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Adobe’s $20 billion takeover of Figma That Never Was: A Tale of How Wibble Web Design Adapted

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By Dean Anthony McCurry 21 December, 20238 MIN READ
adobe’s $20 billion takeover of figma that never was: a tale of how wibble web design adapted

Well. That was a wild 14 or so months. This week Adobe and Figma released a joint statement that they have “mutually agreed” not to continue with the merger announced over a year ago. It comes after multiple attempts to block the deal from regulators in the UK and EU. Those regulating bodies believed it would create an unfair monopoly in the UX/UI design space, which is true but also *cough* Microsoft *cough* was allowed to continue with its massive $68.7 billion deal. It was hailed as one of the biggest tech acquisitions of the time.

While many designers, companies and small start-ups might be having a sigh of relief it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Mainly, what is going to happen with Adobe XD? Will they continue to “sunset” it? or will they finally give it some much-needed love and make it a great competitor to Figma? It’s a lot to take in but let’s dive into how we got here and how we at Wibble have started to adapt and thrive in a Figma-only world.

adobe announces intent to bring Figma into the fold

September 2022 was a strange time for all of us. We were coming out of the pandemic for the umpteenth time, lockdowns were behind us and many of us had adapted to working from home or at least a hybrid situation, as we do at Wibble. Then out of nowhere, Adobe announced its intent to buy Figma. As far as I recall, this wasn’t even on anyone’s radar that this could happen. Figma was always seen as the true competitor to Adobe XD and anti-creative cloud. It had a loyal fanbase that had cornered the market on UX design, something that XD never really managed to do.

Adobe was always inclined to buy up smaller companies, merge them with their software and then shut them down. Essentially removing the competition by absorbing it. It happened with Macromedia and its suite of apps. So it all started to make sense. If you can’t beat them. Buy them.

Wibble has been using Adobe CC for many years. It’s ingrained into our designers too. Every shortcut or option is muscle memory at this point. We used XD as the go-to software as it was not only included with CC but worked seamlessly with all the other apps. We created a large portfolio of designs with Adobe XD; we’ve been using it for the last 6 or so years – so it would now be a huge task to transfer existing projects over to Figma. We hoped this deal would allow integration with the CC applications, or even the ability to open XD files in Figma. We were pretty much kept in the dark about what the actual intent was from Adobe. The only thing we had to go on was the tweet that announced the intent to merge with Figma.

xd disappears from the creative cloud app for new users

Around July 2023 we noticed fewer and fewer updates coming in for XD. We got the odd bug fix here and there, but no true new features had been added to the app. We collectively had a “mild” panic when it came to setting up a new machine for one of our wibblers and found XD nowhere to be found on the CC app. After a bit of sleuthing on Twitter (also known as ‘x’), we found that other designers had noticed the sudden disappearance as well. Here the “mild” panic became a little bit more than that. As confirmed by the verge in this article, Adobe XD had in their words been “put on life support ahead of Figma acquisition” which was nice to be told.

Turns out it was true. Adobe had quietly begun ‘sunsetting’ XD; a term used when software becomes no longer commercially available but still provides support for current customers. Adobe confirmed this, however, they never confirmed how long the app would be supported. As an agency with many active clients, We couldn’t take the risk of not knowing. We decided to begin the transition to Figma.

We are very adaptable at Wibble. We see this as a challenge but something that was very much within our capabilities as we are a very experienced team of web designers. The nature of our careers means that we have to adapt to survive as technology doesn’t wait for anyone. Thus began the most wonderous/ stressful few months as a lead designer at Wibble.

Transferring the Wibble Design team to Figma

Switching a team over to a new way of working can be stressful. We’ve been working with Adobe XD for 6 years and over that time we have refined, improved, and solidified our design process. We have it to a standard that works for our design team, our web developers and of course our clients. Taking a step back and looking at the task ahead proved very useful. We got our goals in order and began the process of moving to our new software Figma.

I’m going to be candid here. The overwhelming dread I had personally as lead designer having to learn a brand new bit of software for my day-to-day job was a bit daunting. Having some experience with Figma but never fully utilised it within my design process before. It was stepping into the unknown and had me questioning. Was it going to be able to do what we needed to do? Were the shortcuts the same? and what is a frame? The decision had been taken out of our hands and we had to make moves for better or worse. Turns out we need not of worried.

beginning anew with Figma

Figma is a powerful bit of software if not a little more complicated than Adobe’s now-defunct software. It does everything we need it to do and more. Everything that we did before can be created, prototyped and shared with clients. The only issue is that many shortcuts, user interfaces, and prototyping tools are very different. I’m still closing a design file with the shortcut CMD + [ instead of sending a layer to the back – muscle memory from Adobe lives on. There have been a fair few expletives from pasting something on a frame only to find it isn’t there when I open the preview. Oh and constraints can get in the bin. TOP + LEFT should be the default. For those who have been using Figma for many years, all these things might come naturally to them but it’s all par for learning something new.

Our new process for active projects on Figma

We have started sending out full concepts to clients using Figma with little to no issues. We have developed and reevaluated our design process to work with the new system. XD was a desktop-only software whereas Figma is completely cloud-based which allows for much better collaboration between our different teams. Shared libraries are a godsend when you need to work and pick up a project from another team member. We’ve even found a neat plugin called Convertify that allows the transfer of XD files to Figma. The transfer isn’t perfect but it does allow us to import full styleguide libraires which then in turn allows us to create new files for our projects with relative ease. It’s also nice to see all active projects in one place with near instance access, with the ability to add a remove different team members as needed. Our developers seem happy too as additional dev features were not present in Adobe XD, which really helps with the build.

The process has been a good learning experience and we are at a position now where within the first few months of 2024, we will be using Figma exclusively for design projects going forward. Our team has proved that we are fit for any challenge and are willing to move with the times which is essential in digital creative careers.

Then an announcement Monday 18th December 2024.

adobe and Figma agreed to abandon the deal

Tweet, announcing the end of the merger from Adobe's official account

After many setbacks from the regulators from the UK and EU, Adobe and Figma decided to mutually abandon their $ 20 billion merger, and a $ 1 billion fine for Adobe.

After months of back and forth with regulators, removing XD from the Creative Cloud, and little to no information on how Figma would work within the Creative Cloud – Both companies agreed to end the merger. You can read Figma’s full statement here and Adobe’s here.

Many cheered the decision as a win for the design community that has much maligned Adobe for many years. Mainly due to crazy subscription charges, not being able to cancel your subscription without penalties, or just generally being the biggest company in the space. Everyone loves the plucky startup; which at one point was Figma.

Some; including the team at Wibble – were confused. As a creative studio that needs many different tools to do our best work, we now have to pay for additional software on top of our Creative Cloud subscription. Adobe XD is pretty much dead and it seems Adobe have no intentions of resurrecting it. This leaves CC without a native UX/UI software included in their offering. Strange.

final thoughts

At Wibble, we will be carrying on doing our best work regardless of software. We will continue using Figma as our main web design software while still using CC for other apps like Illustrator and InDesign. It’s been a tumultuous 16 months but it’s nothing we can’t handle at Wibble.

We celebrated our 10th year in business in 2023. We would not have gotten here if we had stood still and refused to adapt. Technology and design is ever changing and part of Wibble’s success is that we move with the times. Our design, web and support teams are more than capable of adapting, thriving and challenging ourselves to be the best design studio on the island of Ireland. Here’s to the next 10 years and to whatever poor unsuspecting software company that Adobe has its eyes on next.

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Dean Anthony McCurry

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