Simple Tips to Improve User Testing

Creative Cloud

Testing is a fundamental part of the UX designer’s job and a core part of the overall UX design process. Testing provides the inspiration, guidance and validation that product teams need in order to design great products. That’s why the most effective teams make testing a habit.

Usability testing involves observing users as they use a product. It helps you find where users struggle and what they like. There are two ways to run a usability test:

  • Moderated, in which a moderator works with a test participant
  • Unmoderated, in which the test participant completes the test alone

We’ll focus on the first, but some of the tips mentioned can be applied to both types of testing.

1. Test As Early As Possible

The earlier you test, the easier it is to make changes and, thus, the greater impact the testing will have on the quality of the product. A lot of design teams use the excuse, “The product isn’t done yet. We’ll test it later,” to postpone testing. Of course, we all want our work to be perfect, which is why we try to avoid showing a half-baked design. But if you work too long without a feedback loop, the chances are higher that you’ll need to make a significant change after releasing the product to the market. It’s the classic mistake: thinking you’re the user and designing for yourself. If you can invest energy to learn early and prevent problems from happening in the first place, you will save a tremendous amount of time later.

The good news is that you don’t need to wait for a high-fidelity prototype or fully formed product to start testing. In fact, you should start testing ideas as soon as possible. You can test design mockups and low-fidelity prototypes. You’ll need to set the context for the test and explain to test participants what’s required of them.

2. Outline Your Objectives

Before starting usability testing, be crystal clear on your goals. Think of the reason you want to test the product. What are you trying to learn? Ask yourself, “What do I need to know from this session?” Then, once you understand that, identify exactly which features and areas you want feedback on.

Here are a few common objectives:

  • Find out whether users are able to complete specified tasks successfully (e.g. purchase a product, find information)
  • Identify how long it takes to complete specific tasks
  • Find out whether users are satisfied with a product and identify changes required to improve satisfaction

3. Carefully Prepare Questions And Tasks

Once you have an objective, you can define which tasks you’ll need to test in order to answer your questions or validate your hypothesis and assumptions. The objective is not to test the functionality itself (that should be a goal of the quality assurance team), but to test the experience with that functionality.

Actionable Tasks

When designing tasks, make them realistic and actionable. These could be specific parts of the product or prototype that you want users to test — for example:

  • Getting started with the product
  • Completing a checkout
  • Configuring the product

Prioritize Tasks

Don’t squeeze in many subjects in your usability testing checklist. Conducting the tests and analyzing the results will take a lot of time. Instead, list the important tasks in your product, and order them by priority.

Clearly Describe Tasks

Testers need to know what to do. Make it easy. Users tend to become discouraged when tasks are unclear.

Have a Goal For Each Task

As a moderator, you should be very clear about the goal of a task (for example, “I expect that users will be able to complete the checkout within two minutes”). However, you don’t need to share that goal with participants.

Limit The Number Of Tasks

Patrick Neeman of Usability Counts recommends assigning five tasks per participant. Considering the time of the session (usually 60 minutes), leave time for your questions, too.

Provide a Scenario, Not Instruction

People tend to perform more naturally if you provide them with a scenario, rather than dry instruction. Instead of asking them something like, “Download a book with recipes,” you could phrase it as a scenario, like, “You’re looking for some new ways to cook beans. Download an ebook with recipes.” A scenario provides some context and makes the task more natural for the user. The more naturally participants perform the task, the better the data you will get as a result.

Test The Set Of Tasks Yourself

Go through the task several times yourself, and work out appropriate questions to ask. It’s hard work but will definitely pay off.

4. Recruit Representative Users

Finding the questions you want to ask is important, but also, the people who participate in your test should be representative of your target audience (user persona). There’s no point in watching people use your product if they don’t match your target audience. Therefore, as soon as you have some idea of what to test, start recruiting. Carefully recruit people based on your goals. Be advised: Finding people for usability tests is not easy. In fact, recruiting is one of the biggest reasons why many companies don’t regularly talk to their users. Thus, put in the extra effort to find people who represent your target audience.

Analyze Existing User Data

If your product already has a customer base, then a quick analysis of available information (for example, analytics data, customer support tickets, surveys, previous usability sessions) will help you assess what you already know or don’t know about your users.

Numbers provided by an analytics tool on how the user interacts with a product — clicks, user session time, search queries, conversion, etc. — will help UX designers to prepare for usability tests. Image: Ramotion

Test With Users Who Aren’t Only Friends or Family

Of course, feedback from friends and family is better than nothing, but for better results, you’ll need independent and unbiased users, ones who haven’t used your product before. Your friends and family are too close to the product to know how real people would perceive it for the first time.

Define Your Criteria

Before recruiting users, you’ll need to decide on the type of people to test your product. Define criteria and select testers according to it. For example, if you are testing a mobile app for ordering food, most probably you’ll need feedback from people who order food regularly. Translate this requirement into precise, measurable criteria, so that you can use it to screen prospective participants: people who order food at least once a week from different delivery services (participants should have experience with at least three services).

In addition to specifying the users you want to talk to, think about people you don’t want to see in any of your sessions. As a rule of thumb, avoid testing with tech-savvy users and early adopters, because such testing might not be as revealing as you’d like. Also, avoid participants who have conflicts of interest (such as ones who work for competitors).

