Designing Government Services for Everyone: Erica Deahl on The Role UX Plays in Creating Better Services

Creative Cloud

Erica Deahl

When it comes to diversity of workplaces, Erica Deahl has experienced it all. From agencies, to presidential campaigns, to her current job as principal designer at Khan Academy, she believes in the power of good design to change people’s lives for the better. It was this drive that led her to become the lead UX designer on the U.S. Web Design Standards project, creating a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers and designers create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services.

At Adobe MAX, Erica will share insights into how UX design can revolutionize the way we interact with our governments in her talk, Designing Government Services for Everyone: A United UX for America. In her words, “In order to design a better immigration process, or to help teachers support students at different levels of learning, it’s critical to start by understanding the experience of the people relying on those products and services.” We asked her to share more of her story.

Why was it important to create the U.S. Web Design Standards?

In government, there are designers and developers in hundreds of agencies working to solve problems that are often very similar. Our team’s goal was to make it really easy for them to make good design choices. The U.S. Web Design Standards enable government teams to prototype and ship websites quickly, and they make it easier to share best practices for UX design and accessibility.

As teams across government have adopted the Standards, the sites they’ve shipped are accessible and use consistent UX patterns, which is a huge benefit for the people relying on those services.

What are the key UX design considerations when designing for government services?

In government, it’s mandatory for digital services to be accessible for everyone. Complying with accessibility guidelines is just a starting point–when you’re making design decisions, you have to constantly question whether those decisions will impair someone’s ability to use and understand the service. And you have to validate those choices by testing products with people in a wide range of accessibility contexts.

But accessibility isn’t the only constraint–there are sometimes legal or technical requirements that prevent you from choosing the clearest design direction, so you have to find workarounds that are both clear to users and legally compliant.

How important is consistency across government websites and apps?

People shouldn’t have to understand the complex organizational structure of government in order to benefit from the services it provides. Many government benefits require people to interact with numerous different agencies or departments, making the experience of seeking a benefit frustrating and disorienting. Establishing a consistent user experience throughout that journey makes it easier for people to understand and trust the process, and get to the outcomes they need faster.

Why is it important for you as a UX designer to work on government and public service-related projects?

There’s a huge amount of work we need to do to improve delivery of government digital services. Lots of agencies still rely on legacy systems that don’t work very well, and that means that the millions of people who rely on their services suffer. It also means that there’s a massive opportunity–even incremental design improvements make an enormous impact.

We need designers to help address those problems because designers are trained to learn about, understand, and empathize with the challenges faced within agencies and by the people they serve, and to design solutions.

Designers have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in government, and they don’t have to make a career sacrifice to do that work. Over the past few years, organizations like 18F and USDS have done some amazing work to build talented teams and enable designers to leverage their expertise on problems of a scale and complexity to rival the most exciting private sector opportunities.

To learn more about Erica Deahl and her work creating the U.S. Web Design Standards, check out the case study on her website or catch her talk at Adobe MAX.

Can’t Make it to Adobe MAX in Person? Watch it Live Online.

Creative Cloud

We’ll be live streaming the Keynotes for both days, so if you can’t make it to MAX in person, you can still see the latest releases and updates for Creative Cloud, and hear the inspiring stories from our creative speakers.

  • Wednesday, Oct. 18, 9am, PDT
    • Keep your finger on the pulse of the n ewest innovations as we reveal how you can work smarter and faster, all while taking your creative skills in new directions.
  • Thursday, Oct. 19, 10am, PDT
    • Hear their stories firsthand. Our day two keynote speakers will discuss their passions, process and creative journeys:
      • Annie Griffiths, photojournalist
      • Jon Favreau, actor/director
      •  Jonathan Adler, potter/designer
      • Mark Ronson, musician

Register to watch online here, and don’t miss a minute of MAX!

Why All UX Designers Should Be Creating User Journeys, And Here’s How To Make One

Creative Cloud

Good design is all about the user. If designers truly want to create the best products, it’s important for them to see the product from the user’s perspective. That’s where a tool called a user journey comes in. It’s a powerful combination of storytelling and visualization that helps designers identify opportunities to create new and improved experiences for their users. In this article, I’ll introduce a concept of user journey along with some tips and specific examples.

What Is A User Journey?

A user journey is a visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. Typically, it’s presented as a series of steps in which a person interacts with a product. As opposed to the customer journey, which analyzes the steps before and after using the product, user journey only examines what happens inside the app/website. In context of e-commerce website, for example. user journey can consist of a number of pages and decision points that carry the user from one step to another in attempt to purchase a product.

Internet banking.

What’s Required to Create A User Journey?

The following elements are required to create a user journey:

  • Persona: User journeys are tied back to personas. To create a realistic user journey, it is important to first identify the users and create personas for them. When creating a user journey, it’s recommended to use one persona per journey in order to provide a strong, clear narrative.
  • Goal and Scenario: The exact goal to which the given journey belongs. The scenario presents a situation in which the persona tries to accomplish something. User journey is best for scenarios that describe a sequence of events, like purchasing something.
  • Context: A context is defined by a set of facts that surround a scenario, like the physical environment in which the experience is taking place. Where is the user? What is around them? Are there any other factors which may distract them?

What Does A User Journey Look Like?

A user journey can take a wide variety of forms depending on the context and your business goals. In its most basic form, a user journey is presented as a series of user steps and actions following a timeline skeleton. This kind of layout makes it easier for all team members to understand and follow the narrative.

