Using Figma for User Experience Design

UI/UX is quite a common term in the design industry. However, many designers fall under the UI path, focusing exclusively on interfaces, layouts, and the websites or apps overall visuals.

User Experience focuses more on user interactions, whether the platform is an app, a website, or another product. Excellent user experience emphasizes the deep understanding users have when browsing their values, limitations, and abilities. The best UX practices promote improving user interactions with the perception of the product. Moreover, as of recently, UX is quickly also becoming one of SEO’s most critical factors.

There are hardly any better ways to create smooth, helpful, and enjoyable experiences than the one featuring one of the best UX prototyping tools in the market – Figma.

What makes a great User Experience? 

There is no right answer to what makes a great user experience as it depends entirely on user interactions and perceptions of the product. Every UX is particular to the user groups and user needs. The expertise of Figma alone, despite its robust features, will not give you an excellent user experience. Instead, an application of UX processes – a series of actions for every UX designer to take into consideration while developing user experience – and knowledge of Figma will set you on the path to creating extraordinary user experience design. These processes include (in no particular order):

  • Creating user-profiles and personas
  • User survey
  • Interface testing
  • Mockups
  • Wireframes
  • UX flow
  • Prototyping tools
  • Sitemaps
  • Design patterns
  • Style guides

Why Figma?

Figma is a free (for individuals), cloud-based, vector-based, prototyping tool quite similar to Sketch in functionality. It stands out because of its flexible features, accessibility, designer-developer collaborations, pricing, and prototyping qualities.

Figma gives designers access, not just in cutting edge features, but in practical execution. Being browser-based, it eliminates the drawbacks of having to work with a particular OS or PC. There is no question of Figma for Linux, Figma for mac, or Figma for windows. As long as you have a browser, you can work with it. Its real-time frictionless collaboration between developers and designers has proved to be instrumental for cohesive and reliable design systems.

Can beginners use Figma?

Yes. Figma is relatively easy to learn and takes very little time to get up to speed with how it operates. Not just for newbies but also designers who migrate from other prototyping tools. Figma has almost every element you need on the same page. The icons are relatable and easy to identify. The features are interactive, and the design page - simple.

Figma’s key features include:

  • Open Type fonts
  • Plugins that support automated tasks for repeated actions
  • Smart-selection tools
  • Styles that can immediately be applied to your project
  • Create design systems and components
  • Drag and drop accessible libraries
  • An unlimited number of collaborators at a given time
  • User permissions control
  • Live link easy-export
  • Prototype tools, optimized for mobile
  • Intuitive animation that connects objects
  • Embedded comments
  • Real-time editing with teams in shared design spaces
  • Version history tracked to see what was changed, who made the edit, and when.
  • Design systems where assets are searchable
  • Custom styles can be shared (all files are in one location)
  • Components reuse
  • One platform to design, prototype, and build

The Power of Figma as an excellent User Experience Design Tool

Before Figma, wireframing, design, prototyping, and collaboration was a series of iterative back and forth process between the vector-based prototyping tool and other third-party apps. One would have to build wireframes in an app like Balsamiq, create the design in Sketch, then prototype in inVision. Figma got rid of the extra baggage by creating a platform where everything, from wireframes to prototypes, can be done on one screen.

Figma incorporates powerful features that simplify the UX creation process for designers and makes it more effective at helping designers and adjacent teams work together. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Components

Components are reusable, scalable elements in the design. They are very flexible, easy to use, and help create consistent designs across multiple projects.

By allowing designers to create UI libraries—and share them with the team—anyone with access to a project can use component instances in their designs and rest assured that they work with the latest version.

To create a component, select the object you want to create a component in, right-click, and select ‘Create Component.’

Figma - Working with components
Figma - Working with components

The beauty of Figma’s component structure is that it has a nice layer hierarchy set in place. The master components can be edited in their respective layers, inside the particular element, keeping everything organized and situated conveniently on the same page. 

