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REMAKING ADOBE.COM INTO A MEANINGFUL PRODUCT EXPERIENCE

Adobe.com was a traditional marketing and e-commerce vehicle, using a traditional playbook. A major corporate transition required rethinking this approach, in terms of how it played out both on a web page and organizationally. 

In 2012, I was brought in to restart and lead Adobe.com's formerly-defunct User Experience Design practice situated within the Marketing organization, working in close collaboration with the Brand, Web Strategy, E-commerce, Analytics, Product, and Product Marketing groups.

At the time, Adobe.com reflected the considerable internal tension inherent to Adobe transitioning from a box software company to a subscription model. How do we keep every customer happy? How do we maximize every pixel to protect ourselves during change? How do we have it both ways? The answer? You don't! You have to decide to move forward, make hard cuts, and commit. The design solutions my UX team and I created helped Adobe do just that.

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CHANGING "THE WAY WE'VE ALWAYS DONE THINGS"

Within my first 6 months at Adobe, I helped sell in to senior leadership an interim redesign to coincide with the company's yearly product launch as the fastest way to begin addressing major experience design challenges without waiting for a full, formal redesign process.

By leveraging existing user research, copious amounts of quantitative user data, and key stakeholder interviews, we created a new navigation model, new product pages, new supporting content page templates, and simplified the site's information architecture by slashing the site's page count to remove dead ends or redundant content. While we were at it, we also created Adobe.com's first responsive experience.

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"One Story at a Time" was the unifying theme of this effort. Besides building my design team and re-integrating UX thinking into the various processes that surround a multi-million dollar website, I focused my attention on persuading stakeholders to let go of the "Way We've Always Done Things". Change, like slashing content and reducing the number of offers on a page, was scary for everyone and convincing them we could do far more with far less was no easy feat. The perseverance paid off. We launched and saw considerable movement toward company goals of reducing box software purchases, increasing subscriptions and trialists, and clarifying the story behind Adobe's Cloud strategy.

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A STUDS-UP REIMAGINING

The first redesign was a solid success and a very good start. But, as Creative Cloud began to really take off, two things became apparent: incrementally redesigning Adobe.com was only going to bring us incremental growth and for Adobe to complete its shift to a subscription model, the site needed to transform from siloed marketing and e-commerce vehicle into a meaningful, unified product experience. In 2014, senior leadership assembled a tiger team of experts including myself and several others from around the company to envision and execute a studs-up reimagining of what Adobe.com could be.

 

Our initial research clarified that customers didn't return to Adobe.com after signing up because they "didn't need to be marketed to anymore". We also knew that part of Adobe's transition was changing its relationship to customers from an occasional one (whenever you need to upgrade to the next box, which often was years) to an everyday one, especially as products were now being continuously updated. Our product design mindset led us to believe that if we created core product pages that provided significant value before and *after* customer signup, we would create a more consistent connection with them.

Adobe had recently purchased Behance, offering its customers access to one of the largest networks of creatives. This community was critical to telling a new Adobe story. We shifted the storytelling paradigm from an aspirational hero approach of using incredible role models at the top of their industry to making everyday customers, sourced from Behance, and the story of how *they* use the tools, the heroes of the site.

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In keeping with this more populist approach, our product content and tag lines became more descriptive, pragmatic, and factual to crystallize for customers what they were getting, how to get it and whether it met their needs, all of which had previously been a major challenge. To cinch this relationship-minded approach, we shifted to using less traditional marketing content and instead leveraged the wealth of high-quality educational content. This reinforced the idea that Adobe apps were constantly changing and the site was now a living breathing resource available to customers’ throughout their journey.  

To hit our targets and validate our approach, we practiced lean UX with an Agile team and began design sprints. This led us to We create HTML prototypes and begin siphoning off a small amount of traffic from Adobe.com to test our ideas with live users.  

Our ongoing tests validated these ideas and considerable A/B testing helped us fine tune to meet our goals. We continuously iterated and expanded our prototype until we had built the foundation for a new site. Empowering users with a connection to creators like themselves and creating an experience of the products in an educational context increasingly moved customers to try and eventually buy. We were able to move quickly using the learning content to create an economy of scale, allowing us the freedom to create unique feature demos for a killer feature with a small team.

The tiger team worked together for several months post-launch to evolve the site, try new design experiments, and ensure the site had a solid foundation and was meeting or exceeding critical business goals. At the end of this period, both trials and subscriptions were up over 20%.

The entire effort was an amazing experience and opportunity to teach a large company how to experiment, fail, evolve, and succeed in order to make a grand change.