A simple user journey only reflects one possible path during one scenario:

A simple user journey has one user, one goal, one scenario and one path even when a product/service allows multiple path variations. Image credits: uxstudioteam

A complex user journey can encompass experiences occurring during different times and scenarios:

Complex user journey reflects different users paths on the same flow. Image credits: Nform

While user journey maps can (and should) take a wide variety of forms, certain elements are generally included:

  • A title summarizing the journey (e.g. ‘Purchasing an electronic device in the e-commerce store’)
  • A picture of the persona the journey relates to.
  • A series of steps. Everything real-world users would do as a separate activity counts as a step. Steps should provide a sense of progression (each step should enable the persona to get to the next one).
  • An illustration of what’s happening in the step. This illustration includes touchpoints (times when a persona in the journey actually interacts with a product) and channels (methods of communication, such as the website or mobile app). For example, for the touchpoint ‘pay for product,’ the channels associated with this touchpoint could be ‘pay online’ or ‘pay in person.’
  • The persona’s emotional state at each step. A user journey is the most important tool for designing emotions; at the heart of a user journey is what the user is doing, thinking, and feeling during each step. Are users engaged, frustrated, or confused? Emotional experiences can be supplemented with quotes from your research.

How Does A User Journey Fit Into The UX Design Process?

User journeys are typically created at the beginning of a project — during the product analysis phase, after personas are defined. Along with personas they can be one of the key design deliverables from this phase.

A user journey can be used to demonstrate either current or future user behavior:

  • When a user journey is used to show the current user behavior (the way users currently interact with the product) it should provide a clear view of how easy or difficult it is for a typical user to reach their goal.
  • When a user journey demonstrates the future state of the product (a ‘to-be’ experience), it should highlight any changes to pain points that a future solution will solve.

Why Should Designers Use a User Journey?

A user journey is used for understanding and addressing user needs and pain points. The entire point of the user journey is to understand user behavior, uncover gaps in the user experience, and then take action to optimize the experience.

There are many other benefits for designers when they invest time in user journeys. Properly-created user journeys can help designers better:

  • Communicate design decisions to stakeholders–As a document, a user journey can be used to clearly explain the strengths and weaknesses of the product in terms of UX.
  • Prioritize features–User journeys helps identify possible functionality at a high level. By understanding the key user’s tasks, it’s possible to define functional requirements that will help enable those tasks. This helps product teams scope out pieces of functionality in more detail and speed up the planning of a new version of the product.

On a company level, user journeys can:

  • Shift a company’s view–Since user journeys are shorthand for the overall user experience, it’s possible to leverage them as a supporting component of an experience strategy. Creating a user journey could be the first step in building a solid plan of action to invest in UX and create one shared organization-wide vision.
  • Promote collaboration between different departments–Because a user journey creates a vision of the entire user journey, it becomes a tool for creating cross-departmental conversation and collaboration. User journeys can engage stakeholders from across departments and spur collaborative conversation.

8 Tips for Creating and Using A User Journey

Before Creating A User Journey

1. A User Journey Should Have A Business Goal behind It

Each user journey should always be created to support a known business goal. A user journey that doesn’t align with a business goal won’t result in applicable insight. That’s why identification of the business goal that the user journey will support should be the first step in the process.

2. A User Journey Should Be Based on User Research

The effectiveness and importance of a user journey depends heavily on the quality of insights it provides. User journeys should be built from both qualitative and quantitative findings. The process of creating a user journey has to begin with getting to know users. If designers don’t have enough information to create a good user journey, they should conduct additional journey-based research (such as ethnographic research) to gain insights into the user experience.

When Creating A User Journey

3. Don’t Jump Straight to Visualization

The temptation to create an aesthetic graphic can lead to beautiful yet flawed user journeys. It’s recommended to start with sticky notes on a wall or visualize the path with a simple spreadsheet. It’s important to experiment and not accept the first idea as the best.

4. Don’t Make It Too Complex

While designing user journey it’s easy to get caught up in the multiple routes a user might take. Unfortunately, this often leads to a busy user journey. It’s recommended to start with a simple, linear journey (an ideal way to get the users to the given goal). Also, it’s better to avoid focusing too hard on a series of pages users go through. Instead, review what the users usually do and in what order.

5. More Ideas Lead to Better Design

It’s essential to involve all team members in the process of creating a user journey. The activity of creating a user journey (not the output itself) is the most valuable part of the process, and it’s helpful to have stakeholder participants from many areas of the organization involved in this activity. Mixing people who otherwise never communicate with each other can be extremely valuable, especially in large organizations.

Organize a collaborative workshop or brainstorming session, catch everyone up on the goals of the user journey and guide them through the process of creating the first draft. Image credits: UX Maze

Use Your User Journey

6. Assign Ownership

All too often, areas of negative friction in user journeys exist simply because no internal team or person is responsible for this area. Without ownership, no one has the responsibility or empowerment to change anything. That’s why it’s important to assign ownership for different parts of the journey map (e.g. key touchpoints) to internal departments or directly to responsible individuals.

7. Socialize Stakeholders

Getting stakeholders comfortable with user journeys is critical in moving your organization toward action. Reference your user journey during meetings and conversations to promote a narrative that others believe in and begin to use on a regular basis.

8. Maintain Journeys Over Time

Set a time each quarter or year to evaluate how your current user experience matches your documented user journeys. Consider when you may need to update the journey (such as after a major product release when the behavior of a user may change).


User journeys create a holistic view of user experience and this makes them an essential component in the process of designing a new product or improving the design of an existing one. By leveraging user journeys as a supporting component of an experience strategy it’s possible to keep users at the heart of all design decisions.

Introducing Portfolio’s New Integration With Adobe Lightroom

Creative Cloud

Whether you’re a weekend adventurer or working the red carpet, Adobe Lightroom is a critical tool in every photographer’s kit. Designed with creatives like you in mind, Adobe Portfolio makes showcasing your work effortless. And it just got even better. Now with the Lightroom integration on Adobe Portfolio, you can easily import your Collections and publish your best shots on your customized website in just a few clicks.

