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The Future of Design Tools Isn’t Prototyping: UXPin Systems

by
Marcin Treder
Marcin Treder

It’s hard to believe we started UXPin 7 years ago.

Our first product was a paper prototyping notepad aimed at bringing designers and developers together, instigate collaboration and make the software development process faster.  A little bit over a year later we followed with our digital collaborative prototyping tool, with the very same goal. Since then  we never stopped  learning from our customers and building the tool that makes working together easier, release after release.

The prototyping tools market in 2011 was much different than it is today. A few companies had to do their best to sell the importance of prototyping and often the importance of design.  There weren’t too many options, which wasn’t helping us proving that prototyping matters at scale. Our first two rounds of funding were a pain to raise.  I constantly heard ‘Yeah, but who cares about design anyway. It’s a small market’.

And then everything changed. Design ate the world.

The Market Today

Since early 2017, five of the ten biggest publicly traded companies by market cap are either software companies (the main product is entirely digital), or software makes up a significant part of their revenue stream.

It didn’t happen overnight of course.

This crawling digital revolution is at least 20 years in the making and continues to inspire more and more companies to take a stab at digital. Money has the strongest magnetic field of them all.

At the very same time, the cost of producing technology continues to drop and availability of  capital increases, allowing more companies to compete. Today, it’s  is safe to say that every significant sector of software is full of options for customers. This is the era of hypercompetitiveness. The perfect time for design.

When the market becomes hypercompetitive, experience design becomes the main differentiator.

Soon, businesses all over the world started to notice that to thrive – they have to invest in design. In the last 5 years, the designer to developer ratio improved by 2.5x and the number of designers in China grew to 17 million. Design, in the past an after-thought, became the priority and the demand for design became stronger than ever.  

With the boom on the design market, no wonder the boom on the design tools market followed. Instead of a few options, we’ve started to hear about new tools being launched every other week. And this is great!

Stronger competitors energized innovation and segmented the market. Instead of providing one solution to fit all, companies started to focus on sub-segments and niches.

UXPin thrives in the mid and enterprise market and we’re widely considered the top option for teams in need of an advanced tool (take a look at these two examples of case studies: PayPal, Sapient).

We’re very proud of our prototyping solution and we’re going to continue to build it up for our customers. And I’m sure others are going to try to challenge our position and we’re going to welcome them to the market and compete.

Here’s the thing though, despite the whole influx of prototyping tools – software development did not become that much easier, faster, more reliable or more scalable.

With every new prototyping feature, every new prototyping tool, we’re becoming a couple of percent better at creating software, but we’re not making big leaps on the path to greatness. As an industry, we’re just about to hit the wall at full speed, because we’re overinvesting in small tools solving small problems, instead of addressing the biggest challenges and pushing the industry forward.

Prototyping tools are not enough anymore. We have to think bigger.

The Biggest Problems in the Design Industry

We’ve spent the past year researching the biggest problems in software development and the biggest problems in design. We interviewed hundreds of designers and design leaders, surveyed over three thousand enterprise designers, tested dozens of prototypes. And guess what? Prototyping isn’t the magic bullet.

The biggest problem in the industry: design is hard to scale.

Hypercompetitiveness on the software market and the growth of the importance of design, brought a lot of business pressure to the lives of designers. We’re constantly being asked to take over more projects, work faster and deliver better experiences. And it’s damn hard. And sometimes we simply fail. So at the biggest companies, design headcount keeps increasing. And the new designers have a hard time.

Scaling design through hiring only is a myth and path to failure.

You would think that by increasing the size of the team you’re naturally increasing speed. Trust me, it’s a myth confirmed by hundreds of companies. When you bring more and more designers without establishing certain standards, you’re triggering design entropy.

Every product, unless properly managed, is becoming more chaotic over time. It’s design entropy.

Your product is becoming more inconsistent and chaotic over time, because every designer adds their own piece to the ecosystem. These inconsistencies confuse users and developers. Product development becomes more expensive and less effective. Maintenance cost rise, which slows down design and development.

Eventually, everyone needs a design system.

And Here We Are: Enter the Design System

Style guides and pattern libraries have been around for ages.

The promise was great, but they never fully realized the value of modular, consistent, predictable and scalable design. Both are stuck in the static world, far away from the tools that designers and developers use. Documentation still needs to be manually created as a PDF, Confluence page or simply a website.  Never fully actionable. Always out of date.

Style guides and pattern libraries might have pointed at the right problems, but they weren’t the right solution.

And then some insanely smart people (Nathan Curtis, Jina Bolton, Brad Frost, Dan Mall…) and very smart companies (Salesforce, Airbnb, IBM…) started to build complete design systems, merging design and development and treating them as a process, not the final outcome.

Instead of investing months of work into building a static collection of standards, a design system becomes part of the process of building software. Instead of aiming at solving everything, a design system gradually improves the consistency of the interface and efficiency of software development.

A design system is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary process.

Design systems establish the ever growing and ever changing source of truth for the entire design and development teams. And this is the key to scale. Every new team member, instead of starting from scratch, can hit the road at full speed with an approved set of building blocks (colors, typography…), patterns, and rules to build consistent experiences fast. Everything connects back to code, so developers can reuse rather than recreate.

Design and development with Design Systems is the future. And we’re committed to bringing this future to you – today.

Introducing UXPin Systems

I’m extremely proud to announce UXPin Systems. The new UXPin product aimed at solving the problem of scaling design and development. The first complete and actionable design systems platform.

In the first release we’re delivering four experiences:

 

  • Build & Document Design System
    Building a design system has never been easier. You can either start from scratch or use existing libraries in UXPin or Sketch to build the core.. Add documentation wherever needed and you’re good to go with the first release.
  • Share & Sync Design System
    By generating design system documentation with UXPin, you’re automatically creating a sharable link that stays in sync with your libraries. You can share it with the team and it’s always up to date.
  • Use Design System in UXPin or Sketch
    Everything in your design system is actionable. Every single color, style of text, icon or UI pattern saved in the system can be used across projects in UXPin and Sketch. You can update your Design System and sync it across accounts of all your fellow designers, giving you one source of truth.
  • Document Automatically
    Every project created with elements from a design system is automatically documented with data from your design system. That means documentation is generated automatically.

The Ultimate Task: Bridging Design and Development

The first release of UXPin Systems  is the result of a year of research and months of work.

Over 4,500 people participated in the early access program providing an invaluable feedback (thank you!). We couldn’t be happier or prouder.

This is just the beginning. We’re committed to helping companies all over the world build better experiences faster. Prototyping is part of this story, but on its own is not enough.

It’s a new world of design and design tools. It’s the world of systems.

Seven years ago, we started UXPin with an attempt to bridge design and development with paper prototyping. Today, we’re sure that the ultimate bridge between these two worlds is a common system of design and code.

Design and code are like spoken and written words. They represent the same concept. And UXPin helps help form the entire language to scale that communication.

Sound interesting? Sign up for a free trial of UXPin Systems now.

Marcin Treder

by Marcin Treder

Marcin Treder is the CEO and co-founder of UXPin, a product design platform. Since co-founding UXPin in 2010, he has helped build and lead product teams in the Poland and Silicon Valley office. Previously, he worked on projects for two companies that IPOed and managed design team for one of the biggest eCommerce companies in Eastern Europe. He holds an M.A. in Cognitive Psychology. Marcin has been selected to numerous awards including MIT 30 under 35 for his accomplishments in design and business.

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