Product teams tend to be all about launches. They develop projects in secret, then focus all their attention on the big release. But what about the middle of product development? That’s when you’re struggling to figure things out and when you learn the most.
Within the companies I know, teams increasingly want to be more “real-time” with their customers, being more transparent about what they’re developing and why, and getting feedback during the process. (Having been an entrepreneur with tiny teams and now a product leader of a large company, I try to remind people who blatantly stereotype and generalize companies that, ultimately, how a company acts comes down to its people and their intentions.)
I’d love to take this opportunity to share some of our intentions on the Creative Cloud team at Adobe, as well as a few things we are working on that could change the creative world as we know it.
Experience Design as a Platform
Today, product designers rely on a collection of loosely integrated parts to design, prototype, animate, share, test, and build digital products. Some of these products are limited to a single platform, some of them are web-only, some of them have shaky performance or limited integrations with other tools, and very few of them take all stakeholders of design into account.
At the same time, the field of experience design is going through some major changes. Design teams can no longer work in isolation, or spend their days navigating file systems and dealing with version control. They must be able to design at scale, taking more and more platforms and states of the customer experience into account and iterating faster than ever before. Modern designers prototype early and often, making rapid-fire tweaks and sometimes wholesale changes based on feedback from stakeholders.
The overwhelming challenge is how to coordinate all that design work and the different groups of stakeholders. How do multiple designers and engineers collaborate efficiently on a project? How do you collect design feedback from the wide variety of stakeholders without having comments and suggestions trapped in a dozen different email threads? How do you have teams throughout the company working on separate projects, but ensure the designs are consistent, stay in-sync, and reuse as many brand and user experience elements as possible? Those are the challenges of designing at scale.
Answering those questions is the battle right now in the experience design market. The product team that can build a true experience design platform that integrates seamless collaboration and that supports creating and maintaining design systems for efficiently sharing colors, styles, components, and assets will win in an extraordinarily competitive field.
The modern team or enterprise is as coordinated in their creativity and design as they are in their operations. Brand assets and fonts are consistent across every internal presentation and external communication. Product elements and components are aligned and updated in real-time, from websites to mobile apps to desktop software. The new XD makes this possible.
In our latest release, you’ll see some of the specifics about how we’re helping teams achieve consistency and efficiency with support for flexible and intuitive design systems. XD is being crafted by and for forward-thinking UI/UX teams that value performance, collaboration, and a fully-integrated experience with a robust ecosystem of third-party plug-ins.
In developing this release, one major question the XD team had to answer was how to share projects. Creative Cloud users are accustomed to saving their work in files on their local device and then syncing those local files up to the cloud for collaborators to see. But the team quickly realized that paradigm didn’t work with the complex sharing and collaboration needs of modern organizations. And it didn’t deliver the performance our customers wanted. Instead, the source of truth about a project always needs to be in the cloud so that all the collaborators and stakeholders can access it. So, we created Cloud Documents. With Cloud Documents, projects are automatically saved into the cloud, where everyone can view and interact with the one true version of the project, all with the level of performance we expect from modern applications.
I’m excited to see how Cloud Documents and support for creating design systems in Adobe XD change the ways design teams work with each other and with their stakeholders.
Transcending Desktop-Only Creativity
One of the most wondrous tenets of creativity is that it happens on its own terms. Whether you’re sitting on a train, walking through the woods, or sitting at your desktop, your tools must enable you to create in real-time wherever you are. Of course, professional, digital creative tools have been bound to the desktop for decades. But with recent developments in cloud computing and powerful devices like Apple’s iPad Pro, digital creativity has the opportunity to happen anywhere.
We’re taking advantage of these trends by transforming our flagship tools into multi-device systems, starting with Photoshop. This year, we will bring Photoshop to the iPad, with more platforms and devices to follow.
Bringing the full codebase of Photoshop to a device like the iPad is both a tremendous technical challenge and an amazing opportunity. Translating the deep, complicated interface of Photoshop on the desktop to a touch device gives us a chance to modernize the application and make it more accessible for new users.
Our goal is to deliver a product with the power and capabilities to enable real, professional work with much less complexity. There will be fewer dropdowns and panels and more contextual ways to access your advanced capabilities through modern touch gestures.
Like most opportunities, though, this one comes with risks. Many creative professionals have been using Photoshop for years or decades. They have engrained expectations, shortcuts, and muscle memory that help them do their jobs. What streamlines Photoshop for one user may break a much-used pattern for another.
We’re doing research and getting user feedback to guide us in this transformation, but we know things won’t be perfect at launch. We depend on feedback from our veteran users and new customers and expect to make changes based on what we hear.
Exciting Journeys Ahead
These are just a few of the upcoming changes you’ll see in Creative Cloud, but we have a long roadmap of projects that will fundamentally improve how people create. Stay tuned for some pretty exciting updates for our video products and the Lightroom ecosystem for photographers. And our newly founded 3D & Immersive product team is charting the course for a wildly creative and immersive future.
Bold journeys don’t come with maps, though. Our product teams are guided primarily by empathy with the users they serve. We’ll succeed only through the partnerships we’ve built with creative communities and with the help of the priceless feedback we receive through those partnerships.