Collaborating on design work is notoriously difficult. Deciding what the perfect shade of blue is, how rounded those rounded corners should be, and whether or not to make the logo bigger is all difficult enough when a discussion is happening between people in the same room. Add a virtual environment to the mix, and making clear and actionable design change notes can be nearly impossible.
This is where new web app redmark can help. Currently in limited private beta, the service aims for, and largely achieves, the difficult feat of making and tracking design notes a snap. Check out the nifty demo here.
The first thing to notice is the strikingly slick and clean interface: There are blessedly few tools and features, and the tools and features that are at the user’s disposal are easy to understand and use.
Playing around with the demo is fun, and it’s easy to see how redmark has created a valuable way to share notes about online documents, making for a powerful collaborative tool. The process of adding notes and attaching those notes to specific elements of the design document is made simple by way of a drag-and-drop interface. This mimics how people make notes on hard copies in “real life,” using circles and arrows to give designers direction quickly and efficiently.
Meanwhile, a zoom in/zoom out bar on the left side of the interface lets you zoom into the document to concentrate on a particular area. For example, you might have seven things to say about a tiny corner of a button within a screenshot, so the zoom feature would be very helpful there.
Perhaps the best feature of redmark is the easy ability to scroll through the various revisions of a design, with version-specific notes tied to each. This again mimics the common “real world” ritual of laying out multiple versions of a design on a table and having everyone hover over them to decide which one works best.
I have one quibble about redmark, and it came when I logged into a private beta account (request your own here). Everything worked as the demo suggested, except that I wasn’t able to add comments and use the drag-and-drop functionality to create lines and arrows to point to various parts of the images I had uploaded.
I’m not sure if this is a bug – which is totally acceptable in an early beta product – or if the expectation is that the “original uploader” of the document will not want to add notes to the document. That is, I’m guessing that it’s possible they expect that use of redmark will entail one person uploading a document, leaving it unmarked by notes and comments, and then sending it to clients and colleagues, who themselves will have the ability to be the first to comment and “mark up” the document.
If this is the case, I would strongly recommend that all users of a document have both read and write privileges. For example, I can imagine plenty of situations where it would be useful to create a design, upload it to redmark, and then use the service’s great features to make initial notes to the people with which I’m sharing. For example, something like: “I added an extra module for user feedback in the upper right corner; what do you think?”
What do you think of redmark – do you think you would find it useful for collaborating on online design and documents?