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What is Figma? A Brief Introduction to the Collaborative Interface Design Tool

Olya Ratinova
Olya Ratinova UX/UI Unit Lead
6 min read

Today, there are more than enough tools for prototyping. Web designers choose the toolkit they feel comfortable working with. Some lefts photoshop as their favorite, while others liked Sketch. But we systematically switched to Figma design tool, a good recruit. Figma is one of the most popular and convenient tools for UI/UX design. In this article we will explain, what is Figma, how Figma works, pros and cons of Figma, features of Figma, and many other things.

What is Figma?

Figma is an interface design tool for collaborative design of apps, websites, apps, and various design products. Figma allows specialists to design prototypes and work in a team in an online format. This tool was released in 2016 as an analogue of Sketch, and due to its advantages and features has become one of the most advanced tools among designers in a short period of time. You can use Figma to design an app or a website, this tool is great for both purposes.

Figma is most suitable for web developers and interface designers. You can download this tool to your computer, or if you prefer, you have the option of working in a browser. The main advantage of this editor is the ability to work together on a project. If you are a designer, we recommend at least a basic level of mastering Figma web design tool. All data is stored in the cloud, so you can work on layouts without downloading.

This wonderful cross-platform open-source design tool is in high demand among layout designers, web designers, project managers, UX researchers, marketers, developers of mobile applications and web developers. Figma website design tool is the only graphic editor in which several designers can work simultaneously. This feature is especially important when working on a large task.

How Figma Works?

Figma is a web resource that has wide functionality, let's see how it works. All Figma files are not stored on your computer, but in the cloud. Therefore, you don't have to worry about the safety of your project files. Figma is an advanced collaborative interface design tool and helps the web development team perform a wide range of tasks. Thanks to numerous Figma features, it is possible to create exclusive projects, which will enjoy great popularity among clients.

It is worth noting that frames in Figma are very similar to artboards in Photoshop. To put it simply, frames are a separate canvas within which designers can create application screens. Just so you don't have to coordinate frame heights and widths every time, the developers of this advanced tool have cleverly provided many standard sizes for different devices. You can use Figma properties associated with frames, such as corner radius, layout grids, stroke, fill, clip content, etc.

Another important thing about Figma is prototyping. Prototyping allows web specialists to easily prototype a website or mobile app. The main advantage of prototyping in Figma is rich functionality, the prototype will be clickable. In other words, web experts can customize and test all existing buttons, see pop-ups and evaluate the website menu. When the prototype is complete, the design team will be able to make a full-fledged presentation because Figma's built-in functionality provides an opportunity to conduct a usability test.

What is Figma used for?

  • Design development of any complexity. The developer has a full palette of color shades, can change the transparency of images, play with the gradient. Many companies are using Figma for app design.
  • Creation of interface elements: buttons, lists, icons, application forms. You can set up animation and other effects for them.
  • Work with vector graphics: logos, illustrations, and other graphic elements.
  • Creation of screen layouts for future web pages and applications. The design can be immediately "tried on" on a computer or smartphone screen.
  • Creation of UI design. Many web designers around the world use Figma for UI design development.
  • Creation of interactive prototypes for websites and mobile applications. When all the screens are drawn, you can build connections between them and check how each link or button works.
  • Work with presentations. The editor has convenient templates and the necessary tools for working with this format. You can upload presentations in PDF or convert to other formats with plug-ins.
  • Creation of UX design. Using Figma for UX design is a good decision because this tool allows you to make a convenient, accessible and visually pleasing website design.
  • Interface usability testing.
  • Creation of advertising banners, illustrations, content for social networks.

Features of Figma

1. Teamwork

Figma implemented the collaborative project development with its innovative way. Web designers can give their colleagues access to the layout and perform brainstorming sessions. Changes in layout are displayed in real time. Each web engineer who makes changes in a project is marked with a separate cursor and a signature. There are many companies that use Figma to design a website because of the good teamwork features of the tool.

