Design

What Are the Best Tools for Innovation?

Creating a new product requires a lot of different design tools, across all of the product’s phases. Some tools carry over from phase to phase, but some are only useful for your needs at the time. As an innovation agency, we’ve tested quite a few tools over the years. Here are some suggestions, based on our experience. Most of these are platforms or services we currently use.

Innovation Tools for the Early Stages

For the research phase, there are a number of innovation tools available that anyone can use. The Google suite contains docs, sheets, slides, and surveys that can accumulate user research in this early phase. Typeform is another excellent resource for getting valuable user feedback.

There are lot of “real world” tools you’re probably already familiar with that are used for brainstorming. White boards and Post-Its are invaluable here at Rocksauce, though any writing surfaces will do. When we need a digital brainstorming tool, we’re big fans of Miro. It’s live, collaborative, and allows remote team members the same kind of participation as our “analog” office whiteboards.

Spigit and Hype are great for tracking the lifecycle of the project. You’ll have a visual representation of how far along your project is and can identify productivity trouble spots as they arise.

Finding test users is one of the most challenging parts of building a product. We’ve used social media in the past, with a gift card offer for participation, but it doesn’t always produce results. Userinterviews.com has been one service we’ve used when we’ve needed specific testers and fast.

Innovation Tools for UX and UI

If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to build. We use Sketch for our UX prototyping. Sketch allows Mac users to create prototypes that link artboards together for a seamless clickable experience. Adobe XD and Figma are cross-platform competitors to Sketch, with many of the same capabilities. In particular, Figma has built-in animation tools and export options that smooth the hand-off to development.

Adobe’s creative suite programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom are the industry gold standard innovation tools for digital UI artists. Our UI team uses Sketch and Illustrator for creating symbol libraries for projects, so that if a symbol changes on one screen, it changes across all screens.

Abstract works with Sketch to allow branching collaboration. These branches automatically create a system of versioning, so that you can go back and look at the design history. Zeplin is a similar tool, that can deliver your art to developers with greater control and efficiency.

Google sheets is a great entry-level platform for gathering user stories for the project. If you’re looking for something more robust (or more specific to design), try Craft.io. It can handle persona-based user stories, acceptance criteria, sprint planning, and backlogs.

Sketch and Adobe XD have built-in tools that will create a link to your prototype. In the past, we’ve put Invision and Marvel App to good use for creating our tappable prototype links. These links to a working example of the final product are crucial to our workflow and communication.

Innovation Tools for Management & Testing

You’ll need someplace to keep everything. We’ve tried Basecamp, Confluence, and Notion for creating project repositories. They create a knowledge base that anyone on the project can reference at any time. For deeper tracking, Trello and Jira offer kanban style progression. Trello is lighter and easy to use, while Jira is designed to coordinate development sprints.

Time to go back to the subject of users. We mentioned how to find and survey users above, but it’s a perfect time to get in front of users again when you have a working demo. UseabilityHub.com is a service that lets your target demographic give feedback on your project.

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Q Manning, GM of Rocksauce Studios, answers your questions about innovation tools.

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