Two Major Updates: Adobe Animate CC Has Arrived and Adobe Muse CC Gets Responsive Design

Creative Cloud

Great news! Two of our biggest apps have been overhauled and are ready for you to download.

Much like proud new parents, the entire Flash Professional Animate team is overjoyed to announce that Adobe Animate CC is finally here. Late last year, we informed you that the Flash Professional name will change to Animate starting with this new release. But beyond the name change, this is one of our biggest releases ever — check out this seriously long list of new features and enhancements. Read more about the update on the new Animate CC blog home.

This week, we’ll have an all-star of cast of animators and game developers streaming live on Twitch, showing off what Animate can do. Check out the channel here and watch what’s in store:

But that’s not all — Adobe Muse CC is also getting an exciting update.

Responsive design is now available in Muse CC! Too often, designers get boxed in to cookie-cutter responsive layouts because of how unapproachable responsive design has been. Adobe Muse CC now makes it easier than ever to create completely custom sites that look great on any browser or device — without coding. Get all the details on the Muse blog.

The Art and Craft of the Documentary


Creative Cloud

Documentary films have long been an important part of the Sundance Film Festival. The festival’s U.S. Documentaries category features films that explore stories about individuals, events, and issues. Some films take a fresh look at a well-known topic, while others introduce new ideas, people, and points of view.

Four films in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition category used a post-production workflow based on Adobe Premiere Pro CC, part of Adobe Creative Cloud. For the editors of Jim and Gleason, it was the first time using Premiere Pro, while the editors of Audrie & Daisy and Author: The JT LeRoy Story were already familiar with the capabilities of the software. We spoke with each of them about their unique experiences creating the films that earned them a coveted spot at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Audrie & Daisy

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In Audrie & Daisy, AfterImage Public Media in association with Actual Films, explores the stories of two high school girls with similar experiences living on different sides of the country. Until about two years ago, the team worked with Final Cut Pro, but ultimately hit a wall with needing to transcode everything. After testing different NLEs, they chose Premiere Pro CC.

“We knew we were going to shoot a majority of our footage in 4K UHD using the Sony F55, so we wanted an NLE that could handle the format natively,” says the film’s Post-Production Coordinator Michael Goodier. “We did a couple of short form projects and found that the native Sony F55 footage could be ingested into Premiere Pro CC, dropped into a timeline, and edited without transcoding. That was the biggest deciding factor to go with Premiere Pro.”

When managing the post-production process, Goodier appreciated the ability to adjust color within Premiere Pro to test looks. “We used the new Lumetri color panel in Premiere Pro CC to do temp color and it was incredibly powerful, easy to use, and responsive,” he says.

The post-production workflow also included Adobe After Effects CC and a bit of Photoshop CC for graphics and animated sequences, as well as Adobe Media Encoder CC, which let the team output multiple Premiere Pro timelines at once.

Gleason

Audrie & Daisy

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason found out he had ALS around the same time his wife found out she was pregnant. He started recording video journals for his unborn son on whatever he had available, including his cell phone and GoPro camera. When filmmaker Clay Tweel met Steve Gleason, he knew he wanted to tell his personal story of strength and dedication.

Tweel worked with Final Cut Pro for years, but Gleason is the first film he edited with Premiere Pro CC. With 1,300 hours of footage, he calculated it would have taken four weeks to transcode. “We got the footage in March and Sundance Film Festival was the goal,” says Tweel. “We chose Premiere Pro CC because we could start editing right away.”

Adding to the sheer volume of content were the different types of codecs, media, and archival footage. Tweel used Adobe After Effects CC to animate the wide variety of still images included in the film and to create motion graphics to explain difficult concepts, such as how ALS works. Dynamic Link let him easily move content between Premiere Pro and After Effects, for a more seamless post-production process.

Jim: The James Foley Story

CREDIT: Clair Popkin, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

CREDIT: Clair Popkin, Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jim is a film about American photojournalist James Foley, who was kidnapped by ISIS in Syria in 2012 and executed in 2014. The film was co-written and directed by Brian Oakes, Foley’s close childhood friend, and edited by Aleks Gezentsvey, who has worked on both TV series and film projects. This was Gezentsvey’s first project cutting on Premiere Pro. Oakes’ background with Adobe software, along with knowing it would be an archival-heavy film, led the team to select Premiere Pro as the editing platform.

“Adobe Premiere Pro is great at dealing with a variety of codecs and frame sizes, and personally, I wanted to get comfortable with it,” says Gezentsvey. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the rapid development Premiere Pro has undergone in the last three years, and I know there are more great features to come.”

