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Our goal with Design Management is to give product teams a first-class way to post, discuss and execute on their designs within GitLab. Right now, our feature is only on GitLab issues. We support integrations with major design tools and diagramming tools. Design management will consider the design life cycle from generating ideas, design reviews, design systems, and more.
One of the interesting concepts we brainstormed and learned from our analyst conversations was the difference between being proactive or reactive as a designer. Right now, our design management features focus mostly on reactive design.
Examples of Reactive design work:
Examples of Proactive design work:
Design Management at GitLab encompasses two broad areas of features:
1) Transient "Communication-based" features which have a beginning and end similar to Issues.
Examples of Transient "Communication-based" Design Management features:
2) Evergreen "Project-based" features which live as a project or asset on their own.
Examples of Evergreen "Project-based" Design Management features
GitLab is in a unique position to offer both types of Design features because our platform supports issues (collaboration with engineering) and repositories (where the actual code lives).
Long term, we'll need we need to adapt GitLab to incorporate the design persona as a first class user within the app. From our research, we understand that design workflows are often different from the typical DevOps flow. Many companies that employ "Design First" workflows are often working so far ahead of the DevOps process that we need to consider this as its own ecosystem and key in on. We recognize that this workflow can be quite iterative and often done and presented/approved well ahead of an issue ever being written.
Ideally, GitLab will support the flexibility of any design workflow, while featuring a simplified way to share of Design work. It would allow for independent design deadlines or separate milestones from engineering, and empower the Designer to easily track/follow the issue through to production.
The minimal user journey provides designers with the ability to upload mockups to an issue, and for point of interest discussions to happen on each image. Over time these mockups can be updated to resolve the discussions. As the mockups are changed, new versions will be created to facilitate iteration.
We have achieved the core workflow for a design persona on a GitLab Issue and are considering how to build additional Design Management features targeted at software developers and product managers to expand our growth.
Since Design Management has moved to the Product Planning group, we've paused on new development and are reevaluating direction.
Once work on this category resumes, our focus will be on new expansion themes that will enable more users to use design management:
Dogfood Design Management and get out of Minimal - We're working on an internal dogfooding epic which contains the issues that will help us remove the major pain points that our internal GitLab team has surfaced. This will take us a long way towards viable as these are the biggest usability concerns.
** Integrate with major design tools to support current workflows and increase users** - We started official Figma and Sketch projects to work on our plugins.
Next: Adding drawing and diagram files to the Designs - Allow the creation of a diagram or drawing directly inside the browser via an integration. We'll investigate the right ways to "open up the drawing board" to anyone working on an issue.
Next: Empower Product Designers and Leaders to easily stay on top of design progress at GitLab - Move "Designs" to its own space on the left side menu above Issues. Here we'll see all design updates in real time and map design images to issues in a more seamless and connected flow. Also to consider here would be to allow designs posted without an issue to encourage rapid feedback and turn around on ideas.
Later: Developer Handoff in Review Apps - Upgrade the existing Visual Review feature to have original Epic or Issue Designs move forward in the GitLab workflow for visual inspection in the merge request. The Product Designer would be notified and invited to also inspect which would cut down on a lot of back and forth communication that currently happens offline. Empower the Engineer and the Product Designer to compare the original design with live app. Allow them to give visual feedback by attaching comments to dom elements or on an x,y access. For example: Move a transparent overlay of the original design around to check measurements and other visual aspects.
Later: Design reviews and approvals - Once we have more usage of our designs throughout the DevOps flow, add approvals or other checks and balances that may be needed to lock down a design. The first step is to understand how current review and approval processes work outside of GitLab and how we could adapt those to GitLab.
Later: Design Management prototyping support - currently Design Management only supports static images which are a valuable part of the design process, but may not be able to fully communicate the user experience. Part of enabling communication around that process is to allowing users to create simple click-through prototypes for designs.
Later: Git backup of design files - When teams share source files such as the Pajamas Sketch file there is a lot of overhead with checking that file in and out of a repo and having a design team share the file. We also would consider LFS (Large file system) and design agencies who may have huge repositories and would only be able to check out just a part of the entire repo for use.
Later: Live Sketching in Issues Allow users to draw freehand on a digital whiteboard and see the real time cursor and sketching of other users who are live with them. We think this will enable more "off-the-cuff" brainstorming and foster an in-person experience with colleagues, even if working remote.
Later: Deep linking of assets - Imagine seeing an image asset in your repo or within a wiki and being able to click a button to pull down its original artwork from Sketch/Photoshop or beyond. If we achieve git backup of design files, we should be able to create deep links to their source artboards.
Later: AI to compare Designs to Production With the emergence of AI technologies, eventually Design AI could be a part of the CI pipeline to scan for visual changes against the original design, report differences, and recommend changes.
Within the Design Tools market, each product broadly solves one or more of these problems:
The most full featured Design Tools, that are attempting to solve all these problems are:
What is missed in the current market:
Given GitLab's unique strength as the single source of truth for planning and source code, we are well positioned to work with Product Design teams and encourage Product Designers to participate from design iteration through to production:
A competitive analysis was also conducted to further understand existing players in the market.
We've learned that a typical designer:developer ratio is 1:8 (at GitLab, our ratio is 1:7).
Also, we know there are 24M developers worldwide.
24M / 8 = 3M designers worldwide
If we achieved signing up all of these designers for GitLab, our CSM would be $684M on Premium and $3.6B on Ultimate.
There is a significant opportunity for an application that can successfully engage developers and design teams before and during the DevOps lifecycle. If GitLab integrates with the major design tools such as InVision (5,000,000 users), Sketch (1,000,000 users,) and Figma (1,000,000 users) and adds value in the form of visual developer handoffs, we believe product quality will increase.
We've had briefings with Redmonk, Forrester and Gartner. We've validated that we are solving a big problem with our proposal to bring Designers into Devops. We learned that a new potential term for this type of software is: "Digital product design platforms" and we are also considering the term "DesignOps" which might play well with DevOps at GitLab.
No customer issues yet, because the feature is so new