Create Screener Questions

Next, create a screener questionnaire to identify people for your testing sessions. As with any good survey or questionnaire, avoid leading questions. An example of a question that would reveal the “right” answer is, “Do you like ordering food using a smartphone?” Most people who want to join a testing session would surely answer yes to that question.

You can prepare a list of questions in the format of a survey and ask potential testers to fill it out.Google Forms is a great tool for creating screeners and collecting the responses in a spreadsheet. Because responses go right into a Google spreadsheet, you can sort and filter them.

Get People to Fill Out the Screener

Next, you’ll need to get people to fill out the screener. One way to achieve this is to create a job description with a link to your survey. In the description, explain your expectations, and offer an incentive to motivate people to show up (such as a $100 Amazon gift card for a 60-minute interview). Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook are the most obvious places to post the job description.

Things will be a bit harder when you need to recruit very specific and hard-to-find types of users. But even in this case, it’s totally solvable:

  • Talk with your sales or marketing team to see if they have lists of contacts they can share.
  • Find contacts in relevant community groups and professional associations.

Tip: If your product is on the market, you could show a message — “Want to give us more feedback?” — somewhere in the user flow, which leads to your screener form. Also, if you use a service such as Intercom, you could automatically email new users after they have used the product five times, inviting participation in testing.

Think Quality, Not Quantity

Some product teams think they need a lot of participants for usability testing. In fact, testing with five users generally unveils 85% of core usability problems. The most important problems are easy to spot for people who are new to your product, and difficult for you to spot because you no longer have fresh eyes. It turns out that you’ll learn a lot from the first person you talk to, a little less from the next, and so forth.

Once you collect the responses and filter the list of potential participants based on your criteria, select the five candidates who fit your criteria the best.

Clearly Instruct on How to Join the Session

When you schedule a test session, provide all details in a confirmation email to participants:

  • The time (if you do remote testing, provide the time in the relevant time zone)
  • The location (including building, parking information, etc.)
  • What test participants need to bring with them (for example, personal ID, a mobile device with iOS or Android, etc.)
  • Your phone number (in case they have questions or need to reschedule)

To minimize frustrating no-shows, you could ask users to reply to confirm. For example, your subject line in the confirmation email could be something like, “Usability session scheduled on May 14 at 3 pm. (Please reply to confirm).” You could also call participants to remind them about their appointment on the day before the session.

5. Get The Most Out Of In-Person Testing

Hearing directly from users is one of the fastest ways to learn about and improve your product. By watching someone use your product, you can quickly identify areas where the product isn’t clear enough.

Building a Good Rapport

When a session begins, the participant might be nervous and unsure about what to expect. The quality of a usability session is directly related to the rapport you build with the participant. The deeper the participant’s trust in the moderator, the more frank their feedback will be. Conduct the test in a way that participants will feel comfortable giving you honest feedback.

A few things to remember:

  • In case of failure, people tend to blame themselves, rather than a flaw in the design. Thus, make sure they don’t feel like they’re being tested. (For example, “We’re not testing you; we’re testing our design. So, nothing you say or do is wrong.”)
  • You want participants to be as candid as possible. If they don’t like something or they think it’s silly, make sure they say so. Some participants don’t like to share such thoughts because they are afraid of hurting your feelings. Just tell them something like, “You won’t be hurting our feelings. We haven’t been involved in designing these screens at all.”
  • Start with easy tasks or questions. They won’t yield any juicy insights, but they will get people talking and will help relax them. Learn a bit about the person. Try to find out what the person likes or doesn’t like, their hobbies, as well as tech habits. This information will help you better evaluate the results of the test.

Listen, Don’t Lead

Once you have presented the task, everything should be led by the participant. Your goal in this session is to understand how users will use the product. For example, if the participant takes an unplanned route through your app, don’t correct them! Wait to see what happens. This is valuable learning.

Don’t Judge Participants

Your participants are there to teach you something, not the other way around! Judging users or trying to educate them during the test would be counterproductive. Your goal is to get as much information as possible in the time available and to understand it all from their perspective.

Thus, avoid phrases like, “That was obvious, right?” and “Do you really think so?” while raising your eyebrows, even if something seems obvious. Instead, ask something like, “How easy or difficult was it for you to complete this task?” or “Why do you think that?” There should never be any judgement or surprise in either your tone or body language.

Don’t Explain

When you explain how the product you’re testing functions, you’ll almost certainly be introducing bias to the test. In the real world, your product will live on its own. You won’t be there to guide users along and tell them exactly what to do and how to use it. Participants should have to figure things out based on the task’s description and what they see in the interface.

Don’t Interrupt

When participants start a task, try your best not to interrupt them. The more you interrupt, the less likely they’ll have the confidence to complete the task. They’ll lose their flow, and you won’t see anything resembling natural behavior.

Don’t Draw Attention to Specific Issues

Drawing attention to specific issues that you care about could cause people to change their behavior and focus their answers on the issues you’re emphasizing. This problem is particularly common in discussions on user interface design: If you were to ask people about a particular design element (such as the color of the primary call-to-action button), they’ll notice it thereafter much more than they would have otherwise. This could lead participants to change their behavior and focus on something that doesn’t matter.

