Amber: These tools are not only helpful to designers for testing their ideas, they must also be useful for selling ideas to clients and collaborators
Max: We definitely used Form in that way, but I think for us it was more just a tool to help with our own thinking. A big mistake we made early on was sharing unpolished work. Clients would be like, "It’s going to be better than this, right?" It got to the point where we didn’t show anything unless it was either clearly a sketch or a nearly finished prototype. We would even take nice prototypes and make them look more like a sketch in order to show our clients. Form makes it easier to share your imagination.
Matias: It is kind of true. It’s kind of like Michelangelo coming up to the Pope and being like, "See this big rock? It’s going to be this beautiful statue! Trust me." He’s going to be like "Okay... Maybe you could ... I dunno ... draw me a sketch of what this statue is going to look like?" Maybe I can imagine it, but I’m not sure what’s in my imagination is the same as what’s in your imagination.
Max: It becomes even more difficult when you start getting into engineering. Our burden was if the designers wanted to show some sort of complex motion, then we had better allow them to show it exactly the way they’d imagined it.
Paul: The other frustration is how can designers “round trip” their ideas? In other words, how does the designer push forward with his or her design concept while internalizing engineering needs and constraints? Our goal going forward is, how do we continue to close that gap?
Amber: I like the term “round tripping” because it addresses the converse side of the problem—making designers better at creating experiences that are plausible in code.
Paul: One of the reasons for us to be native was exactly that. When a designer can draw anything, let’s say, in Sketch or Photoshop, it’s so easy for the developers on the other end to say, "It can’t be done” or "it’s too hard." We wanted to enable the designer to take their idea so far that, with quite a bit of ammunition they could say, "It’s not necessarily easy, but it can be done, and here is the proof running on a device, natively." That’s a huge step for empowering design.
Amber: Do you feel like essential elements of the design process are sacrificed when you try to shoehorn print-based design tools into building interactive products?
Max: I think it depends a lot on the problem you’re trying to solve. If you’re trying to solve a design problem in an area that’s very unexplored, you almost can’t expect to have a proper tool. A good example is designing for VR. Nobody knows how you’re supposed to really interact with it. A lot of the iteration and seemingly tedious parts in the design process are just a fact of life. You’re going to have to bend an existing tool to work towards what you want.
On the other side of the argument is mobile wear. A lot of the interaction patterns have been figured out already. Instead of wrestling the tool, you can now spend time prototyping higher-level ideas or maybe a few forms of very unique interaction that you would need in your app.