Adobe Experience Design: First Impressions

“Preview the new UX design tool from Adobe.” My wonderful coworkers and I were thrilled to see this email notification that Adobe’s Experience Design product—XDCC, once “Project Comet” — was finally public. We were so excited about it, in fact, that we’ve spent almost all our work hours since using it for our current projects.

My very initial reactions:

1. It’s Sketch, Keynote, Flinto, Invision…

Adobe has taken and merged the best features from many of my favorite existing products — quite obviously stolen them, really, into a Frankenstein of UI prototyping perfection. It’s the best of the best — I love drag-and-dropping click order like Flinto, and the perfection of dropping images into shapes from Keynote, and I love getting to do these in the same tool — but I can’t help but feel sad that these companies aren’t recognized for coming up with these great features first.

2. It’s for a very specific type of design.

Obviously, it’s built for designers of web- and mobile-based ‘experiences,’ but even beyond that narrow field, it seems to be specifically built for the field’s current trends. It will have to be updated once this specific default drop shadow styling (hopefully, eventually) goes out of style. Because of its (useful) limitations (i.e. not having all the features at your fingertips as other Adobe mainstays), it doesn’t seem yet to allow for easy creation of complex visuals that would be needed for high-fidelity prototypes or asset creation.

3. It is, of course, a very lightweight preview.

Of course, it is a preview — many features I’d like simply aren’t there… yet. The first thing I wanted in using it for actual work was the ability to input hex codes. Totally possible I just missed where to do this, but there are definitely some other features missing too that I’m hoping will be in the real deal. I can’t tell yet of course what they intend to build out vs. what level of simplicity they intend to maintain; it’s missing lots of the different interactions and fancy things you can do in Axure, and seems for now like it’s not going to try to be as full-featured as Axure (or obviously, HTML prototyping) in terms of complexity and prototyping fidelity.

4. It’s awesome.

Despite being a preview, it already more than gets the job done that I once did with Illustrator or Sketch combined with Flinto or Invision, and it’s so addictively easy flipping between Design and Prototyping modes that I can’t imagine going back. I also can’t help but imagine how it will immediately change all the UX training programs out there: With it’s instant ease-of-use and simplicity, there’s practically no learning curve; aspiring UX/UI designers will no longer have to grapple with learning famously complex tools just to even start creating product designs. (Not to mention the price: I’m envious of current design students who get this type of amazing tool for free; Adobe’s prohibitive pricing of its old creative suite model prevented me from accessing design tools through college.)

Quite simply, it’s reminded me how fun prototyping can be — I was straight-up giddy each time I uncovered a new feature that significantly improved my workflow or immediately fixed an error right from prototyping mode, and was happy it wasn’t too far removed from the familiar either (I didn’t have to think twice about using my usual shortcuts like v, cmd+, cmd-…). Watching the first tutorial video, I felt like the XD design researchers must have been looking over my shoulder while I was working for the past few years because of how perfectly it mirrored my workflow and needs. I was beaming the first time I immediately, neatly placed, named and linked a bunch of iPhone 6-sized artboards. I can say with confidence that my UI design workflow will never be the same.

Download Adobe Experience Design CC for free here (Mac only) — hope it gives you as much silly UI design excitement as it gave me!

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