Use the Think-Aloud Technique

The think-aloud method is critical to getting inside the participant’s head. In fact,Jakob Nielsen argues that it’s the best usability tool. Using the think-aloud technique, the moderator asks test participants to use the product while continuously thinking out loud — simply verbalizing their thoughts as they move through the user interface. Using this technique for the food-ordering app, most probably you’d get responses like, “Hm, this looks like a food-ordering app. I’m wondering how to order food. Maybe if I tap here, I’ll see a form to request a meal.” The technique enables you to discover what users really think about your design and will help you turn the usability session into actionable redesign recommendations. Responses like, “Oh, it loads too slowly”, “Why am I seeing this?” and “I expected to see B after A” can be translated into actionable design changes.

Tip: Because most users don’t talk while using a product, the test facilitator will have to prompt them to keep talking. Ask something like, “What’s going on here?” when test participants interact with the product.

Observe Behavior

Mind the distinction between listening and observing. While both methods will provide UX designers with valuable information, many UX designers focus too heavily on listening. Observing users can uncover a lot more in a lot less time. You can learn a lot by listening to people, but you can learn way more by seeing how they react to a product.

Most people want to look smart, which is why during testing sessions, you’ll notice participants struggle through a task but then tell you that it was easy for them. Thus, focus on their behavior, not their opinion.

When in Doubt, Clarify

When you’re not quite sure what a participant is talking about, ask for clarification. A simple question like “When you said… did you mean…?” will make things clear. Don’t leave it to the end of the session. The end of a session is too late to go back and figure out what someone was talking about.

Follow Up With Questions

Be eager and curious to learn as much as you can about the user’s experiences and perspectives. Don’t settle for the first answer you get. Always dig deeper by asking follow-up questions. Follow-up questions will give you a lot of insight into what has really happened. People often can’t clearly state their motivations without being prompted. A simple well-timed follow-up question will usually yield a more thorough explanation or valuable example.

Answer Questions With Questions

During the session, participants will certainly ask you some questions. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • “Should I use it?”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “What did others think about this?”

Resist the temptation to tell them all about it! Ask them a question right back. It’ll reveal a lot.

6. Treat Design As An Iterative Process

A lot of product teams think about the design process as a linear process that starts with user research, has a phase for prototyping and ends with testing. However, treat it as an iterative process.

Testing, as much as coding, designing and gathering requirements, has a place in the iterative loop of product design and development. It’s important to test at each interval of this process, if resources are available.

Feedback Loop

The best way to avoid having to rework a product is to inject feedback into the process. Regular user feedback (not necessarily in the form of usability testing, but also in online surveys or analysis of customer support tickets) should be at the heart of the UX design process.

7. Don’t Limit Yourself To In-Person Sessions

Testing in-person is a great way to understand user behavior; unfortunately, it’s not always possible. What if you need to test only one small feature, or your test participants are dispersed (for example, if your product targets international customers), or you need results fast (ideally, today)? In this case, focus on remote testing. But how do you handle remote sessions?

Use Tools for Unmoderated Tests

Nowadays, a ton of tools are available for you to run remote unmoderated tests. Here are some:

  • Lookback: This tool allows for both remote live moderated testing and unmoderated testing. Live sessions are automatically recorded in the cloud — no uploading, waiting or managing files.
  • UserTesting: UserTesting allows for easy remote usability testing. You can run an unmoderated test on your website with a predefined user base.
  • Validately: With Validately, choose either unmoderated or moderated testing. To test a product, add a link to your website or prototype. Testers will receive a URL to take the test or join a moderated session. After the session, you’ll receive a qualitative report and sharable videos.
  • Usabilla: Collect both qualitative and quantitative insights from users to make the right design decisions. Among testing deliverables, you’ll receive nice heat maps.

Conduct Moderated Remote Testing

You could conduct remote moderated sessions using Google Hangouts or Skype. Simply ask users to share their screen, and then see how they interact with your product. Don’t forget to record the session for further analysis. (Record both video and audio; without audio, it might be hard to tell why certain behavior occurred.)

Avoid “Professional” Testers

The downside of remote testing is that many participants get tested so frequently that they’ve learned to focus on certain aspects of a design. To compensate for possible “professional” testers, you’ll need to analyze the test sessions (for example, by watching the video recordings), and exclude results from people who don’t seem to provide genuine feedback.

8. Engage The Whole Team In The Process

Involve the whole product team in the testing process. Having an opportunity to observe users will help the whole team understand the problems with usability and to empathize with users. Testing enables you to build shared understanding, even before the team starts designing.

Discuss the Testing Strategy With the Team

Product design is a team sport. And because testing is an essential part of the design process, it should be discussed with all team players. Direct involvement in preparing the test will make team members more interested in the activity. As the person responsible for UX research, you should make it clear how your team will use the findings from the usability tests.

Ask Everyone to Watch the Sessions

You can’t expect the entire team to join the testing sessions. In most cases, it isn’t necessary for everyone to observe all usability testing first-hand (although it might be desirable). But you can record the testing sessions on video and share it with colleagues. Video can be extremely helpful during design discussions.

Ask Team to Help With Analysis

One thing that slows down many forms of usability testing is analysis. Extracting findings from the data collected during testing sessions could take days or even weeks. But if the entire team watches the sessions and takes notes, they will be better able to summarize the findings and decide on next steps.

