Report back from Figma’s Config 2022 conference — part 2

Config 2022, the annual global design conference produced by Figma, everyone’s favorite design tool, was chock full of helpful presentations, all of which are now on YouTube for general viewing. 

We’re still working our way through the lot, but in this article we’ll share and summarize a few that grabbed us. Read part 1 of this series by Addie Kugler-Lunt for more summaries and takeaways from the event.

Words as design: systemizing product copy and building Ditto by Jessica O and Jolena M

Jessica O. and Jolena M., Co-Founders of Ditto, gave one of the strongest presentations I attended at Config. Their goal to give writers a method for systemizing and managing product copy as an integrated part of the design process is both timely and opportune. I summarize elements from their presentation, below.

The role of text in building product

Jessica and Jolena started with the premise that words are core to user understanding. Words anchor the user experience and guide users along their path. In fact, according to a study by Microsoft Azure’s design team, user test errors decreased by 44% after copy changes alone.

Another core fact: collaboration on copy is inherently cross-functional. In fact, while most product development occurs in separate verticals, the writing, review, and implementation of text occurs across all areas of the development process.

Given that writing happens in so many places, it can be challenging to manage. Copy gets developed in a whole host of locations, including in Slack, Jira, copy docs, and a range of Figma files. Staying on top of the latest version quickly becomes an ordeal.

Thinking about text as a system

Systems codify relationships between individual items in a group and help identify outliers – or items that exist outside of documented patterns. Also, improving something in a system improves the system as a whole.

Many of the driving factors around the systemization of design also apply to the work of systemizing text. 

  1. Communication is context driven
  2. Text is inherently reused and interconnected
  3. Text exists in many different existing systems
  4. Style guides often aren’t systems

In thinking about how to systemize text in relation to the development of Ditto, Jessica and Jolena focused on two areas: components and variants.

Building Ditto

Jessica and Jolena’s founding vision for Ditto was to develop a tool that would allow teams to componentize text and “create a single source of copy truth that integrated with all the places copy needed to go.” 

They began their journey by interviewing a wide range of people, asking them about how they manage copy, how copy relates to design, and the future of design overall. Conversations continuously pointed back to Figma as the future of design. They were quite fortunate, too, that Figma opened the Figma plugin ecosystem at this time.

Long story short, they created a plugin tool that would enable writers to create content that is fully integrated in the design process. One sentence captures their product: Ditto is a tool that helps teams collaborate on copy, from ideation to design to development. Fast forward to today and Ditto includes a plugin, web app, and developer tools.

laptop and notebook on countertop displaying Figma software

How does Ditto actually work?

Ditto works in three ways: Ditto components (a reusable content library); variants (variations on copy for different states, including translations); synchronization of changes across processes, from design to development.

Ditto components

In the same way design components are handled, you can build components for text, which can be previewed or applied across all your projects. Edit one, and all other instances will be updated. Components are a useful way to handle standardized error messages, placeholders, taglines, and more. This helps designers to ensure the text they’re using is accurate, current, and approved.

Ditto variants

Variants offer a way for teams to write and manage copy variations. Managed in the web app, variants are especially relevant for localized content and A/B testing. Just like components, variants apply directly to your Figma designs, and can even enable designers to preview translated copy directly inside their mockups.

Synchronization between design and development

Ditto offers the capability to synch copy from design all the way to development. For example, using developer integrations, with one command, updates can be pushed from Figma directly to the website.

A future vision

After talking with hundreds of writers, designers, and developers, Jessica and Jolena have developed a vision of the future of design where ideation, design, and development are no longer treated as individual phases, but as an integrated part of the larger process of product building. They see product development as increasingly more iterative and synchronized, and writers playing a more and more fundamental role in the design process.

Our two cents

The Ditto team didn’t just come here to play – they’re in it for the long haul. If their vision for the future proves true and their software continues to effectively solve problems for design teams, Ditto has a very bright future. While we’ve heard the buzz about Ditto in the UX writing community, we haven’t yet given the product a whirl, but we’re looking forward to giving it a try, soon.

Designing for the African Market by Derrick Tsorme

Foreign brands trying to enter the African market will often fall short of their goals. In many cases, this stems from a lack of understanding of the market. This presentation by Derrick Tsorme covers some of the ways new brands can reach and earn trust with African consumers.

