English is not my native language, so there may be some inaccuracies in the text. I would also like to thank Thomas Zagler for his help in compiling the feedback.
Since the thread is very long, I used the expand/collapse option for more comfortable reading. If you prefer a separate PDF file, you can find it at this link Google Drive.
I am an experienced developer of professional plugins and creative assets on the Adobe platform. For the past seven years, I’ve been analyzing sales data every day and researching user interactions with the plugins section of the marketplace in the Creative Cloud Desktop App (CCD) and Adobe Exchange.
1.1 More about me
Also, from 2017 to 2019, I conducted a daily analysis of the Adobe Exchange website during design updates and feature additions. During this process, I identified important bugs and promptly reported them to support.
I’m proud to have made notable progress in this area:
• Several products have been featured on the Feature tab of the Adobe Exchange website
• I am actively participating in the pre-release program to develop the UXP plugin in 2020
• My flagship UXP plugin has been on the Featured tab of the CCD Marketplace for 1.5 years and is currently on the Editor’s Choice tab
As part of my ongoing research, I’ve been exploring other popular marketplaces to distribute digital products of all types. Such as plugins, actions, presets, textures, templates, brushes, and many others.
I regularly communicate and share information with other developers in this field. Over time, I’ve gained experience that helps me see the correlation between changes in the CCD Marketplace and downloads/sales on the Adobe platform.
1.2 September 2022 update
First of all, I’d like to note that the Adobe team has done an excellent job of combining all of their services into one convenient application and continues to actively develop it. The Creative Cloud Desktop app is a great example of this approach, instantly providing many useful resources and features for all users of Adobe products.
However, since 2018, I’ve seen various issues on Adobe Exchange for users and developers.
Now that the quality of Creative Cloud is important in the first place, I provide detailed feedback on important issues that need to be addressed.
In September 2022, the Adobe team released a major update that added many older listings (CEP extensions & creative assets) from Adobe Exchange to the CCD Marketplace listing base, where initially only UXP plugins were available.
As a result, UXP plugins developed during the pre-release program were moved deep into the Marketplace, where they could easily be confused with a lot of CEP plugins and creative assets.
When discussing this situation with Thomas Zagler (another developer), I wasn’t quite sure why this decision had been made, but his reasoning was logical:
- Almost all host applications do not currently support UXP
- Users use CCD more often than the Adobe Exchange website
- Plugins are much easier to install from the CCD Marketplace
He explained that he understood Adobe’s decision to combine UXP and CEP plug-ins in one place, but he also emphasized that many of the issues I’ll mention later are very troubling to him, as they are to me.
As a result of this situation, developers are having trouble figuring out what their next steps are, and the motivation to develop plugins on the new architecture decreases. This is especially true for developers whose work is entirely dedicated to plugin development and whose entire income depends on sales from the Adobe marketplace.
I propose a number of improvements, which, if implemented, will benefit all market participants, as well as give developers the motivation to create new plugins. For convenience, I will start with simple changes that do not require significant design changes, and then move on to more complex improvements.
2 THE SUPERIORITY OF FREE PLUGINS OVER PAID PLUGINS
As a full-time plugin developer, I faced the problem of unbalanced placement of free and paid products. Although free products can attract more downloads, the income of authors of paid products turns out to be very low.
I believe that paid digital products can have important advantages over free ones for both users and developers:
High quality: Developers of paid products often spend a lot of time and resources on the development and production of goods, which leads to high-quality content. This can attract customers who are willing to pay for high-quality content.
Uniqueness: Paid digital products often have unique content that cannot be found elsewhere. This can attract an audience that is interested in receiving exclusive content.
Reliability: Developers of paid products often offer more reliable and secure products because they have an interest in satisfying their customers.
Support: The developer of paid products can offer the best support to their customers, as they have an interest in ensuring that their customers remain satisfied and continue to buy products from them.
