Ah, Figma. A designer’s magic wand. There are so many truly revolutionary platforms that have transformed the way development and design processes are done. The list is countless, and the market is only starting to be populated with more and more tools and resources.
The Rise of Figma
In just a couple of years, Figma has captured the hearts of designers, and it has optimized the workflow and accelerated the design process. Figma is a great online tool, to begin with. And you no longer need to download and share files and collect comments from different documents. You will never lose anything because everything is saved in the cloud. Figma removed all unnecessary functionality and adapted it into plugins (to be discussed later), so now the designers can decide what they want and what they do not need and even write these plugins. Figma adapted open-source development into the design – Figma community is full of templates, illustrations, and other everyday design materials. Figma is still growing, and every month they push more and more updates. My colleagues use the internal huddle and FigJam space every day. When we created our first design team and started to get UX/UI design projects, Adobe XD was the best program on the market for the traditional design process. But was it truly efficient and innovative? Not so much. Figma became a Google Doc for 21st-century designers.
Why it is so Popular
Figma wins because of its ability to spread across the companies. For example, our internal processes are all in Figma. When clients use our services, we don’t shift the platform. On the contrary, we give them access to this ‘Google Doc’ and they can easily look through and comment in real-time without even needing to sign up on the platform. I can say with 100% confidence that almost every client we’ve had so far has started to use Figma after seeing its benefits. Another reason for success what that Figma realized that there was an untapped need to improve communication between designers and clients. The traditional process was simple. The design team would receive the task, then they would draw the sketches in Adobe, manually exchange the files for internal feedback, and finally pass it off to the client. Figma completely erased the process. Right now, everyone who is on the design file can see the updates and make comments live. Not only did it supercharge the entire experience, but also improved the process and removed tens and tens of feedback loops. Truly an extraordinary solution. As they claim themselves, they have created a cross-side network effect by bringing everyone to the same page.
Cloud is Better
Another big improvement from the traditional platforms that drove success for Figma was deciding to stay cloud and use web applications instead of the desktop app. This meant, that no one would have to download the tool in order to comment let alone view the design files. This has been historically true for Adobe though. Figma also realized that after designs are ready they may often go to developers in order to bring these files into code and publish them on the actual website or app. That’s why Figma installed tools that improved how developers read and export the files needed. Essentially, Figma really became a game-changer for the industry.
A few more reasons for their success is the community. Community to learn the tool and learn design basics. This became crucial in getting their platform to a larger user base. They appealed to everyone, students who needed to create a deck for class and corporate designers who were tired of unnecessary loops of communication. Community to share with others your own achievements and learn from others. Online brands are known to succeed when they build a sense of belonging around their product. And this goes true not only for online but for physical companies as well. With Figma, people started to explore and grow together. There was no barrier to learning and communicating. The community of collaborators made Figma almost like a new Shopify. Plugins are a great resource of side income and are invaluable for companies like Shopify because they bring in customers. Shopify was never shy to share credit and that brought them the success they deserved. Figma followed the same strategy. They opened their platform for contributors and collaborators. The number of plugins continues to grow exponentially. Because these plugins are often made by current users, Figma just continues to become a better platform without heavily investing in R&D. Customers know better. These plugins started to bring in more and more users who were looking for simplicity, efficiency, and collaboration. They are known as the hottest design startup and for a good reason. They are valued at $10 billion and this is only the beginning. Virtual canvas is becoming indispensable, there is no better substitute on the market. And as Seth Godin has proved, indispensable makes you immune to bankruptcy, at least for some time.
One of the major competitors of virtual design platforms was InVision. But their biggest failure was an inability to innovate. Based on the information known to the public, they weren’t investing the time and effort required to innovate. They got their success quickly just like Figma. However, the InVision team was lacking hunger for more whereas the Figma team wasn’t. One employee shares on Glassdoor:
When I joined, we were by far the leading software solution in the space, but our cockiness and lack of innovation has built a trojan horse for other companies like Figma to literally eat our business from the inside out. >
Reasons for Success
Summing up the story of their success, I can identify a few factors that made this happen. Leadership within the organization knew what design is and had years of experience in this field prior to launching Figma. They knew that innovative design brought billions to current tech giants, but they also knew the hustle it required. That’s why their main focus has been on appealing to their core user base and improving non-stop. This is a must-have strategy for any business. Feedback is great, but the ability to improve on it quickly is even better. Figma teaches us that innovation success comes with continuous improvement. Highlighting the key performance measures, we can start with the user base. In just 7 years, they have captured 4 million active and subscribed users including the industry’s largest players such as Twitter, DropBox, Slack, Volvo, and more. They are growing exponentially and expect their annual revenues to double to $75 million. Figma became the 3rd-fastest-growing app in 2020, according to Okta's Businesses at Work report. Their user base is becoming global, which can be yet another performance measure for success. They are bringing to the market cross-continental connections. “With 83% of Figma users based outside of the U.S., nearly 14% of file collaboration happens between different continents—up from 8% at the beginning of 2020.” People collaborate across borders making Figma an internationally-recognized platform. The senior management has confirmed that the company will employ around 500 people by the end of the year from 140 in January 2020. Though the startup declined to share revenue or user figures, this major increase in its workforce highlights that the company invests in innovation, improvement, and growth. I do believe that smart hiring strategies are another key performance measure as it proves a company’s willingness to continue to invest in themselves and hire more talent needed to support the growth and long-term goals. Internal factors that have made their success possible stemmed from their founders and spread across the entire company. They are users of their own product. They have the vision, and they are not driven solely by the financial outcome. On the side of external factors, there has been a growing trend in all industries – cloud & open-source. They combined both. Moreover, they were able to close a major gap in communication which transformed the current working environment.