The best in UXUI design—What is Figma?

Figma is a cloud-based digital design and prototyping tool for your individual or collaborative projects. It is easy to use, does not require installation, and keeps versions up to date for your whole team.

Fidel Chaves
7 min read

Figma is a cloud and vector-based tool that allows you to work anywhere, with anyone. It enables you to prototype, collaborate, and organize your projects. With a free version, it presents a no-entry barrier for junior and senior designers alike. What is Figma? Let’s find out.

Figma for individuals

As an individual, starting a project on Figma is really easy. While researching this article, it took me less than five minutes to create my account and start working on a demo. And this comes from a copywriter, not a designer. There was no payment involved, no endless form filling or waiting for download and installation. The free version limits the number of team design files and other features, but it is a pretty generous starting point for a small entrepreneur or those taking their first steps.

 

Even at this level, Figma is a real competitive option, but, as with many games, the actual differentiator is the multiplayer version.

Figma for groups

While it can look very similar to other prototyping tools, Figma presents an edge for teamwork and collaboration. Without any difficulty, you can invite anyone to your project and start working together. That is a key feature as it facilitates many hurdles of design work as compatibility issues, fonts, and versions.

 

With Figma, every change is accepted and reflected on every team member's workstation. That allows quick access to new versions without worrying about which one was the final revision. It also means that you can connect to your workspace from anywhere in the world and on any computer. For the skeptical of only working online, Figma presents a desktop version of its software that you can download after registering.

 

This shared way of working is not only a gimmick to ease the design process. It also means that you can invite anyone in your organization to comment and edit directly on the current version. It facilitates reviewing the content as stakeholders can check that everything is to their liking, leave comments and interact with your design live.

 

The benefits of this feature include copywriting, as you can stop worrying about sending back and forth texts and versions to check for size and length; just give access to your fellow writer and let them work. Even if I someone messes up, an organized and clear version history always allows going back to older versions, correcting errors, and changing design paths.

A collaborative software: Figma Resources

As we said, Figma presents a fantastic opportunity to work as a team, but the collaboration doesn’t have to end there. A non-official community project is the Figma Resources page, where you can find a community of designers creating and sharing resources freely and openly. As a newcomer, this is a blessing, as you can learn by retrieving those assets to your workspace with one click and start modifying, allowing you to copy, transform and combine existing resources to create a personal remix. It fosters collaboration but also creativity and lets you learn from already existing designs.

 

That is possible thanks to a kind group of designers that post their content for others to see and use. This tool can make a big difference in accelerating your workflow and showing how creating comes to fruition. The collection has icon sets, wireframes, component libraries, UI kits, templates, and many more.

 

Besides the ease of use for designers, Figma accelerated files and versions transfer to the development team. As you finish up some changes, everyone on the team gets notified and can start implementing them directly into the code, not only avoiding the pain of transferring files but eliminating the problem of finding the latest version.

 

The ability to have viewers on a project is unlimited, letting your whole team navigate around and leaving comments as they deem necessary.

Fast and easy to use

With zero design knowledge and training, I booted up my free trial, took a look at a 20-minute video tutorial on YouTube, and after that, I was already working on my project. While it may not look beautiful, and I am probably making some rookie mistakes, I am already on the fray and actually making progress on my secret project. And this is coming from a writer; I have no education whatsoever in design and have barely used photoshop a few times. If you are a designer, you will probably find Figma fast and easy to use. If you are starting out, like me, it will fit for learning directly through working.

 

Hand in hand with this feature, a complete official YouTube channel and a growing user base makes Figma a resourceful app. With short and clear videos that present easy instructions, you could learn a lot by yourself. This falls in line with open-source design and the availability of projects on Figma Resources.

Mobile companion app

Figma mobile app is currently in beta and only available to a limited number of users who download it. Presented at the recent Config event, it will soon be available to the public. This app is a step in the right direction, as a mobile-first approach has become a must.

 

With Figma mobile app, you can view interactive files on your phone, making it look like an actual app. It enables testing and verification of sizes, readability, and accessibility in actual use. The app also provides other features such as searching, organizing, and sharing files. It will probably add to the Figma experience but remains in a supporting role of the actual tool. If you want news, you can follow Figma on social media or their news page.

FigJam

FigJam is the new online whiteboard presented by Figma. It is a place for teams to draft, ideate, and brainstorm ideas. It allows you to share your workflow organization and establish a fluid communication that looks more like a conversation. A wide range of features such as sticky notes, votes, stamps, draw, and chat fosters a natural and versatile whiteboard to exchange ideas among your team. Diagrams can be put in place with a minimal amount of clicks: be it for mapping user flows, systems, processes, or anything you think of.

 

Like Figma’s software, it is easy, fast, and shareable—a set of virtues that do not go unnoticed nowadays. While it is free at the release date, it will come at a price in the future, so watch out for the ending of that beta.

Alternatives

If you are a designer, you may have been working with a different tool. But you are new to the industry, welcome! Here are some similar tools to take into account before choosing Figma: Sketch & Adobe XD.

 

Sketch: At first glance, the UI looks similar to Figma. Its extensive plugin repository is an advantage

 

Adobe XD: Also similar UI. Usually recommended for prototyping and included if you pay for the entire Adobe package.

 

Figma and Adobe XD have a free version, which, as an individual, might be what makes the difference, especially if you are trying it out, learning, or just working all by yourself. Figma is the only one that allows you to work from your browser, giving you an edge if you want to avoid installing software or if you do not use macOS or Windows. As a Linux enthusiast, this can make a difference when it comes to choosing.

 

When asking designers, I got varied opinions about them. This leads me to think that, as with many software, their strengths and weaknesses average out. I have not personally tried the alternatives, but you might want to do it yourself before deciding.

 

At Awkbit, we are currently using Figma and FigJam for our projects. As we have seen earlier, it allows an easy and coherent workflow that involves designers, developers, and writers, all with the possibility to present the current state of affairs instantly to anyone at work. Using this software improved our efficiency and productivity while maintaining a collaborative and agreeable environment. If you have any doubts or want to give shape to your ideas, get in touch!

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Sources & further reading