Design Leader Insights - Jessica Rosenberg on Low Code Tools for Designers

May 24, 2023


Alex Smith: Design leader Insights is brought to you by Fuego UX, a UX design consultancy focused on creating simple and intuitive digital experiences. Hey, Jess, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Jessica Rosenberg: Hi, thanks for having me.

Alex Smith: Yeah, of course. And as we get started, can you give the audience a brief history of your journey in design?

Jessica Rosenberg: Yes, absolutely. So I started as a designer, I'm losing count as to how many years ago it was. A long time, long, long time ago. I studied communication design, as my undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon. And upon graduating, I went right into working in an advertising agency, actually as a Designer, Art Director, and really fell in love with not only like the execution part of, you know, campaign work as a designer, but really like coming up with a big idea as well. And pairing that ideation and storytelling with execution is what I learned to like, really love. So I spent the first I would say, like, half, maybe less of my career, working in advertising across interactive campaigns, integrated campaigns, TV commercials, which was super fun. And then actually, as soon as I moved up to San Francisco, I started working in tech for startups, bigger tech companies, smaller tech companies, always as like a designer, art director, and then eventually moved into management and leading creative teams. Which brings me to what I'm doing now at Webflow.

Alex Smith: Nice, awesome, thanks for that, that journey. Let's talk about Webflow. Obviously, y'all have grown a ton, Webflow is a tool we love to use. I recommend most designers go out there and at least experiment with that tool, I think it’s pushing a lot of boundaries. I think the Figma Webflow combination is super powerful, and one we love but not everyone knows what Webflow is. I think it'd be awesome to start with what is workflow? And then as we dive into that, like, where's it headed?

Jessica Rosenberg: I think the elevator pitch, and hopefully, the leaders at the company can correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, the pitch is that Webflow is a no code visual development tool. So essentially, you can design and build a website without knowing how to code traditionally. And it's a visual canvas that allows folks to create a website visually without writing code.

Alex Smith: How should people think about when is Webflow like, you know, when is that something I should start learning?

Jessica Rosenberg: Yeah, that's a great question. And something that we talk a lot about internally, too, especially around like the no code space. And we've actually, we've been shying away more and more from using that term, no code, because even though Webflow doesn't require you to like literally write traditional code, there's so much code that’s still involved in the whole process. And that, I mean that in a few different ways. One of the ways is that like, as you're literally visually creating, building the site in Webflow.  Behind the scenes, the product is generating clean, written code for you. So we've actually heard a lot of use cases that folks will prototype and like build sites in Webflow, export the code and then share that off with clients or partners. And they can then like, you know, implement that outside of Webflow. And it looks just as beautiful and performs just as well. And then the second definition of that is like Webflow is such a powerful and flexible product that you can plug in any sort of like API, any sort of code language on top of it, that makes it so much better. So I even have some folks on my team that they're technically like Webflow designers and developers, but there's some folks who are more on the development side. And they just love integrating all of these different coding stacks, API plugins, tools into Webflow to make it that much more powerful. And I think that really speaks to the power and the potential that the product has. It's really limitless and that way, I think.

Alex Smith: Jess I think one of the interesting things for us, at least, you know, in design that's super important to communicate with stakeholders across product and development.How do you view that connection between design and development?

Jessica Rosenberg: Yeah, so this is something that I actually, when I first started dabbling in Webflow and learning about it. I had like a visceral reaction to because I used to be an interactive designer and I would literally like redline, back then we design sites in Photoshop, I would redline my Photoshop files, hand them off to a front end developer and I'd be this like, very tedious back and forth of like trying to perfect the implementation of my vision. And what Webflow does, essentially and I always think about like how I really could have used Webflow, like about 15 years ago, is it puts that control back in the designers hands. So designers can now design the websites and build them and implement them like end to end and control the fine tuned aspects, the details, the pixel perfection themselves. Where I think that it's helpful for folks to is that like, and I've been recently just working in what been like, learning more about Webflow and the tool and trying to perfect my Webflow skills is that, for folks who don't have any front end knowledge or experience, you actually learn it as you're using Webflow, because Webflow still uses all of the terminology, all the like front end syntax that you would normally use. And so we've actually heard that quite a bit from folks who have started using Webflow, they actually learn how to code as a result of using this low code tool, which is kind of ironic, but a really great use case. And we've been hearing more and more. 

Alex Smith: What are you most excited about for the future of the space? And then for potentially, for Webflow?

Jessica Rosenberg: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, low code tools in general, I think Webflow they're really revolutionizing how the web is getting built and democratizing how the web gets built. Because I think historically, you know, these coding languages, and this expertise was reserved for the few who would take the time to learn it or build a profession out of it. And I think it's expanding horizons for designers, it's giving designers more control. It's giving more options to people, I think in general, from, you know, across all of our audience segments, which are like agencies, freelancers, and also in-house teams, at various sized corporations alike. Another meta aspect is we use Webflow at Webflow on our in-house team. And having been on other in-house teams at different tech companies and startups, it's night and day of an experience using Webflow versus not.

Alex Smith: Jess so the buzzword of 2023 so far is AI. How do you think that's gonna affect design?

Jessica Rosenberg: I think it's going to affect design in a big way. We're already starting to see it in some tools that exist out there. And I feel like every day wake up and like I see a new AI type of tool in the creative space. And I know I've also seen the sentiment from designers that folks are scared that AI will replace people at the end of the day but I see it more of a as a supplement as an enhancer, to our processes, how we think, how we concept.So more and more of these are popping up. And each time I see one, I'm like, I can't wait to like get my hands on this to see how it can just like augment the creative process and speed things up for us. And similar to like Webflow. Like what I was saying about Webflow for developers, like I can see AI just speeding things up for designers so that they can focus on what they want to focus on most.So if anything, it's like, our little creative enhancer magic potion, if you will. Yeah, I mean, I think we're gonna be seeing more and more of it. And I'm personally super excited by it. I don't know. Are you? 

Alex Smith: I think we're at the precipice of it. Like anything else, like self driving cars have been hyped for 15 years and I don't have a self driving car, I'd love one. But yeah, I think it is exciting experimenting with these tools. It's a great starting point for inspiration. I think, yeah, it can help kind of offset some of that marginal, incremental, tedious work, and I think that's great. Like, that's not gonna threaten a job. I think I should probably create more opportunity. So I'm 100% with you. Sweet. Let's switch to advice you might have for new designers entering the field today, beyond learning Webflow, the obvious piece of advice.

Jessica Rosenberg: That's the obvious one, yes. I would say, be super obsessed with perfecting not only your craft, but your design, like knowing your design fundamentals. And I think without, you know, perfecting the knowledge of design fundamentals, it'll be really hard to grow from there or experiment or you know, think outside the box. And it will also be really hard to get attention from hiring managers like last year, we were hiring quite a bit. And I looked at countless amounts of resumes and portfolios. And what I always look at first is like, the basics like typography, spacing, grid. Like do folks have that baseline table stakes expectation down, if so great, then we can move on to like, how they're breaking that or how they're being creative or thinking outside the box, I would say focus on getting the basics super tight. And then from there, like just grit. Being obsessive about growth, like never stopped growing ever. I think it's a really important one to keep in mind.

Alex Smith: Jess thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Jessica Rosenberg: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Good to be here.