The post-production process involved working with various external departments for music, sound, and color, and Gezentsvey found the process of sharing materials to be very straightforward. She also appreciated the ability to round-trip graphics and footage internally with Adobe After Effects CC, Photoshop CC, and Illustrator CC.

Simplifying the documentary filmmaking process

Creating a documentary film is no small task, and can often take years to complete. Documentaries typically involve large quantities of footage and various types of archival content with different formats and frame rates. Anything that makes the job of processing this content faster and easier is a godsend. Premiere Pro CC not only speeds the ingest process, it integrates seamlessly with other apps in Adobe Creative Cloud, helping documentary filmmakers focus on the stories they want to tell, rather than the technology they use to tell them.

Learn more about Adobe at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud video and audio tools

Download a free trial of Adobe Premiere Pro CC

How eBooks Creator Dave Lewis is Using Comp CC to Help Children with Autism


Creative Cloud

Adobe Comp CC empowers designers to create and explore digital and print layouts on-the-go, wherever they are. Now Comp CC is being recognized by a pioneer in the mobile technology market: Apple has named it one of the best apps of 2015. Last week, we asked UX designer Jason Robinson how Comp CC is making it easier and more fun to create website wireframes on his iPad Pro. Now, it’s graphic designer and eBooks expert Dave Lewis’ turn.Dave Lewis 3

Dave is using the app to do some pretty extraordinary work to help children with autism. He’s using Comp CC to storyboard an interactive, read-aloud eBook called Mood Buddy Adventure, based on an app he designed to help kids on the autism spectrum express their feelings to adults.

“It’s almost like Adobe knew what I wanted.”

Dave says the story ideas were piling up in his life. He needed to be able to explore his layout concepts on-the-go,creating eBook pages and websites when he wanted, not just when sitting at his desktop computer. Comp CC for iPhone, iPad and iPad Pro has made that a reality.

“This iPad is an ideal tool to help visualize ideas from your armchair, or while out and about. I can draw a storyboard, either on paper or digitally [on an] iPad, then use Adobe Comp CC to layout the images with text.”

He says the intuitive gestures Comp CC uses to do things like insert placeholder text or images, have been easy to master.

“Everything just works seamlessly.Dave Lewis 2

Dave has fully integrated Adobe Comp CC into his workflow. He uses the app to import his sketches and “pre-visualize” his eBook, then he sends his work to Photoshop CC and After Effects CC to create finished products.

“From drawing, to iPad, to desktop. It just works. I particularly enjoy how the gestures work with iPad. A wonderful, intuitive way to work.”

He appreciates how easy it is to send his storyboards and layouts to apps for touching up, simply calling the process “brilliant.”

“A dream to work with.”

Comp CC is more than just another tool in Dave’s toolbox, he says it’s empowered him to explore his creativity wherever he goes.Dave Lewis 6

“The main benefit of working with the app for me is the ability to take my layouts with me anywhere and work on them when an idea hits me. Originally I would work with pieces of paper, blue tacked to a wall. Now I can take the wall with me, then send to a desktop app when I am ready.

Dave is also using Comp CC to redesign his website and layout his first comic book made for Amazon’s Kindle. Lots of exciting things to come from this eProducer, with Comp CC helping him out the whole way.

Curious how Comp CC can help you from inspiration to production? Click here to download Comp CC and find out now.

How to Discuss Design Without Losing Your Mind

Creative Cloud

Every designer has been there. A design that’s not your own comes by your desk and you’re asked to provide the other f-word: feedback. You might sit there and grapple with what has been presented alone, using the proverbial red pen to rip apart what’s in front of you. You might instead gather a team in a meeting room for a glorified rant session, with the words “what were they thinking?” being spewed left and right. Both of these exercises aren’t helpful, and it’s likely that the person tasked with compiling said feedback, and the person receiving it, will be left feeling defeated. So, why is design so hard to talk about productively?

Adam Connor, VP Organizational Design and Training at Mad*Pow, recently shared insights at O’Reilly’s Design the Future conference on how to talk about design without losing your mind.

Most of us struggle when talking about the things we’re creating and things others are creating. Despite knowing the importance of this exercise, even designers often fall short when it comes to providing constructive feedback on another designer’s work. Part of the problem lays within the word feedback itself.

Let’s break it down.

Three kinds of feedback

The first kind of feedback is reaction, which comes from the gut. It’s a hard to control a first response that often is verbalized. For example: “Good lord! That’s awful! An inebriated cocker spaniel could have done better!”

The second kind of feedback is direction. This is when you show someone something and they tell what you should be doing instead. For example: “You should have made all those radio buttons a dropdown because…”

The problem with both of these is they lack critical thinking. “Reaction and direction don’t help us look at what we’ve created and understand whether what we’ve produced is actually going to work towards the objectives we have for it,” said Connor. Critical thinking answers the yes or no question of whether or not your design will meet objectives. When you start to apply this kind of thinking to your response, you wind up with the third kind of feedback, critique.

