Vyoopoint: Online collaboration gold for designers

I have a friend who is a graphics designer, but is also somewhat of a procrastinator.  Her design home page has been “under development” for years now.  And who can blame her?  Making a web site is a pain, but I’d imagine it’s doubly hard for a designer: you have to upload your portfolio, which can be constantly changing, and then if you are fortunate to get work, you’re in front a computer shipping files back and forth with your client.  The latter piece – interacting with you client – is probably the most stressful activity of all; the last thing you want to do is come across as disorganized and blow up the project budget.  In this age of collaborative, Web-based tools (Google docs comes to mind for this neophyte), designers need a way to seamlessly interface with their clients.  Which brings us to Vyoopoint, an online tool build by visual artists for visual artists, that lets designers simply collaborate with their clients.

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Now, I am not a visual artist (though I’ve played one on t.v. [note: that’s a lie]), but I imagine the process of interacting with clients is much the same as, say, a writer, a journalist, or anyone involved in collaborative work.  For those stuck in the stone age, you send over documents or files, edits come back, and you engage in a back and forth until version control issues emerge, and you’re not sure which is “live” and which isn’t.  It’s a total time-killer, and it’s mildly depressing, especially once your client realizes you are flustered and mildly depressed.  Not good.

At the platform’s core is its ability generate review galleries with uploaded files.  In other words, an easy way to get visuals in front of one’s clients.  But, at its essence, that is really no different than e-mailing stuff back in forth; what makes the tool sing (yes, I wrote that) is its notification and editing abilities.  Because if you think back to my earlier case study – you remember, the one where you and your client got confused over version control issues – the root case of that problem wasn’t the content itself; it was confusion over the content.  Namely, who edited what and when.  That’s where the misery comes from.  That’s where the mild depression kicks in.  Vyoopoint address this but allowing you to automatically notifies all parties or published galleries and gallery updates and comments.  Most importantly, in opinion, it provides commenting markup tools that enable annotations on images and video, which saves time.  Check out the sample screen shot below.

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Clients get an email notification taking them to a screen similar to this.  In it, they can cruise around, adding or reviewing comments in the Comments panel, easily navigate through the frames, and check out the presentation in full-screen view.  And if you’re a client or a designer under an hourly arrangement, this stuff can add up.  Vyoopoint acknowledges this, and in a rare display of cost-savings acumen, puts their money where their mouths are; this page illustrates potential cost savings opportunities using the tool.

Check out their pricing plans here. You can start with a free arrangement with one active project, or scale accordingly.  For example, it’s only $12 a month for a three-project portfolio.  Not bad!  (Either way, all paying plans include a 30-day free trial.)  And there is no limit to the number of users, either clients or colleagues, that can access your account, which is true for all the account plans even the free one.  What’s also nice is the aesthetically-pleasing quality of the interface.  This is because the Vyoopoint designers are visual designers themselves.  They’ve been on the “designer” end of the collaborative process, and have brought this experience to bear in its user-friendly interface.

All in all, a flexible, intuitive platform.  My only question or request – and this may be my ignorance here – surrounded the ability to track changes at a high-level.  I imagine there are ways to save each presentation, and each version, so that you can track the edits over a longer period of time.  It would be nice insurance – an audit trail, if you will – should any he-said-she-said business emerge between designer and client.  The designer can just say, “see?  On March 25th you told me to do x, y, z.  Ah ha!”  So I would accentuate that feature more on the site: anything to simplify the or solve the perennial version-control issue.

Otherwise, I may have to shoot my designer friend an e-mail and tell her to join the 21st century.  Static Web sites, documents being sent back and forth, making comments in Word – I mean, get real grandpa!  Collaboration is where it’s at, and Vyoopoint is more than up to the challenge.  In fact, if I may be so bold, I’d like to make a prediction: In the future, it’s all about the Internet.  Yep, you read it here first.

You can quote me on it, even.