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How to collaborate with non-designers using Abstract

Feedback is key to making better products, when it's given in the right place, at the right time.
How to collaborate with non-designers using Abstract

In addition to your design team, you probably work with product managers, marketers, and engineers. These teammates all provide valuable feedback at different stages of your design process. You can use Abstract to show anyone your work and collect their feedback. But jumping into a design process may feel intimidating, and they might not intuitively know where to start, how to best engage, or really, what to expect.

Here’s a quick guide to help non-designers navigate Abstract quickly, and to productively engage in the design collaboration process. We think this type of collaboration is a win-win for you, your team, your teammates outside the design team, and your company.

What does it mean to be a viewer in Abstract

Abstract has two primary user roles: Contributors and Viewers. Contributors are members of the your design team who can create and edit Sketch files. Viewers have all the same privileges as Contributors, except they can’t edit files or create Collections. Typically, these are teammates who have varying degrees of familiarity with design.

We know it’s invaluable to bring stakeholders together to understand how design decisions get made, and actively participate in those conversations. That’s why we built Abstract to be the central source of truth for design — and not just for designers.

Jumping into Abstract, without a paid seat

Viewers can comment, annotate, approve or request changes in a review, download files, and use Inspect to review full design specifications, without a paid seat. And because they’re unlikely to manipulate files themselves, they can use all of these features on our web app, without even having to download Abstract. If it sounds easy, that’s because it is.

Abstract tip 💡When you invite a Viewer into Abstract, consider sending them a short note in email or Slack telling them how they can provide feedback. Let them know if you’ve annotated files, @ mention them in comments you’d like them to see, and send them a link to this post 😉

Why invite viewers into Abstract?

There are many reasons you might want to invite Viewers into Abstract, but the #1 is probably transparency. When you communicate to stakeholders and collaborators that all design work is managed in Abstract, they’ll know that they can share feedback in one central location, and that a designer will always see it.

You can:

  • Point collaborators to specific elements in a design using comments and annotations.
  • Walk them through an entire experience by building a Collection, or an organized set of artboards.
  • Generate direct links to almost anything from Abstract, including symbols, artboards, Projects, and files.

Viewers will feel empowered and heard. And you’ll have an opportunity to share how work has evolved and all of the decisions that went into each iteration. Ultimately, you'll get higher quality feedback when and where you need it (and not just at random times, or at the very end of a project).

A quick primer for viewers

Want to quickly onboard stakeholders? Share this quick primer with them, ideally as soon as you invite them into your Organization.

How do I access my Abstract Organization?

Abstract is available as both a Mac app or in the web browser of your choice.

  • If you’ll be working offline frequently or downloading files, consider downloading the Mac app.
  • You can also access your team’s Abstract Organization using the Web app, which lets you see work in progress, provide feedback, inspect work (if you’re a developer), approve design work, and more.

If you’re mostly “watching” the process while occasionally providing feedback, you don’t have to download the app. But if you’re regularly collaborating with designers, you can enjoy some of the benefits of having Abstract on your desktop such as native notifications and the ability to download Sketch files.

How do I use comments and annotations?

Using comments and annotations together in Abstract, your design team can ask you for specific feedback on individual elements in a design, and keep all conversations focused and accessible from one single location. And because Abstract offers Comment History, you can always go back to older versions of a file to see how it’s evolved, and why certain decisions were made. You can provide feedback wherever designs are visible in Abstract. Just follow the link from a team member or click into an artboard or symbol to access the layer detail view.

Your design team can ask you for feedback on individual design elements within Abstract

What is a collection?

Collections let you view an organized set of artboards that are ready for a design review. A collection lets you quickly walk through a flow, see how a product has evolved, or quickly visualize the functionality of a button or landing page.

You can access a Collection by simply clicking the link your design team shares with you or find them located on the overview section of the appropriate branch. You can also view a collection in Presentation Mode with ☀️ day and 🌙  night options, so you can have a clutter-free view of the designs. This can really help you get the full experience of a design, without any of the usual distractions on your desktop.

How do you request and approve changes in Branches on Abstract?

This is your opportunity to provide feedback during a critical stage of review. If you’ve been added as a reviewer for a Branch or piece of design work, you’ll get a notification and email to access the Branch Overview. Here, you’ll see an overview of the files that have changed, Collections that have been created, a brief summary for context, and the activity stream of what’s been changed. You can Approve the Branch or Request Changes through the Review button in the top right of the app.

Comments or annotations on individual artboards or areas of a design will still be left through a Collection or the normal Layer Detail view. When you select Approve or Request Changes, you’ll be able to leave feedback on the branch for the design team to see and act on.

How to collaborate with non-designers in Abstract

Feedback is key to making better products, when it's given in the right place, at the right time. It can help shape our worldview, take into account diverse viewpoints, and lead to the creation of more inclusive experiences both online and off.