2. Wireframes

Wireframes are visual guides representing webpages’ skeletal framework and provide a preview of a site or app’s feel and look. Creating wireframes is usually the first step in the UX process. Wireframes are the blueprints of the final design. Figma’s wireframing makes working with designs feel approachable and intuitive. They offer wireframe templates and wireframe kits live in the browser to begin sketching without the need for any additional software. By harnessing Figma prototyping’s power, you can also bring your wireframes to life without having to code.

Figma - Wireframes
Figma - Wireframes

Figma supports both low fidelity and high fidelity wireframing. Their templates are easy to share, and your team can leave comments right on the file. By using Figma’s wireframe, you will:

  • Cut back on revisions
  • Get instant feedback
  • Decide the content priority
  • Test usability
  • Catch problems early
  • Get stakeholders to see what the product will look like

3. Third-party developer APIs

In 2018, Figma launched the Figma Platform to improve design workflows by connecting Figma to other tools. The web API lays the foundation for unique forms of design collaborations, allowing companies to build customs tools to meet their specific requirements. Amongst companies that have utilized this platform are Uber, Haiku, and Github. For example, to raise visibility across the organization, Uber had created a live feed of what their design team is working on.

Figma’s API also promises to fulfill customer requests for third-party plugins. These integrations are web-based and do not need any scripting language for implementation.

4. Prototyping and interactions

The ease of prototyping is one of the main reasons why Figma is every designer’s delight. Prototypes are simulations designed to understand the relationship between the final product interfaces and see how effective they are and how they work.

Figma’s prototype tools allow designers to create interactive flows on designs seamlessly. Figma also lets interactions on states such as hover, mouse events, and click. The prototypes and all interactions within them can be distributed to anyone with access (just like other design files) to view and provide feedback.

Prototypes are a fantastic way to:

  • Preview interactions and user flows
  • Share and iterate on ideas
  • Get feedback from collaborators
  • Test user interactions
  • Present your designs to stakeholders

5. Collaborations

One of the Figma’s strongest suits is it’s real-time updating and collaborating feature amongst designers, developers, and even clients. It is no wonder Figma has been called the Google Docs of Design. Sharing options are available at different levels on the design – project level, team level, and file level. Each project-level also comes with a different set of rights. For example, only the designers can edit individual elements, while everyone else is free to review them.

Everyone viewing or editing a design has his/her avatar at the top of the page. It is easy to track other collaborators’ movements and actions, as their mouse cursor carries their name as a label.  You can click on someone else’s avatar to see what they view or work on in real-time.

Figma tops this great feature by integrating Slack for live communication amongst collaborators. When a Figma slack channel is active, any comment, feedback, or design edits is immediately reflected on the communication channel. Changes are reviewed and vetted immediately.

The collab feature also comes in handy during remote presentations, as everyone who has access to the file can follow the viewport of the presenter, as everything they refer to can be checked right on the spot.

The cons of Figma

Although Figma packs many positive values, it still carries some downsides. One is that you have to be always online to enjoy its numerous benefits. The desktop app offers offline work mode, where your files sync once you get back within internet range. It provides no backup in case of a system crash or unexpected incident, and you can only work on files already uploaded to the cloud. The offline mode poses some limitations on some of the valuable features.

Figma also offers little privacy as team members can see each other’s work. Someone could even be spying on you while you do some work on the shared files. If you are a designer/developer who prefers to work within their customized privacy, get ready to abandon that factor when using Figma.

Conclusion

Figma is an intuitive and innovative tool with the intent to take on the entire design process. It offers enormous benefits to both individuals and teams. Figma’s ingenuity shows in its utilization of accessibility to the web while delivering the same features expected of a native app. It offers enough flexibility to iterate and produce deliverables. It also generates its own CSS code on elements that developers can later use to build on top of that. The benefits of using Figma for user experience design outweigh the cons.

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Author

Mariya Videva | UI/UX Designer

Mariya is an experienced User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) expert, with a strong tendency toward improving Customer Experience (CX). After a successful brainstorming session, she implements the user experiences used by millions of users thereafter.
There is no problem big enough for her not to tackle a solution to sometimes sophisticated user flows.