Adobe

The Story of Adobe Stock

From basic website to service with fresh content and powerful search, available on multiple platforms.

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What is Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is a service where you can buy and sell digital creative assets, like photos, illustrations, and videos. It's available within desktop, mobile, and web applications.

The Story

Okay, so there’s a lot to cover here.

If you're less interested in the overall story and more interested in specific projects where I was the primary designer, view these posts:


For context, the scope of this story is from June 2015 through August 2018. My last day at Adobe was Friday, July 27th.

I was a designer at Adobe in San Francisco for three years. All three of those fantastic years were focused on Adobe Stock. A lot happened that I’d like to share but I also realize that most people aren’t interested in every little detail.

Below, I’ll share some key highlights, then I’ll get more in-depth into the story of what happened with our team and the product.

Also, a timeline can be found at the bottom of this post for those particularly interested in specific release dates and key events, such as Adobe's $800 million acquisition of Fotolia. I think it will make for an interesting business case study in the future, as well as just being a resource for some of my former coworkers to see a list of events about the product we worked on.

Disclaimer

This is a relatively long post.

It's also more of a general overview of what I experienced and learned during three years working as a designer on Adobe Stock. While I'm going to talk about our accomplishments as a team (design, product, marketing, engineering), I'll try to focus more on projects I was directly involved with.

Highlights

  • My first day at Adobe, June 8th, 2015
  • Adobe Stock website is launched, June 15th, 2015
  • Responsive design and video support shipped, Winter 2015
  • Updated checkout experience shipped, Summer 2016
  • Added graphic templates and 3D content, Fall 2016
  • Launced Adobe Stock Contributor, Fall 2016
  • Launched updated navigation, search, and filtering design, June 2017
  • Aesthetic search filtering shipped, Fall 2017
  • Intern project shown at Adobe MAX 2017 conference, Fall 2017
  • Future search tech concepts design work, January - May 2018
  • Last day, July 27th, 2018
  • Bonus! Built Adobe Stock component for Framer X, August 2018

What I learned

I could write a short book on this. For now, I'll start with a long bulleted list and share some additional thoughts in paragraph form below.

Business

  • Product as a service strategy
  • The challenges of operating within a large company
  • How to operate more effectively within a large company
  • Combining business goals with user goals
  • The importance of both sides of a product (buyers / sellers)
  • Collaborating with product managers
  • The importance of understanding how a product generates revenue
  • The importance of understanding the short and long-term business goals

Teams

  • What effective design team management looks like
  • What a talented and diverse team looks like
  • Hiring for complementary skills and avoiding “culture fit” bias
  • The importance of celebrating small wins
  • How to grow a design team
  • How to demonstrate the value of a design team
  • The importance of team and project documentation
  • How to estimate and manage project timelines

Design skills

  • The importance of challenging your assumptions
  • Methods for identifying current product issues
  • Collaborating with user researchers
  • The importance of running effective design critique sessions
  • Presentation skills (tailoring presentation for the audience)
  • Proper usability testing methods
  • The importance of quantitative and qualitative metrics
  • The importance of critically evaluating data and healthy skepticism
  • Prototyping with real data (APIs)
  • Cultural / regional / language considerations

The Eras

I can break down my time working on Adobe Stock into four eras.

It should be noted that this breakdown mostly focuses on projects I worked on and it ignores some other great work that occurred during this same time. You can learn more about those projects done by my fabulous coworkers in the timeline section at the bottom of this post.

Summer 2015

Launch day – My first day at Adobe was June 8th. A week later, Adobe Stock launched with basic imagery and functionality.

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Winter 2015 – Spring 2016

Mobile, Video, Checkout – This release included a responsive design, redesigned checkout experience, support for video, and evolution of the search and save UI to a more usable and coherent visual design.

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Summer 2016 – Summer 2017

Content, Search, & Contributor – This is where things got exciting. We updated the site navigation, search and filters UI, and offered a fresh, diverse collection of content. We launched editorial and additional premium content contributors, like Stocksy. Additionally, we shipped the Adobe Stock Contributor experience for users to submit and sell their content.

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Fall 2017 – Summer 2018

Outpacing the Competition – Machine learning, computer vision, and some other top secret stuff I can't tell you about. We launched some powerful new search technology and started to show that we were set to truly differentiate ourselves from the competition.

