In leading research for Illustrator on the iPad, I worked with the team to reimagine the vector graphics experience for a modern touch surface. The team's motto was "80% of the functionality with 20% of the tools." To make sure we had chosen the right tools, enabled proper access to those tools, and facilitated professional graphic design workflows, we embarked on a yearlong user research marathon.
First, we began with several rounds of concept testing of individual concepts that would be entirely new to the iPad– we knew we needed to get those right. (Check out Radial Repeat, one of my favorite experiences on the iPad, for a fun example!) In all of these studies, we took an inclusive approach, inviting users with a range of physical and sensory disabilities to give us feedback.
Then, we did some ethnographic research and workflow studies in which we dove deeply into users' workflows, visiting their homes and studios, and observing as they attempted to create real work using our prototype. These sessions were done across the US– in Austin, San Francisco, and New York City– and across Japan– in Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. We met with participants of various backgrounds– from brand design to industrial and fashion design– and in various stages of their design career– from students to professionals. The experience of meeting, observing, and learning from our Japanese users was one of the highlights of my career.
After some more follow-up concept testing, it was time to launch our private Beta. We wanted to be sure to include our users in our design and development process, so research was heavily involved in our Beta program. This was a revolutionary approach for Adobe: among other programs, research led initial screening and surveying, one-on-one interviews, weekly analysis of usability feedback, benchmark testing, and a robust longitudinal study.
The longitudinal study also included users with a range of abilities, job titles, career stages, and use cases. Participants took part in a 5-step experience, beginning with a deep-dive ethnographic interview. This was followed by 3 weeks of rigorous design tasks, diary keeping, and mini-interviews about their experience. Then, we concluded with an in-depth interview about their experience.
Lastly, we continued to gather insights from the Beta community and from concept testing to nail down the final experience. As Adobe's CPO Scott Belsky said in the product announcement at MAX, Illustrator on the iPad was co-created with our community– "with the help of thousands of designers who gave us early feedback on the app, and joined us for in-depth sessions." So I'd like to give a special thanks to our research participants, who made this app what it is today— and what it will become in the future.
We have been thrilled to immediately hit #1 on both the U.S. and Japan App Stores, receive Apple's coveted "Editors Choice" award, be rated at 4.6 stars, and be well-reviewed by many widestream publications, such as The Verge, TechCrunch, CNet, Engadget, and others. Most of all, we have been cheered by the messages from our users, who have shared with us how Illustrator on the iPad has revolutionized their staid graphic design process.