Website Pages & Integrations

When you head over to Manage Content on Adobe Portfolio, you’ll notice that the section has been broken into two tabs: Website Pages and Integrations. Website Pages show all of the Galleries and Pages currently created on your Portfolio. Integrations allow you to connect to your Adobe Lightroom Collections and set the gallery where future Behance projects will appear.

Adobe Lightroom Collections on Adobe Portfolio

Portfolio’s new Integration allows you to select any of the Lightroom Collections you’ve created and import the images to a Page on Adobe Portfolio. The entire Collection will be transformed into a Photo Grid within a new Page. You can edit the new Photo Grid to reorder or delete an image. As with every Page, you can add additional text, images, videos, or embedded content.

Behance Projects on Adobe Portfolio

Importing Projects from Behance has never been easier. If you have a Behance account associated with your Adobe ID, you’ll see a new option to set a default import Gallery. Going forward, whenever you create a new Project on Behance, Portfolio will automatically import it as a Page in the gallery you selected.

Integration Badges

To keep track of all of your Pages and their sources, we’ve also added product badges to the Manage Content section. Whenever you import from Adobe Lightroom or Behance, you’ll see a corresponding badge below the Page’s title. This is especially helpful when you want to re-import content you may have updated on Behance or Adobe Lightroom: simply click the gear icon next to the Page title and select the action you’d like to take.

Portfolio continues to make building your own customized creative website easier by leveraging one of the creative world’s most popular applications.

Learn more about our powerful photography-friendly features over at

Artist spotlight: Anna McNaught

Creative Cloud

We came across Anna McNaught via #AdobeStockRemix on Instagram and fell in love with her stunning, surreal and sweet compositions. A recent converter to Adobe Stock, we touched base with her to find out more about her journey into the world of digital compositions, her take on stock imagery and where she searches for inspiration.

ADOBE STOCK: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?

Anna McNaught: I have been surrounded by art my whole life. My grandfather was a published children’s book illustrator and most of my family are artists in some way or another. It was only natural for me to follow in their paths.

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and as much as I wanted to get away, looking back now, I know that it gave me strong roots, a connection to the environment, and a sense of self that I bring forward in my work. Three years ago, I decided to move to LA to pursue a career in fashion photography. I struggled for almost a year looking for steady work and trying to figure out where I belong. Photography took a back seat and I pushed forward with my graphic design career and eventually found a job working as an in-house graphic and web designer. I realized part of me was missing and I bought a new camera and went out and started shooting. A spark went off within me that I thought I had lost. I had so much fun and realized I could combine my photography and my graphic design and create intricate composites that brought to life new lands, dreams, and imaginative ideas. It’s been a little over a year now since I got into this style of editing but it has completely changed my life!

 AS: How would you describe your style?

AM: Surrealism mixed with dream-like fantasy – colorful and happy

AS: Where do you look for when needing a shot of inspiration? 

AM: I find myself on Pinterest and digging through Adobe Stock images. Sometimes just seeing a certain image can get a whole idea scheming up in my head.  Other times, when I feel as though I’ve hit a dead end, I like to disconnect and go camping, hiking, or just head to the beach for a nature re-charge.

AS: What’s been your biggest challenge to overcome in the design industry?

AM: One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had to overcome in the design industry and just as an artist in general is, self-worth.  I think its easy to compare yourselves to others and their success and wonder if, you’re that good or ever will be that good. I sometimes find myself second guessing my artistic abilities.  I think confidence in your own work comes with practice and experience and I’m learning that more and more each day.

AS: What are your perceptions of stock images, and do you think the perception is changing?

AM: I have always said that I think anyone who works with stock for editing purposes should have a basic understanding of photography, how lighting works, and why some photos work together and some don’t. I definitely think that is changing though with the number of digital artists that I see popping up on Instagram. It’s interesting how much artists manipulate stock images to become something completely different. I think our imaginations are fascinating.

AS: What artists and designers should we be following?

AM: My favorite will always be @nois7 and I also love @frvnkyvng. They have both been a huge inspiration to me over the past few years and create images like nothing I’ve ever seen before!

AS: What features did you like the most about using Adobe Stock?

AM: I love the options that are available. The photos are stunning and offer great variety.

One of my favorite features that I saw at Adobe Max, and haven’t had a chance to fully try out yet, is the ability to test a stock image and then with one click, be able to purchase and drop in the photo in the same exact position and sizing as your test image! This saves hours of work time! Also, I’m not even sure if this is out of beta yet but I love the new feature of using boxes to show an idea that you’re searching for, such a dog on right and person on left,  and finding stock that matches it exactly! I mean, how cool is that!?

AS: What’s been your favorite project to work on to date?

AM: One of my favorite images that I did was a self portrait in Joshua Tree. I think it’s my favorite project because I had the idea in my head, drove to Joshua Tree with my fiancé, and found the perfect spot along the road. I took two photos, one of me in the frame, and one of the background and combined them in Photoshop.  I love it because it was simple and spontaneous but has the most meaning for me.

AS: What music do you currently listen to whilst working (if any!)? 

AM: I love listening to Chillstep and Jazz. Two opposite ends of the spectrum! I like Chillstep for when I’m in a “editing hole” where I basically spend hours in Photoshop with no stopping and jazz for when I’m in a “cozy fall day” kind of vibe.

AS: What design trends should we be looking out for in 2018?

AM: I think the overall digital experience will continue to grow more and more. I also think the way we all operate these days is, fast and easy. I see Adobe making many of those adjustments and the software continuing to get more intuitive and faster to use so that our designs and images can expand. We will be able to create without any technical limitations.

For more of Anna’s work, check out her website and find her on Instagram.


