Adobe envisions all digital UX wireframing
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Published on March 30, 2015
Adobe wants designers to give-up paper and pencil in the early stages of the design process and instead create early versions of design projects using Adobe Comp CC, a new iPad app. This new app was announced today by Adobe, and they are expecting designers to use it for a variety of projects, ranging from UX wireframing of websites and apps, to sketching designs for print design projects.
Adobe is trying to move up-stream, creating apps that they hope will be used earlier in the design process. The Comp CC app uses hand gestures, with users drawing occurring on the screen using their fingers to create boxes, images, and placeholder text.
Sketching and creating rough designs is an integral part of the design process. The sketching process, whether for the UX of an app, or a print project, involves iteration. Paper and pencil make it easy to iterate. Working with paper provides a level of simplicity of erasing, or discarding a sheet of paper, and trying new versions. When creating apps and websites, the low fidelity of pencil sketches lets stakeholders focus on concepts, rather than content. When working using pencil and paper, there is an emphasis on user experience, not the interface or presentation. Adobe appears to have missed the mark, as they are focusing more on the design itself, and not the design process.
Adobe’s approach with Comp CC is to provide design concepts that include placeholder images along with placeholder text and specific typefaces. By integrating with Adobe’s typeface service, Typekit, the designs are much more polished. While prototyping and design tools such as Balsamiq and Sketchflow focus on low fidelity wireframes and prototypes, creating rough designs, Adobe Comp CC takes a different approach, providing much more refined designs.
Adobe Comp CC doesn’t appear to fulfill the need for early sketching by designers. The precise images, text frames, and exact fonts are more like early versions of a final project rather than a rough idea or concept. It remains to be seen if many designers are willing to create their comps using a finger on the iPad. With some changes, this app appears more suited for the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, using the supported stylus to draw directly on the screen rather than the iPad.
UX designers remain interested in trying new apps for wireframes and prototypes. Many UX courses teach tools such as Balsamiq Mock-ups, and Adobe could eventually find a place in this process. Whether they update their Fireworks app, or make revisions to the Comp CC app.
Adobe appears to have landed in no-mans-land with Comp CC, creating designs that are too refined for early sketching, and not high quality enough for final wireframes. It remains to be see whether Adobe has created a new category of app that designers will embrace, or added an unnecessary step that complicates rather than helps designers.
Adobe Comp CC adds to Adobe’s list of growing iPad apps, which range from video editing and photo editing, and illustration. This also adds to Adobe’s list of apps supporting early app design, expanding into a space previously only occupied by Adobe Fireworks. The app is simple, there isn’t likely going to be a need to add Adobe Comp CC to the available Adobe training courses, as it likely will be able to be mastered with a little effort. Additionally, the app is available at no cost, making it a no-risk proposition for designers to try.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.