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What You Should See (Or Not See) in Your Collaborative Design Platform

September 28, 2018 | Design

A creative team is only as good as their ability to work with the approver, the customer or client who always has the final say on a project or proof. Being able to coordinate and work seamlessly with them is integral to achieving the best outcome, and you’ll need a superb collaborative design platform to do it.

There are dozens of options out there for your team to choose from, and they all have their own features and selling points, but ultimately they are more similar than dissimilar. Beyond all those features – the number of files you can share monthly, the amount of storage per plan you can have, whether or not you can put your own branding on proofs – what actually makes a collaborative design platform usable for everyone?


The first thing to consider when looking into your options is usability – not just for the creative team, but for the many approvers your team works with. A collaborative design platform needs to actually be collaborative. This is where people working on all sides of the project come together to make change happen, and everyone is coming to the table with different levels of experience and comfort with the approval process. If the platform won’t be usable for everyone, then it fails at its singular job: collaboration.

When you’re looking for the most usable collaborative design platform, be sure to pay attention to who it was designed for. Was it designed for creatives? Could your approvers easily onboard and use it? Does it integrate easily into your creative work relationships? Or, was it made for approvers in mind? Does it simplify the process for them to usefully contribute? These are all questions you should be considering, because in order for it to be a viable option for you, all the answers need to be ‘yes.’

So, what do you need to be looking for specifically?


Thoughtful UX and UI are the backbone of a good collaborative design platform. We tend to use the two terms interchangeably, but they each bring their own strengths to the usability of a product. You should be considering the strengths and weaknesses of both in a platform you’re considering.

The differences are subtle but important in understanding what a platform should look like.

What is UI?

UI is the presentation of the product. It’s the organization of all the information on a page that is not just aesthetically pleasing. It also makes sense. Building good UI is a lot like building a good composition in a painting. Art is made for the viewer to consume, after all, just like a webpage. You have a main focal point that you want the viewer’s eye to be drawn to first. You can do this in many ways: location, color, contrast, shape and space. After that, an artist develops a path within the painting that they want the eye of the viewer to follow. This is the same process good UI follows. There needs to be a direct route between the primary point of interest on the page and the action the viewer should do next because of it. If the UI lacks a clear visual hierarchy, the platform will be difficult to navigate, especially for someone who rarely uses this type of software.

For the non-painters reading this, another way to think about UI is the treasure map for a treasure hunt. A good treasure map does a couple things: it clearly marks information, the steps to completion, and of course, where the treasure is. It should be easily read and understood – if it’s not, you won’t be getting your treasure.

UI is nothing without good UX, though.

What is UX?

UX, or user experience, is the experience of users on the platform. Something can look pretty and not do what you need it to easily or efficiently. Good UX design is easy to navigate and move around in. It allows you to get from point A to point B in the least number of clicks. It is the actual treasure hunt the treasure map guides you through. If the quest to the treasure is arduous and full of obstacles, your experience getting to the treasure won’t be a good one.

The goal of UX is to have the user exert the least amount of effort necessary to achieve the their goal. Consider the process of ordering on Amazon Prime. Is it ten o’clock on a Tuesday night and you decide you need a blender? You can be on the website, choose the blender and order one effortlessly in two minutes. That’s good user experience.

UI and UX must work together to reach their goals, though. A collaborative design platform exceeds in both areas to create a truly collaborate place for the creative team and the approvers.

How should good UX and UI look in a collaborative design platform?

You can tell a collaborative design platform has excellent UX and UI when it can meet the needs of every user.

Easy onboarding: Good UX/UI is intuitive. It’s a universality. The rules of the platform need no explanation because it just works like everything else works. A good collaborative design platform should be easy to introduce to new users, especially those that aren’t using design software and apps all day. Ease of access and navigation is important. They should just be able to open the proof and begin – no setting up an account, no logging in required. If the platform requires any specialized instruction and training before approvers can begin proofing and suggesting changes, ultimately, people just won’t have the time or energy to use it.

Proofing: Good UX/UI should give you the path of least resistance to get the job done. A collaborative design platform with too many opportunities and misleading prompts to stray from the path will ultimately confused and deter people. Approvers, especially those that have no buy-in to making this platform work for your creative team, are quick to give up on a method that doesn’t give them an immediate solution to their issue. They have no patience for this design software when they just want to tell you to move the logo a little to the left – they want a linear, straightforward process. Good UX should get approvers to the proof quickly and easily lead them through the review process with intuitive, relevant proofing tools – no hand-holding required.

Flexibility: Good UX/UI plans for any eventuality. The UX of a collaborative design platform has to be ready for a variety of unique situations and user demands, and the UI needs to be equipped to guide the approver through them. Proofs come in all different shapes and sizes and so should the collaboration options. Communicating should be easy and seamless – and if comments can not be replied to and resolved, it won’t be worth the time. Marking up proofs should happen in a way that still makes sense to a layman’s eyes – no nonsense scribbling or cluttered comment boxes everywhere. An approver should be able to quickly point out the issue, explain it and move on to the next step using the tools and options available.

The right collaborative design platform can be the solution to a very taxing approval process, but it has to be made to accommodate the needs of all it’s users. If the UX and UI aren’t catering to everyone, including the lowest common denominator navigating the platform, it’ll cause more stress than relief.

Ashore was developed with the users in mind. It combines thoughtful UX and UI into a software that works well for everyone. It is easy to introduce to new approvers and will integrate effortlessly into the approval process your creative team is already following. Try Ashore for free today and decide if you like what you’re seeing (or not seeing) for yourself.

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