9. Test Before, During And After The Redesign

A common question among many product teams is, “When should we test?” The answer is simple: Test before a design or redesign, test during the design, and then test afterwards, too.

  • Before a design or redesign: Testing would be conducted during the discovery phase of the UX design process. If you plan to redesign an existing product, usability testing could help you identify the biggest pain points in the current version. Consider testing competitors’ products, to compare results.
  • During a redesign: If resources exist, do this at every milestone of the project. In the time it takes to build and launch a new product or feature, you could run several testing sessions and improve the prototype after each one.
  • After a redesign: Knowledge of how real users use the product will help you make it better.

10. Don’t Try To Solve Everything At Once

Trying to solve everything at once is simply impossible. Instead, prioritize your findings. Fix the most important problems first, and then test again. However, if that’s impossible (for example, if the problems are too big to tackle), then prioritize problems according to their impact on revenue.


You can’t afford to skip testing, because even a simple round of testing could make or break your product. Investment in user testing is just about the only way to consistently generate a rich stream of data on user behavior. Thus, test early, test often.

Further Reading

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The Life and Work of Clark Little

Creative Cloud

Anyone who’s a fan of the amazing waves on Hawaii’s North Shore has likely heard of Clark Little. A lifelong surfing enthusiast, at the age of 37 Little left his steady job, bought a camera, and started exposing the inside of the North Shore’s massive waves. His unique images struck a nerve, and 10 years later he’s widely acclaimed for his remarkable wave photography, as well as his work shooting surfing and sea life.

For years, Little’s good friend and action sports filmmaker Peter King traveled to Hawaii in the winter to capture video of the Triple Crown of Surfing. He also shot small segments of Little photographing the shorebreak and eventually proposed that they work together on a documentary focusing on Little’s action wave photography. The two teamed up and King later brought Editor Darren Doane on board to help finish the film SHOREBREAK: The Clark Little Story. The team is now working on a television series of the same name.

Adobe: Tell us about how the film was made.

Little: Peter came out to Hawaii often and followed me around the island as I worked to capture the perfect arc in wave or an under over picture of sharks and turtles. It was very natural, focusing on what I do and how I trigger my passion. I trust Peter and he’s very talented when it comes to film. Nothing was staged, which made it a lot more fun.

Doane: I joined the project after Peter had shot everything. He called me and asked if I could jump on board to help finish it. He had some sequences already cut, so I was able to take those and continue cutting, editing, and shaping the story. Over the course of three weeks we were able to put a narrative together. Because I knew the story and structure based on cutting down and aligning sequences I knew what I needed from the interviews. I flew to Hawaii, interviewed Clark, and then threaded the interview through the film.

Adobe: Darren, what was your experience with Adobe Premiere Pro CC going into this project?

Doane: I began working in filmmaking in 1990 and transitioned to non-linear editing in 2002. I was already using Adobe Premiere Pro CC before this film, but this was the first project where it hit me that I didn’t have to leave Premiere Pro to do all of the things I love to do. Every time I sit down at my computer and open Premiere Pro I still get a thrill that I can do anything, it’s all right there. The online/offline world doesn’t exist anymore. You basically live in post, which is this constantly evolving process.

Peter worked for a year creating sequences and laying in temp music. I took it all in and there was one sequence that I knew would be the beginning of the film. Once I know the opening sequence, I work on building the credit sequence that leads into it. I learned how to use titles in Premiere Pro and it was really fun.

I also like to do color correction and sound mixing on the fly as I go. It’s all part of the process, which makes finishing that much easier. When I turned in an edit for Peter and Clark, I didn’t have to ask them to imagine the sound and color, it was pretty complete.

Adobe: Clark, do you also work Adobe Creative Cloud apps?

Little: Someone taught me Adobe Photoshop when I first started out in 2007. I have a very simple process. I open raw files, adjust shadows, highlights, and exposure, add a little saturation, and reduce some of the noise. I like to keep things as natural as possible. Shooting in Hawaii, I already have vibrant beautiful sunsets, white sandy beaches, palm trees, abundant sea life and water clarity so there’s not much that needs to be pushed.

Adobe: How has the film been received?

Doane: Peter and Clark wanted to make the film and thought they would just finish it and put it on iTunes. I was able to take it to my distribution company, which helped get the film into some festivals where it won some awards. We also did a small theatrical tour and sold out events across the country. SHOREBREAK debuted on STARZ and was also number one in its category on iTunes.

Little: Peter is very good at putting together projects and I’m very stoked with how it came out. We didn’t have much of a plan, but we do have a great fan base on social media and through our newsletters. I didn’t know how it would go, but I’m happy with its success and how people were inspired.

Adobe: Tell us about the television series.

Little: I was a late bloomer when it came to finding out I would be a wave photographer. If you find your passion you forget what day it is. The television series let us take that idea further. We filmed some really cool segments that reinforce the message that it’s never too late to find your calling.

Doane: We created 10 20-minute episodes that we’re hoping to launch in the fall. The episodes are smaller stories of Clark’s day-to-day life highlighting his artistic process and lifestyle. They are also a celebration of Hawaii, which is a really unique place.