Motivation: Paid digital products can encourage developers to create new and improve existing products, which leads to an increase in the quality of content and an increase in choice for customers.
Paid digital products can provide customers with high-quality and unique content, and developers have an additional incentive to create better products and increase revenue. I would like to first suggest that you balance the visibility of paid plugins.
2.1 Filtering by price
I asked five different people to send me screenshots of their Creative Cloud Desktop app window. For four people out of five, the window was not enlarged, i.e. the length and width settings were by default. In the screenshot below you can see what the All Plugins section looks like with the default window settings.
After that, I asked to find the sorting function by price (default window settings). Next, I measured the time it took them - about 30-50 seconds. Then I asked them: “If I hadn’t asked you to find this filter, would you have continued scrolling down?” All four answered no. One of them noted that there was already quite a lot of information on the screen that he was exploring.
I understand that four people are not enough to do a complete analysis, but I can say in defense of my results that they were all advanced users. At the same time, only the fifth person had an expanded window for a larger view, and this person was also a developer.
Now, look at the old version of the Adobe Exchange layout. Here the filtering was in the user’s available field of vision.
Please move the sorting function (All, Paid, Free) to a more prominent place. The sorting function should be placed where users can easily find it.
Proposal of the new layout of the Creative Cloud Desktop App
Proposal of the new layout on Adobe Exchange
As you can see, this does not affect the overall design in any way, and the benefits for users and developers are huge. This is the base that needs to be made. Developers of paid plugins will receive additional motivation to develop new and improved old plugins.
2.2 ‘Sort by: Most Popular’ filter
Once we get to the “All plugins” (or All plugins - Photoshop) section, we see only free plugins. The first paid plugin is at position 432 (37 pages on Adobe Exchange) in the global sorting. The same first paid plugin, when sorted by Photoshop, is at position 118 (page 10 on Adobe Exchange).
At this point, the plugins and creative assets market looks like a platform with only free products. In this case, even if a user wants to find a paid product by scrolling down, they simply won’t reach it. Do you often go beyond the second page in your browser search engine?
This is because marketplace algorithms use a formula whereby one free download is considered equal to one purchase of a paid product.
When ranking products by popularity, the algorithm relies on the total number of downloads. This approach results in only free products being seen on the first pages, while paid products start on page 37 and users click through to them. Moving the filtering to a visible location will not solve the problem completely.
To understand this, it’s important to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and analyze what the user is focusing on. The user, when he gets to the CCD Marketplace or Adobe Exchange, sees a large number of free products. He then starts downloading the free product and, after downloading and setting it up, starts using it in one of Adobe’s programs.
The user will probably go back and download a few more free products, following the same steps. In such a situation, there is very little motivation to explore paid products, as there are many free products in front of them. The user will be the last interested in filtering.
To solve this problem, a rather simple solution is suggested: alternate one free product with one paid product. That way, users will see both types of products at the same time. Here’s what it would look like (the three plugins are taken from the most popular paid products).
Once again I want to note that this mechanism is necessary only when using the most popular sorting. In other options, it is not required.
If you don’t take filters into account when searching in Adobe Exchange, the results for “ALL” will be exactly the same as for “FREE” until you scroll down to position 432 and find the first paid plugin.
It’s worth noting that in Adobe Exchange, products are separated by pages that aren’t in the CCD Marketplace. This means that the probability of finding a paid plugin using the “All” and “Sort by: Most popular” filter settings is zero.
2.3 ‘Sort by: Top Rated’ filter
Sorting in the “Top rated” filter is currently based on rating alone. For example, a plugin with a single 5-star rating is listed before a plugin with 300 ratings with an average of 4.9 stars.
In practice, this looks like this: On the first 377 places you can find pure 5-star ratings with each plugin having very few individual 5-star ratings. The 378th place follows a plugin with 553 ratings with an average of 4.9 stars. This makes no sense.
