think and collaborate visually. Anywhere, anytime. Using digital tools like MURAL, modern teams around the world are uniting in virtual workspaces to implement lean, agile and design thinking methodologies, collaborate on projects and deliver better products, services and experiences.

What it is: A virtual whiteboard.

Why use it?: It’s the whiteboard that never gets wiped off at the end of the meeting. Essentially, it’s a way to document through doing, deciding and aligning.

Business case: There’s actually a handy list they’ve made here ✅. Starts at $12 per user per month. If your teams prefer clean meeting rooms and you have no where to stick stuff up to help the problem solving process, this could be a great way of making everybody happy. Slightly harder to argue that it’s absolutely essential, so maybe have an audit and see if there are any magazine subscriptions or less valuable tools that you can cut before making the case!

https://mural.co/

Zoom

https://zoom.us/meetings

What they say: Simplified video conferencing and messaging across any device.

What it is: A video chat app.

Why use it?: We’ve used a number of tools to do video chat. Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts — and they’ve all suffered from one problem: Reliability. Honestly, when you can’t hear the other person or see them in near-true to real life, you’re going to suffer.

Business case: Reliable video chats and a way to record remote user tests. Zoom is worth it for that alone ✅. £11.99 per month per host.

Alternatives: Appear.in, Google Hangouts

https://zoom.us/meetings

PingPong

https://hellopingpong.com/

What they say: Conduct effortless user research in the UK and beyond. We’ve built PingPong to take care of all your moderated user interview needs in one place: from recruitment to payouts.

What it is: A user testing platform.

Why use it?: Finally a tool where you can do end-to-end user testing. Deals with the recruitment, the screeners, the test setup and rewarding the users afterwards. Face it, you likely don’t do enough user testing and tools like this would mean that you could scale to a test every other week at least, rather than the few that you do at the end of every project. Your users don’t view your product at every project launch. They see your product constantly, so keep getting them to tell you where to apply effort by doing regular user tests.

Business case: If you’re not doing regular user testing, then you’re not learning as fast as your competitors and leading businesses ✅. You can point to the UX designers in the business (that might be you!) and clearly say that “users” and their “experiences” aren’t being captured or understood within the whole business. With PingPong, you can invite the team to observe the tests, giving them an unfiltered look into how potential customers behave with your product or service ✅. PingPong has two pricing structures, so start with the Instant and budget for it on your next project to kick things off.

https://hellopingpong.com/

Trello

https://trello.com

What they say: Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done. Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organise and prioritise your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way.

What it is: An app to organise and prioritise work.

Why use it?: From a basic to do list, to running full-scale projects, Trello can do it all. It’s not buggy, it is a pleasure to user and it is incredibly robust.

Business case: It’s free to start with, so to be honest, start using it and worry about the business case later ✅.

https://trello.com

Like this and want more?

Ross Chapman is the Head of Etch Sprints in London, UK.

He has run an extensive range of Design Sprints with product teams and brands to solve critical business problems within four days, getting teams working faster and better together.

More on EtchSprints.com

Remote Design Sprint Facilitator and Product Strategist based in the UK

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