What was great about the television episodes is that we kept everything in Premiere Pro the entire time, right down to the final mix. Once we had the first 10 minutes done, that served as a template for the rest of the episodes in terms of look, audio level, color, and more. Every time I looked something up to see if Premiere Pro could do it, sure enough, it was there. Both the film and the television series prove that you can do everything in Premiere Pro.

SHOREBREAK: The Clark Little Story is available in the US to download and stream on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Hoopla, Flux Fling, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Cable, Brighthouse, and Charter. The television series will premiere on Charter Cable OC16 on October 2, 2017. In fall 2017, the show will also be released on Outside TV.

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud pro video tools

Watch MAX 2017 Sessions Online

Creative Cloud

Maybe you couldn’t make it in person to MAX 2017, or maybe you want to review an inspiring session or keynote. In either case, we’ve got you covered — many of our keynotes and sessions are now available to watch online.

So much happened at MAX this year — the amount of amazing content was overwhelming. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting different sessions to share with our audience, in hopes that these help to inspire you to take your own work to the next level.

And don’t forget to sign up to lock in the best price on a pass to MAX 2018 in Los Angeles.  Don’t miss a minute!


#ColorFontWeek – Playbox

Creative Cloud

Download Playbox here.

For Matt, new font designs start off as a sketch, drawing, or doodle. His secret is stopping his creative brainstorming when he starts noticing that he’s repeating himself. That’s when he looks back at all of his sketches and starts translating them into the bezier curves in Illustrator.

With Playbox, Matt wanted to create a font that reflected many of the shapes and motifs familiar to his other work. He wanted it to be playful and spontaneous with letter shapes of all sizes. Playbox is whimsical and playful in every form, from the color, to the shapes, to the varied spacing. It is the ultimate exploration of the creative boundaries of the OpenType-SVG color font.

Early renderings of Playbox

Despite the font’s whimsical designs, Matt was thoughtful about maintaining readability. The variation in size, coloring, and shape elements across the whole alphabet required that Matt make each letter super legible. You’ll notice that he deliberately used ample kerning to give room between letters. He also uses complementary color pairings like blue and orange or purple and green to make the punchouts of the the letters.

The Playbox OpenType-SVG Font was designed with Fontself Maker in Illustrator CC and made available at no charge to you for this week thanks to the generosity of Matt Lyon. This font can be used on the latest release of Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC. Free download expires 11/5.

This font is available as part of 5 free color font series released during #ColorFontWeek.

Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign No Longer Support OS X Yosemite v10.10

Creative Cloud

Announcement for users on Mac OS X Yosemite v10.10: Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign will no longer support the operating system after the October 2017 release. For the best and most secure experience of these apps, we recommend using a supported operating system: OS X El Capitan v10.11, or macOS Sierra v.10.12.

What does this mean for you?

Apple provides free OS X upgrades, so you are encouraged to upgrade to the supported OS X El Capitan v10.11 or macOS Sierra v.10.12 at no additional cost from Apple.

You can continue to install and use Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign on Mac OS X 10.10. However, Adobe will no longer test releases or patches for these operating systems, nor will any bugs specific to these operating systems be addressed. Furthermore, any future security updates or patches won’t be applicable to you. If you are entitled to support, Adobe will continue to support you, unless the problem you’re experiencing is isolated to Mac OS X Yosemite v10.10.

If you have any questions about this change, you can post them to Adobe forum for the community of users and experts.

Audition Deep Dive: Auto-Ducking music

Creative Cloud

One of the most time-consuming tasks that any editor faces is ensuring the different elements of their project blend well and get out of the way of everything else.  The art of mixing, of adjusting the volume of background music so that dialogue or sound effects are clear and audible, is often what separates the professional-sounding projects from amateurs.  Audition already offers several methods to suit individual tastes and styles: manually adjusting clip volume keyframes, riding a volume fader up and down and capturing these movements as automation, or even setting up a complex side-chain input compressor chain.  These methods can usually achieve the best results, but they also take a lot of work, a lot of time, or a lot of technical know-how.

With this release of Audition CC, we’ve introduced Auto-Ducking as part of the Essential Sound workflows.  Powered by Adobe Sensei, our artificial intelligence and machine learning initiative, Music clips can now automatically generate clip volume keyframes that automatically reduce the volume when dialogue, sound effects, and other audio elements are present.  Instead of just looking at the in and out points of each dialogue clip, Auto-Ducking analyzes the audio signal inside each clip and adjusts the music appropriately.  It continues working in the background so as you add, delete, or move clips around the timeline, the volume envelope will adjust by itself.

Auto-Ducking automates volume changes so that background music doesn’t interfere with dialogue and other audio content.

Enable Auto-Ducking

Quickly enable Auto-Ducking by selecting your music clip in the timeline, then assigning it the Music audio type in the Essential Sound panel.  You’ll immediately see a new parameter group, Ducking, in the panel.  Check this option to enable Auto-Ducking, and clicking the text to expose the parameters.  (Toggle this checkbox on and off to temporarily disable ducking, without losing your settings.)  You’ll see a handful of parameters, Duck against, Sensitivity, Reduce By, and Fades.  Lastly, you’ll see options to Monitor clip changes or Re-analyze your content.