The very simple solution would be sorted based on a calculation that considers both the quality of the rating and the number of ratings.
2.4 Outdated listings
I analyzed every listing on the first 37 pages before the first paid one. Of the 431, about 58 have low-resolution blurry images and do not follow the principles described in the Developer Brand Guide. Which reads “Keep your content up to date” (page 27). How many more obsolete listings can we find if we analyze the remaining 368 pages?
Next, I suggest that we take a look at the plugin below.
In 2019, when Adobe Exchange was updated, Adobe prohibited specifying a manifest version lower than 19. Adobe announced that it is necessary to update all plugins, otherwise, they will be removed.
“Beginning on November 8th, 2019, compatibility with unauthorized versions of Creative Cloud apps will be automatically hidden from Exchange listings.”
“After November 8th, 2019, listings that exclusively support unauthorized versions of software will be removed from the Exchange. Read on to find out how to update your listing to avoid removal.”
New Exchange Requirements May Affect Your Listing | by Erin Finnegan | Adobe Tech Blog
But such plugins still exist in the Creative Cloud app. That said, Photoshop CS6 has long been unavailable for download due to Adobe policy.
If the outdated listings were on the last pages, there would be no problem for users and developers. Users wouldn’t find them.
But can you imagine that this plugin for Photoshop CS6 from 2012 is more popular than all paid UXP & CEP plugins and more popular than lots of new free UXP plugins? You can see the proof below.
The main problem with such listings is their placement above all paid listings, including the new UXP plugins, which comply with the Developer brand guide. In contrast, UXP plugin developers are constantly improving their functionality and releasing new updates, as the UXP architecture is constantly being updated.
Here are the reviews for this plugin. People keep downloading it and are unhappy that it doesn’t work.
In the second review, the person reports that he spent many hours trying to install this plugin. What are the chances that this user will continue to explore the marketplace while feeling frustrated? Such ratings can be found in very many outdated extensions.
Users continue to have negative experiences. The last review was written this month. Now, take a look at the third review. This user asks himself the same question as we developers do.
One solution could be to remove all outdated listings from the database that do not comply with Adobe’s brand guidelines. I am personally willing to analyze each of the 4860 listings in the database and compile a first-hand list of references to provide to the Adobe team.
Another solution is to consider the popular filter in combination with the last update date. If the date of the last update does not match the current or last year, it is moved to the end. Such a mechanism would motivate developers to constantly check their listings to make sure they are up to date, fix bugs, update the design, and release a new update.
Removing obsolete paid plug-ins could save the user a lot of time and frustration. They can be assured that all products in the store are working properly and comply with Adobe’s guidelines.
In the same way, they will be able to quickly and easily find the right product that will work without problems, rather than spending many hours trying to install an outdated or incompatible product.
This will save time and reduce the frustration associated with using unreliable products and ultimately lead to a more enjoyable and productive user experience. All of this will help increase user satisfaction and strengthen the CCD Marketplace’s reputation.
2.5 The default Creative Cloud app layout
In the previous screenshot, we saw that there are up to six plugins per line. This was achieved by increasing the width of the Creative Cloud app window. But let’s remember what the default layout looks like.
In the screenshot above, we can see that only a limited number of plugins fit on the screen - only four out of six. This limited overview can lead to users not finding the product they want or losing a lot of time searching for it. Because of this, I believe this situation needs to be changed.
First, by displaying more products, users can view multiple options at once, saving time and making it easier to find. This is especially important in a marketplace where users are looking for a specific product or category of products. With only four products displayed at a time, a user may have to scroll a lot to find the product they’re interested in.
Second, displaying more products can lead to better decision-making. When users have more products to compare and evaluate, they can make more informed decisions and choose the best option for their needs. When only four products are displayed at a time, users may not have a clear view of the full range of options available to them, which can lead to suboptimal choices.