Critique is a form of analysis based on critical thinking. For example: “If the objective is for users to consider the impact to their bank balance before making a purchase, placing the balance at the bottom of the screen at the same size as all the other numbers isn’t effective because it gets lost in all of the other information.”

So how do you get to critique?

Get tools and a plan

You need to make sure you structure conversations to work towards to critique. This isn’t something that just happens. When someone asks you for feedback or critique, ask yourself four simple questions:

  1. What was the creator trying to achieve?
  2. How did they try to achieve it?
  3. How effective were their choices?
  4. Why or why not?

Before you jump in with your critically-thought response though, you need to make sure everyone (including yourself) is in the right headspace.

Giving and receiving critique

There are two facets to critique, giving and receiving. The foundation of both of these is intent, and in order for this exercise to be effective both sides have to want to improve the design. “Giving critique with the wrong intent is self-focused act,” said Connor. “Giving critique with the right intent is objective focused.”

When giving critique…

  • Use a filter – give initial thoughts and reactions, then revisit them in the right context.
  • Don’t assume – find out the reason behind the thinking, constraints or other variables.
  • Don’t invite yourself – get in touch and ask to chat about the design.
  • Lead with questions – show an interest in their process and learn more about their objectives.
  • Talk about strengths – critique isn’t just about the things that aren’t working.

When receiving critique…

  • Receiving critique with the right intent takes humility and restraint. You need to be able to present and listen.
  • Remember the purpose – critique is about understanding and improvement, not judgement.
  • Think before responding – do you understand what the critics are saying?
  • Participate – analyze your proposed solution alongside everyone else.
  • Set the foundation – use prior agreements and objectives to get everyone on the same page.

Critique is at the core of collaboration

“If you want to work well with other people, you have to know how to critique,” said Connor. “The best organizations that do this…are the ones who can critique without thinking about it, they don’t need a formal meeting to do it.”

Keep in mind that critique is a skill which you need to practice. Start small, even if that means one-on- ones. Always think before you speak, and choose who you critique with carefully because some people simply won’t share your intent to improve a design.

For more information on how to discuss design without losing your mind, including breakdowns on standalone critiques, design reviews, and brainstorms, check out Adam Connor’s full slidedeck. You can also find him on Twitter @AdamConnor.

Digital Collaging with Rron Nushi and Adobe Creative Cloud


Creative Cloud

In honor of its 25th Anniversary, Adobe Photoshop launched 25 Under 25 to celebrate the work of emerging visual artists from around the world.  Netherlands-based Rron Nushi caught the eye of the Photoshop team with his captivating digital collages. We spoke with the 23-year-old, who is currently working towards his Master’s degree, and asked him to share the inspiration and process behind his unique symmetrical composites.

How long have you had an interest in Photography and Design?

I began taking an interest in art as a teenager, about 8 or 9 years ago. I started by simply learning basic edits using Paint and Photoshop. I began messing around with signatures and kind of just went from there. It was only until about two years ago that I really began collaging.

Rron Nushi

What is it about Digital Collage Design that you’ve taken a particular interest to?

What I enjoy about digital collaging is that you’re only limited to your own imagination. When you’re working with physical magazines and print, you are limited to the physical pieces in hand. But with digital collages, it’s almost as if you have an infinite amount of creativity. You can copy, paste and manipulate to create something symmetrically beautiful.

Rron 3

Can you tell us about your work for Ps 25 Under 25?

This is the start of my RATIO series. Using some very interesting Photoshop techniques, I created these fractal-like shapes. I also sourced some base assets from Adobe Stock. What was impossible when I created collages using paper, magazines and some scissors became possible with the editing power of Photoshop and the quality of Stock imagery.

Rron Nushi 2

How do you find creative inspiration when collaging?
I sometimes look to online communities. Online communities like Behance allow me to share my work and check out some of the great work that others are creating. What I love about communities is that I can just open my phone, and I instantly have a feed filled with work from artists all over the world. Music is also a huge part of my work process, and I usually have music playing when I’m creating.

Rron nushi 4

Any advice you’d like to share with young artists?

My suggestion is to just go out and begin creating – but most importantly, have fun. Start with doing things almost on a daily basis. Find your niche, learn new techniques, develop your style and practice what you enjoy the most.

To view more of Rron’s artwork, check out his Behance portfolio.

