Notism: One More Way To Collaborate On Your Designs

There is no dearth of apps that apps that let you share, comment and collaborate on images on the web. There has been quite a trend towards apps aimed at creative freelancers and agencies with the aim of streamlining and centralizing the artwork review phase of a design project. We have already looked at Invision, Cage and a few others.

A new contender in this league is Notism. Let’s take a look at what it brings to the table and if there are any unique offerings that will pull you away from whatever you’re currently using for design review and collaboration.

Introduction

Let’s get one thing out of the way – Notism is in Beta and is being actively developed. A lot of the shortcomings and issues can therefore be attributed to the Beta tag in hope that things will improve as the app closes in on a full release. It is also free while in Beta, so there’s really no reason to not try it if you’ve been looking for something on these lines.

Sign up or login with your Google account

Sign up or login with your Google account

At its core, Notism is a presentation app that lets you create present your artwork, designs, wireframes or photographs and lets others comment on them. As an added bonus, you can link images together by creating hotspots on images and assigning other images as targets. Notes can be placed anywhere on the image and users can reply to a note to create a discussion thread.

A demo project to get you started

A demo project to get you started

Dead Simple Sharing

Since the app is free to use during the Beta, you can simply sign up or log in with your Google account to get started. There is a sample project already created to get you started and demonstrate the features of the app. You can create up to 100 projects in the app as of now, although there is no indication of how this will change once it is out of Beta and there is a pricing structure in place.

The drag & drop file upload is neat

The drag & drop file upload is neat

To get started, all you need to do is create a project and add some images to it. The upload process uses the now familiar drag & drop interface which makes adding slides a snap. Each image becomes a slide in the presentation and can be renamed or moved around in the sorting order. To add more images, simply hit the Upload link at the bottom of the thumbnails panel. You can also update an image by simply uploading the newer version of that image in the app.

Notes can be used for discussions on specific parts of the image

Notes can be used for discussions on specific parts of the image

Notes, Discussions & Approvals

Once the images are up, there’s a ton of stuff you can do to make it easy for your team and the client to review, comment on or approve them. This calls for a list:

  • Add notes to an image. You can place them anywhere you want.
  • Assign them to different categories. My only concern is that you need to specify these categories upfront, or else create a note, create a category and then go back and change the note’s category. On the brighter side, each category can have a different color for easy differentiation.
  • Reply to an existing note by simply opening it and adding your comment.
  • Add hostpots to an image with a link to another slide. This works beautifully and you have the ability to switch to the linked slide after saving the hotspot so you can continue building the workflow.
  • Add to-do items based on the comments on a screen. My big problem with this function is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to see all todo items for a slide. You need to close the project and go to the To-dos section in the dashboard. This does not make sense, since there is no way to see if I there is already an existing to-do item when adding something.
  • Once you are done with the slides, you can assign people as editors or reviewers. Again, this is not a streamlined process and you need to go out of the project to invite people before being able to add them to a project from within.
  • Once an image has been updated and everyone is in agreement, the status of that slide can be changed to Approved or Complete. I’m not sure I appreciate the difference between the two, but that’ll probably depend on how your review process is structured.
To-dos are a nice idea but need better implementation

To-dos are a nice idea but need better implementation

Not There Yet

As you can probably already tell, I’m happy with the app, but not entirely. There are still a number of shortcomings in the app that can be minor niggles or major dealbreakers depending on how much you use those features. For me, the overall experience feels a bit clunky and the back and forth one needs to do simple things like categorizing notes and adding people is a major irritant.

Adding people is another task that feels a bit clunky

Adding people is another task that feels a bit clunky

There is also no separate UI for reviews, so your clients are going to have to deal with looking at slides the same way you do, thumbnails and everything. I would appreciate a presentation-only view where all they see is the screens with notes and clickable hotspots to navigate through them, like a quick prototype. I know this can be done by collapsing the top bar and thumbnails bar, it is not intuitive to most non-savvy users (which is the category most of my clients fall in).

Wrapping Up

In the end, the app lives up to its Beta tag. It is not completely finished, but is not entirely unusable either. I’ve been using it for a few of my projects and although it probably won’t replace the other more feature-packed apps just yet, I’m going to keep a watch to see how it develops from here.


Summary

Notism is a new entrant in the design review and collaboration category of web apps and does a pretty good job for an app under active development. There are minor niggles and some frustrating workflow level decisions, but overall it is a very usable app and definitely one to look out for.

  • Notism Beta  | 
  • Free while in Beta  | 
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