Atlassian’s low-cost way of testing product designs

4 min read
Jeff Hardison
  •  Sep 5, 2018
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Atlassian knows a thing or two about collaboration—more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 use Atlassian products like JIRA, Confluence, Trello, and SourceTree to power collaboration across their organization. So, when Atlassian product manager Trevor Thompson tweeted his appreciation for Freehand, InVision’s “collaborative canvas,” we had to hear more.

Atlassian practices an “all in” approach to collaboration. A wide range of diverse teammates are active throughout the entire product-development process, with engineers, product managers, and designers involved from ideation to code. When his team started working together in Freehand, Thompson’s efforts to sketch out product ideas were met with a few raised eyebrows.

“In the beginning, designers smirked, wondering why a product manager was trying to sketch,” said Thompson.

“If I’m trying to help engineering understand the technical limitations of a design, I’ll use Freehand.”

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Nonetheless, his designer colleagues “got it” soon enough; Thompson’s drawings made it much easier for him to convey product-feature ideas—and it certainly didn’t hurt that the ideas took shape in a place where the designers already felt comfortable: InVision.

“Sometimes, I have what seems like a crazy, outlandish product idea, and it’s challenging to get the point across with word-processing tools or a whiteboard that might get erased,” said Thompson. “With an easy-to-use sketching tool, I have the lowest cost way of participating in the product design process early on. I don’t have to learn some complicated tool such as Sketch or bother a designer to help.”

Thompson said one of the advantages of a streamlined sketching tool is its simplicity.

“InVision advances Freehand’s functionality just enough to make me happy as a product manager,” said Thompson, citing features such as improved color gradients and the new iPad app. “But, if Freehand got more complicated, it might lose its accessibility.”

Thompson made it clear that lightweight sketching tools are helpful in the ideation stage, but they can’t replace more robust design tools.

“Look, if I need to pitch an idea to the company’s founders, I’m going to pull in a designer using InVision Studio or Sketch,” he said. “But if I’m trying to ‘live the iterative lifestyle’ and quickly wireframe a product idea or help engineering understand the technical limitations of a design, I’ll use Freehand.”

“Freehand closes the gap between designers and product managers.”

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Thompson notes that Freehand’s inherent simplicity makes it easy to share ideas and get early buy-in from colleagues.

“With sketching tools like Freehand, you don’t obsess over pushing pixels. Your design doesn’t have to be perfect. You just hold down the Option key and draw a square,” he said. “It’s way faster than a whiteboard, closes the gap between designers and product managers, and helps me get engineering involved early.”

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard