Ashore has been riding a wave of growth and change lately. We’ve shipped out a nice collection of new features – with more on the horizon – and our crew of users has been growing steadily.
As great as we are though, we know we aren’t the only software out there promising to get proofs from point A to point B (and all the stops in between). For this blog, we will be taking a closer look at Ashore alongside Ziflow, a proofing software from London. Founded in 2015, the web-based software comes with an impressive set of features aimed at accommodating the needs of agencies and marketing teams.
Which proofing software will actually remaster the approval process for creatives and approvers? There’s only way to find out: a fight to the death.
Kidding! We’re just going to compare them.
We will focus on five factors to analyze and compare Ashore and Ziflow: documentation, collaboration, feedback, customization and automation. Each of these attributes is necessary for an online proofing tool to perform its job to the satisfaction of creatives. Before I begin righteously judging these two products, let’s first define how each of these areas will be interpreted in terms of proofing software and the approval process.
Documentation: For creatives, an organized and well catalogued design process – especially when it comes to communicating with approvers – is incredibly important and difficult to achieve manually. Proofing software that truly has creatives in mind will make sure everything is documented and organized for each project. This includes all the versions of a design, the comments made by each approver, and the timeline of correspondence.
Collaboration: In a creative agency, collaboration is invaluable to a project’s design, approval and completion. The right software enables creatives and approvers to collaborate in real-time wherever they are, whether that’s in the same office or on opposite sides of the planet. For this to work, collaboration has to be built into the UX – users need the ability to organize a workflow, and approver input should come with as few obstacles as possible to ensure the collaboration process is seamless and effective.
Feedback: Creatives and approvers often don’t speak the same language, and feedback can become muddled as approvers struggle to communicate what they mean through long email chains. A well designed creative agency software will make this process much easier by providing contextual feedback directly onto the proof. This can be done in several ways, through making annotations directly on the design with shapes, arrows, etc. Approvers should also have the ability to reply to comments and suggest changes upon approval.
Customization: Any approval software intended for agencies, teams or freelancers needs to come with the ability to customize the platform. Approvers can be both internal points of contact at a company and external clients and customers for a project. No matter the case, it’s vital that they know the source of the correspondence’s origin. Customization also leads to a more professional, polished appearance that will inspire confidence in your approvers.
Automation: From the multiple versions, the feedback, the communication about alterations and approval – you’re bound to let something slip when so much has to be juggled. What a creative agency software can do is introduce automation into the design approval process to alleviate some of the pressure. By automating things like the approval workflow and reminders, a good software can make the approval process a well-oiled machine.
A Note About Pricing
For reasons that will become evident soon, in order to discuss and compare features, you’ll also need to understand the pricing tiers of each product.
Basic Plan: $10.00 a month for each user. You must have a minimum of 5 users.
Starter Plan: $20.00 a month for each user. You must have a minimum of 5 users.
Business Plan: $50.00 a month for each user. You must have a minimum of 5 users.
Enterprise Plan: Depends on your business and needs.
Ashore: At the time of this blog, Ashore has just updated it’s pricing plans. It has five pricing plans, gated by the number of users, the number of files that can be sent per month and some branding features. The plans are as follows:
Free trial: Check out Ashore free for 2 weeks
Freelancer Plan: $45.00 per month.
Design Team Plan: $95.00 per month.
Enterprise Plan: $165.00 per month.
Enterprise + API: $215.00 per month.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!
Ashore vs. Ziflow
Ziflow: Ziflow makes compliance a priority. All content will be automatically archived for each version of a proof including comments, replies and attachments. All comments and decisions made about a project will also be saved for an audit trail to comply with any external regulations and requirements. A unique feature which aids in tracking and documenting changes is side-by-side comparison. With Ziflow, users can look at different versions of a proof alongside each other to determine when and where errors occurred. They also have a pixel-level comparison tool that will reveal smaller details such as color variations.
All of these features aren’t available depending on the edition of Ziflow you use. Proof comparison is available on their Starter plan, but combining files into a single proof and proof archiving are not.
Ashore: Ashore offers several features to organize and document the approval process. Our proof timeline clearly lays out when actions are taken. You’ll have a record of when the original version of a proof was sent, when an approver does or does not approve a file, and when a user sends a new version. The timeline also has a copy of any email sent through Ashore and its delivery status.
Ashore knows and expects a single project to span multiple versions and multiple documents, and with stacking versions, you can view all the previous versions and conversations on those documents. It will also track the status of a proof from start to finish, including which workflow is assigned to it and which approver is currently reviewing it. On your Ashore dashboard, it also displays which proofs are overdue and which proofs need your attention, making this information convenient to find.
Ziflow: The people behind Ziflow clearly invested a lot of energy in creating powerful workflow tools. Their automated workflow progresses forward with “triggers” – time, decisions, etc. – that proof owners can set themselves. Other workflow controls include the ability to set deadlines and notifications. This software also has workflow templates that allow administrators to create and save workflows for reuse. Workflow and workflow templates can include both individuals and pre-defined groups of individuals. Each reviewer’s roles can be specified at the inception of the workflow. They can have permission to view, comment, make decisions on and manage the proof. When users are invited to the proofing process, they must make a profile and sign in, but guests do not need to sign in or create an account.