2. Commenting

Commenting is another great feature of this collaborative interface design tool. Designers can open access to the project to team members or clients so that they can comment it. It is easy to create a copy of the original page and send it to the client for review. The client will prepare edits, and the designer will quickly incorporate them into the clean page. Comments are presented as labels. When you click, a pop-up window appears with the text.

3. Interactivity

Figma tries to cover all segments of web design work, that's why many web development companies prefer to use Figma to make a website. One of the main features of Figma is interactive interaction. Capabilities for modeling dynamic user interfaces have been available since the first versions of Figma. The possibilities of Photoshop, for example, are limited, and end at the display of static layouts. In Figma, the designer brings the interface to life with built-in tools. Thanks to the built-in animation library, web specialist can use custom effects.

4. History and Autosave

Thanks to autosave, the data are saved in a service database after each change of the layout. No need to press CTRL+S and worry if the changes will be saved after an emergency reset. Unfortunately, on the free Figma plan, the version history is saved only for 30 days. Version control helps web designers get back to the previous save point. Web experts can roll back changes to a selected date or copy elements to another frame.

5. Great Performance

Figma is known for good performance, it combines page layouts in a single window. For high performance, all frames are signed and loaded simultaneously. On weak systems, designers can work in any browser or switch to a desktop application if there are problems with network connectivity. Moreover, some features are available in offline mode. However, on weak laptops with large prototypes, users may have issues.

6. Simple Interface

It takes a few days to master the basic features, so many startups prefer Figma for web development. Then web specialists just need to subscribe to the platform's official social media accounts and keep track of new features. There is no need for a design course to successfully learn Figma. Any user with a sense of balance and beauty, who knows how to combine colors and distinguish bad UI from good, will quickly understand the features of this collaborative interface design tool and make a great layout.

What is Figma? A Brief Introduction to the Collaborative Interface Design Tool

7. Template Creation

Template Creation is an important feature for layout specialists and web designers alike. Essential elements can be put on a separate canvas and further used as templates for prototyping. Such elements in Figma are called components. Components includes headers, site footers, buttons, feedback forms, icon sets, etc. All components can be used as from the constructor to form ready-made web pages.

8. Text Styling

Text Styling in Figma works similarly to components, only in this situation the components are text. The web experts prepare styles for the text, including annotations, headings, subheadings, quotes, and so on. Any changes made by designers in predefined styles are applied to all related text components at once. Of course, some similar features are available in other prototyping and design software tools, but in Figma, it is implemented much better.

Advantages of Figma

  • Web version and applications for different operating systems;
  • One of the main advantages of Figma is unlimited file storage;
  • Free plan;
  • Easy to work with components;
  • Convenient built-in mode for developers;
  • Integrations for prototype testing;
  • New opportunities for teamwork;
  • Interactive layouts;
  • Plugins for working with graphics and animation, such as, Vectary 3D Elements for 3D view and perspective in Figma;
  • Curve editor;
  • Component library;
  • Import from Sketch;
  • Unified font system;
  • SVG export;
  • Capability to export individual elements;
  • Work with styles;
  • Convenient alignment of elements;
  • It is convenient to demonstrate to the customer how the site will look and work;
  • Among other benefits of Figma, we would like to highlight multi-user editing.

Disadvantages of Figma

  • Large layouts take a long time to load;
  • No import from PSD;
  • Lack of correct dark theme;
  • The free version has a low level of project security;
  • Limited possibilities for working with text;
  • The set of keyboard shortcuts is minimal;
  • Bad export algorithm;
  • Availability of the Internet is required;
  • Non-customizable hotkeys;
  • One of the main Figma disadvantages is limited storage time and number of layouts in the basic version.

Why Figma is Better than Sketch?

1. Availability

Sketch is the cutting-edge platform for digital design that is only available exclusively for Mac. Actually, this is the biggest drawback of Sketch, discouraging designers who use PCs with other operating systems. The lack of Sketch for other platforms created many problems and a gap in the design industry, which Figma, Inc. has rightly filled with its browser-based and platform-independent collaborative interface design tool.

