Should you name your layers?

Cover image of should you name your layers? article

Recently on the design Twitter-sphere, there was a viral conversation over designers should organise and name the layers in Figma. In the original tweet, the Tweeter thinks that designers who organises the artwork in Figma without proper layer management are inexperienced and has no own style or ways of doing things, and he has no problems calling them out for sloppy design files. In my opinion, the tweet was certainly carried slight unfriendly tone.

When I first saw the tweet, it definitely captured my attention and many others. It became wildly discussed with two obvious camps: one that supports and one that against, though on the designers that I’m following, more of them think that designers shouldn’t spend their precious time on naming the layers.

The argument and my initial reaction

In the original tweet, the Tweeter (as of the time being, has locked his account) find designers that organises their Figma files in Groups with no clear naming, is a bad practice. And Figma as a collaborative tool by nature, such unorganised file will make it very difficult for other designers, engineers and product managers to work with. He attached a screenshot of a file showing multiple groups of layer depicting default naming with large number behind.

To be honest, I was partially triggered by this tweet initially because, considering myself as a more organised designer (a feedback that I received from time to time), I usually don’t spend so much time on properly naming all the layers. In my opinion, product designers move fast and create large amount screens iterations on day-to-day basis, so it’s pretty pointless to name all the layers. In fact, when I was working for a large design organisations in a tech company, it’s a common sight to see design files with default frame names with large number behind.

Make Figma a great design collaboration tool

Taking a step back, we need to look at this from a wider perspective. I’m particularly intrigued by the image attached to the tweet. It only shows the layer panel with multiple level 1 Groups in it. What’s inside the groups and what it depicts? Are they screens? Are they a group of multiple screens? Or are they even screens? Obviously we wouldn’t know.

Let’s assume that that those are individual screen designs depicting a user flow, then this is a huge problem. As what the Tweeter claims, it will make other collaborators’ life hard. Designers will find it difficult to work with Groups, product managers will find it hard to understand the context of the screen, while engineers will find it hard to inspect and grab design assets.

Personally as a product designer, I believe in providing good UX externally to our customers and internally to the people we work closely with. Here are some of the things that I normally do when working in Figma:

1. Use Frames whenever possible
This is pretty obvious. Every Frame represents a screen and it behaves pretty much like a container in developer tools. Use the constraints and auto layout function as you are creating your design in code. Only use Groups when dealing with illustrations. Figma has a good writeup on Groups vs Frames, be sure to check it out.

2. Name your screens meaningfully
I will no advocate for naming all the layers meaningfully, but at least it has to be properly named on the screen level. This will really help other to understand the function and the state of the screen. In the near future, I’m thinking to write more on organising Figma files and layers, so stay tuned!

3. Name your layers in your design system components
For reusable components, be it local or global components, it should at least be constructed and named meaningfully so it’s scalable and customisable easily. I have encountered many times when I switch component variant, the overwrites get wiped off just because of poorly organised variants.

4. Don’t nest groups and layers for no reasons
This is my extra take. Sometimes when I was working in some design files from other designers, a simple element in a component, are deeply nested in multiple levels Groups or Frames for no valid reason. Designers should keep the layers clean and lean for easier design handover for engineers to inspect.

Twitter is interesting website screenshot

Well after all, every designers have their way of organising layers and files and we should just do what works best for the company and people that we are working with. There are no absolute rules, and as long as we are following the best practices we are all good!

It’s also very interesting that designers around the world participated in debating “should you name your layers or not” on Twitter. There’s even a tool coming out soon from the friends from Diagram to help you with naming layers:

It’s nice to see that we care for our crafts. I have been a long time lurker on DesignerNews which is now pretty much a dead town, and I love to go on Twitter from time to time to check what’s trending in design universe out there.

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