Adobe XD: On pause, dead as Pagemill and Muse – or ripe for rebirth?

Josh Norman
Josh NormanPrincipal / Chief Creative Officer
Adobe XD: On pause, dead as Pagemill and Muse – or ripe for rebirth?

It wasn’t long ago that designers deeply entrenched in Adobe’s Creative Cloud ecosystem were PUMPED. Sketch was nice but it was standalone. Figma seemed promising. But Adobe XD had the promise of being the Harry Potter of web design – the chosen one.

XD was built from the ground up with built-in prototyping, animations and transitions, repeat grids, scroll groups, and a plugin library to help collaborate with developers, test for accessibility, import placeholder images and text, and at least a half-decent way to review and comment on work with shareable prototype links that cost you nothing more than the monthly Creative Cloud fee that you were already complaining about anyway. In late 2017 when it was birthed out of beta, it had the potential to be a disrupter in the web and mobile design space.

There were Adobe evangelists throughout the late 20teens and early 2020s praising XD not just for its web design chops, but for presentation and even application design, going so far as showing how Adobe was using XD to prototype its own software UI like Photoshop.

In late 2022, Adobe announced it was acquiring Figma. Figma users were mostly worried; many XD users were growing jealous of Figma’s expanding features. Despite claims that Figma would remain independent, Adobe moved fast to put XD in “maintenance mode” in June 2023 – just nine months after the acquisition announcement.

Adobe explains it this way:
This means that we’re not investing in ongoing development or shipping new features within the product. We will continue to support existing customers by addressing bugs and updating any security or privacy needs while in maintenance mode.

Cue the funeral trumpets and the migration away from XD. Why bother using it if Adobe won’t bother investing in it?

Adobe may have played this card too early. In December 2023, just six months into XD’s move into software hospice, the deal was off due to regulatory roadblocks. With no Figma deal and its shiny XD unceremoniously aXeD, Adobe is now left with one of the oldest web design and development tools on the market in Dreamweaver as the only web design application in Creative Cloud. Dreamweaver is a product of Macromedia, the company that gave us Freehand and Flash. Adobe did manage to acquire it back in 2005. You could say the world of web design and development has changed since then.

How does Adobe keep finding ways to fail with applications like Adobe Pagemill in 2000, Adobe Muse in 2018 (Adobe’s reco: Try XD!), and now XD?

As an agency full of designers and developers, TXC explored XD and shared some thoughts on XD versus Sketch in 2021. We’ve designed a number of websites in XD that our in-house Drupal team has developed and launched for many clients, including:

Adobe seems poised to…start over? Here are some takeaways from what seems like a dead end with XD:

  • Include rulers in design software. XD famously never had them at launch, and never got them in any updates. Designers’ heads are still exploding.
  • Include better online collaboration, not just online review.
  • Be more developer-friendly.

There’s still a spot waiting for a complete solution in the web and application design space. Can Adobe bring it forward, perhaps with a next-generation app? There’s not even a whisper of that for now, while Figma forges ahead without a corporate overlord.