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Adobe Product Chief on Why Its Figma Competitor, Adobe XD, Failed – Business Insider

The announcement of Adobe’s $20 billion deal to acquire Figma made waves in the design community, but the reactions weren’t all positive. Much of the criticism was around the design giant — which has long dominated the space with its subscription-only creative suite — buying up what’s widely seen as one of its biggest rivals. 
Figma is small compared to Adobe, but the startup has quickly gained a passionate and loyal user base of over 4 million designers over the past few years. 
That’s one of the main reasons Adobe wants to join forces with Figma, Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer, told Insider. He acknowledges that Adobe’s rival tool for product design, called Adobe XD, wasn’t successful. The company has been slowly winding it down over the past few years, Belsky said. 
Like Adobe’s other flagship products, Adobe XD was built as a desktop-native tool, which didn’t address the needs of many modern-day product designers. Figma, meanwhile, created a web-native tool with easy collaboration and sharing capabilities, along with other plug-ins and features for developers. 
Insider spoke to Belsky about what Adobe got wrong with its own product-design tool and how he thinks Figma and Adobe can benefit from working together. 
Adobe created Adobe XD in 2016 because it saw a lot of people using Photoshop for website building. But the company made a mistake when it created XD to function like its existing desktop products, Belsky said. As a desktop product, XD used local files and wasn’t collaborative. Product designers need to hand off their designs to developers, and XD didn’t make that simple. 
Belsky wasn’t shy about naming other ways Figma’s tool surpassed its own, laying out four factors that Figma has and Adobe XD lacks: features for developers; tools for design-systems operations; plug-ins that help designers and developers work together; and being a collaborative, web-based tool. 
Design-systems operations refer to the practices companies use to ensure all their systems — mobile, web, app, or desktop — behave the same and can all be updated at once. Figma pioneered that world, both defining what a design system looks like and how to manage it, Belsky said. 
“And so all of these pillars became essential pillars for product design and development as a vertically integrated category of how interactive product experiences are made,” he said. “​​XD was made in the image of the old. And so XD never really had material revenue for us.” 
Over the last few years, Adobe has deprioritized the XD business and wound down the team. The company continues to support existing XD users, but in the long term, Belsky hopes they’ll switch to Figma, given its better features.
“Figma has built something that anyone can just jump in with a web link, and it’s truly multiplayer,” he said.
Belsky’s aware of the criticism around the deal, particularly from the design community. 
“I understand why people are appropriately skeptical,” he said. “No one wants a product they love to change, and people need to learn information and understand our intentions in order to feel comfortable.” 
He does think there’s some misunderstanding about where Figma and Adobe actually compete. Adobe’s strength is in the “asset creation” business, he said, helping people make photos, graphics, animations, videos, and more. They want to “support people taking their assets wherever they want,” and increasingly, they’re going to the web and social media. 
Adobe Express, the company’s mobile app, was created to help users take products in Adobe’s tools to social media, but the company doesn’t have a strong foothold in the interactive product-design and -development space, because XD never took off, he said. 
Given the size of the deal, Adobe will likely face anti-trust scrutiny for acquiring a startup that was rapidly encroaching on its business. Belsky said Adobe is prepared to show why this deal is actually good for customers. 
“We’re going into this deal having done our diligence and having done our homework,” he said. XD “was an attempt at kind of the earlier stages of this whole product-design and -development category.”
“This is a new category for us,” he added.
Responding to criticism that Adobe has a poor history of integrating its acquisitions, Belsky is encouraging people to look at buys like Frame.io or Behance, the company he cofounded that brought him to Adobe.
“We were 1 million users at the time of acquisition,” he said of Behance. “Now, north of 30 million. The product’s growing faster than ever, and the product is probably better and tighter than ever before.”
Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at pzaveri@insider.com or Signal at 925-364-4258. (PR pitches by email only, please.) 
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