Adobe Max Day Two - Best Practices for Great Web Experiences

This was one of the premiere sessions hosted by the experience design, XD, team at Adobe, originally formed at Macromedia. Andrew Lin lead this session and was a co-founder of this group. "As senior lead of XD, Lin drives the experience vision of next-generation of Creative Suite, namely Photoshop and Illustrator. Working with engineering and product management teams, he is defining the Adobe Experience Model, a content-first interface approach for Adobe's desktop applications," says the Adobe Max website.

This session was all about what worked well for the XD team, and useful tips on how to improve the workflow of your own development team.

Team

After a bit of introductions, Lin went into what makes their team work and had 4 solid concepts they always think about for their staff.

Emphasis on making
One of their main goals is to create great products, so they want their staff to have that natural inhibition to create something.

Generalists over specialists
Their staff must have the overall vision of what they wish to achieve and not be bogged down by the details. In order to reach the general audience, you must think in general terms.

Promote Trust and Freedom
Innovation doesn't come by following orders, or coloring in the lines. Real innovation comes from outside the box, and learning to trust your staff by giving them the freedom to go wild on a project is key in building an amazing product.

Have fun
One of the biggest parts of their community is to have fun people to work with. Being in a warm, playful environment is key to having a productive cohesive environment. When choosing new members of the team, a candidate's personality outweighs their talent.

Process

Now that you've met the team, Lin went on to describe how they worked together. Communication is crucial. Your team needs to know what's going on with the project, and need to know they can get answers from anyone. Having an open office without secrets and open communication promotes cohesion between everything you're working on.

Having an overall process is not that important. Following a rigid structure only promotes stress and doesn't give your staff the flexibility and freedom to do what they want. When you are free to be absorbed in your work, you'll get the best results ^_^

But that doesn't mean everyone can just screw around. You must be very goal-oriented and always have focus on the end goal of your project. With everyone working within your goals, your end user's goals will easily be met.

With these three concepts in mind, Lin gave us 5 rules for promoting a great working atmosphere.

1. Simplify the problem. Never be too focused on one task that you lose sight of your real goal. Learn to generalize and shrink the scope of your problem into steps. Make it easy. ^_^

2. Trust your instincts. Real experience cannot be read or taught, it is things you've found throughout the years, and with that knowledge you've surely encountered similar problems in the past. If you think you're onto something, go with it.

3. Share everything. The more other people know about your problem, the more knowledge you bring into the situation. Having more eyes on a problem can find that solution you've been looking for. Also, sharing your solutions with everybody will increase their knowledge on your overall project.

4. Fail fast (to succeed sooner). Always good advice. If you're doing something wrong, it's best to know about it as soon as possible so you can correct the problem as soon as possible.

5. We are all peers before the object. No one owns the project. You are part of a team and as part of a team it is your responsibility to contribute to the project. It's all about team work. ^_^

Before he finished up his tips, he stressed the importance of prototyping, prototyping, prototyping. Always have a something to show your engineers and your customers to get the most amount of feedback possible.

Principles

This is the third component of their team: How do they design. Lin had 4 well organized principles they always keep in mind when designing their products.

What's your point?
Having a clear design objective when beginning your project. Know where you are going with it and what you hope to achieve by the end of your process. Complete your main tasks first, before adding on any features. That also goes along with keeping it simple. Don't add a lot of unnecessary crap to your design. (and) Focus and emphasize your main goals of your design.

Content is King
Your design should be emphasize on your client's needs. Content before Chrome. Provide flexibility for the User to achieve their own goals with the product, while still adhering to the goals of your client. Also, enable direct manipulation.. let the user do what they want.

Create an experience, not an interface
Make it personal for the user to give them a unique experience that they can take with them after using your product. You've heard the expression 'less is more', but in practice 'just enough is more'. Adding in some key extras can put your design into excellence. And be sure to respond to your user, rather than dictate. Don't boss the user around, but guide them to their goals.

Choreograph sequence and flow
Design as a whole. Be consist throughout your design and be sure to leave a trail for the User to follow. Establish a hierarchy to let the user know the organization of your product.

(yeah, i kinda jammed everything together into paragraphs..)

Overall

Like all presentations at this conference, Lin was running out of time so he tried to squish everything in as fast as possible toward the end (much like this blog post).

Thoughts

Overall, his concepts were quite sound and very helpful to everyone that attended. It was boring as hell though, as Lin's persona really didn't seem to carry in his speech. From the pictures he showed and practices he talked about, it sounded like it'd be a blast to work there, but a lot of his talk did seem to drag on.

It may have dragged on a bit because he was preaching to the choir on most of these points. I found it rather amazing that nearly everything he recommended other teams to do, we had already done these things in my own development team at Widen. As he went from point to point, I was mentally checking off things in my head, "yep, we do that.. yep, we do that, too"

Having a very cohesive team promotes a great environment that you can accomplish many goals both personal, professional, and for the company as well.




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