We know, Ashore is amazing.
But no matter how phenomenal we are, it’s always healthy to survey the field and make sure our creative agency software continues to meet the mark. Today, we are doing just that with a design proofing tool out of Germany called Filestage.
Filestage is among one of the more expensive project approval tools on the market, while Ashore is among the cheapest, offering an enterprise plan that is half the price of Filestage’s starter plan. Do the differences only begin there, or are these two creative agency software programs more alike than different?
To analyze Ashore and Filestage, we will focus on five areas: documentation, collaboration, feedback, customization and automation. Before we dig into the details, lets first define what each of these areas means in terms of creative agency software and the design 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. Creative agency 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 can enable 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: Giving and receiving feedback on a proof can be where the approval process begins to fall apart if done inefficiently. 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 creative agency software actually intended for creative agencies needs to come with the ability to customize the platform. Approvers can be both internal points of contact at the agency 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: The creative process has a lot of moving parts. 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.
Ashore vs. Filestage
Alright, its time. Let’s see what Ashore and Filestage have to offer in each of these categories.
Filestage: In Filestage, the dashboard will conveniently list your projects and what the review status is for each of those projects. For each project, it allows you to upload multiple versions, and it will keep them all collected together for easy access by reviewers. When it comes to documenting feedback, it will make a to-do list of the feedback for you – considering that each comment is a to-do – and track your progress checking off tasks. At the end of the process, Filestage will also allow you to export all the comments into a PDF for future reference. It does not display a timeline with each proof recording activities such as when certain reviewers completed their step of the process or when versions were uploaded and sent, though.
Ashore: Ashore offers several features to organize and document the approval process. A proofing timeline clearly lays out when actions are taken. You’ll have 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. Ashore knows and expects a single project to span multiple versions and multiple documents, and it groups them all together for easy access and review. 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.
Filestage: Filestage wants to make collaboration as easy as possible. It allows your clients and co-workers to review and comment without the need to install a program or create an account. Its ability to create a workflow is less streamlined, but it does offer the ability to specify which reviewers see which files in a project. You don’t have the ability to save workflows for quick and easy reuse in the future – meaning the same team members will have to be specified each time – but they do allow you to post a review link into an email or on Slack.
Ashore: Ashore was built for fast, easy and organized collaboration between approvers and creatives. With the ability to set up approval workflows, you have greater control over who sees the proof and when. You also have the option to send it to all approvers at once if you’re seeking a purely egalitarian collaboration experience. 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.
Filestage: Filestage allows its reviewers to leave contextual feedback on documents, images, videos, and even audio files. Each time a reviewer leaves feedback, they must provide their name, but they have several tools available for providing explanation, including arrows, boxes and scribbles – so I hope your reviewers are great artists. Users will also have the ability to reply to and resolve comments so the communication can be kept organized on the platform. It also gives reviewers the ability to add attachments to their comments, such as logos or color suggestions.
Ashore: Ashore understands how beneficial actionable feedback is to creating a productive approval process. Given the ability for approvers to pinpoint exactly what about the design needs attention, their feedback comes with more context. In order to provide clean, contextual feedback, Ashore gives approvers the ability to use rectangles and arrows to draw on the proof. They can also add to each of these a comment for clarity. Being able to reply to and resolve these comments also means conversations can stay in Ashore and out of everybody’s email inboxes. That will definitely make all of your approvers feel less overwhelmed.
Filestage: Filestage lets you add your own logo to your account. This allows all email notifications and review files to be branded with your company identity, and reviewers will know who’s reaching out to them.
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. 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.
Filestage: Filestage gives you a beautiful platform to collaborate with your reviewers, but it does not automate some of the processes such as scheduled reminders. For times when reviewers haven’t reviewed and provided feedback for the proof, you’ll have to manually follow up with these individuals. Filestage will, however, send the proof out to each reviewer you specified, so that part is taken care of.
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 will follow the workflow you laid out to a T. When the first approver gives the green light, it will automatically move on to the next without any additional action on your part. Ashore also acts as an impartial referee to automatically remind approvers to review the proof, and it will do this as often or infrequently as you specify. With these automating features, creatives will have more free time for important endeavors – like crushing candy on your phone.
Ashore and Filestage are both excellent programs that keep the needs of creatives in mind. In each area, they have similar features as well as their own unique features. Filestage gives reviewers the ability to include attachments in their comments, while Ashore automates the follow-up process so approvers remember to give their feedback on a proof. Ultimately, Ashore and Filestage differ most starkly when it comes to the price. Ashore’s lowest tier paid option goes for $12/month, while Filestage starts at $89/month.
Of course, a creative agency, team or freelancer should think about their own priorities in the creative process when choosing a creative agency software that will best fit their needs. If you think Ashore has everything you’re looking for in a creative agency software, sign up for free today and see for yourself.