View Full Version : Freelancer Designers, I'm creating an online design portal. Would you use it?
May 13, 2012, 05:18 PM
I've been working on creating an online portal of sorts for designers and clients to use. It would consolidate email communications like critiques, comments, and design revisions into a single, easy-to-use interface.
Designers would visit a website, create a new project, and upload a design. Clients would be notified via email of a new design, login to the site, and review the design. Clients could could then post comments and leaf through past designs and revisions, each of which would show past comments.
Here's a preliminary screenshot of a working design of the client-end portal (pure CSS/HTML, no Flash) I've been messing around with. Many many features will still be added like design approval, lightbox previews, a payment system, and project statistics. It would be accessible to designers at an annual cost (maybe like $99?).
Once the website is well-established and working, support applications would be created such as Android/iPhone applications, and desktop/menubar applications for time logging and quick-posting/uploading.
Let me know if this is something you guys might use, and feel free to make suggestions of things you'd like to see in the software. I've gotten really tired of freelancing via email, though - it's a pain searching through my inbox to find the right email with the most recent, up-to-date revisions.
Is this something that you guys would use? Let me know what you would like to see.
May 13, 2012, 06:47 PM
As a freelancer, here is a little input.
1. Too Late – Most designers who would need something like this are just getting out of school and are already well versed in web design and graphics, no one focuses on print media as much anymore, so they have their own sites and probably just use FTP services.
2. Saturated Market – There are quite a few portals doing this very same thing and they have been around for so long that they have a strong user base.
3. CSS/HTML 5 – Clients will most likely use a desktop computer to access data, they will be in an office or at a desk and will be rarely accessing this from a mobile device to make it a strong selling point.
That being said, you have a nice design. It is very clean and looks great for corporate access. You should market it as a client-side program instead. Corporations will like the idea of mobile access, even if it's something they won't use often. Good luck, man. I hope this works out for you.
May 13, 2012, 10:35 PM
I do use it, almost every day... for almost 8 years. It is called Basecamp. In my experience it is practically an industry standard.
What is particularly nice about basecamp is that it archives comments and discussions about a project that take place over email. Your clients are not required to use the commenting system on the website itself.
So, how do you differentiate your product?
I know you only have posted a screenshot or two, but it looks to me like you have designed to a very limited use-case. A few random notes:
1. On a single project I may have specification documents, wireframes/IA, visual design and coding. How would each of these be visualized in your interface?
2. As a freelancer, I am usually part of a team with multiple people adding files to a project. How do I see what came from who, and at what time? What if I update someone else's file?
3. How do the files uploaded relate to milestones and deadlines? Where does project management fit in?
4. Seeing a reduced version of an image is not that useful for me or my clients. The list of revisions on the side is far more important.
5. While this might be made in pure HTML/CSS, I don't see the layout working particularly well on mobile. It is not fluid enough.
6. How do you deal with comments that are general to a project and span multiple images? It looks like comments are currently connected to specific images.
7. A project like this is far more than an interface, you need to build a company at the level of an ISP. Each customer will need several gigabytes of private storage. Do you really want to be held responsible if your servers go down and my clients can't login? Or if your storage crashes and files get lost? How about if your site is not coded securely enough and private information (like the financial data in an annual report) gets leaked to the public?
All that said, I do think there is a market for a basecamp-like system that is open source and I can install on my own server. There are a few of these, but most are pretty bad.
So, if you do want to move forward, I would do some competitive research. Look at Basecamp and the beautiful So1o (http://www.thrivesolo.com/) and then really dig into some use cases before you start designing. On a project like this you need to solve the workflow problems before you think about the interface stuff.
May 14, 2012, 08:48 AM
Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I attempted some research on my own, but I really didn't know what I was looking for or how to even search for it.
I very much assumed this idea wasn't revolutionary. It couldn't have been. I'm glad that you directed me to some current market leaders, however, because it will give me lots of things to consider.
This was a day project the other day when I had nothing better to do, so I'm not very deep in the development process. I suppose this is a good thing since there are many components that I haven't considered.
I'll keep you guys updated on progress if I continue to work on this project. It's mostly just a fun side project for me at the moment to hone my HTML/CSS/PHP/SQL/etc. skills.
May 15, 2012, 01:01 PM
You mean a portal like http://www.redmark.com ?
May 15, 2012, 01:20 PM
You mean a portal like http://www.redmark.com ?
Hahaha, wow. Yes...like that. Looks like it had limited success, though, likely given to market competition/saturation.