Building Project Comet: Evolving Onboarding


Creative Cloud

As a design-driven Product Manager, working on Project Comet is a surreal experience—the momentum and excitement from the UX/UI community has been nothing short of humbling, all before we even launch a product. Great expectations come with a heightened sense of getting it right since when we release (soon!) everyone is using this for the first time. Along with building amazing design and prototyping features, we’ve been developing the first-use onboarding experience to help make the first launch of Project Comet a good one.

For onboarding, I’m talking about the in-product experience users see as they use Project Comet for the first time. Onboarding is undoubtedly a critical part of the development process for any product and our team has been heads down figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

In its simplest form, the Project Comet workflow is fairly straightforward:

The tl;dr Project Comet workflow

The tl;dr Project Comet workflow

 

Our task is to dissect the complexities of this workflow to keep key concepts easy to digest, reducing any ambiguity on how to navigate the Project Comet interface. Making things easy isn’t easy (but where’s the fun in easy anyways).

Where do we start

Onboarding customers to an entire product for the first time is a big task. Go too broad and no one understands what they’re supposed to do. Go too narrow and you end up getting in the way by micro-managing the interface with annoying messages. We took a look at onboarding experiences we liked and didn’t like, noting patterns and trends generally used in products used by UX/UI designers.

Design should never say “look at me”. It should always say “look at this”. — David Craib

Many onboarding experiences we saw lead you through a scripted set of interactions with messages or attractor animations. This works well for something like a mobile app which has a single workflow — but at design time comes at the cost of deliberate attempts to interrupt the user for the sake of promoting a message. This often works for the product but not for the user, and people generally get pissed off when you block them from doing something.

For freeform design applications like Project Comet, the workflow is more of a choose-your-own-adventure experience. It’s not up to us to prescribe where you’ll be in the design process. We expect you’ll constantly dip in and out of each mode as you iterate on a project.

After looking at the onboarding landscape and conducting user research, we evaluated how we could improve our approach to onboarding. We decided to explore methods which would give zero interruption to the user while they’re trying to work.

Starting with research

To break any mold of convention takes research. We wanted to better understand how people would approach the Project Comet interface and where they were most likely to learn.

After a series of in-person research and testing, it turns out there’s no one-size-fits-all method to discovery (no one on our team was particularly surprised by this). We took all of our data and observations and found patterns in the way people approach learning a new product. Some learn from tutorials, some learn just by working, and some learn by kamikaze-clicking every button they see.

From better understanding how people discover and learn, we know we can’t rely on a single approach and declare success. We can’t assume people are wired to learn in the way we want them to learn. Sure we could pop up a message that says “Hey, use feature x! You’ll like it we promise!” but if we don’t offer help at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons, all we’ve built is a really expensive close button.

Understanding learning behavior

A side effect of working on a product is knowing all the intimate details of how to achieve success. For us, we could design and prototype with our eyes closed as self-made Project Comet power users. This knowledge starts to work against you when making assumptions for onboarding experiences; it becomes much more difficult to differentiate between the obvious and the hard to find.

To combat our own assumptions, we dissected the customer journey into a series of behavior maps to understand that success is not necessarily linear. What if someone tries to make a prototype without creating artwork? What if someone tries to share a prototype without adding any interactive elements? By breaking down all the nuances of conditions it was clear a popup saying, “Hey, make a prototype!” isn’t going to cut it.

Our straightforward workflow from above, after behavior mapping, now looks like this:

Behavior map showing the possible steps a user could take to share a Project Comet prototype

Behavior map showing the possible steps a user could take to share a Project Comet prototype

These maps serve as a great cheat sheet for knowing where to introduce contextual, reactive messaging — and to evaluate which cases we would even need to use that for.

Reactive onboarding

We moved away from proactive messaging towards an “onboarding with features” model. This allows us to help users as part of the design process instead of interrupting them. An issue with the in-app messaging approach to onboarding is it’s very difficult to know when said message is actually helpful. Even with engagement engines and intelligent predictive behavior, a pop-up which says “Hey, check this out!” errs on the side of annoying rather than valuable. Since experience is a core value proposition of Project Comet, we want to avoid any experience which would be perceived as aggravating… even if it would be useful in the short term.

This model led us to consider a reactive, instead of a proactive approach to onboarding. Reactive onboarding places a certain amount of trust in the user that they will try and do something on their own. For example, if we want to tell someone about how to make a prototype, we assume they’ll click on the big “Prototype” button at the top of the workspace.

Reactive approach

Reactive approach

Proactive approach

Proactive approach

 

The difference is subtle but significant. With proactive messaging, you’re pulling the user away from a task they’re currently performing. This is hit or miss because they may or may not do what you want them to do. With reactive messaging, the user has already opted-in and this is your opportunity to educate them on next steps.