These collaboration features are not available for everyone. Automated workflows and workflow templates are only available to those using Ziflow’s Enterprise plan. Anyone can group contacts for easy reference later, though.
Ashore: Ashore was built for fast, easy and organized collaboration between approvers and creatives. You have two main options to send proofs: review links or workflows. Review links allow you to send out a link, through email, Slack or whatever medium you’d like. Anyone with the link can register themselves to the proof as an approver and begin reviewing.
Workflows allow you to automate your approval process; you can have as many stages within a workflow as you’d like, adding approvers to each stage and customizing the email that they’ll receive. Once every approver on a stage has marked the proof Approved, Ashore will automatically move to the next stage and its approvers.
Better yet, approval workflows can be saved for use over and over again – this is perfect for long-term projects or internal creative teams who have a long-term collaborative relationship. Ashore also eliminates barriers to collaboration. Your approvers will never have to create an account or install any programs to review and give feedback on a project.
Ziflow: Ziflow has several beneficial tools to aid in delivering a more seamless and centralized feedback process. If reviewers have permission to do so, comments can be made directly onto the proof and be replied to in a thread. Attachments and @mentions can be included in comments, as well. Markups tools for Ziflow include lines, arrows, squares, ovals and text selection, and these can be used in a number of combinations. They also have a unique feature where users can lock a proof from receiving further feedback after a decision has been made about it.
Most of these features are actually available for the majority of Ziflow users depending on the permissions they’ve been granted, with the exception of @mentions, which aren’t available for any users on the Starter plan.
Ashore: Ashore understands how beneficial actionable feedback is to creating a productive approval process. Approver feedback gains more context when they are given the ability to pinpoint exactly what part of the proof requires attention. In order to provide clean, contextual feedback, Ashore gives approvers the ability to markup the proof with rectangles to indicate a specific area or detail and arrows to indicate a specific points or directional movement. Each markup can be accompanied with a comment, and these comments can be replied to and resolved, keeping all conversation in Ashore.
Ashore supports commenting on all file types, and on video proofing, comments are linked to both the time of the video and the point in space. Comments are color-coded by approver and consolidated on a single screen for ease of access by creatives. Document files can even be edited within Ashore, for those of you who want your actionable feedback to go a step further.
Ziflow: Ziflow provides several unique ways their users can customize the platform for them depending on the edition of the software they have. On the Starter plan, users have basic branding options that include uploading your company logo and choosing a subdomain name. On the intermediate Business plan and the Enterprise plan, users can upload their logo for the dashboard, proof viewer, emails and favicon. On the Enterprise plan, users can create a custom domain and be able to fully white-label the platform.
Ashore: Ashore is committed to being a fully white-labeled program for your creatives and approvers. This means that when an approver receives a notification to review a proof from Ashore, it will look as though it came from your agency — with your company branding and integrated with your company email. We also give each user the ability to create a custom email signature. When you send a message from Ashore to your approvers, it will come with your unique branding and identity. The moment you pay for Ashore, you have a white-labeled platform – to an extent – with full white-labeling on our Enterprise plan, which, in addition to company branding and email integration, allows you to customize the URL of your review screens.
Ziflow: Ziflow comes with an automated workflow that moves onto the next stage or next reviewer in the process according to triggers the proof creator sets. After the immediate notification to review a proof, Ziflow will also automatically remind reviewers to review a proof before, on, or after deadlines.
The reminders feature does not allow proof creators to send reminders daily or weekly until the proof has been reviewed, though. Both automated workflows and automated reminders are only available to users on their Enterprise plan, as well.
Ashore: Ashore takes the monotonous tasks of sending out the proof to approvers and all the subsequent follow-ups permanently off of your to-do list. Ashore follows the workflow you laid out to a T. When the first approver gives the green light, it will automatically move onto the next without any additional action on your part. Ashore also acts as an impartial referee to automatically remind approvers to review a proof, sending out your customized reminder email. You can specify the days of the week and the time that your approvers will receive their notifications. With these automation features, creatives will have more free time for important endeavors – like crushing candy on your phone.
Ashore and Ziflow have been created with an understanding of the proofing process and all the pressure points creatives can come up against. They both have their unique offerings. Ziflow has numerous tools and features for creating higher quality feedback and managing various people and assets. Unfortunately, many of their features are not available for all of their users, and in order to gain full access to vital tools like automated workflows and reminders, creative agencies must pay for the higher-priced Enterprise plan, regardless of their company size.
Ashore is committed to ensuring that the proofing experience is equally as successful for everyone. For this reason, it gates each plan by the number of users and sent files – instead of features. Ease of use is also a top priority, built into the UX. Workflows are quick and easy to set up and can be saved for future use. Tags make sorting and grouping proofs simple, and custom automatic reminders make sure a deadline is never allowed to pass.
Creative agencies, design teams and freelancers can all benefit from proofing software like Ashore or Ziflow. If you want to see just what you’ve been missing all along in proofing and approvals, give Ashore a try today. Sign up for free and we can show you the ropes!