Adobe got its start by building tools that make design accessible for all. By creating intuitive, powerful programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and more, Adobe has helped inspire generations of designers, which in turn impacts the culture that surrounds us. Adobe is so ubiquitous that “photoshopping” has become the catch-all term for any type of image manipulation; other than “googling” information, what other tech product has become a verb?

However, Adobe’s tools are not just used by artists. Developers also rely on Adobe’s tools to create everything from websites to mobile applications to emerging experiences like augmented reality and virtual reality. By sitting at the intersection of design and code, Adobe is uniquely situated to impact the way we all consume technology today and tomorrow.

For our most recent episode of our podcast Decoded, we spoke with Kerri Shotts, a product manager at Adobe, to learn more about the role design plays in development.



Every Developer Is a Designer

According to Shotts, Adobe has always sat at the intersection of design and code. For decades, website designers have used products like Dreamweaver to bring websites to life without complex coding, while layouts are designed in Photoshop before being translated into code.

Now with tools like Adobe XD, complex UI/UX experiences for websites, apps and digital products can be quickly designed, shared, and prototyped, enabling designers to create complete digital experiences without having to worry about code. As a result, Shotts sees Adobe products as the gateway drug for many of today’s front-end developers.

“They start out as designers who have a problem to solve. It turns into, ‘Oh, I found out that I can use a little bit of code here to make it do what I want it to do and tweak it.’ Suddenly, you’ve turned into this developer who can automate your workflows so much faster than you could have ever done before.”

Empowering Extensibility

One of Adobe’s greatest strengths is that its tools give people the power to create anything they can imagine. However, when a tool like Photoshop can be used from anything from simple logo design to complex 3D renderings, you can’t exactly create a step-by-step instruction manual that applies to every user. To overcome these challenges, Adobe has embraced building extensible products that enable users to customize workflows to their unique needs. As Shotts explained:

“In the past three years where we’ve been developing the UXP platform, which enables you to build plugins and integrate with other products, you realize the scope of what’s out there. There’s all these things that are out there and you realize how much you don’t know, or how what you’re doing today may open up fantastic solutions down the road.”

For Shotts, the key is not to anticipate every outcome, but to make the ecosystem adaptable so that it can evolve with users as their needs change.

“There are all sorts of ways a user can automate our products and extend them into something that is very customized for their use case of their company. There’s all these different opportunities to come up with interesting ways of linking them together. That diversity really makes it a powerful system.”

Applying Design Principles to Development

If tools like Photoshop and XD are turning designers into developers, it has also led to developers thinking like designers. Rather than see design as the polish to put on their product at the end of development, developers now view design as something to be considered from the very beginning.

That’s because it’s not enough to just build a product that can solve a problem. You have to be able to build a product that can solve the problem in the way the user wants to solve it. By thinking like a user and considering the user interface first instead of last, it can impact the decisions you make in the development process so that you solve the right problem while ensuring the product is intuitive to use.

“You have to get into your user’s mindset and walk a mile in their shoes.”

Shotts said.

“If you wait until design is the very last thing, that will be way harder to overcome than if you’ve already been thinking about this product from the user experience perspective. That gives you way more time to build something that is functional, fun to use, and actually works for the user, while also giving you the time to iron out the issues that always happen when it comes to software development and launching a product.”

Check out this week’s Decoded podcast to hear the full interview with Kerri Shotts to learn more about Adobe impacts designers and developers alike. Listen now, and subscribe to future episodes today.