The Pancake

Carmen Ruse, an experience designer on the Project Comet team, helped create what we have lovingly called “The Pancake”. The Pancake acts as a hub for contextual keyboard shortcuts to discover as you use Project Comet.

onboarding5

The Pancake lets you discover keyboard shortcuts as you use Project Comet

 

In this approach to onboarding we can surface discoverability of features in a way people actually want to use. The Pancake reacts to the actions taken inside Project Comet. For example, if you select an object we can tell you the keyboard shortcut for using Repeat Grids (one of my personal favorite features). If you’re using the pen tool, we show keyboard shortcuts for manipulating anchor points. We chose to omit the obvious commands such as Cmd+V for the sake of redundancy but keep the useful actions present. We’ve heard from hundreds of designers learning keyboard shortcuts can be painful when learning any new application, and want to solve this problem with the added benefit of discoverability.

The version in the picture above evolved from many iterations which had accompanying messages, such as “Use repeat grids to duplicate objects” or “Now that you have some artboards, try prototyping.” This type of messaging goes against our core value of “don’t annoy the user”. In the end we decided to trust the intelligence of our audience by removing as much messaging as possible.

Drive action through empty states

Keyboard shortcuts help in feature discoverability, but we still had a problem helping users understand the conditions they need to meet to be successful to create a prototype, or share that prototype. Our behavior maps led us to use the Pancake — very selectively — to help give guidance when you need to do something to move forward.

For example, you need to have artwork to bind interactions for prototyping (i.e., click a button to show a screen). If you try and make a prototype without any artwork, we instruct you to draw something first. This method is reactive to a user exploring the interface or just learning the workspace, educating them on features in the process.

As of this writing, we’re still working on the final design but the intent is to make all empty states actionable. No one likes an empty state.

Actionable empty states with the Pancake

Actionable empty states with the Pancake

Product experience > onboarding

At the end of the day no amount of onboarding beats a strong, intuitively designed product. When the onboarding process goes beyond a single click, we take a step back to ask if the feature needs improvement instead of papering over the problem with onboarding. We’re a little obsessed with the details of user experience. Nir Eyal, one of my favorite experience experts, says it best:

“Influencing behavior by reducing the effort required to perform an action is more effective than increasing someone’s desire to do it. Make your product so simple that users already know how to use it, and you’ve got a winner.”
― Nir Eyal

Onboarding is just another consideration of user experience; done right it’s transparent, done poorly it’s painfully obvious. With any luck you won’t even notice our work.

Best Practices for Content Planning in UX Design


Creative Cloud

Which came first, the content or the design?

This contemporary take on the “chicken and egg” casualty dilemma represents a common frustration among content and design teams when it comes to building a new experience. Both depend on each other, but where do you begin?

“I think that too often content planning is treated as something that’s going to happen later, magically someone along the way will create amazing content, while the experience design is treated like creating the template or the framework for that content to live in without a real concern for what that content is actually going to be,” says Karen McGrane, a user experience designer and content strategist with over 15 years experience and the author of Content Strategy for Mobile and Going Responsive.

McGrane said that while it used to be that the design often came first, there’s been a “pendulum swing” and a “rallying cry” toward content first over the past few years. However, thinking in these extremes, whether you believe it is content or design that must come first, continues to be problematic.

“As with everything else in the design and development process, the work has to be iterative. It has to be something that involves collaboration and regular checkpoints among the team,” she said.

That’s why she recommends teams take the following steps to maximize the relationship between content and user experience teams.

Recognize that Content and User Experience are Symbiotic

“The entire purpose of the experience is for somebody to be able to get to you and navigate to the content,” McGrane said.

It’s not just important for designers to understand this about content, but content creators need to understand this about user experience as well. Both teams need to be aware of what the other is creating and how the two work together to deliver the ultimate product.

At this stage it is also important to discuss the narrative of the project and ask a few key questions. What story is the client trying to tell? How do they want their target audience to get there? How can the design help deliver the message? What types of pages and content are necessary to keep the audience engaged?

Content Planning, Not Content, Comes First

“Talking through a process called content modeling is a way for teams to start having discussions about what that content is without actually having to write every single word of the content,” McGrane said.

This means you’re talking about the structure of the content, the size and shape of it, what it will do, the expected audiences, how often the content will be updated and how much content there will be. Designers can then take this information and begin building designs around these early expectations even if the content is not ready. These meetings also give the client something to think about and work with.

Here is an example of a basic high-level content modeling system that illustrates the relationship between different pieces of content on a music website. This can then be used to create a more developed content model that helps designers have a better understanding of how the content will work together.

table

Image source: A List Apart

 

McGrane compared this process to magazine publishing and designing signage for an airport. Once you know the main content components, you can begin laying everything out and finalize the details later. However, she warns of the danger of thinking of the web in relation to print, noting how the web needs to be looked at as its own fluid medium with unique needs.