Ducking parameters make it easy to fine-tune your adjustments

Duck Against

Select the icons for the audio content types you wish to duck against.  Dialogue, Music, Sound Effects, Ambience, or un-tagged clips.  Choose one type, or several.  You’ll see the new dotted keyframe envelope appear on the music clip.


This parameter adjusts the threshold at which the ducking triggers.  Higher or Lower sensitivity settings will both result in fewer adjustments, but will focus on maintaining a lower or louder music track, respectively.  Middle-range sensitivity values will trigger more adjustments, giving more of an “FM-Radio” type of ducking, where the music comes in and out quickly between pauses in speech.  (Note in the screenshot below that the dotted volume adjustments don’t simply happen at the start and end of the green dialogue clips, but are actually aware of the audio within each of them and adjust for the best results.)

Reduce By

This parameter selects how much to reduce the volume of your music clip.  Adjusting this setting to the right will reduce the volume more dramatically, towards the left for more subtle volume adjustments.


Control how quickly the volume adjustment occurs when triggered.  Faster fades are ideal when mixing fast music with fast speech (Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!) while slower fades are more appropriate when ducking background music behind voiceover tracks.  But feel free to use your ears and find the right responsiveness for your project and tastes.

Monitor Clip Changes & Re-Analyze Clips

While this box is checked, Audition will continue to update the auto-ducking volume envelope even when you’re working on other parts of your project.  As you move dialogue clips around, add or delete content,  or adjust the volume and effects of other clips, your music ducking will update quietly and accurately.  Uncheck this box, and you’ll see the dotted volume keyframe switch to a standard keyframe envelope.  This way, you can use Auto-Ducking to get the basic keyframes in place, then make manual adjustments and really customize your results.

Auto-Ducking is going to save minutes or hours for every production, meaning you’ll have more freedom to focus on the creative and storytelling aspects of your productions.  Whether you use it as a single-click or preset, or to do the busy work of drawing keyframes which you’ll manually adjust further, let Audition be your production assistant, doing the heavy lifting and repetitive tasks that can take up so much of your time.

Contributing to the Creative Community

Creative Cloud

For E.J. Hassenfratz, creativity is in his blood. Both his father and uncle worked as graphic designers for broadcast news stations, so he grew up around artists. When it came time to make a decision about college, he pursued a Fine Arts degree and taught himself Adobe Photoshop and After Effects on the side. He put those skills to work interning at the NBC television station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then landed his first full time job as a graphic designer at ABC in Washington, DC.

After eight years, E.J. decided to try his hand at freelancing, where he’s worked on 3D modeling and graphic design projects for companies including Microsoft and Apple, 360-degree videos for consumer products companies, and content for NBA and NHL games, including projection mapping and content for Jumbotrons. “Previously, the animation work I did would play on the local news, so it’s cool to see my work projected on a huge basketball court or a massive Jumbotron in a hockey arena,” says E.J.

Sacramento Kings Home Opener PreGame Projections from Quince Imaging on Vimeo.

The majority of E.J.’s 2D work is done completely inside of After Effects, then taken to Premiere Pro for editing. He does a lot of animation work, and appreciates how the Puppet tool in After Effects lets him add character to inanimate objects.

E.J. also builds out designs in Cinema 4D and takes advantage of its integration with After Effects for compositing and rendering assets. “The workflow between After Effects and Cinema 4D is very seamless,” he says.

Through his freelance work, he connected with other designers and got plugged in to the After Effects community. Today, what he enjoys most is creating After Effects and Cinema 4D tutorials, which he posts to his website, Eyedesyn, as well as his YouTube channel. He also posts quick tips and industry news on Twitter.

“I’ve learned so much from the community so I decided that I wanted to start creating tutorials to pay it forward,” says E.J. “Many people are self-taught, and I enjoy being able to make learning After Effects easier and more accessible.”

His experience designing motion graphics for television broadcasts made E.J. a perfect fit for creating Motion Graphics templates for After Effects. In addition to understanding the need to work quickly, he also understood the need to make graphics as adaptable as possible.

E.J. created three primary Motion Graphics templates packages: a sports package, a news package, and a futuristic package for online video creators. All of the packages ship free with Premiere Pro, so users can start experimenting with them right away. Each package includes a show open, lower thirds, a logo resolve, and transitions. After doing the initial design and determining what features should be editable, he worked with a back-end designer to bring the Motion Graphics template to life.

“We tried to make as many elements as we could, so if someone wants to make an entire TV show or web show they have all of the elements within each theme to create just the aesthetic they’re envisioning,” says E.J. “These templates are definitely something I wish I’d had 10 years ago when I was building everything from scratch.”

E.J. based much of the template design on current design trends, while being careful not to make anything too limiting. For example, the sports template includes a shield, which is showing up in many sports logos, but includes more modular elements as well.

“The Motion Graphics templates are able to adapt to different situations, making them very flexible and useful,” says E.J. “Designing Motion Graphics templates with adaptability and customization in mind saves time that designers previously spent creating and rendering out individual elements and lets editors focus on what they do best.”

Looking forward, E.J. hopes to continue building his training library, along with speaking at conferences and developing coursework for E.J. strongly believes he wouldn’t be where he is today without the generous free training content available online, and is happy to now help other up-and-coming designers learn and achieve their goals.

