September 6, 2018

Adobe AEM: Is Your Creative Agency Doing It Right?

Image of Laptop Showing Designs

Creative agencies face numerous challenges when their clients adopt a marketing platform like Adobe’s Experience Manager (AEM). Even after more than 10 years on the market under various names like CQ, CQ5, and AEM, there is still simply no guidance for agencies on how to design best-in-class creative that leverages existing templates and components in your AEM library. To prove my point, try searching for terms like “creative design for Adobe AEM.” The closest thing you’ll find are instructions on how to connect the Adobe Creative Cloud to AEM’s Digital Asset Management system to share assets.

Image of Adobe Search

That’s it. True advice or guidance on how to actually design sites using the platform is nonexistent.

Thanks for Nothing
To empower their supporting teams, organizations often provide documentation in the form of PDFs showing a list of templates or components available in their library, a few grainy screenshots, and sometimes a list of configuration options for the component – but not much more. Consider the challenges with this approach:

  • Disparate Skill Sets: Creative teams may not fully understand how the templates or components can be leveraged in their designs. Listing the configuration options of a component alone is not enough. Creative teams must understand how these options affect the design and if cascading style sheets (CSS) can be leveraged to match the creative if the default component styles do not suffice. Further, to truly understand whether the component can be manipulated through CSS alone, teams need to see if the structure of the component’s underlying HTML markup supports rearranging the component’s elements.  This requires time from your platform team to grant access to the environments for each agency and user to view the rendered markup after the configuration options are selected. Do your creative agencies know how to navigate the AEM platform without breaking something? Once they’re in the environment, do they understand HTML and CSS enough to make this judgment? To make things worse, static documentation like a PDF opens the door for the potential of human error and a misinterpretation of what the specifications really mean.
  • Fragmented Tools: Each creative agency has its own preferred toolset to design experiences, pages, and sites, and those preferred toolsets may vary by team. The user experience (UX) team may use Axure or InVision to develop wireframes; the creative team may use Photoshop to overlay the design; and the development team — who needs to dissect the imagery into digital assets and markup — may use none of those. This requires file conversion between tools and may result in distorted designs unless each team agrees upon a common toolset.
  • Disconnected Workflows: Regardless of the tools used to design, how are the files shared across the distributed teams? Are files emailed or uploaded to a file-sharing site? How is document versioning managed? Using a non-standardized means for sharing the file contributes to increased management, maintenance, and governance time for keeping all teams in sync.

We Got This
Intouch solves all of these challenges by standardizing on a common platform for design – from UX to creative to development – with a solution called Sketch.

“Sketch is a design tool like Photoshop or anything else, but I put together a way to work in it that accelerates our design process when working with systems like AEM,” says Intouch creative technologist Chris Vallesky.

Each team leverages the same, common project file that is versioned in a controlled environment to ensure that handoffs and updates to files are seamless. This project file contains a visual representation of each component in our library as well as each variation of the component when configuration options are changed. Our designers don’t need to know anything about AEM itself, only the canvases they are permitted to design within.

Image of Sketch in Adobe

The Sketch-to-AEM mapping alleviates the need for AEM knowledge, and risk is minimized for designing outside the parameters of the platform. Because of this approach, we’ve minimized the potential for human error in misinterpretation of templates and components and have faster speed-to-market for new designs.

We’ve helped our clients benefit from this approach by creating template and component mappings for their platform versus investment in AEM training for their teams.

If you’d like more information on how our approach to designing for AEM can help your brand, contact your account lead today to arrange a demonstration.

Brad Meehan is a senior tech strategist-enterprise marketing cloud platforms expert at Intouch.