Putting Personas to Work in UX Design: What They Are and Why They’re Important

Creative Cloud

It’s likely you’ve heard the term persona before, especially if you’ve worked in user experience design. Personas are a commonly used tool in UX design. At their core, personas are about creating products with a specific, not generic, user in mind. The usefulness of personas in defining and designing digital products has become more widely accepted in the last few years. Properly used, this tool is able to supercharge a designer’s work.

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of personas, and how to create one.

What is Persona?

Personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. Usually, a persona is presented in a one or two-page document (like the one you can see in the example below). Such 1–2-page descriptions include behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and background information, as well as the environment in which a persona operates. Designers usually add a few fictional personal details in a description to make the persona a realistic character (e.g. quotes of real users), as well as context-specific details (for example, for a banking app it makes sense to include a persona’s financial sophistication and major expenses).

Despite a persona being depicted as a specific person, it’s not a real individual; it’s synthesized from the research of many real people. Presented as a document, a persona should clearly communicate and summarize research data. Image credit: xtensio

Why It’s Important?

Deep understanding of a target audience is fundamental to creating exceptional products. Personas help a product team find the answer to one of their most important questions, “Who are we designing for?” By understanding the expectations, concerns and motivations of target users, it’s possible to design a product that will satisfy users needs and therefore be successful.

Here are some of the benefits of using personas in UX design process:

Build Empathy

Empathy is a core value if designers want to make something that is good for the people who are going to use it. Personas help designers to create understanding and empathy with the end users. Thanks to personas designers can:

  • Gain a perspective similar to the user’s. Creating personas can help designers step out of themselves and recognize that different people have different needs and expectations. By thinking about the needs of a fictional persona, designers may be better able to infer what a real person might need.
  • Identify with the user they are designing for. The more designers engage with the persona and see them as ‘real,’ the more likely they will be to consider them during the design process and want to create the best product for them.

Personas empower the product team to build empathy toward the user. By thinking about the needs of a fictional persona, designers may be able to better infer what a real person might need.

Provide Direction For Making Design Decisions

Personas help designers shape product strategy. A deep understanding of user behavior and needs makes it possible to define who a product is being created for and what is necessary or unnecessary for them from a user-centered point of view. This allows product teams to prioritize feature requests (for example, features can be prioritized based on how well they address the needs of a primary persona). They can also help settle arguments around design decisions – instead of saying, “I think the ‘Send’ button should be bigger in our email app,” a designer might say, “Since our primary persona, Carolyn, is always on the go she needs bigger tap targets in the app to be able to send the email without eye strain.”

Personas also help prevent common design pitfalls:

  • Self-referential design. This happens when designers design as if they are making the product only for themselves, when in fact the target audience is quite unlike them.
  • Elastic user. An elastic user is a generic user which means different things to different people. Designing for an “elastic user” happens when product decisions are made by different stakeholders who may define the ‘user’ according to their convenience.

It’s worth mentioning that although personas can help designers prioritize the features, they can’t be used as the only tool for prioritization; the needs and goals of the business itself should be also considered. Both the needs of the business and users should be balanced to create a harmonious solution.

Communicate Research Findings

Most designers work in multidisciplinary teams which have team members with varying expertise, experience, and points of view. All team members should be on the same page in terms of design decisions. Personas encapsulate the most critical information about users in a way that all team members and stakeholders can understand and relate to.

Characteristics of a Good Persona

While it’s easy to select a set of user characteristics and call it a persona, it’s hard to create personas that are truly effective design and communication tools.

Here are a few characteristics of a good persona:

  1. Personas reflect real user patterns, not different user roles. Personas aren’t a fictional guesses at what a target user thinks. Every aspect of a persona’s description should be tied back to real data (observed and researched). Personas aren’t a reflection of roles within a system.
  2. A persona focuses on the current state (how users interact with a product), not the future (how users will interact with a product).
  3. A persona is context-specific (it’s focused on the behaviors and goals related to the specific domain of a product).

When Personas Are Created in Design Process

The research that goes into forming personas usually happens early in the design process. In the Design Thinking process, designers often start creating personas during the second phase, the Define phase. Like most design elements, personas can be developed iteratively. Personas will be used during all later phases of a design process to informing design decisions made by the team.

Image credit: NNGroup

5 Steps To Creating a Persona

Personas can be created in a myriad of ways — it all depends on  budget, type of a project and the type of data designers are able to collect. While detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create a persona are beyond the scope of this article, it’s still possible to provide a general flow on how to do it:

1. Collect The Information About Your Users

The first step is to conduct user research to understand the target audience’s mindsets, motivations, and behaviors. The most accurate personas are based on actual field research — they are distilled from in-depth user interviews and observation data of real users. It’s essential to collect as much information and knowledge about users as possible by interviewing and/or observing a sufficient number of people who represent a target audience. The more a researcher observes and captures during these interviews, the more realistic the persona will be.

In a case when it’s impossible to interview/observe real individuals — time and money don’t allow for the user research needed to define accurate personas — it’s still possible to create a persona based on what the team knows about users. Customer support logs, web analytics, competitive intelligence can be used to create a persona. A persona created using this approach is known as a provisional persona, and is a great placeholder until real personas are created.

During this step it is very important to avoid generating stereotypical users (users that don’t have any relation to the actual user’s reality). Completely fictional stories of imaginary people based on little or no research bring no value for the design process and in fact, can bring harm. Furthermore, poorly constructed personas can easily undermine the credibility of this technique.

2. Identify Behavioral Patterns From Research Data

The next step is analyzing research findings. The goal during this step is to find patterns in user research data that make it possible to group similar people together into types of users. There’s a simple strategy suggested by Kim Goodwin:

  • Once research is finished, list all of the behavioral variables (i.e. ways in which users behavior differed).
  • Map each interviewee (or real-life user attributes) against the appropriate set of variables.
  • Identify trends (find a set of people clustering across six or eight variables). These grouping trends will then form the basis of each persona.