Design Limitations Help Inform Content

As designers work through the design, the team will gain a better understanding of the design’s limitations such as character and word counts. They can then take this information to the content team and provide them with guidelines that will help to ensure the content will fit the design.

This is especially important with responsive design projects, which McGrane argues are also content strategy projects. For starters, letting the content team know teasers are limited to 250 characters or headlines look best at 70 characters, for example, will make both the design process and the content writing process easier.

“Knowing that you’ll have something that’s the right size and shape to fit the screens you’re designing for really pays off in the long run,” McGrane said.

Work In Real Time

Once the content team breaks off to begin developing the content, it’s not uncommon for these teams to select static copy to share with the design team for prototyping purposes.

“Copying and pasting out of Word documents is so 1998,” McGrane said.

Instead, she encourages both content and design teams to take these early iterations online and recommends the implementation of APIs that allow content to automatically feed into a prototype. Designers are then working with the actual, updated content, which can help ensure the design and content support each other, while the content team can see how their content will look and feel, and adjust as necessary.

“I don’t think you can create great projects unless you have real, genuine collaboration between the people who are creating, maintaining and managing the content, and the people who are responsible for the actual design, prototyping and implementation,” she said.

For some, this information may seem obvious, but for many, collaboration between content and design teams is not even a consideration. Having the two work together will help ensure you’re developing the best content and experiences possible. After all, the two are intrinsically connected (and often one and the same) from the user’s perspective.

Getting Started with Adobe Stock in Adobe Comp CC


Creative Cloud

Adobe Comp is an iOS app that allows the user to very quickly compose documents, be it web pages, flyers, posters; you name it. What Comp isn’t, is a word processor or desktop publisher; you’re not expected to complete all the type (although you could) in Comp, rather design the look and feel of the piece.

Use the Examples

When you open Adobe Comp for the first time you’ll be asked to sign into your Creative Cloud (CC) account. For the basic use the account is free.

Once you’re signed in, Comp displays a few examples of the sort of thing you can create for Mobile, Print and Web. As a first time user I’d recommend jumping in and seeing what they’re like, to get a feel for how it works.

adobe_comp_01

Once you’re comfortable click the + on the left to dive in and start creating!

Creating a new Document

adobe_comp_02

You’re presented with a list of sizes for various mediums. These have recently been updated so include the screen dimensions of the new iPad Pro.

For this example I’m going to rustle up a flyer for a winter holiday so I’ll choose the A4 (Landscape).

Remember, Comp isn’t a desktop publishing tool; it’s just for getting ideas down. That said, as we’ll see later, our design can be taken seamlessly to InDesign for fleshing out. 

Creating Elements

 

Adding Text

Adobe Comp uses gestures to add elements to the document. To see these tap the cog in the top right and the Drawing Gesture Help from the menu:

adobe_comp_03

We’ll use a few of these in our composition. To add an element just draw the shape and let’s add a headline:

adobe_comp_04

Click close then on the document draw a rectangle with a dot:

adobe_comp_05

As you can see, you don’t need to draw perfectly, Adobe Comp is great at recognizing the gestures, and your input is put into text immediately.

By grabbing one of the 8 handles I can resize this if I like. I’m going to make it a little wider. Now I can see the placeholder Lorum Ipsum text and actually, this looks a little too big.

Using the slider to the right of the text I can tap, hold and drag up and down to resize the text:

adobe_comp_06

I’ll resize the text box too:

adobe_comp_07

Double tapping any element in Comp will allow you to edit the contents; I’ll do that with the text here and change the text:

adobe_comp_08

While the text is selected we can also tap the Type icon at the bottom of the screen and change the formatting:

adobe_comp_09

Adding Images

I’m thinking I’d like a rounded rectangle with an image in it. A rectangle with a cross through it is an image in a rectangle while a rectangle and a circle is a rounded rectangle. I’ll combine both these to get a rounded rectangle for an image:

adobe_comp_10

To add an image, tap the Image icon at the bottom of the screen:

adobe_comp_12

As you can see there are several places I can import images from. I’m still in the mock-up stage so I’ll tap Adobe Stock and have a look at the kind of images I’d like to include.

Importing Placeholder Comp Images

The great thing about using Adobe Stock is that you can find the kind of images you want, download ‘comp’ images and decide later if you’d like to get the full res version.

A comp image is a low-resolution image that acts as a temporary placeholder for an image. Because we’re using Creative Cloud the link between Adobe Comp – Adobe Stock – InDesign is seamless so we can get the full resolution image whenever we choose.