In conclusion, I believe that displaying more products can improve the user experience, save time, and increase the credibility of the marketplace and its choices. Fortunately, Adobe Exchange already has the ability to display more products on a single page, allowing users to find the product they want faster and more efficiently.
Also, the Featured plugins tab suffers because of this problem.
The information on the bottom two plugins is cut off, and the Editor’s Choice section is not visible at all.
It contains high-quality UXP plugins added manually by the Adobe team. It’s an honor for a developer to be there. An additional opportunity to increase views for plugins and get motivated to develop another high-quality plugin.
Note that all other banners are placed just as unfavorably.
I understand that the current default layout may be due to other reasons of which I am unaware. However, my job is to bring this issue to the attention of the Adobe team. Perhaps you have some ideas on how this problem can be solved more effectively.
If the problem is related to the minimum resolution of the device and you want to provide more audience coverage, you can solve this problem by defining the user’s screen resolution and adjusting the default values to a comfortable screen size for each device.
You could offer the user an onboarding tutorial on how to change the window settings to increase the viewing area and improve the user experience.
3 SECTION SEPARATION
3.1 Plugins & Creative assets
In 2020, Adobe launched a pre-release program for developers who were actively creating plugins on Adobe Exchange. The goal of the program was to help developers migrate their old CEP plugins to UXP while learning and testing the new architecture to create new ones.
Since then, Adobe has organized various events for developers, showcasing various plugins and discussing the UXP architecture roadmap. Obviously, Adobe has been actively promoting the UXP architecture to developers.
However, there is some confusion about the updated CCD Marketplace in September 2022. The Marketplace combines UXP plugins with the 2012-2023 database of CEP extensions and various creative assets (Adobe Exchange).
First plugin in the database
After the merging of the two databases, the number of downloads of free and sales of paid UXP plugins decreased significantly, because it became nearly impossible for users to find and distinguish new UXP plugins from old CEP plugins, as well as from a lot of creative assets in the All plugins section.
Next, it is important for us to examine the meaning of the word “plugin.” A plugin is an independently compiled software module that is dynamically connected to the main program and is designed to extend and/or use its capabilities. The Plugins section of the Creative Cloud Marketplace also contains add-ons such as actions, presets, scripts, textures, loot, etc., which are not plugins.
This is currently the biggest problem for developers and users. Explaining this distinction will be critical to motivating developers to create and publish new UXP plugins.
It was recently mentioned in the developer chat that the old developer portal (partners.adobe.com/exchangeprogram) will probably be closed by the end of this year. After that, all old listings will be moved to the new ones. This means that there are plans to develop additional functionality in the new distribution portal to implement this feature.
The Adobe exchange interface functionality has not changed since 2012. For 10+ years it has added filtering by software products, plugin categories, and added a Feature section. The rest is a visual design change that doesn’t improve the developer and user experience. The Adobe Exchange design was then copied to CCD Marketplace with minor changes in Q4 2020.
Adobe Exchange 2012 design
Now might be a good time to solve this problem by splitting one section into two. You could rename the tab to “Plugins & Assets” (the word “Assets” is a suggestion) and add an “All Assets” section below the “All Plugins” line.
Additionally, filters, sorting, and search output for these sections are working separately. Below in the screenshot, you can see what such an implementation could look like.
All plugins section
All assets section
The word “Assets” is a suggestion and can be replaced by any other appropriate meaning to combine everything that is not a plugin. Also, here are the options categories, which cover all types of assets created from 2012 to 2023. I would like to note that such a distinction of assets has long been common in other popular marketplaces.
3.2 Separation method
The distribution of all existing CEP plugins and creative assets into sections and categories could be implemented as follows. When transferring CEP listings, the extensions go into the All Plugins section along with UXP Plugins.
All other listings are moved to the All Assets section in the Other category. No products will appear in other categories until the creator of the old Asset makes an update to his product and specifies a new category for it in the new distribution portal.