3. Create Personas and Prioritize Them

Next, it’s important to assemble a persona’s descriptions around behavioral patterns. The researcher’s task here is to describe each persona in such way that expresses enough understanding and empathy to understand the users. During this step, it’s best to avoid the temptation to add a lot of personal details: one or two bits of personality can bring a persona to life, but too many details will be distracting and will make the persona less credible as an analytical tool. Don Norman put it this way: “[personas] only need to be realistic, not real, not necessarily even accurate (as long as they accurately characterize the user base).”

Quite often, researchers create more than one persona for each product. Most interactive products have multiple audience segments which are why it seems logical to construct multiple personas. However, with too many personas, the process can get out of hand. The personas can simply blur together. That’s why during this step it’s also important to minimize the number of personas, so it’s possible to focus design and this may guarantee better success. While there’s no magic number, as a rule of thumb, three or four personas are enough for most projects.

Tip: If you have more than one persona it’s good to define the primary persona (the most relevant) and follow the rule “design for the primary – accommodate the secondary.” Design decisions should be made with the primary persona in mind and then tested (through a thought experiment) against the secondary personas.

4. Find Scenario(s) Of Interaction And Create Persona Documentation

Personas have no value in and of themselves. They become valuable only when they tied up to a scenario. A scenario is an imaged situation that describes how a persona would interact with a product in a particular context to achieve its end goal(s). Scenarios help designers understand the main user flows – by pairing the personas with the scenarios, designers gather requirements, and from those requirements, they create design solutions. Scenarios should be written from the persona’s perspective, usually at a high level, and articulate use cases that will likely happen.

Personas, end goals and scenarios relate to one another. Image credit: Smashing Magazine

Generally, when creating a document you should include the following information:

  • Persona name
  • Photo
  • Demographics (gender, age, location, marital status, family)
  • Goals and needs
  • Frustrations (or “pain points”)
  • Behaviors
  • Bits of personality (e.g. a quote or slogan that captures the personality)

A great tool which will help you during this step is the Persona Creation and Usage Toolkit developed by George Olsen. George has developed a comprehensive list of all the factors that can be considered for persona description.

Tip: Avoid using real names or details of research participants or people you know. This can bias the objectivity of your personas (you’ll focus on design for this person, rather than a group of people with similar characteristics).

5. Share Your Findings And Obtain Acceptance From the Team

Socializing personas among stakeholders is critical in moving the design team toward action. All team members and stakeholders should have a positive association with personas and see the value in them. As people become familiar with the personas, they start talking about them as if they were actual people. A well-constructed persona almost becomes another member of the team.

Tip: Usually, having posters, cards, action figures, and other real, physical objects is more effective to communicate personas and helps keep them top of mind versus having a digital version, like a doc file or PowerPoint presentation.

It’s essential to share personas and scenarios with other team members and stakeholders. Image credits: UX Booth


Personas are powerful tools. Done properly personas make the design process at hand less complex — they guide the ideation processes and help designers to achieve the goal of creating a good UX for the target users. Thanks to personas, designers are able to work in a more mindful way by keeping the real user at the heart of everything they do.

Aspirational Demo: Kyle Lambert Tells Us a Fairy Tale In Just One Image

Creative Cloud

This month, we’re thinking about images that tell stories, so we gave movie poster artist Kyle Lambert an epic challenge: invent an entire fairy tale world and build it out of Adobe Stock. Then, we checked in with him about the process behind his amazing composition, “Once Upon a Time.”

Getting Inspired

Kyle started by thinking about the magic and fantasy at the heart of children’s stories, and from there, he began to sketch out the themes. “I liked the idea of a ballerina-like princess character at the center of the story, so I sketched a levitating figure in the center of the composition,” says Kyle. “Then I began thinking about the world that the girl would be exploring and started to think of interesting story points such as pirates and an evil horseman.”

Putting the Pieces Together

Kyle doesn’t often use stock images, so one of his goals for this project was to figure out (and then show the world), how an artist can combine lots of stock assets to build something completely new.

“I started by searching for images that most closely resembled the ideas in my drawing. However, on many occasions I found amazing images that were better or added something new to my original concept, so I allowed the piece to keep evolving. For example, my original idea was to include a pirate ship on the right hand side of the piece. After searching for relevant images, I added a crocodile, volcano, and a temple island.”

For Kyle, the most satisfying part of this project was finding and combining the images to create his floating princess. He first had to search for a set of photos that could fit together in just the right way to create an anatomically correct figure in a pose something like his original idea. Once he landed on a series of images of the same model, he had the foundation for his character. From there, he added in elements from a photo of an elegant ballerina.

The final, detail-packed composition is built from 50 stock images in 335 layers. “The key to staying organized on a project like this,” explains Kyle, “is to label everything clearly and use layer groups to hide elements that you are not currently working on.”

Building Something Completely New From Stock

For artists creating a complicated composition with stock, Kyle’s advice is to start out with a clear idea of what you want to find. Otherwise, the options can be overwhelming. But keep an open mind once you start searching, since you might stumble on a new, useful possibility you hadn’t considered when you first imagined the piece.

Kyle also gave us his thoughts on getting started using Adobe Stock: “There were a lot of features that helped me get familiar with a different workflow. I found it very useful to create a series of libraries on the Adobe Stock website to organize all of the photos that I was considering using. This allowed me to browse and collect possibilities for each element and review the best options all together. I also liked how easy it was to download small previews of the images I had found to make sure they would work in the art.”