Learn more about Motion Graphics templates in Premiere Pro CC

Q&A With Anton Sten, Author of User Experiences That Matter

Creative Cloud

Anton Sten borrows notes from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to communicate why user experience design matters, regardless of whether you work in UX or not.

Anton Sten is a UX designer and freelancer who literally wrote the book on User Experiences That Matter.

“I think we spend a lot of time these days on websites and in applications that are okay to use, but none of them are really a pleasurable experience. That’s what I’m on a quest to change,” Sten said.

Based in the south of Sweden, Sten chatted with us via Skype to answer our questions about his book and what it takes to create user experiences that truly matter.

Two reasons, actually. One of them is that I wanted to combine different blog posts into a bigger package — something that would be more of a product and not just separate pieces.

The other reason was that I wanted there to be more of a lightweight option for people just beginning to learn about user experience. I think there are some great books on the topic, but most of them are heavy and not really aimed at normal people. It’s quite a light read. It’s not a long book, but it’s something that hopefully will get people thinking more about user experience design, even if you’re not necessarily a user experience designer.

I’m going to ask you the same question you asked several UX designers throughout your book. To you, what defines a great user experience?

I think it really depends on the product. Take something like Dropbox. In my opinion, they offer a great user experience. It works and it’s not in my face. There are no pop ups coming up — it’s out of my way for 99 percent of the time. The syncing is fast and it just works. When I do need additional features, it’s integrated into my system and my existing workflow, so I don’t have to launch an extra app or something like that. that’s a really good user experience for that kind of product.

On the other hand, I think something like MailChimp is nice because their branding is very much aligned with their product. They have taken the time to put effort into all of these tiny details, like when you send the campaign, for instance, you get a high five prompt from their character. They have all of these minor details, but all of them embrace the product and the brand.

I think a great user experience really depends on the brand, the product, the use case for that product, and making sure that all of these sort of align in a great way.

You talk about user experience design in the book as not a separate entity from the user experience entirely, but as just one part of the user experience. What do you think the difference is between the full user experience and that of the user experience design?

User experience design is just part of the bigger picture. If you think of loading times, they are basically crucial to the user experience, but they’re dependent on a number of things. Design is one of them, but it’s obviously not the only one.

I think we need to focus more on user experience, not necessarily user experience design — users are not thinking about user experience design as a separate entity. They’re not coming to a page and thinking, ‘Oh, I understand that this page is slow and that’s fine because these designs are so nice, and the wireframes behind it all are really great.’ You want everything to work together. I think splitting things into silos, like separating design from the entire user experience, is just one of the things that our industry needs to work at in order to create better products.

Absolutely. And on that note, you mention in the book that you’re not the biggest fan of the term “UX designer.” Why is that?

I think that’s related to what I just mentioned. It puts the responsibility of the total user experience on the designer whereas design is one part of the user experience, but it is not everything.

If you have the best possible user experience designer, but have people in logistics or tech that don’t value the user experience at all, the product will still ship with a bad user experience. The designer can only do so much. When something doesn’t work, we tend to then blame the user experience designer.

Yeah, what you’re saying then is user experience is a much more of a holistic thing than just that of user experience design. You’ve mentioned logistics, but also in your book you talk about sociology, and things like the UI, and everything that kind of goes into it.

Absolutely yes, and that can be really small things. If you order something online, for instance, and you find a product, you find the website, you check out, and everything is working just great. But then you get the email confirmation and the tracking number isn’t linked to a tracking service. It’s a really minor thing, but that sort of breaks the experience you had and it’s not necessarily the user experience designer’s fault. That’s just one thing where I think the user experience is bigger than just design.

One tool you reference that can be used to prevent any inconsistencies is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Why did you choose this and how can this be used to assess an overall user experience?

Most of the time, products and services ship when they’ve reached the bare minimum requirement. As a human, that would be like breathing, getting food, and getting sleep — those are the bare requirements.

For new products, that’s fine. But I think in order to make something really great, they need to keep reiterating and trying to fine-tune the experience to move higher up in the hierarchy, just as we as humans need to evolve and work on ourselves ]in order to have the most fulfilling life. I think products and services can use that same term of thinking. There needs to be constant evolvement to become something that’s really pleasurable to use.

You equate pleasurable to use to self-actualisation. Is that what designers and everyone involved in the user experience should ultimately be striving for — whatever you have created is actually a joy for the user to use?

Exactly. I think when we try to list all of the services we are using or have used, there’s just so few of them we actually consider [to be] pleasurable to use — most stop before [they get there]. They reach something that’s good enough, which, in a way, is what most of us humans do also. We tend to live our lives on a scale of what we think is good enough and, in some cases, that’s fine. But I think a lot of us would be happier if we think a bit more about how we’re spending our lives and why.

In the book, you reference the Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Why did you choose this quote and how does it relate to user experience design?

I think that’s a great quote because I think it’s true for people. We tend to choose our words wisely and think about what we’re doing, whereas it’s mostly how we make them feel that is the key to tactually changing someone’s opinion about something.

I think that relates to user experience design in the same way. Great user experiences actually make users feel something. That could be a tool that makes you feel empowered. Going to myself, the first time I used an iPhone, I probably felt empowered in a way that a mobile phone hadn’t made me feel before because it was something completely different.