Adobe Stock opens within the Adobe Comp application and presents with a search bar. I’ll type ‘winter trees’ and tap search:

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I quite like the image of the snow in the woods, I’ll tap it to open larger. When I view this image I get to see alternates too, I think there’s one I prefer of a single tree. I’ll tap it to view:

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I like this one but not sure if it’ll be in the final version so rather than license it I’ll tap to Save Preview and add it to a new Library I’ll call ‘Winter Holiday’:

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Editing Images

Once you select an image Comp puts it into the container with sizing handles around it. As we did with the text we can resize the image as we please.

With the image selected we get a selection of icons at the bottom of the screen.

  1. We could use this again to replace the image with another.
  2. This puts us into edit mode for the image. This then allows us to resize the image within the frame:

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  1. Allows us to change the Opacity of the image
  2. When more than 1 item is on the page we can put one behind another in a Stack Order’ using this slider.
  3. Deletes the image from the document
  4. This will unlink the graphic from the Creative Cloud and allow the image to be edited in another app
  5. Presents a menu with options for duplicating, copying and locking elements.

Rounding an Image

If you’d like the corners to be more rounded then you’ll find another handle on the frame. Drawing this left or right rounds the corners more (right) or less (left)

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Editing the document

Once you have elements in the document moving, resizing and editing is just a tap and drag away. Very soon even novice designers like myself can start to put together something passable:

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I’ve selected text and image and locked them together to make it easier to manipulate and added an image to the back to add a splash of color:

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Taking The Document to Other Adobe Creative Cloud Applications

Because Adobe Comp uses the Creative Cloud to synchronize between apps it means we can easily send our Comp to InDesign, Photoshop or Illustrator to be completed and edited.

Tap the Square with the arrow to choose the application to send to:

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If you have the computer with your CC on it switched on, the relevant application will open and display your composition with all the layers available to edit:

Indesign

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Photoshop

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Illustrator

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And there’s More…

In this tutorial we’ve only scratched the surface of what Adobe Comp can do but I hope it’s given you enough to get you started. Remember that everything is non-destructive and editable so have a play!

Last tip.. For now….

Three finger drag left will undo while going right will redo:

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Adobe Video Tools Get Rave Reviews at Sundance 2016

Creative Cloud

From independent productions to Hollywood headliners, 51 films debuting at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival used Adobe Premiere Pro CC as their primary digital editing software.

Sundance, the preeminent festival for groundbreaking work and emerging talent, will include a total of 175 films made with Premiere Pro CC and other Adobe Creative Cloud tools. From in-competition feature films like Christine, Gleason and Swiss Army Man to short films and documentaries, like Richard Linklater – dream is destiny, Premiere Pro CC usage at Sundance has increased 143% percent since 2015.

“With such an ambitious film, we needed the most innovative technology to push creative boundaries,” said Louis Black, co-director of Richard Linklater – dream is destiny, which will premiere at Sundance. “Our story relies on combining decades-old archival footage with interviews from the present. We cut the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CC with incredible results.”

Sundance filmmakers are reflecting the rapid adoption of Adobe’s video workflows. Recent Premiere Pro converts include the four-time Oscar-winning Coen brothers with Hail, Caesar!; director Tim Miller with Deadpool, director David Fincher and Oscar-winning editor Kirk Baxter with Gone Girl; and director Rhys Thomas and producer Lorne Michaels with Staten Island Summer.

Adobe Hosts Must-See Editing Panel

To help indie filmmakers get up to speed on transitioning to modern video editing techniques, Adobe will host a must-see panel at Sundance on January 23 – “Editorial secrets from Hail, Caesar! and Deadpool”, two much-anticipated features due out in February this year.

  • Hail, Caesar!, from NBC/Universal, is set in Hollywood’s golden age and follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer, who’s presented with plenty of problems to fix. The film is produced, directed, written and edited by four-time Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. The panel will include the film’s post-supervisor and associate producer Catherine Farrell and additional editor Katie McQuerrey.
  • Deadpool, a 20th Century FOX film, is based on Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool, and tells the back story of former Special Forces operative-turned-mercenary Wade Wilson. The panel will include director Tim Miller and Vashi Nedomansky, the Premiere Pro CC, editing consultant and workflow specialist on the film.

These former Avid Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro filmmakers will discuss their approach to storytelling, state-of-the-art workflows, and how and why they switched to Adobe Premiere Pro CC.  The panel will be held on Saturday, January 23 from 3:30-4:30 pm MST at the Airbnb Haus (596 Main Street, Park City). For those unable to attend the panel, a recording will be available the following week at www.adobe.com/go/video.

