What Design Tools Are You Using?

Need to design something? There are a plethora of design tools out there. The process of choosing one can be a game of trial and error. No single product is the right one, unfortunately, and using multiple tools may be the best route in achieving your design goals. Today, I’d like to share some of the tools we use for our design process.

Gliffy is our go-to tool for developing our client’s wireframes. This web-based application is similar to Visio and allows me to prototype a client’s homepage layout rapidly. It also has collaboration features that don’t require your team to have multiple, expensive licenses. All they need is Internet access. Gliffy also uses version control to ensure your changes to a document are never lost.

If a client requests a more custom layout to their site, I use Adobe Photoshop to develop a detailed mockup (If you can't afford Photoshop, GIMP is a comparable tool, and it's free). For typography design, I use Typekit, a subscription-based font service that allows you to browse and access thousands of curated fonts in a single library. All of our themes use Typekit fonts.

File management comes in handy as the creation of these wireframes, mockups, and other design elements start to pile up. That’s where Dropbox comes into play. Dropbox also allows for collaboration because I'm able to share these files with anyone in or outside my team. (You may have also seen services such as box.com or Microsoft's OneDrive, which are similar to Dropbox.)

When it specifically comes to version control, our team uses GIT to manage our code base. When I want to make design related changes to LESS and CSS files on the platform, I create branches specific to that design change so I won't interfere with other framework-related code changes that are constantly being implemented by our developers and platform managers. Version control keeps everything nice and tidy!

Of course, these aren't the only tools for each of these tasks, and they might not work for you. I encourage you to take advantage of free trials and the ease of monthly subscriptions (read; no long-term contract) to try different tools and see if they fit your particular scenario. You may not need something as robust (or expensive) as Photoshop, or it could be an all-in-one solution for wireframes and mockups. Whatever the case, make sure it’s the right fit for your work!

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