Context

Derrick started by giving a bit of context. He covered some of the attributes that are unique to the current state of the African market, including the following:

  • Economy is very cash oriented
  • People value trust more than hype
  • New brands need to evaluate market need before entering, or they risk failure to to a lack of product-market fit
  • Infrastructure must be considered (5G is not established yet)
  • Learn from locals. There are existing constraints, but many have found success by accommodating and adapting to those constraints.
  • Brands cannot grow faster than the environment

How to access the African market

Brands keen to tap the African market need to take their time and integrate as much as possible with the local culture. Derrick offered some tips:

  • Speak the language of the market
  • Understand and respect the users
  • Gain trust slowly. Word-of-mouth is a big deal. Also, the more foreign your product acts, the lesser the trust.
  • Learn about cultural differences
  • Appreciate how people define quality in the targeted region, as this can vary
  • Bring on local talent when possible
  • Learn from local competitors
three black business women wearing wax print clothing are talking with laptops and notebooks

Successful product examples

Derrick covered some success stories of products that had found traction in the African market. Some of what they had in common include the following:

  • Affordable
  • Functional, even multifunctional
  • Easy to set up – speed is important
  • Offline access
  • Banking by phone via sim card
  • Payment platforms like Hubtel, Flutterwave, and Paystack
  • Delivery covered by DHL and Aramax

Takeaway

Overall, Derrick offered a positive vision of the potential of the African market for brands that are willing to play the long game, embrace local sensibilities, and respect local users. There were a lot of valuable tips in this presentation for brands looking to reach customers in Africa.

Create with conscience: healthier tech for a digitally distracted world by Bethany Sonefeld, of Create With Conscience

Bethany’s presentation began by outlining the many ways mobile technology elevates business objectives over the health of users by promoting unhealthy or addictive patterns of behavior. She described how many product leaders aspire toward ever-increasing engagement metrics, often at the expense of users’ time, attention, and mental health. 

They do this by implementing product features that promote frequent, impulsive, even instinctive behaviors by users. Some of these product features include the infinite scroll, autoplay, frequent notifications, pop-ups, and the more insidious patterns like manufactured scarcity and confirmation shaming. 

In response to these features and patterns, Bethany proposes that designers and product leaders craft a different narrative around the meaning of success for products. 

On the attention side, she suggests posing questions to the product team like A) Is interrupting your users workflow to notify them best? and B) How can you give back control to your end users? And she advises adding tools to your platform that promote well-being – in other words, giving users the ability to manage their product experience on a more granular level.

On the mental health side, she recommends questions like A) Is your product stimulating, elevating, or triggering symptoms of depression? and B) How might someone with a mental illness use your product to hurt themselves? 

Finally, in the area of exclusion, she poses the following: A) Is your product accessible to all user groups, regardless of disabilities, race, culture, education level, and language? and B) Could your product be used to exclude certain groups?

Overall, Bethany proposes the implementation of the following principles: 

  1. Build in health boundaries 
  2. Anticipate unhealthy behaviors 
  3. Change how we measure success

Bethany also proposes embracing a goals/signals/metrics framework for evaluating the success of user behaviors. With this framework in place, she suggests that businesses can broaden their definition of success, moving the focus away from short-term gains to a different understanding of what makes a healthy, thriving product.

black woman sitting at a table drinking water and looking at a laptop

Takeaways

Bethany’s take on the risks associated with products whose success or “stickiness” hinges on hijacking, diverting, or manipulating users’ attention is a message we’d all do well to heed. Designers have the power to sway choices around features and associated risk factors, and to encourage outcomes that elevate health and well-being. 

Indeed, this area has a lot of fertile ground for the world of product development. As consumers increasingly recognize the negative effects of constant multitasking, code switching, and attention debt, all of which are associated with the attention-based economy, they will decline features like frequent notifications and resist products that demand too much. This will hopefully raise the bar for product developers, requiring them to earn, rather than constantly demand, the engagement and loyalty of users.

Since we’re all users as well as designers and product developers, our own well-being (and productivity) is associated with these kinds of improvements. As we all struggle with managing our attention and mental health in the face of constant interruption and manipulation, we find ourselves keen to embrace products that respect us through better alignment with our personal needs.

Taking the long view, we can all hope that the prioritization of the mental and emotional well-being of users, and the associated impacts on society, will someday be baked into the product development process. And we can each do our part to help make that happen.

LimeTech is a creative tech company with a focus on app development. We help brands grow their impact by building digital products that please customers and solve business challenges. Our work includes strategy, design, content, and tech planning. Check out our portfolio or reach out to start a conversation about your project.

app design    events    product development    UX writing    web applications    

Elements of visual storytelling

Elements of visual storytelling

In the digital era, anyone involved in creating combinations of written and visual content is participating in visual storytelling, whether they realize it or not. In today's article, I discuss and elaborate on the elements of visual storytelling.  At Two for Tea Studio, we aim to bring you the tools to intentionally and strategically communicate your stories.  Included in today's article are current and historical examples of visual storytelling, to help broaden your understanding so you can own and hone your story.

Read more
How to win customers with a conversational writing style

How to win customers with a conversational writing style

This week we continue our series about voice and tone. We take a moment to talk about conversational writing style, and how it can help win the hearts and minds of customers.

Read more
Voice and tone in action — some real-world examples

Voice and tone in action — some real-world examples

This week we’re going to look at some voice and tone examples from well-known brands. We’ll examine how their tone shifts based on context and audience, and we’ll check out a few examples of voice guides.

Read more

Contact us

Type of project
*Don’t worry – we won’t share your email.
*Don’t worry – we won’t share your email.