“Adobe really revamped Premiere Pro CC from the ground up. I love the interoperability with other programs like After Effects CC and the ability to do quick composites,” said Tim Miller, director of Deadpool. “We need an uninterrupted workflow between the idea and output. Premiere Pro CC is clean and fast, which is what I want.”

Learn more about Adobe at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud video and audio tools

Download a free trial of Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Best Practices for Usability Testing In UX Design

Creative Cloud

Here’s the situation: you’ve created what you think is a fabulous product. You’ve invested tons of money in designing and building it, as well as marketing and selling it, but you’re not getting the results you had hoped for. Did you neglect to check if there were any usability issues?

If a user is unable to complete a desired task, then they’re not going to stick around and your product is not going to be successful—no matter how good it looks.

“These days it’s pretty easy to make new products—there are a lot of frameworks and tools out there—but it’s still really hard to make a great product, a product that people can understand and use, a product that makes people feel good,” said Aaron Walter, VP of R&D at MailChimp and author of the book Designing For Emotion.

“That’s so hard to come by and it’s definitely a competitive advantage if you can do it,” he added.

This is where usability testing (or user testing, as it is often called) comes into play.

What is usability testing?

Usability testing involves testing and monitoring user behavior as the user attempts to work through and complete a desired task. It’s a small step that is not to be overlooked and can save you a lot of time, money and embarrassment in the long run.

Process:

While there are a number of factors that go into usability testing, it can be broken down into a few major steps:

  1. Identify what needs to be tested and why (a new product, feature, etc.)
  2. Identify the correct audience (your desired customer)
  3. Create a list of tasks that the user will have to go through
  4. Recruit the right test users
  5. Involve the right stakeholders
  6. Apply what you’ve learned

Identifying the perfect recruit

Your ideal test user is the person who will actually be using your product.

“There are systems out there like usertesting.com, which is a great service, but you’re basically hiring people who aren’t necessarily your customers to pretend that they’re your customers,” Walter said. “Choosing someone who is actually your customer, who is actually likely to use this part of your product, is ideal so they’re not manufacturing their motivations.”

How many people should you test?

“You don’t need a huge sample size,” Walter said. “Somewhere between three and five will help you understand what the problems and patterns are.”

He points to Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, who is also known for recommending small numbers because it’s what people have time for.

“Being able to fit this into your schedule is more important than having some huge sample size,” Walter said.

Design the test

Create the workflow that the test users will work through and make your objectives clear. You want to observe the range of errors or challenges that the user experiences.

Walter recommends asking them to use what’s called talk (or think) aloud protocol, encouraging the user to talk through their experiences and frustrations.

“When they’re speaking aloud you can get into their head a little more easily and understand where they’re getting confused,” he said. “It can help you understand things like maybe this language isn’t very clear here. Maybe the navigation isn’t organized very well. Maybe the primary call to action on the page is not as apparent as we thought it was.”

Recording the process through an app like Silverback can also give you something to refer back to and identify points where the users struggled.

Who should be involved?

Anyone that plays a role in how fast and how well that problem is addressed should be involved. These stakeholders could include the executive team, major decision makers, agency representatives and lead developers and designers.

Why the design team, or a representative of the design team, needs to be involved in usability testing

“You want the people that are designing and building the software to squirm in their seat as they watch the customer struggle and get confused because if they feel that pain and discomfort, they’re going to run straight back to their desk to fix it,” Walter said.

If someone is merely relaying information back to the design team, a lot can get lost in translation.

“It’s best to spend a few bucks, buy some lunch and invite those stakeholders to come eat and watch these usability tests happen live, or watch the videos—that often can work really well too.”

Conduct a quick post mortem

A brief chat with the test users after can sometimes expose a few extra things, but primarily the bulk of the learning happens by watching the behavior.

A few more things to keep in mind

Be sure to conduct extensive QA testing before doing any usability testing or else you could end up wasting a bunch of people’s time, including your own.

It’s also important to recognize the role human emotions play in testing, using it to both acknowledge your users and fuel your problem solving.

“You watch customers that get super frustrated and lost and they start to feel dumb, which is why it’s really important to tell them at the beginning that we’re testing the software, not you. They feel like there is a spotlight on them and if they can’t figure something out then embarrassment is heightened, frustration is heightened,” Walter said. “Generally I see that as a good thing especially if you have stakeholders watching that usability test.”

And finally, don’t lose sight of what usability testing is all about.

“A lot of assumptions are made in the design process of how people will use it, but there’s no hypothesis of where people are going to fall apart,” Walter said. “[Usability testing] is mainly just getting a first look at how people actually use this thing you’ve designed in the real world.”

The whole point is to ensure you’re releasing the best product possible into the world, one that not only meets the objective, but is also something you as a designer can be proud of.