Find Out More About Telling Digital Stories

For more on Kyle, read about his work on movie posters, and his artist spotlight. And if you’d like some extra inspiration for storytelling in the digital world, get tips from Adobe’s experts and find out how short filmmakers build a narrative in just a few seconds or minutes. And don’t miss our curated gallery of Adobe Stock images that tell stories.

From Architect to UX Designer: Stories of the Switch

Creative Cloud

Architecture and user experience design share many parallels, but what does it actually take to transition from designing physical spaces into digital ones?

We asked four former architects turned user experience designers why they decided to make the switch into UX design, what challenges they experienced along the way, and what advice they have for other architects considering a career change into UX.

From veteran UX designers to new recruits, here’s what they had to say.

Jennifer Fraser, Director of User Experience, Macadamiam

Jennifer made the leap from an intern architect to a UX designer almost 20 years ago. She was pursuing a Master’s degree in architecture with a focus on design and technology (a first of its kind program) when she was encouraged to apply for a UI designer job at a local software company. The architect firm where she worked part-time, “practically packed up my desk for me, telling me to take the opportunity,” she said. Who knew she’d end up working there for almost 12 years! At the time, interaction design was completely new, so it was common for architects and industrial designers to be hired for those positions. It was not hard for her to pivot careers into UX design.

What do you think being an architect did to help prepare you for a career as a UX designer?

JF: There were two key lessons that I learned in architecture school that I see as critical to being a successful UX designer.

The first is that ideas aren’t precious. They need to be ripped apart, turned upside down, and looked at by others in order for them to improve. The second is that in architecture school, we were criticized if our models looked exactly like our drawings. If they looked the same, then we had stopped thinking. As a design is translated from one medium to another, it should continue to change and adjust as you learn new things about how to improve the design through that translation. Similarly, as a UX designer, when an idea is going from sketches to wireframes to prototypes, it needs to keep evolving and improving as a result of these translations.

Another important lesson I learned from my time on building sites as an intern architect was that nothing ever gets built exactly as designed. Nothing. The same stands for UX design. Nothing will ever get built that precisely matches your initial set of “final” annotated wireframes or annotated comps. To me, it’s during implementation that you truly see the level of “skill” of a UX designer. How well are they able to adapt and change? How well are they able to negotiate and mediate? How well are they able to maintain their original design intent while adapting to new constraints?

What advice do you have for other architects who may be considering a switch into UX?

JF: The time is now! With the proliferation of connected devices being embedded into our physical environment, now is the time for a new profession that holistically considers the digital and the physical user experience.

Rodrigo Tello, Designer, Hopscotch

Rodrigo is a designer from Mexico who is now based out of New York City. After studying architecture, he regularly found himself working on web-based projects and was soon known as “the guy that knows how to make things on the Internet.” He started making websites, web applications, and online marketplaces. He fell in love with the scale and speed of web-based projects and found a voice in design that he didn’t have as an architect. He now wears many hats, working as a software designer, a UI designer and a UX designer.

What steps did you take to make your career change happen?

RT: The first one was making real software. My first startup/internet project was a team of just 3 people, one programmer and two designers. One of my partners and I ended up doing everything around idea, design, mockups, tracing project roadmaps and talking with users. I ended up learning about everything: what is a web-dev framework, what is RoR, the cycle it requires for a developer to do something, how to ask users for feedback (user testing) and the hardest truth of all: what happens when people just don’t use your software. That’s a harsh truth that you need to swallow.

Was it difficult for you to transition into UX design?

RT: It’s hard to start scratching the surface of the world of technologies that you’ll need to use. There are too many parts you need to understand on a superficial and deep level just to even have conversations with developers. The reason why it’s not that hard is because design, at it’s core, is always design. The process is relatively similar. There are a lot of abstract tools (thinking in abstraction, art concepts, user flows, research, ideating, mocking up, mapping users) and concrete tools (paper, drawing, Photoshop, Illustrator, CAD drawing, etc.) that you will end up reusing.

What advice do you have for other architects who may be considering a switch into UX?

RT: Think in big problems. Don’t think about the specificities of the field that you’ll need to learn, like using a specific software or knowing the industry lingo. Instead think of bigger systemic problems: education, health, traffic, politics, gender inequality, economic inequality. The tools you already have in your backpack will show up in the right moment. Try to create solutions for problems you find just by attaching technologies and systems next to each other: could you solve traffic or neighbor-scale security problems with a Twitter account? Could you aggregate information and resources from government institutions on a blog? Could you gather communities online to help minorities that need help? Why? Why not? What do the current tools lack?

This process of building prototypes or even fully formed products with out-of-the-box tools will help you understand what the real problems of the world are and how to solve them. The important part of this is make prototypes. In the architecture world, unbuilt projects have been crucial for renowned architects, like Rem Koolhaas or Tadao Ando. So don’t leave that practice aside. Always draw, always design, always tackle big problems.

From architecture, I learned that every line you draw it’s not just a line on paper. It will become a wall, of brick and matter, built by someone and maintained by someone. It’ll be there for years. Every time you draw something, the ramifications of its impact are exponential. So think every line you draw.

Anna Kolak, Strategy and Design Director, Coach

Anna made the switch to UX 10 years ago, but she wouldn’t call it a transition. “In my experience, being a UX designer and strategist is very similar to being an architect, in terms of design process and approach,” she says. She used to tease a friend of hers who worked as an information architect about not being a “real architect,” but he convinced her to do some freelance work and give it a shot. “Within a few days I realized that ‘UX’ meant I’d be able to do more of what I loved about architecture — designing experiences for people — without the stuff that got in the way. No one would glare at me if I left the office before 6 pm — and I’d be able to repay my grad school debt before retirement.”

What steps did you take to make your career change happen?

