Small firms look to Adobe CS5 for greater cost savings, collaboration

Cost savings, better designer-developer collaboration, and multi-platform compatibility are key benefits small and mid-sized creative outfits expect in the latest iteration of Adobe’s design suite — Creative Suite (CS) 5.

At least one Toronto-based marketing firm specializing in interactive and social media technology is optimistic CS5 will streamline and simplify their processes.

“CS5 will eliminate a lot of the back-and-forth between developers and designers and enable professionals from the two disciplines to intuitively understand each other’s intentions,” said Gil Katz, managing partner for Giant Step Inc.

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Giant Step uses a previous version of Adobe CS to create Web sites, e-commerce sites and other online content.  It also uses many other Adobe products.

For instance, the company relies on Flex, Adobe’s free open source software development kit for building cross-platform rich Internet applications.

Giant Step also uses Adobe Flash for adding animation and interactivity to Web pages. It also uses Adobe AIR, a tool for building rich Internet applications that run outside the browser on multiple operating systems.

“These help us add interactivity to any design, such rich media content, animated content, video, and comic strip dialog bubbles,” said Katz.

He said Giant Step used Adobe tools to create a special site targeted at the online community for children’s plastic toy Gogo Crazy Bones.

The collectible character-based Crazy Bones were very popular with young children in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Last year, the manufacturers approached Giant Step to put a social media spin on the franchise.

Giant Step developed a site that allowed fans to post their own Crazy Bones themed home videos, cartoon strips, photos and “mutations.”

Within a year, the fledgling site developed a community of more than 100,000 fans. The site was also honoured for excellence in design, development and implementation at last year’s Interactive Media Awards event.

Katz says the site uses disparate tools to handle video, animation, illustrations and multiple-language text. “With Adobe, we are able to make all these work together without a hitch.”  

Connecting developers and designers

Improving collaboration between designers and developers is a big focus of CS5, according to Mark Anders, senior principal scientist and co-creator of Flash Catalyst, the latest addition to the CS5 arsenal.  

Flash Catalyst is a tool for rapidly creating interfaces and interactive content without writing code.

“The intent isn’t to make coders out of designers and designers out of developers. That’s not done in the real world,” said Anders during a presentation at the recent FITC (Flash in the Can) design and technology conference in Toronto.

Instead, CS5 tools such as Flash Catalyst help designers create content with “just enough code in it” to cue developers in on the intended use of that element, Anders said.

For example, he said, a designer might draw a navigation button. With Flash Catalyst, an XML file is automatically created underneath the design, which allows the developer to understand the drawing is actually a navigation button.

This method streamlines the design-development process.

It’s a far cry, Anders said, from the conventional process, where designers would draw their design on a piece of paper or using Adobe Illustrator, and then meet with the developers to tell them what they wanted the illustration elements to do.  

Open screen project

Adobe is also pushing forward with its “open screen project” to enable developers and designers create content once that can be viewed on a broad range of devices — desktop PCs, laptops, netbooks, smart phones and tablet devices.

“We’ve opened up our technology and licensing to enable developers create applications and content for all the major hardware OEM manufacturers,” said Tom Barclay, senior product marketing manager at Adobe.

“This means content created for a desktop screen can be viewed on a smart phone screen as well.”  

This is a major advantage offered by Adobe tools and Flash, according to Michel Boudreau, a Canadian developer at Lab 49, a New York-based technology consulting firm that develops applications for the financial service industry.

Boudreau, who develops Web applications and interactive content using Flash, says the strategy is very cost effective.

“Many companies, especially those under budget constraints, would save a lot of time and money if developers didn’t need to design the wheel each time they create an application for another device.”  

He said replicating application or content to suit different hardware devices results in longer development time, potential deployment complications, and additional testing.

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