I think we tend to work on the practical sides, but not really think about how we want to make our users feel. That could be a tool that makes them feel healthy. It could be a tool that makes them feel like they’re saving time. It doesn’t have to be life changing, but I think just thinking about that sort of perspective can be really useful.

Right, designers must remember that a user is a person.

Yeah, I think that’s really the thing that user experience design, for me at least, is really about — making people’s days a little bit better and a little bit brighter, in whatever way we can. I think we have so many possibilities to do that. Even if it’s something that might seem like a boring task, like paying your bills. If you can actually make a mobile or online bank a little bit more fun and easier to use, I think that goes such a long way.

Who should read your  book?

Anyone that has just the slightest interest in what user experience design is, how people areworking with user experience design, how they’re thinking about creating products. So basically, anyone that has the slightest interest in digital products and the why side of things wondering,‘why is this working in this way?’ Anyone that’s curious, really.

Thank you Anton!

To learn more about Anton Sten and to purchase his book User Experiences That Matter, visit  

#ColorFontWeek – Abelone

Creative Cloud

Download Abelone here.

Abelone, as the name suggests, is inspired by the gorgeous iridescence of the marine mollusk Abalone shell. Maria wanted to make the letters very wide to create as much area as possible for the color blending to show through between purple and turquoise. Each character is made from approximately 100 colorful blended circles.

Maria’s OpenType-SVG color font was Made with Fontself Maker. “It was truly astounding how easy [Fontself] was to use,” Maria says. With Fontself, the design of Color Fonts is now within reach for anyone to create their own font. Not only does it make font design more accessible, but as Maria says, its flexibility inspires creativity. A design can create multiple colored glyphs in Fontself Maker that can contain up to 1,000 vector points. Maria’s designs take full advantage of the capability. Most of the glyphs in the Abelone font contain more than 100 color tones.

Maria is a former classical musician and a self-taught graphic designer. She’s always had an interest in art, which inspired her to enter the graphic design world. This new font is generously made available by Maria. Visit her behance page to learn more about her work.

The Abelone OpenType-SVG Font was designed with Fontself Maker in Illustrator CC and made available at no charge to you for this week thanks to the generosity of Maria Grønlund. This font can be used on the latest release of Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC. Free download expires 11/5.

This font is available as part of 5 free color font series released during #ColorFontWeek.

Building the Case for Diversity: Key Takeaways from New Adobe Research Report

Creative Cloud

I recognize and have had many stories of gender bias and discrimination shared with me over my decades of experiences. Anecdotally, I know these experiences stall and deter women and people of color as they advance in the creative industry. Unfortunately, there has been limited research that explores the factors that have led to disproportionate barriers for women and people of color as they pursue creative careers.

Much of the research on diversity in various creative fields focuses on the representation of diverse talent entering and advancing in the industry. Studies like “Artists in the Workforce” by the National Endowment of the Arts and AIGA’s 2016 Design Census help build the case that women enter the creative industry in comparable numbers to men but do not advance at the same pace. For people of color, the challenges extend beyond advancement as we see a dearth of representation in the pipeline.

A new Adobe study, based on the findings from a survey of 750 U.S. creative professionals, reveals the unique barriers for women and people of color in their pursuit of a creative career. Creativity’s Diversity Disconnect finds systemic challenges cause creatives of color to start at a disadvantage. Creatives of color are twice as likely as white creatives to perceive a lack of access to tools and training as a significant barrier.

Women face a steep climb in their career progression. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of women feel that their gender will negatively impact future success (compared to 14 percent of men). Creatives of color feel the barriers to success more intensely than their white colleagues. They are also less likely to feel valued at work.

Click below to see key takeaways from the report:

Adobe Spark Page
Bias and exclusion stall women and people of color and homogeneity prevails, impacting the work we produce and the advancement of our industry.

But, there is good news. The vast majority of creative professionals understand that diversity is not only the right thing to do but also makes business sense. Eighty-two percent believe their best work was produced by a diverse team. This mirrors my own experience. Creative teams that include people with multiple perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences tend to push one another toward better ideas and products. There is high agreement across race and gender (eighty-seven percent average overall) that a diverse workforce should be an industry priority.

As a partner and contributor to the creative community, Adobe is in a unique position to do something more meaningful. It is our responsibility. The research is just the beginning. Adobe will continue to build on this body of work through additional discussions and partnerships with the creative community.

Individuals have a role to play, as well. In my role as Vice President of Design at Adobe, I aim to inspire the next generation of leaders – leaders from different genders, races, and ethnicities who can bring to bear new designs and innovations that appeal to an increasingly diverse customer. I, personally, pledge to encourage more open dialogue to ensure every contributor on my team feels their ideas are heard and valued. I will also continue to serve as a role model and mentor for other women coming up the ranks. The study underscores the importance of seeing others like you at the top. I have a responsibility to ensure that I do not remain one of the few.

How do you plan to address creativity’s diversity disconnect? Use #CreativityforAll to share the findings from this study and actions you commit to taking to address the outlined barriers and challenges for women and creatives of color. Creativity for all begins with you.

Read the full findings from the Creativity’s Diversity Disconnect report

Join the action: #CreativityforAll