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Commercial Break

Adobe Stock Apparel

This was an incredible ad campaign. I wish I could take credit for it. The project was done by Swedish agency Abby Priest.

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What happened to our team

At Adobe I had two fantastic managers and I was always surrounded by great, genuine people. Thank you to Gavin for hiring me, giving me a shot, and setting me up for success. Thank you to Samantha for constantly supporting me, providing autonomy, building a talented and diverse team, and for always having such a great attitude.

When I started as a designer on Stock, we were a small team. When I left, the team had become increasingly bountiful, tactical and diverse. Both in our backgrounds and our skillsets. From that experience, I learned the importance of building a team with complementary skills. We had people on the team with strengths and focuses in areas like strategy, research, data / analytics, visual design, and accessibility.

A critical factor in our success was due to Adobe's investment in UserTesting.com. That, combined with our ability to prototype allowed us to put designs in front of potential users and iterate quickly based on feedback. Not only did this inform our design process, it empowered us to present to our stakeholders, the product management team, in a way that removed us from engaging in arguments based on conjecture.

Without evidence of user interaction and feedback, our debates on solutions were ineffective. If we could present evidence to support our designs, we could build consensus on the right solutions to move forward with. Usability testing also allowed us to identify and illustrate current issues with our product that needed to be addressed and prioritized for additional design exploration.

Business and user needs

From day one, we were fortunate to have the support of Adobe’s executives. Stock seemed to be a high priority for the company. Shantanu and the crew were starting to push the value of the new creative content service into other Adobe products.

Operating within a large organization

It could be said that early on some of that push was a bit too aggressive at times. A lot of the Adobe Stock promotional messaging was being misplaced. It was put in front of every Adobe users’ eyes. People saw it as “in-app ads,” however, I believe the company took that feedback and criticism well. That aggressive push has eased up, and the overall messaging approach for Stock has improved significantly.

The interesting part of working on Adobe Stock is that while our goal was to of course improve the direct product, the website, we needed to also add value to one of the core offerings of the company, Creative Cloud. Adobe Stock would eventually transform from being a product to a service. A service integrated into not only other Adobe products, but also outside products like PowerPoint and Google Slides. Well played, Uncle Shanty.

Adding integration into a product such as Photoshop might improve the overall value of Photoshop and Creative Cloud, but how much does that value transfer over to the internal Adobe Stock organization and their goals? It’s difficult to know if an increase in Creative Cloud subscriptions, or enthusiasm about a particular product is due to something like new Adobe Stock functionality and integration. Our goal was to see success of Creative Cloud subscriptions, but also Adobe Stock subscriptions, which, to clarify, are mutually exclusive.



Partnering with product management

Ultimately, some of the core value we provided to the business was collaborating with product management to be a voice for the user, and help evolve a product that went from being slightly below-average to something better than most of the competition. On day one, Adobe Stock was lacking content quality and diversity, as well as overall expected functionality and performance.

Our design team partnered with product, engineering, and marketing to deliver a much better creative marketplace experience. Today, Adobe Stock has fresh content, new content types like Video, 3D, Premium, and Editorial, as well as a unique new way for creatives to submit content.

Finding content also became a more powerful experience. Our team shipped unique search tools like visual and aesthetic search, as well as similarity intent. We also worked with our product partners to deliver a more effective explanation of pricing options and a faster, simpler checkout experience.

Moving on

A lot was accomplished in the past three years. I'm thankful for the people that made it possible and excited to see how the product continues to grow. Working at Adobe was a fantastic experience. I can see why it's regularly recognized as a “best place to work."

In August 2018, I decided to take some time off to live in Italy and explore Europe. In November, I moved to New York. 🚀


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Timeline

2012

April 23rd, 2012

2014

December 11, 2014

  • Adobe acquires stock content marketplace Fotolia For $800M In Cash.
  • ADBE $69.74

2015

January 28th

Fotolia acquisition completed.

June 2nd

Adobe acquires 3D startup Mixamo.

June 8th

  • John’s first day at Adobe.
  • ADBE $78.16

June 16th

Adobe launches first version of Adobe Stock.

October 5th

2016

June

September

November 2nd

2017

June 13th

September 27th

October 18th

2018

July 27th

  • John’s last day at Adobe
  • ADBE $254.81

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