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Follow up review

I reviewed Backboard way back in December, 2008, albeit a short and sweet one. It was project management app that I swore by, in terms of helping keep track of design revisions and feedback, Backboard just seemed to be best at doing it just right.

Not overly complicated with a steep learning curve, not too simple as to be useless.

Nothing much has changed with the way it works, so the few words I wrote about it back then are still relevant.

Dark days

Sadly, during the late part of 2009 and 2010, the reliability took a bit of a nose dive. Various hangs, page freezes meant you could not totally rely on Backboard as a client facing option. I ended up loosing patience and found other, not so great ways, to manage logo idea presentation and comments. Part of this unreliability I feel was due to them being taken over by Box.net.

For their part, they responded quickly to my various emails of frustration and concern. A few times things seemed to get back on track, before nosediving. A few other people that I knew who also used it, also expressed frustration at it's downtime.

What was frustrating is that after trying other solutions, none offered that crucial 'this feels right'.

I didn't give up

After a long BackBoard break, and my existing project management system straining under the frequency of project revisions, I decided to try BackBoard once again.

Over Christmas, 2010, I uploaded my first logo design.

So far so good, no hangs or crashes. The image displayed quickly, my thoughts on the design were left and a email was sent to the client. From this moment, BackBoard seemed to be back to it's old self. Huzzah.

I uploaded more projects, clients left their feedback, I uploaded more and more revisions successfully.

BackBoard is back to being an essential part of my project management process.

Why it is so good

It's simple and quick. To upload one image and notify your client, just do this:  (also shown by image below)

  1. Create image, screenshot, photo etc.
  2. Go to 'New BlackBoard'.
  3. Upload File.
  4. Add details, title, comments etc.
  5. Invite Reviewers, ie, client email addresses etc.
  6. Done.

Once you have published the image for review, you then sit back and wait for the client to reply. During this time you can still upload other images and leave other thoughts and comments.

Client

The client receieves an email saying there is a image to review. Once they visit the URL they can leave a reply to your initial comments. The discussion is threaded so you can leave direct replies to each seperate discussion topic. Very easy to see what is going on.

In addition to leaving comments, you can use the virtual Red Pen to draw on the actual image. The client can indicate areas of interest or concern and leave appropriate 'Sticky Note' comments.

As the designer you will be notified when comments have been left, or if you are still at the URL, the updates are shown live.

You can reply and make changes in real time.

Wrap Up

There are 100's of project management applicaitons out there, some are simple and some are complex, each fullfulling different takes on the area of Project Management, collaboration and feedback control.

But if you are a freelancer, with a handful of projects on at any one time, something like BackBoard could really make your life easier. Clients love it when they get that email as it's so straightforward and intuitive to get going. You can send low security URL's or you can set up more secure URL's, all depends on your needs at the time.

It is one of the very few web applications that actually make a huge difference to my life. I know where everything else, all the revisions are named and viewable, as are the comments for each one and it's easy to reference an older version.

Reliability

My only hope is that the few weeks of concurrent uptime is here to stay. It turns out that around September 2010, Increo managed to get on top of the instability issues with some significant server and software upgrades. In this time they have witnessed significant and continuous performance improvements, so all looks good.

If you are keen to try it out, please please give it a shot, I am sure you will love it. You can do so with a free trial.

Should you decided to subscribe just make sure you take full advantage of the free trial period to make sure it is the right solution for you.

Link BackBoard.com




Man, I love this app

Once in a while something pop's up that really get's your attention. A product that works, looks great and is fundamentally dead simple.

When you are dealing with multiple logo designs, sketches, ideas, proofs, it can be a mare to really manage them all in one place without having to go the whole route of a full blow management system like BackPack etc. I used logo for my own purposes but this is far more than just a logo application, ANY image file, a website design, pretty much anything you can upload or save as a URL can benefit from this...

Enter, BackBoard from Increo Solutions.

And no, this is not Affiliate related, I have taken no backhanders or taken footer links in part payment for this glowing post. I just think it's awesome and I have used it pretty much all the time last several weeks.

OK man, what is it.

Simply speaking it's a Feedback and file approval web based application. Yes, there are a number of others, all of which (most) I have tried, including, Olive, SignedOff, even ScrnShots to a lesser degree etc.

It pretty much does that one thing and does it quickly and efficiently, both for the user and the end client who has to check and approve the files. This works both ends.

I could sum it up in just a few steps, and you know, I'm gonna do just that. Taking it from the simplest workable level...

  1. First of all you upload either images, logos, pictures, PDF's, website designs, animation, musical scores etc. It also has a brilliant URL capturing system, so you can actually capture the URL as a working live page.
  2. Add some details, title, description.
  3. Choose if you wish to send to someone in your address book, or make it available to anyone who you give the URL to.
  4. End

This is a snapshot of my gallery where I can view ALL the images I have uploaded for management.

I mean, that really is the basis of it, it takes only a minute or so for me to upload say a Logo revision, send out multiple emails if I need to or manually notify whoever that there is a file ready for feedback.

One you have selected the image/URL you then fill in details like name and description, choose who has access and various security options depending on the plan you have.

After selecting the files for upload, here you can choose who gets notified by email of the new upload, or if you decide to manually give out the URL.

This is the screen both you and the client see's. With options of full screen preview, full magnification. Leave feed back, request changes and make Red Pen annotations.

Once the client, friends, customers receieve notification of a new file, they visit the site and can leave multiple comments and feedback. They can approve it or request further changes.

The neat part is the Red Pen tool, which allows the client to actually ring edits 'annotate' on the image to tell you specifically where a change has to be made for example.

Submitting files

They have made it as easy as possible to submit files/URL's. As well as the standard web interface choose file method, they have created a Mac Drop Window that sits in the Dock, for yes, drag and drop uploads. Also, there is a BackBoard Bookmarklet for when you would like to upload and share cool web pages like this. The webpage remains active within the window, just as it would in a standard browser, so like a browser within a browser.

To conclude

I seriously suggest you check this out. I am still on the Free plan and at the moment but there are benefits to upgrading for minimal cost.

It's just so intuitive to use, clean and fast. And from the client perspective, they love it. One job they have left numerous comments rather than going back to email, which to me is a sure bet that it's a product you don't have to think about using.