Adobe’s Photoshop product team turned to Level M for fresh eyes on how to improve the user experience. Despite being the world’s leading imaging and design app for graphic designers, Photoshop has not been impervious to design sprawl over the years, a problem afflicting many popular desktop apps.
Ideally, successive versions should result in a better overall user-experience. But for the big apps this is often not the case, where the design culture is more apt to add functionality than changing the organizing principles or design logic, even if it is results in an easier and faster to use product.
For Adobe, our goal was to deconstruct the forest-for-the-trees design ethos, recognizing we need to get to the starting point or ground zero of the user experience. To guide our thinking we employed two approaches, philosophical and physiological. Occam’s Razor, a philosophical tool used to ground scientific endeavors, became the baseline for design in which the process that requires the least clicks and memory from the user is the right one.
Physiologically, we recognize that the interface design carries far more information than the human visual system requires. Luminance, for example, needs to be judiciously and dynamically applied to the default workspace, rather than a static visual demand on the eyes. “Feather” and “Style” for example are the brightest tools on the screen and remain so despite being used or not. By prioritizing luminance around tools-in-use, we in effect reduce the amount of unnecessary visual data processing which in microsecond increments add up over the course of the day.
One need only take in a real-world carpenter’s workshop to see the efficiency of a visible logical order of tools that are ready-at-hand.