Following is an extract from a Medium article published through Better Programming. I′ll warn you, it′s a little geeky. But, I know motion designers are a curious bunch so I thought I would condense it into a short article.

You can read the entire 17-month case-study over on if you want all the juicy bits.

Building a plugin for Adobe After Effects was never something I seriously considered…

My yardstick was Andrew Kramer′s amazing Element plugin, which is wildly complex and (as far as I know) has a team of people far smarter than me working on it.

But as I tinkered myself towards the edge of the coding cliff, I learned that this was really just an outlier in a sea of relatively simple but useful third-party apps.

On what must have been a slow day, I finally took action and looked into Adobe development some more. What I found was reassuring for code-dummies like myself.

CEP Engine (the Stack)

In 2013, the first version of Adobe CC was released. With it came HTML support. (Technically, Adobe Flash extensions were supported before HTML but at this point, that′s a little redundant.)

This HTML support was introduced due to a new form of third-party app framework: the CEP engine.

Think of it as a web app or website inside your Adobe app. CEP stands for Common Extensibility Platform. It′s a collection of web technologies integrated to extend the usefulness of Adobe′s suite of products.

All the Adobe apps that CEP panels are compatible with.

Apple would be nothing without the App Store, so you might consider this a niche version of that idea. Developers around the world are free to extend Adobe′s suite of software, improving the platforms for both designers and Adobe.

Dokyu — Brainstorming

January 30, 2018 — February 28, 2018

Brainstorming for Dokyu began in earnest on January 30th, 2018. This is when my written notes started in Apple Notes and Trello and it′s also the date I received Barranca′s HTML Panels course.

No more playtime, then.

In Apple Notes, there were some disparate thoughts. I posed one question that resonates with me now: “Could I become the of animation?”

In Trello, I asked the question: “Include Adobe Stock/alternative?” as Adobe Stock was the immediate media solution that came to mind. Although, as Adobe Stock is a paid service, I stopped considering it as an option before even finding out whether it was possible.

I listed a link to a page on Adobe, About Creative Cloud Libraries. Presumably, I was researching how Adobe was using the cloud in their extensions, but I can′t remember now.

I also captured the following screenshot which was one source of inspiration for the UI of Dokyu′s ′preview-top, text-bottom′ card format.

Inspiration from the horse′s mouth.
Yes, my handwriting is terrible.

A point I′d like to make here is that I really wasn′t certain which direction this would go. I was almost indiscriminately collecting possible ideas from a 20,000-foot view.

Business models, design, functionality, marketing, and other things I′d come across before that which I thought might be useful.

An early version of Dokyu that included a text-to-speech facility from Amazon′s Polly API. It was eventually dropped as the quality wasn′t quite there.

I asked myself: “How can I create something that differentiates me but also wows people′s socks off?” I learned that having a′website′ in AE opened a lot of doors but looking pretty is nothing if it′s not useful once the novelty has worn off.

I knew I could create templates; I′ve been doing that for several years.

The problem is that the competition is hot, piracy is rampant, and templates alone don′t really reconcile the inconvenience of having to manually install something and dedicate limited screen real-estate to.

Which feature/benefit could I leverage that is enabled through HTML panels — a skillset I hoped would give me an advantage over the competition and protect my work — while complimenting the various features of the product into a coherent package?

Dokyu — Development

February 28, 2018 — July 14th, 2019

The future of the extension was still up in the air at this point. I wasn′t even sure whether I′d be able to work it out. It was a lot of information to take in and I was most certainly out of my comfort zone.

Doubts crept in more times than I′d like to admit, but you know what? This was a side-hustle, a fun little experiment. And the only person to judge at this point was me.

In case you find yourself dealing with imposter syndrome, or just doubt your ability to code, I recommend the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It transformed my fixed mindset into a growth mindset and I′m very grateful for having read it.

I can still be self-critical at times. TLDR: it′s less about′fixed′ genes and more about just putting the hours in.

The image gallery below will perhaps do a better job at conveying the progress during development than anything I can write here. I′ve also included a list of resources that I used throughout development at the bottom of this article.

The key momentum points for me were:

  1. Paying for tuition at a price point that was high enough for me to question whether I was committed enough to stay the term. I won′t state the cost here lest Barranca changes his pricing, but it was three figures which is an amount I rarely spend on tuition online.
  2. Starting to write those first notes as quickly as possible and without too much judgment on my ability to do anything with that information. Just get an idea of what people might be prepared to pay for with what interests you from a development standpoint and what is realistically possible in line with what′s already available. (Although, if you have specialist knowledge to justify reinventing the wheel, your situation might be different.)
  3. From there on, it just kind of evolved slowly but surely, step-by-step, revisiting the brainstorming process as I encountered obstacles or new information.

Closing Words

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. If you are curious to see the published version of Dokyu, there′s a web demo at my homepage:

In closing, I′ll reiterate the importance of passing on personal judgment during the first few weeks and months. That′s just something that helped me.

The point is, it′s so easy to feel overwhelmed early on. If you struggle with self-criticism, try to relegate the activity to just a fun little project that may well never see the light of day. That′s fine.

Curate inspirational content, think about problems and solution you believe others would pay for. As a designer, the curating habit will no doubt come in useful for other projects if you don′t do that already.

Use Google extensively to see what others are saying about a solution you have in mind. Allude to it in social media posts without distorting the results by stating you want to make money with it. (“Does anyone know how I can do xyz in After Effects/Photoshop/Illustrator?”)

Invest in yourself so you might one day have enough time and resources in life to start giving back. I can′t think of a better way to spend your working life.

If development interests you from a professional or hobbyist standpoint, I hope you found it interesting. As I said above, you′re welcome to fire questions at me if you′d like to develop an Adobe extension yourself.

On the other hand, if you′ve scrolled down here and now feel exhausted, you could purchase Dokyu and let us deal with all the brainstorming, building and inevitable bug-testing. If you just want to focus on telling great stories, try the web demo out below and let′s get you publishing videos that blows people′s socks off!

Kickstart Video Brands Online

Dokyu Motion is our flagship product. It packs over 1,000,000 diverse elements into After Effects to become the single most powerful plugin available for motion designers today.