If this is implemented, all obsolete listings will gradually be updated to the current standards and principles of the CCD Marketplace & Adobe Exchange mentioned above.
Over time, the updated listings will be evenly distributed among the suggested categories. Reviewers will strictly monitor in which category a developer places their new or updated Asset. In case the category is incorrectly specified, they will reject such an asset. All non-updated listings will remain in the Other category and will not discourage customers with their outdated design.
Most importantly, this proposed option will finally solve a problem that has persisted since the first version of Adobe Exchange launched in 2012. By clarifying the distinction between plugins and assets, confusion will be eliminated, and plugins will be clearly defined as software modules with an interface and code.
4 ISSUES AND SOLUTIONS (SHORT VERSION)
This part contains a brief version of all of the above points. It should be used as a brief outline. I do not recommend reading it until you are familiar with each problem separately, otherwise, you will miss many important arguments and intermediate conclusions.
2 THE SUPERIORITY OF FREE PLUGINS OVER PAID PLUGINS
Filtering by price is in an unfavorable place and is implemented as a collapsible element.
Place the filter on top to the left of the ‘Sort by’ element in the line of sight of the user.
‘Sort by: Most Popular’ filter shows only free products within 400 listings (37 pages).
Alternate free and paid listings by popularity for a balanced 50/50 view.
‘Sort by: Top Rated’ is currently based on rating alone.
Make sorting based on a calculation that considers both the quality of the rating and the number of ratings.
On the CCD Marketplace, there are many outdated plugins and assets that aren’t compatible with newer host apps. Unsuccessful installations cause frustration.
Analyze the database and remove all plugins and Assets that do not match the Brand Guide. The second option is described in the detailed version.
The default Creative Cloud Desktop app layout is too small for list exploration, makes navigation difficult, and cuts off important banners and filters.
Choose the optimal width and length according to the user’s monitor resolution or other options.
3 SECTION SEPARATION
In the ‘All plugins’ section UXP plugins, CEP extensions & creative assets are all mixed.
Split one global section into two separate sections: All plugins & All assets.
Assets are not categorized as in other popular marketplaces.
Add categories by the type of the assets.
All these changes will have a number of significant benefits for all market participants.
5.1 Benefits for users
Improved navigation: separating products into separate sections and categories will allow users to quickly and easily find the type of product they are interested in, without having to sift through unrelated products.
Increased trust in CCD Marketplace, resulting in higher user retention and loyalty.
Access to only updated products, which improves performance and compatibility with new software.
Ability to discover new quality plugins.
Enhanced security and privacy measures to ensure that user data is protected and secure when using new UXP plugins.
Increased user confidence through a more streamlined and user-friendly interface.
More accurate search results: thanks to two separate sections, search results will be more relevant and accurate.
5.2 For developers
Increased revenue due to sales growth, which allows you to invest more resources in creating new products.
Greater ability to differentiate your products from competitors through better categorization and descriptions.
More positive feedback and ratings from users, lead to increased recognition and sales.
Better ability to target specific user groups with better filtering options.
Better ability to leverage the existing user base of the CCD Marketplace to drive new sales and downloads.
More opportunities for better customer support.
More frequent updates to support and improve product functionality.
5.3 For Adobe
Increased user satisfaction and experience, leading to higher customer loyalty.
Users will experience less frustration, which will help reduce churn and increase retention on the CCD Marketplace.
Increased revenue from third-party developers will lead to the creation of more innovative and high-quality products that extend the functionality of the Adobe software package.
Increased reputation of the CCD Marketplace among users among other popular marketplaces.
Inflow of new creators of creative resources from other popular marketplaces.
Everyone would benefit from the CCD Marketplace and Adobe Exchange improvements.
This thread describes the most important problems, so Thomas and I decided not to load it with problems of lesser importance. If it is valuable to the Adobe team, we are ready to provide a second feedback on less important problems, which will also improve the developer and user experience.
I ask everyone to express their opinion on this topic!