Expediting the design process with the right tool

I’m a firm believer that the best feedback and communication tools mimic what we do in real life but account for when we can’t be together in the same room. There are different types of feedback scenarios and use cases that merit using a particular tool. One use case that I’ve bumped into quite a bit lately is, needing a way to capture feedback from random people that I email or tweet to.

I’m an idea tinkerer. I may be in the middle of something, have an idea, stop what I’m doing, do a quick brainstorm and throw together a mockup. I like to engage in really quick feedback loops that enable for a fast design process and lots of input from real users or customers (i.e. “customer development”). In order to do this I need to show something and allow for feedback. Although great for regular team and client engagement, many of the presentation and feedback tools I’ve used in the past are not great for this use case because people have to create accounts to do something temporary and fleeting, which creates a lot of friction. In this case I’m looking for a way to have quick conversations with people that aren’t physically in the room.

There are lots of great places to share images and mockups like Cloud, Dribbble, Twitter and Email but not as many that allow for the capturing of feedback with no account signup. After some searching I discovered RedPen. RedPen allows me to upload a mockup and by doing so a unique URL is created. I can share this URL with anyone and they can simply click on anywhere on the screen and leave a comment and I can engage in conversation if I want to – no signup or login needed. I’ve taken to using RedPen for client related work but it’s been especially useful for collecting feedback from random people.

When I first discovered RedPen, I figured I would give it a shot not knowing if it would stick. I’m always looking for new ways to improve the design process. If you are the same, I recommend trying new things as much as you can to test what works and what doesn’t.

The idea I was testing and getting feedback on was calling “Mobile Mock Flow”. The initial benefits of using RedPen for this were amazing. Having a customer/user-centric feedback process in addition to a platform where this process could take place, created a situation where the product literally designed itself – and I’m not even kidding! I did roughly four rounds of mockups, using RedPen to capture feedback from approximately 20 people, many of whom I didn’t know personally. It was amazing. This all happened in only a few days.

RedPen is a simple but powerful tool and while it worked great for my particular use case, it may not be professionalized enough for larger teams. That’s okay because there’s plenty of other tools that are. Here’s a list of design presentation and feedback tools that I’ve used myself or heard of others using:

  • InvisionApp: Web & mobile mockup and UI prototyping tool
  • Solidy: Quick way to build prototypes for user testing
  • Flinto: iPhone and iPad prototyping and presentation tool
  • Cage: Simple online design collaboration and proofing
  • Mockvault: MockVault helps you present and get sign off on designs
  • Notable: Notable lets teams give feedback faster at every step of the design process

As you can see there are many tools for the job and it’s quite possible that one designer or team can use a variety of these tools depending on the project and specific needs. Having gone through this process, it’s simply understanding what’s available to you and picking the right solution for the situation.

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