AK: I was fortunate to know someone in a leadership position in the industry. He happened to believe that architectural design is much more complicated than UX design, that the skills are not only transferable but that someone with an architectural background could bring a more rigorous and innovative approach to UX.

Was it a difficult transition?

AK: The first two months were difficult because it took me two months to realize that I already knew what I didn’t know I knew. After those first few months, I discovered that I had been doing UX design the whole time I was an architect. I had to learn new software and techniques, but the underlying concepts were very similar — from research to documentation to team dynamics and construction. I think my transition was smooth because my approach to architecture was already very grounded in user research and focused on human experience rather than just building an environment.

What do you think your experience as an architect did to help prepare you for a career as a UX designer?

AK: Everything. Software is easy to learn; design and design thinking not so much. I believe that my education and experience as an architect prepared me for a career in UX much more thoroughly than a different specialty would have. I don’t think I’m unique in that, as an architect, I assumed without question that design included everything — buildings and spaces, but also services, businesses, research, experiences, kiosks, websites, brand strategies, experience strategies, sometimes even organizational design. Architects think in terms of systems and details simultaneously. Some architects even think deeply about the experiences of the people who will use the spaces they are designing. These big-picture skills, along with all the technical and detail skills that are part of the profession, prepare architects to excel in careers in many fields, including and especially UX and service design.

What advice do you have for other architects who may be considering a switch into UX?

AK: Talk to an architect who has already made the transition — there are more than a few of us. Take an intro or intensive course about UX design to help you build a portfolio and learn UX’s specific dialect. Use your architecture portfolio as a basis for your UX portfolio — it will be way cooler than almost any UX portfolio out there. Hire a coach to help you navigate the transition strategically and efficiently.

Bethany Morrow, User Experience Designer

Bethany is a new recruit to UX, having made the change in 2015. She took a more formal approach, first researching the profession, then meeting with UX designers to learn more, and finally enrolling in a full-time UX boot camp program at General Assembly, where she now teaches UX fundamentals.

Before enrolling, she asked an acquaintance his thoughts on the program. “He said those programs wouldn’t teach me anything I couldn’t learn on my own, but that I should ask myself, would I actually learn what I needed to learn on my own? Given that I’d been investigating UX for about a year and still didn’t feel ready to work in the field, I decided I would benefit from the structure of a formal program,” she said. “I came out with a solid portfolio and the know-how to land an 18-month UX design contract at Microsoft.”

What was it that made you decide to shift careers?

BM: Three main things:

This is what I’ve always wanted to do: My favorite thing about architecture is how we can use space and materials to enhance people’s experiences. I didn’t know the term “UX” until a few years ago, but I’ve always been a UX designer. Now I design smaller interfaces and work for companies and clients that really value experience design.

Career advancement, job prospects, and benefits: I was at the place in my architecture career where “the next step” would’ve been to get my master’s degree and get licensed. It would’ve taken years and cost tens of thousands of dollars for a career that’s a bit too much at the mercy of the economy. Instead, I decided to spend less money and less time to transition into a field that uses skills I already had, lets me do the work I’ve always wanted to do, and typically offers better pay and benefits.

Variety: UX design is really broad, and that suits my personality. Right now, I design business intelligence software. Next, I might work in healthcare, education, or travel; I might design physical objects, mobile apps, or virtual experiences; I might work on something I haven’t even heard of yet. I can’t imagine ever getting bored with UX.

Was it a difficult transition? What challenges or obstacles did you face along the way?

BM: It was a scary decision to enroll in the UX Design Immersive. The program was expensive and consumed my life for 10 weeks, plus the time I spent job-hunting. I was incredibly lucky to have the support of family and friends, who made sure I had a roof over my head and food on my plate during those months. Finding your first UX design job is challenging, especially in cities where programs like General Assembly have flooded the market with junior UX designers. Coming from architecture definitely gave me a leg-up, but job-hunting was still an emotional rollercoaster.

Learning how to talk about the parallels between architecture and UX made it easy for me to present myself to prospective employers. I was new to the tech industry, but I’d been working at design agencies for five years, using many of the same tools and methodologies as UX designers.

What advice do you have for other architects who may be considering a switch into UX?

BM: Like any good UX designer, start with research. There are so many great blogs, books, and podcasts that will help you learn about the field. Leverage your network; if you have friends who work in tech, odds are they know a UX designer who’d be happy to spend 20 minutes on the phone answering your questions. Go to local UX networking events.

If you decide to make the switch, know that you must have a UX portfolio to get a UX job. Do hackathons, take a class, volunteer your design skills for a good cause, help friends or family with their businesses — whatever you can do to get three or four UX projects in your portfolio. Learn about what makes a good UX portfolio. Test your portfolio with friends and colleagues, then iterate. If you would benefit from more structure and can afford it, consider a full-time program that aims to make you job-ready.

Want to learn more?

Check out these relevant blog posts from our Adobe team to learn more about UX design:

Meet Adobe’s New Award-Winning Director of Editorial Content, Santiago Lyon

Creative Cloud

With Adobe Stock’s entry into the editorial marketplace, our commitment has always been to deliver visuals that are newsworthy, of the highest quality, and of human interest. Earlier this year, we expanded our offering with editorial partners Reuters and USA TODAY Sports, and we intend to continue on this important trajectory.

Today, Adobe is thrilled to welcome Santiago Lyon as our first director of editorial content. In this newly created role, Santiago will lead Adobe Stock’s editorial content strategy and collection, working with world-class photojournalists, documentary photographers, editorial providers and media.

With more than 30 years of experience as an industry executive and photojournalist – and multiple awards for his work on conflict, including two World Press Photo prizes and the Bayeux prize for war photography – Santiago brings a unique perspective that reflects a lifetime of taking on new challenges with great passion and journalistic integrity.

