design tooling

Framer X

Framer X is a brand new app that’s about to be released and this quick demo reel takes us on a tour through some of the changes to the previous app—it all looks super exciting.

As a designer, I’m most interested in the prototyping tools and being able to quickly explore complex scene transitions between one state and another. But as a developer, I’m interested in how it all ties into React. The website describes it like so:

Use actual React in your projects to create interactive components from scratch. Want more control? Create custom UI in the properties panel for your components.

I can imagine a wonderful near-future where it’s possible to tie Framer X into a design system so that folks on a team can use all the real life React components without having to worry if they’re up-to-date or not.

A DevTools for Designers

There has long been an unfortunate disconnect between visual design for the web and web design and development. We're over here designing pictures of websites, not websites - so the sentiment goes.

A.J. Kandy puts a point on all this. We're seeing a proliferation of design tools these days, all with their own leaps forward. Yet...

But, critically, the majority of them aren’t web-centric. None really integrate with a modern web development workflow, not without converters or plugins anyway; and their output is not websites, but clickable simulations of websites.

Still, these prototypes are, inevitably, one-way artifacts that have to be first analyzed by developers, then recreated in code.

That's just a part of what A.J. has to say, so I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.

Do y'all get Clearletter, the Clearleft newsletter? It's a good one. They made some connections here to nearly a decade of similar thinking:

I suspect the reason that nobody has knocked a solution out of the park is that it's a really hard problem to solve. There might not be a solution that is universally loved across lines. Like A.J., I hope it happens in the browser.

Tools for Thinking and Tools for Systems

I’ve been obsessed with design tools the past two years, with apps like as Sketch, Figma and Photoshop perhaps being the most prolific of the bunch. We use these tools to make high fidelity mockups and ensure high quality user experiences. These tools (and others) are awesome and are generally upping our game as designers and developers, but I believe that the way they’ve changed the way we produce work and define UX will soon produce yet another new wave of tools.

In the future, I predict two separate categories of design applications: tools for thinking and tools for systems.

Let me explain.