Interface design collaboration tool Figma is launching its Multiplayer feature, which allows designers to collaborate in real time on the same projects.
The service, now available for everyone, is kind of like a Google Docs for interface design in that it wants to bring all of the pieces of the design process together so individual designers and teams can work in one integrated, browser-based system. Powered by the new Multiplayer functionality, the idea is to let designers and their teammates collaborate in real-time on professional design files.
For example, if two team members need to fix several parts of a design quickly before a deadline, they could both work on different sides of the image. Or if designers on opposite ends of the world need to compromise on a design, they can make their edits simultaneously while discussing them instead of clumsily passing static files back and forth.
The SF-based, 20-person startup was co-founded by CEO Dylan Field and CTO Evan Wallace in August 2012. It has since raised $18 million from Greylock Partners’ John Lilly, Index Ventures, OATV and ICONIQ, among individual investors LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, White House Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil, Wealthfront CEO Adam Nash, and former head of design at Dropbox, Soleio Cuervo.
“Enterprise companies care so much more about design these days,” says Field. “The demand for design in tech has gone up so much. Despite that, we still work like we did 20-30 years ago with offline software applications.”
The company is trying to solve a problem for designers where collaboration is difficult across other teams of engineers and marketers. Importing and exporting dead PNGs for cross-team review is inefficient, and Figma wants to introduce a living, breathing system that makes sharing and building upon assets harmonious.
“Designers encounter a lot of different roadblocks working with engineers, product mangers and marketing people,” says Field. “Offline tools are totally divorced from the process. We’re trying to unite everything into one solution that’s seamless.”
The new Multiplayer feature enables this real time, collaborative editing, but the service also has a few other enticing features, like the ability to view designs and make real-time changes on mobile. Constraint systems let designs automatically adapt to devices of different sizes so you can preview complex designs cross platform. The company has been praised for its reimagined approach to the pen tool with Vector Networks.
Figma also touts its commenting feature, which allows for contextual direct feedback on designs. Say you want one of your designers to change a color on a file. You can make a comment to show this in real time. The system is integrated with Slack, too, so comments on files will mirror on Slack channels.
Recognizing that it’s the underdog in a market run by Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite, Figma says it won’t start charging for its services until January and wants to remain free for students forever. It’s important for them to let people develop an experience with the service and make a purchase decision when the time is right.