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Building Adobe WorkflowLab, Part 1: Getting Started

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In this seven-part series, Aaron Pedersen, James Polanco, and Doug Winnie, the authors of Adobe Flash Platform from Start to Finish: Working Collaboratively Using Adobe Creative Suite 5, discuss the design and creation of WorkflowLab. Part 1 covers the intensive process of examining users' needs and developing product features to address those needs.
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We needed to solve a problem: Adobe offers amazing tools to help designers and developers create great experiences for multiple devices and screens, but users often asked us how to use the various tools and software together cohesively to form an efficient workflow. Customers were confused about which tools to use for the various parts of the workflow, and Adobe's products' multiple file formats were difficult to understand.

Adobe understood that the community was the best place to find workflows based on real-world use and projects, but it was difficult to find a way to communicate this goal to the public.

Creating the High-Level Vision

At the start of our book Adobe Flash Platform from Start to Finish: Working Collaboratively Using Adobe Creative Suite 5, we talk about creating the "high-level vision," an encapsulation of the purpose and goal of a project. For WorkflowLab, a single sentence encapsulated our project's vision: "Build a consistent communication vehicle for workflow, disciplines, tasks, users, products, and technologies that constitute a complete workflow for a project type."

We envisioned a slideshow highlighting current problems to help kick off an investigation that would provide the right solution for each problem (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Selections from the WorkflowLab high-level vision.

From this single statement, we began outlining details of what would define success for this project, now codenamed "Cascade." Having an idea is part of a project's high-level vision, but you also need to state what defines success for that idea. For WorkflowLab, we set goals such as improving customers' satisfaction with their projects, increasing the number of trial software downloads, and so on.

This document, incorporating a high-level vision that efficiently communicated the project's purposes and goals, could be taken to Adobe management to pitch and get feedback, so that we could adjust the vision to align with other objectives and strategies within the company. To help in this communication, we would need to show something beyond just the written word: a prototype.

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