We sat down with Santiago to hear his thoughts on his new role, the future of editorial storytelling and why photojournalism is more important than ever.

Your professional experience spans the breadth of journalism, including photography, editing and publishing. How will this background inform your new role, and what do you hope to accomplish with Adobe as the new director of editorial content?

As a staff photographer with Reuters and The Associated Press, I traveled the world for 20 years documenting everything from politics and sports to war and conflict. As AP’s global director of photography for 13 years, I focused on leading, growing and modernizing a large network of staff, freelance photographers and editors. These experiences give me perspective from all angles of the industry and a deep understanding of the challenges, issues and opportunities ahead.

I want to make Adobe the leading source of editorial imagery, to better serve and delight its expanding customer base, and provide a seamless experience from discovering relevant photos, to processing them in Adobe’s suite of creative tools.

Why did you choose to pursue this role with Adobe, and what most excites you about this opportunity?

Adobe products have been a key part of the professional lives of generations of photojournalists, allowing them to better tell the world’s stories in photos and videos. I see many potential opportunities ahead for Adobe to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to creativity through engagement with the editorial photography community. To have the opportunity to expand and enhance Adobe’s role as a content provider and active player in this space is hugely exciting.

The role of images in communication is evolving, and the way photographs are consumed has changed. How has this impacted the editorial storytelling landscape, and how will the industry need to adapt to meet demands? 

Our visual culture has grown exponentially in recent years, and with it the ability to show and tell the world’s stories much more comprehensively. The important issues of our time – human rights, climate change, economic inequality, immigration and discrimination, among others – are now being photographed and shared around the world in near real time. Enhancing access to these images shows how technology and newsgathering can work together for the common good.

What is photography’s role in the “post-truth” era where the validity of documentary evidence is questioned, and the age of digital media where technology has made disseminating news (true, or not) more accessible?

Once upon a time, we were told that “a photograph never lies”. Today, drenched in information (with much of it visual), we struggle to make sense of the personal and professional views on our world.

From the public and our friends, we receive – and often redistribute – a stream of visuals ranging from family photos and selfies to startling eyewitness videos of dramatic events. From the professional media, we get – and redistribute – high-quality news, sports, entertainment and feature photography, stories and videos. Also, a host of outlets disguised as news organizations fill our digital feeds with doctored images, conspiracy theories and fabricated news. Who then can we trust? Respected news agencies like Reuters (an Adobe partner) and the AP, among others, go to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the content they distribute.

The way photographs are consumed has also changed. Gone for most, is the habit of reading an image carefully, absorbing its nuance and detail. Inundated with so many images, there is little time to absorb each one – or any.

Amid this, photojournalism has survived and will continue to do so. Dedicated photojournalists all over the world are producing amazing and varied imagery, often braving dangers and risking their lives. The power of the still image remains undeniable.

What do you believe are the most important trends in the next 3-5 years for editorial storytelling?

First and foremost, technology will continue to play a tremendous role in editorial storytelling as we find new and exciting ways to tell narratives through photos, videos and multimedia. The visual voices of women, minorities and local photographers will gain even greater momentum at the forefront, with increased relevance and importance as the world seeks to better understand our increasingly diverse societies and the complex issues we face. Adobe is well positioned to advance this space and conversation through a proven track record of innovation and creativity.

Header Image courtesy of REUTERS/EDGAR SU

UX First, Aesthetics Second: Andrew Baygulov Shares His Advice for Creating Beautiful, Effective Designs

Creative Cloud

Andrew Baygulov is a self-taught designer and front-end developer who learned UX on the job. One look at his past work and you’re bound to be blown away by his ability to create visually-appealing designs that never sacrifice usability. We asked him to share his process and advice on how to balance beautiful visual design while creating effective user experiences.

What are the key considerations to balancing good aesthetics with good UX?

The backbone of every project is user experience. The first step to any site or app is really understanding the entire product, and that will influence your overall approach to it. You start a project by implementing functionality first and UI just compliments it. Both elements are essential to the product and work closely together.

What’s the best approach for using hero images effectively in your designs?

I would say text is one of the most important elements on the screen, and you want to make sure people can read it easily. If you can’t make the text readable on top of big images then try to place it outside of them. Another important thing is to make sure you adjust your image heights based on your screen sizes so people don’t have to scroll forever on smaller devices.

What is the biggest mistake designers make when attempting to create user experiences that are ‘beautiful’?

I think the biggest mistake that designers make today is when they try to hide their UX problems with beautiful visuals, but in reality, they’re just confusing the users. Attractive visuals won’t fix your poorly constructed website/app functionality.

What’s to gain from a perfect fusion of aesthetics and UX design?

Most people don’t know anything about design, but somehow we all can feel when something wasn’t done right. This is why us designers really have to view a product from the user’s perspective and try to understand how they would use it first. Because really, we’re designing the product for them and not us.

By doing UX correctly, you’re eliminating unnecessary steps and helping the user to achieve something faster without causing confusion or frustration.

What’s your best advice for UX designers who are just starting out and want to follow in your footsteps?

As we all know, no one becomes successful overnight. Learn as much as you can from everything you can find online, study other designers’ work and, most importantly, practice a lot.

Most companies are looking for people who are self-motivated and willing to put a lot of work into something they love. Always have high standards for yourself, try to do the best you can, and don’t take shortcuts. It’s a process that takes a lot of hard work and you can’t just bypass it.

What does the future hold for UX design?

Well, I can only guess. The web is changing almost on a daily basis, but I think user experience will always remain the main focus of every product. As designers, we’re constantly trying to reimagine ways to achieve simple tasks with fewer steps and hopefully, future devices will help us do so.

Learn more about Andrew Baygulov and his work on his website.