Tools / Web 8

Notable: A Huge Leap in Communication

The best innovations are the ones that make you think “Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” Rarely in life do you stumble across these types of innovations, and when you do, you can’t help but share them with the world.

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I stumbled across one of these the other day, it’s called “Notable.” Notable is a new web app from ZURB – a 12 year old interaction design & design strategy firm which has helped clients such as Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, NYSE, Playlist, Photobucket, and many others. Simply put, Notable is a communication tool that allows you to easily provide feedback on websites.

Through all the great things that going digital has done for design, one drawback is the ability to effortlessly and uniformly make notes and comments for an onscreen design. In order to communicate his or her ideas the designer has two options:

  1. Take a screen shot, open it up in Photoshop or another program, mark it up with circles and arrows, type the comment text, then re-save the files in order to send them to others.
  2. Print out the screen shots and mark them up by hand. Setup a meeting with the team to go over the feedback.

In both cases it’s usually hard to track iterations easily since context is lost after first iteration. The feedback itself becomes less directed and as keeping track of it becomes a nightmare. We’ve all been there. “What do you think of the color we used on the box on the left?” “My left? Stage left? This box? That box?” Notable is the tool which makes those communication blips go away.

Anyone who is developing a new website or maintaining an old website can use Notable to improve their website. The tool is used internally with your team in the following workflow:

  1. Designer captures a site or uploads an image they are working on
  2. Designer adds commentary and questions and shares them with Creative Director
  3. Creative Director responds with their feedback and answers
  4. Designer works through the feedback and posts an updated version pointing out the changes
  5. Cycle continues by designer soliciting feedback from engineers and marketers on the team

Notable is used externally with your clients in the following workflow:

  1. Designer captures a site they are working on
  2. Designer shares the post with the client and asks them specific questions
  3. The client responds by adding notes on the visual capture of the website
  4. Designer works through the feedback and posts an updated version pointing out the changes
  5. Cycle continues until you have a killer product.

What I really like about the tool is that it keeps feedback contextual and forces feedback givers to be specific. I also like the fact that it stores your history. Being a graphic designer has given me a small case of OCD in the form of me loving to delete things. As soon as I finish something, I delete it, as soon as I change something, I really want to delete the original. As you can imagine, this has once or twice been a bit of a problem.  Thankfully Notable keeps a history of your conversations and mark ups. Not only does that save delete-happy creatives, it can also save time by knowing what has already been covered. There is nothing more frustrating than a meeting of topics that have already been talked to death.

There are a few productivity apps which complement Notable greatly in helping folks create awesome websites faster and easier.

Clicktale

Clicktale is a great app for making data driven decisions around updates for your website. The tool provides the data behind how users actually interact with your website. Want to know which key strokes a visitor hit? Where they clicked? How about their mouse movement? All of this data is neatly reported in a customized report. Your argument for a feature on your website becomes concrete when you act on data vs. intuition.

Balsamiq

Planning a series of website screens demands cohesive and precise drawings. Balsamiq Mockups is great wireframing tool for quickly putting together visual representations of your interface. While wireframing with Balsamiq “feels like you’re drawing” the process is fast, easy, and requires no coding.

Remember the Milk

“Getting things done” has been a buzzword all over since David Allen presented the methodology in his book. Remember the Milk is the task list app to get stuff done in my opinion. The app gives you an Inbox list for all of your tasks as well as Sent list for all the tasks you sent other folks on your team. It’s one of the cleanest organization systems for a task list I have ever seen.

Notable and the rest of the apps I point out may not change the face of the design process as we know it, but what it will do, is make the task every single design has to do, a hell of a lot simpler.

Marshall Rake is a graphic designer and writer based in New York City. You can see his design work at: marshallrake.com and his literary and current culture publication, Epilogue, is here: epiloguemagazine.com.

 

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