Amend Approve: Perpetual prototyping and ideas
This is a little tale about a little project I had an idea for (another one), got feedback on and actually built a working prototype, but, that’s as far as it got, it was called Amend Approve. For this particular project now, I’ve decided that any exploration of the idea would require a re-think from the ground up, so, I’ll just share everything instead.
I think this is a familiar tale to many people where an idea develops, but for whatever reason… yes, and here’s one of mine.
Getting content approved for designers and agencies is a perennial problem. Amends take more time than anyone actually wants to admit or realises, but importantly eats into time fiddling when designers should be designing. Everyone deals with workflow issues an plans their own way to fit their business structure and skills, but I’m sure there is a better way for many. Extracting the content and specifically ideas around the Page Table by Relly Annett-Baker solidified my ideas at the perfect time. There are a few examples of systems Acquire and the excellent Get Signoff, but they are just slightly too complex for what I had in mind.
For small businesses, out there in the real world, they will only refresh their website and brochure every few years, that’s the marketing budget, and for many, a tracking system, such as Basecamp, Trello, Bugherd et al is just friction, so, no logins or accounts allowed. Clients want the job done, they don’t want educating, they do though want their content to be correct and just right. Preferably via email.
Designers and agencies
For designers and agencies, they want content, be it text, images, spreadsheets, as early as possible, neat, tidy and formatted in the creative process. If any copy or imagery has been proofed or optimised and isn’t just a placeholder, that’s ideal. But design isn’t a linear process, and this is where issues come into play, so much copy and imagery doesn’t happen in isolation, content also needs context.
So, I sketched out the processes involved, imagined it, and sounded out various colleagues if this was worth it. It all felt rather vague.
I built a prototype
I was able to build a working demo with something I knew quite quickly using Expression Engine and Safecracker forms. With this done, I was able to demo my ideas further and we tested this in the wild, with real client cases, not just my clients but with Wil Linnsen at Erskine and Ali and Matt at Mark-Making.
The idea worked, but I had pushed the prototype as hard as I could, and at a technical dead-end it needed to be an app. I was completely unsure about if this could even be of use to that many people, let alone make any money, but thanks to Omar Qureshi, Ant Coleman, Jon Hicks and Steffan Williams, we all felt that there was some value for all of us. Omar built some rails demos, Ant wrote some copy, Jon did some icon work (and experiments in SVG).
There was other work to do, and as many lists and time saving methods you want to employ, you can’t cheat time. The brilliant Gather Content seemed to be nailing everything I wanted to do with every update. The came Editorially which was rather wonderful, but like many people, shocked to see it fold so soon.
And that’s it. Two and a half years on, I’ve continued to collect some thoughts on the idea, and there is something, an idea, there in an ever-changing landscape of apps and services, the actual process of moving copy to sign-off to publication is still the same process. I’ve added some more screens and visuals in the portfolio.
Special thanks to the following for all their input on Amend Approve, advice and encouragement…
- Adam Robertson
- Alex Morris
- Alistair Williams
- Alun Rowe
- Anthony Coleman
- Cory Hughes
- Gareth Jones
- Graham Bancroft
- Herman Wenstad
- James Lindeman
- John Oxton
- Jon Dennis
- Jon Hicks
- Matt Carey
- Matt Hamm
- Matt Reid
- Omar Qureshi
- Peter Mankhe
- Steffan Williams
- Steve Seamark
- Wil Linsenn