As design has become a more important part of software product development, designers have gained more power in the enterprise. There also is high demand for their services, along with the need for them to work well with developers.
The rise of the designer is evidenced by the success of companies such as Adobe. Adobe, which provides tools primarily for designers, had a record quarter for its creative tools last quarter. And IT systems, software and services giant IBM is now thinking design first for all of its new software offerings, relying on its 50,000-square-foot Austin Design Studio in Austin, Texas, to lead its effort to redesign the face of enterprise software.
The explosion of demand for new, compelling Web and mobile apps is keeping designers and developers as busy as ever. However, there has always been a bit of a gap between the design phase and development phase of software products. Quite often, the handoff of the product design from the designers to the development team is like a middle school relay race—shaky at best.
Sympli, a Washington, D.C.-based designer and developer tool provider, has launched a new eponymously named product that simplifies the handoff of new designs between Web and mobile designers and developers.
In an interview with eWEEK, Max Ignatyev, the creator of Sympli, said the tool enables quick, easy collaboration between mobile and Web designers and developers. Indeed, with Sympli, design handoff is done in one click and design implementation is a breeze.
Sympli integrates directly into a user’s design or development tool of choice—Photoshop and Sketch for designers; Xcode and Android Studio for developers—and automatically builds visual specifications, generates assets and sends it all to the development team, Ignatyev said.
“Our goal is to integrate with the most popular tools and platforms,” he said. “For designers, we integrate with Sketch and Adobe Photoshop, which are two of the most popular graphic editors for UI design. And for developers, we integrate with Android Studio and Xcode, which are de facto standards for developing Android apps and iOS apps, respectively.”
The tool also supports the Swift programming language. “Swift is definitely the language of choice right now for iOS apps, and our Xcode plug-in is fluent in both Objective-C and Swift,” Ignatyev said.
The company is working on other integrations and will soon release support for the Web development environment, with several more in the pipeline.
Ignatyev, who began as a back-end developer and then switched to mobile front-end development about five years ago, said he has seen his share of problems in the exchange between designers and developers.
Designers and developers have their own platforms and tools and don’t always know what the other needs to do their job efficiently, he said. This can lead to one party not having all necessary components to do their job and a lot of frustration.
Nowhere was this more prominent in Ignatyev’s career than when he was a technical lead in the Washington Post’s mobile app development group.
Sympli Simplifies Design Handoff Between Designers and Developers
“I realized we were going through the same issues over and over again, like other teams,” he said. “The process of design handoff is not really standardized, and every single team is trying to do something on their own. Design departments are much different from engineering departments or development departments. The communication between these two groups sometimes can be difficult. And the design handoff process can be very vulnerable to human mistakes.”
In beta since August 2015, Sympli recently launched and already has more than 5,000 users. Sympli saves developers time during the design implementation and allows them to keep graphics and font files in sync, limiting the possibility of human error and maintaining the designer’s artistic vision.
Sympli’s team focuses heavily on product development and improvement. With Sympli, design teams can spend less time on routine operations, like preparing graphic assets for handoff, and more time creating apps and Web designs.
“We developed this tool because we were frustrated, so we are scratching our own itch,” Ignatyev told eWEEK.
Sympli helps both designers and developers by providing asset generation, asset naming, brand management and collaboration features.
The tool automatically generates and properly scales assets for Android, iOS and Web projects, in both vector and bitmap formats. It also handles asset name duplicates, exports hidden assets for designers and even helps designers stay within asset naming requirements for Android projects.
Moreover, the tool enables design teams to build brand books that can be reused across multiple projects. A brand book is a set of standards for the design under a certain brand.
Sympli also supports sharing and team collaboration, as it keeps track of design mockup versions and automatically notifies the team of important updates.
“We save you time on several different levels,” Ignatyev said. “The first level is design handoff. With Sympli, it’s a one-click process.”
Sympli automatically uploads the design to its cloud. It also keeps track of the versions. This is another area where the tool saves time because it can be very hard to keep track of updates to the design over email, instant messaging or other systems.
However, despite providing code snippets that generate the tedious boilerplate code that developers don’t want to be bothered with, Sympli, Ignatyev firmly reminded, is not the kind of tool that builds apps automatically.
“Our belief is that all the best apps are still done manually by great developers, and they always do manual coding of the UI,” he said. “We automate some simple processes for the developer.”
Moreover, the tool does not introduce any third-party dependencies into the project, and it also doesn’t change your workflow, he added.
“While not intentional, the lack of communication between the two parties can be frustrating, often extending a project’s hours and cost,” Ignatyev said in a statement. “With Sympli, we’ve streamlined the process to ensure both parties receive exactly what is needed at the right time.”
Coming soon to Sympli is a new “design changes browser” feature that will eliminate the need for change descriptions from designers.
In addition to all the good stuff for designers, developers get the aforementioned perks such as up-to-date specs and assets in bitmap and vector format and visual assets synchronization, as well as extended auto-complete for Android Studio and visual design implementation in Xcode. Smart asset synchronization enables developers to create asset renaming rules to be applied every time a mockup is updated, instead of setting up asset naming conventions with design teams, Ignatyev said.