While working at our software and design agencies, we find that there is often a struggle with the operations aspect of our work, including client feedback and progress tracking, holding us back from our creativity. In fact, it turned into a very significant bottleneck that affects every day of our job. Everyone is hindered by this. Whether you're a freelancer, a project manager at a large corporation, a junior designer/developer at a studio, or even the owner of an agency, your work is influenced by operations, processes and systems.
If you're naturally good at the whole process, from gathering requirements to handoff, you might not have noticed this phenomenon. However, from our observations, as creatives we tend to rush straight to the fun creative parts, not paying much attention to the admin and management side of things. We know the pain and this here is precisely the inspiration behind Focus. Let's dive in and see how we can make these rather less lovable aspects of design work actually enjoyable.
Meet the people behind Focus
As veterans in the creative industry, we've seen and worked with all kinds of innovations with the goal to get more productive and deliver faster. But despite amazing tools like Asana, Slack, Notion, Trello and many others, there is little choice when it comes to optimizing the core design process directly where it happens, that is, within your design apps.
Lukas: With a background in software, UX design and client work, I know how tough delivering products is. Through Focus, I strive to make it simpler and faster for you.
Cam: As someone with a quantitative approach, I see that the numbers speak for themselves. Designers' workflows can often be made more productive, which is where Focus comes in.
Szymon: An owner of 2 agencies, I experience communication bottlenecks every day. I joined the Focus team to help designers focus on the creative.
What motivates us
We strive to be the go-to UI/UX ideation, inspiration, feedback and documentation platform for designers, freelancers, agencies as well as product teams. A new design project should start with Focus!
"967 lattes", a statistic we are all proud to put on our website. Why not "13,682 revisions"?
There are really only two situations where being asked to make changes to a design gives us a good feeling:
- When the changes take less than 30 minutes. We feel satisfied, accomplished and proud of our work.
- Somewhat more controversially, when it turns out the client wants to go back to the previous version confirming we made the right call in the first place.
But what about the other 85-90% of the time, where we missed the mark at some point along the way? For example, that time we didn’t keep the client in the loop on our design decisions because we wanted to show them the finished design at the end? Or when a part of the design wasn’t communicated well, with a badly annotated screenshot attached to a poorly explained email, which ended up going missing somewhere in our inbox without being implemented? Or worse still, when we get feedback on everything but the one thing we asked about?
The number of revisions can be reduced considerably with clear communication and feedback that can be tracked and referred to easily later. Since most creatives are great communicators, it looks like the source of the problem is elsewhere: The technology we use.
Reducing revisions and delivering faster
Of course, we have email, which we have a love-hate relationship with. Other than that, most of us have started using some of the many great project management tools like Asana or Trello. In fact, even those endless email threads have been largely tackled by switching to free platforms like Slack and Discord.
With all of these apps in your arsenal, you can keep track of your project. But how do you materialize success? The key is to have a well-defined design workflow. You will need to work out each step of the way as this will clarify at which points you should be reviewing everyone's work. By knowing the exact process, you can prevent miscommunication and complacency.
Even something simple in the early stages of the project requires a process, like creating wireframes for example. The workflow for creating wireframe designs might look something like this:
- Gather inspiration for user experience practices from competitors and other websites
- Plan what content should be presented on each page
- Draft out the content placement and copy to help the customer visualize the experience
- Put a quick design together in Adobe XD
- Make sure that everything makes sense and fits together
- Send it off to the client
- Get feedback and work on further revisions
This might sound like a solution for corporations, agencies and studios, not for solo freelancers. But rest assured, it is more relevant that it seems. Instead of doing all the work in one go and sending it off to the client for that magical reveal at the end, involve them in the process.
Some clients like the "done for you service," and don’t have time to be there with you every step of the way. But, if you show them how much thought has gone into each step of the project, how and why you made your decisions and justify their impact on the client's business, you can be 100% sure they will appreciate your work that much more.
Given that our workflow is sound and we have a suite of apps in our toolbox, have we managed to solve the problem of communication we mentioned above?
We don't think so.
Your new design processes might be great, but to stay on top of it all and make sure you’re covering all the bases, you have a lot of admin work on your hands. This can be especially frustrating when you’re excited for the work you've produced but have to put it aside to message your team and ask for their opinion, then go to your project management tool, upload it there, mark the task as done, go into your cloud storage and save a separate version to keep in the archives for future access, and so on. When your team gets back to you on your annotation tool, you review the circled design elements, try to comprehend the sloppy comments, make some changes and repeat the entire design-uploading process again. This is unnecessarily wasted time you'll never get back.
On the other front, while all the apps we've mentioned above excel in their own ways, using them in synergy creates friction and promotes excessive context switching. In practice, having many apps open on your desktop with dozens of tabs open in your browser and your fingers on the Copy & Paste keys at all times to bounce between different platforms can really get draining.
But, not all is lost: We have a solution!
Being a collaboration platform for designers, developers and product teams, directly within Adobe XD (and soon on the web), Focus powers (and empowers) all of your discussions, feedback, ideas, inspiration, documentation and annotations in one place, becoming your all-in-one UX hub. What's more, everything is always in context, directly in your design documents, right where work happens.
Watch the video below to get a gist of just what we mean.
Collaborate in real time
Work together with your whole team and external stakeholders directly in your design app. This means that when someone adds or changes anything you'll know about it right away without missing a thing. If you take a break away from your computer, notifications will direct your attention to new comments, mentions and the updates you care about.
Attach artboards and layers from your design documents, or upload images, and then drop pins and mark areas to annotate them. Refer to annotations, artboards, layers and collaborators in your discussions. Wanna discuss only with your team? Use private comments. Wanna talk to your client? Use public comments.
Keep things organized
Structure your content in a predictable way with teams, projects and focuslets (which act like sandboxes), keeping all related content together and search everything, from anywhere with powerful filters and tags. From your design app, open up the Focus document overview and see everything that needs your attention at a glance.
Get targeted feedback
Share specific fragments of your designs to help clients give you highly-targeted feedback without overwhelming them. This will make sure you're getting what you need to make decisions while also valuing your clients' time.
Make design decisions faster
By discussing smaller topics separately and in context, Focus helps you keep a full trail of reasoning and lets you pin and highlight final decisions as they happen so that you can easily refer to them later. Say goodbye to hunting down messages across nested threads when you want to figure out when and why a decision was made.
Add handoff documentation
Describe complex processes, add developer notes, note down UI logic and anything in between. Simply add artboards and layers and point out any "meta" information which you typically wouldn't be able to capture within the design itself, ensuring it doesn't get lost.
Join the community
We would like to welcome the entire design community to Focus and would love for you to join us on our journey, not just to give us your feedback and suggestions on Focus, but also to improve your work and stay current with the UX and UI space.
Stop wasting time, get productive.
- The Focus Team