Super Awesome Future Design Tools Initiative

As discussed in our session at the Open Source Design Summit on October 15, we’d like to investigate the possibility of joining forces for a new free software design tool initiative. There are people in various different corners of the free/open source software community who are very unsatisfied with their tools. Many actually use proprietary tools because there is no good free software tool for a task.

We’d like to hear about everyone’s workflow, what they like/dislike about their current tools, and their ideas for better tools. We’re trying to find common pain points that could be addressed by either fixing/enhancing existing tools or building new design tools from scratch.

If we find opportunities to do that, we’d like to start a project that could be either paid for by interested organizations, or perhaps crowdfunded.

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Brainstorming on high level requirements:

  • Store static information such as vision, persona, guidelines, branding, artwork

  • Quantitative surveys like Limesurvey (A/B testing, Likert scales, Kano methods, card sorting, preference rating etc.)

  • Simple polls

  • (Collaborative) work on (interactive) mockups

  • Requirements engineering linked to the mockups

  • (Threaded) discussion on all aspects

  • Versioning of all artifacts

  • Cross-linking of artifacts between different projects

  • Some kind of Interface to development, e.g. export as ui/xml or css file

  • Project planning (tasks, needed time, resources…)

I’m using Mediawiki to store static info, Limesurvey, Polldaddy, G+ for surveys, Balsamiq, Axure and Draw for mockups (thinking about Pencil), discussion is done on Wordpress with references between textual requirements and annotations in the mockups, versioning is done locally on the files (sometimes), and the rest is not possible yet. Some special solutions for visual artifacts are in discussion too.

I use Scribus a lot - this is a powerful tool and although the development is happening, it feels it could need a boost.

FontForge is another tool that could need some help in the development side. The UI could be improve a lot which would already give it a really awesome feel.

Inkscape works well for me. If I could export to a CMYK printing format it would definitely make my life a lot simpler but it’s been really good for me anyway.

Inter-connection between these tools would also need improvement, to be able to import vector from inkscape to scribus or to font forge or to synfig studio flawlessly would be a good bonus.

I definitely would prefer to see the tools that are already there to be improved instead of starting a completely new set of tool.

One tool that I really would like to see develop is a pdf/png/jpg commenting tool. Like how on dropbox users can leave comments on each part of the pdf/png/jpg you upload:

  • Public or private image
  • Password protected - but multiple person can access the file.
  • Commenting with location on the pdf
  • Versioning so that once the changes are made the file can be re-uploaded but the older version can be kept.
  • Self hosted

This thread talks about this exact problem actually:

My workflow for creating a new interaction/UI design

Starting from an explicit scenario, voiced user need or existing workflow against which the ideas are evaluated

  1. Coarse sketches on paper, to try out different versions
  2. Consolidating ideas towards 1 or 2,3 different versions
    • now possible feedback on first paper prototype
    • Needs to be consolidated, otherwise following steps would be too much work to do for all ideas
    • Possibly create flow. Creating the flows I am able to imagine the user better using the functions and clashes in paradigms and functions in existing parts of the software can be seen easier.
  3. Creation of a Wireframe
    • serves to see if all elements can be fitted well on screen
    • Still rather low-fi, also to not generate discussions on peoples favorite colors.
    • Again, simulate flow
    • Again, possibly collect feedback and/or do a prototype test
  4. Now either detailed mock OR directly to coder with some specs.

I do not focus on all things for example, tasks or artifacts like

  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Documenting specs of the functions
  • Project vision, roadmap, guidelines

Can be in a different tool. My main problem is the lack of a decent and rapid wireframing tool (like Balsamiq). Also there seems to be a need for mockups (like Sketch does) and presentation (like invision)