2. Teamwork Support

Figma was created to support a feature such as teamwork, so that team members can seamlessly interact with each other in real time. This means that using Figma, multiple designers can work on the same file simultaneously. Sketch, on the other hand, has no teamwork support, so designers have to work separately from each other. This is why most web designers prefer using Figma for website design.

What is Figma? A Brief Introduction to the Collaborative Interface Design Tool - 1

3. File Synchronization

Figma compares favorably with Sketch in that you don't have to synchronize physical files between devices when working in this collaborative interface design tool. In Figma, layouts in the cloud are available to all team members, and given the auto-save feature, specialists don't have to worry about synchronization at all.

What is Figma? A Brief Introduction to the Collaborative Interface Design Tool - 2

Why is Figma so Popular?

Figma became popular because of its great cross-platform, cloud and teamwork features. The developers began creating the project in 2016. In 3 years, it not only managed to catch up Sketch in terms of features, but also took away a significant share of the audience.

Figma's rapid popularity among designers and web experts can easily be explained by the active development of the tool and its promotion in various social networks, search engines, contextual advertising and so on. Popular YouTube bloggers advertise the tool, there are thousands of reviews on various review websites, and the repository has many useful plugins to extend the functionality of the tool and possibilities of web experts.

Many users still cannot believe that the existence of a cloud editor with the convenience of working through a browser is possible. Figma has proved the reality of such an idea. Designers and web experts from all over the world create millions of UI and UX, share their tricks with the design community, and actively create spectacular new plugins. The growth of Figma now is unstoppable, and competitors understand this very well.

Figma attracts users with its convenience and simplicity. A web specialist can easily create a layout, create a public link and send it to the client. Moreover, Figma good for teamwork and conducting brainstorms. The history shows who modified the project, and the version can always be returned to its previous state.

Figma Alternatives

  • Sketch

The most famous and multifunctional Figma analog developed by the Dutch company Bohemian Coding on September 7, 2010. Sketch natively integrates into macOS and uses its own tools to display content. This vector graphics editor for macOS runs smoothly, doesn't need a lot of hardware power, and takes up minimal memory space. Sketch has a simple and clean User Interface. This platform for digital design is mainly used by designers who create websites, icons, and user interfaces for desktop and mobile devices. But given the pros and cons of Figma, Sketch is still behind in its capabilities.

  • InVision

A cloud-based service, productivity platform and online whiteboard for design, prototyping, and team-based design of application and website interfaces. This visual collaboration platform not tied to a single platform and works perfectly in all desktop operating systems. With intuitive tools for development, design, creation, and projects, this cloud-based digital product design platform gives to designers everything they need to design digital products in one place. The editor contains libraries of standard design elements, templates, and widgets, in addition to the basic block management tools.

  • Blocs

Visual editor that web experts use for the layout of simple responsive websites. Intuitive visual style controls of this visual web design tool provide a more user-friendly design without sacrificing code quality. An important advantage of this intuitive visual web design software is that the exported code is SEO-friendly and absolutely ready for production, which reduces the development time and saves layout costs.

  • Adobe XD

A unified and powerful UI/UX design solution that allows web designers to develop user interfaces, view updates in real time, create interactive prototypes, refine designs in stages, and send work to editors. This vector design tool was created for designers, creative teams and organizations that need to create large-scale projects. Adobe XD is suitable for companies of any size and scale that need a solution for prototyping and mockups.

Content of the article

Conclusions

We hope this beginners guide to Figma has been useful to you. Figma is constantly evolving and pleasing designers with new updates and useful innovations. This free online UI tool has almost no serious disadvantages, unlike its competitors. New integrations with third-party software are constantly appearing in Figma. Figma is one of the most useful and accessible browser-based UI and UX design tools for web experts and designers, so it is important for them to learn it at least at an intermediate level. The interface and capabilities of the program are straightforward to master. Figma is constantly developing, actively gaining popularity and improving. It is already a main choice for all web experts who are involved in website design, UI/UX design, and application design.

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