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About PicsArt

PicsArt makes mobile creative tools that allow users to edit photos and draw on Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices. They also have a social network that allows artists to share their work and follow other artists.

My Role

As Senior Product Manager for the Drawing Tools, I was responsible for market research, definition of target users, key scenarios, feature set and the overall flow and design of the drawing tools (final pixel-perfect designs were done by someone else). I also wrote the Agile stories and managed the backlog and roadmap. In other words: Look for the sweet spot for us, then get us there.

Challenges

  • Crowded marketplace: There are many many drawing and painting apps available for both Android and iOS, so I needed to determine not only where we fit in the market, but also how our tools compared in terms of features and usability.

  • Small screens: PicsArt is a mobile app, and the audience is primarily using old, small devices. So imagine Painter or Photoshop on a screen no bigger than four inches long.

  • Casual audience: The target audience is users who like to draw but haven't had formal art school. So the product needs to not only be usable, but also useful and actually help our users do better drawings. Remember, we have a social network as well, and we want to raise the quality of the images in the network.

Solution

Painting is a very interactive activity, especially on a touch screen, so I spent a lot of time painting in a lot of different apps so I could have the experience of using them. It's not just a question of features, it's a question of interactive experience. There is something to be learned from all of the tools out there, both things that we should and should not do. Many of the other drawing tools are very simple "doodle" tools, but we want to enable our users to do nicer, more finished paintings. Others are highly advanced, but also more complex as they are aimed at a more prosumer audience. I needed to look at all of these tools not just in terms of how their features serve our target audience, but also how they worked with our company goals.

PicsArt is available for both phones and tablets, but as the majority of our user base is using phones, I designed for phones first. My background in painting gave me a strong sense of what to focus on. When you are painting the things you do the most are change your brush size and change the color. In the old UI, that required a long series of taps that you would need to repeat constantly. I surfaced the basic color and size options to make them one-tap actions. The overall philosophy for the app revolved around making it possible to lock certain elements to the screen, then making it easy to drill to more options. The more often you use something, the fewer taps it takes to get there. I applied this philosophy to the app as a whole, and used that as a framework for the overall design.

The primary user base is people who like to draw but haven't gone to art school. The goal therefore is to make it easier for them to do better drawings. In researching what we should do I looked at two things: The app itself and the drawings that the users were creating (the app also has a social network where artists can share their work). In looking at the app it was clear that while the tools are powerful, they are also complex and difficult to use. Looking at the drawings done by our users, it was clear that they could use some color theory.

To help our users make better drawings, I created a series of color palettes for them to start with. These are based on a combination of common themes that appeared in existing drawings (e.g. landscape scenes), colors that are difficult to pick using a color picker (e.g. portrait), and simply sets of colors that go well together. They can select from a series of palettes, add and remove colors, create their own palettes, and mix colors.

I also realized that we needed to categorize and organize our brushes. We were showing the brush shape (e.g. a dark circle) but not the brush stroke and they were not labeled with standard things like "pencil." This made it difficult not only to find a particular brush ("Where's the pencil?"), but also to find it again ("Which fuzzy circle did I use last time?"). I organized them into familiar categories and made the brush strokes visible, making the product more digestible to casual artists.

UI

My work hasn't launched yet, so I can't post the UI to the internet, but stay tuned for screen shots as soon as it does!