What’s the best software for critiquing webpages?
Do you use collaborative feedback software? This article explains why we believe you’d benefit from trying it. We’ll also tell you everything we know about the available software platforms.
Every week, our consultants meet to discuss the work they’ve created for clients. The process is fascinating. One consultant presents his or her work—a wireframe, a design, or maybe the client’s existing control—and the other consultants suggest how to improve it. This process allows us to draw upon our team’s wide-ranging experience.
We use collaborative feedback software to keep track of the suggestions made. Here’s how it works:
- Consultants upload an image into the software. (It’s all web hosted, so it’s really simple to do.)
- The consultants choose whom they’d like to invite to comment on the image.
- Those invited annotate the image with their suggestions and comments.
Collaborative feedback software (in this case, Notable) lets you gather feedback from your team, your clients, and anyone else. With Notable, users leave feedback by dragging an orange rectangle around the relevant area and then typing their comment. You can view comments by hovering over the rectangles.
The software allows us to easily collect all of the feedback in one place. We find it to be more effective than verbal feedback because it encourages everyone to leave concrete, specific suggestions.
In the early stages of a design, you may prefer the users to be from within your own team. However, you may also choose to use the software when presenting designs to clients or senior management.
Here’s what we were looking for
When we were shopping for suitable software, we found many lists of contenders (thanks to Tripwire Magazine, Six Revisions, Vandelay Design, and several others). Rather than giving you detailed, impartial reviews, we’re just going to tell you what we settled on and why, in the hope that we can save you from spending hours trudging through sign-up processes.
What we wanted
- The ability to upload large (and often very long) images. Many of the apps failed to handle the unusually large files that we often create. We tested them using a screen-capture image of a long page (1,905 by 14,704 pixels and 8.5 MB). Some of the software apps made the image blurry, some took ages to load and scroll them, and some of them crashed or stalled.
- The ability to keep everything private within a defined group of people.
- Pleasant to use.
- Works in Chrome and Firefox, so we don’t have to remember to switch browsers.
- A way to allow all the consultants to view everyone’s feedback, preferably in real time without having to reload a page.
- A way to discuss each comment.
- A way to check off each comment once it has been completed—so it becomes like a task list.
Some nice features that you may want, but we didn’t
- The ability to get feedback from an open community.
- The ability to create defined tests for users (Usabilla and Chalkmark do this—see below for details).
Here’s the list of software we considered
Just a few of the software tools we evaluated.
The following list describes the software tools we considered. Scroll down to the next section if you’re interested in seeing only the ones we chose in the end. Also, note that these aren’t supposed to be detailed software reviews—they’re just our initial impressions as to whether each software solution would be suitable for our specific needs.
CritiqueTheSite. Wasn’t what we were looking for; it allows users to leave comments next to a site, a bit like Google Sidewiki.
ConceptFeedback. Doesn’t allow sharing with a closed community. Everything has to be made public.
Chalkmark. Is for moderated tests and does them well. We wondered whether we could use it for our needs, but it allows testers to click only once on the page, and then it moves to the next question.
ProofHQ. Looked like it would do the job. However, we found the interface to be too complex for our needs (maybe because it has some sophisticated permissions settings and workflow functionality).
Onotate—Looked very good, but it gave a weird error (a file appeared to have been uploaded twice, and then when we deleted one of the copies, it deleted both of them). Also, we failed to share the file with each other, so we moved on.
BounceApp. Was created by the same people who created Notable. You might consider it to be “Notable Lite.” With Bounce, everything’s public, which is why it wasn’t suitable for our needs. There’s a good comparison of the differences between Notable and Bounce in this article.
Usabilla. Has some really promising features but failed to upload our large image.
Twiddla. Is a real-time virtual whiteboard. You can upload images and watch people adding comments in real time. Unfortunately, it was unable to handle our large image, reducing it to a blurry thumbnail.
Vyew. Is another virtual whiteboard software. It gave us the same problems we had with Twiddla.
Scribblar. Is whiteboard software. It failed to upload our image, giving an error message: “Error. Upload failed.”
Cozimo. Managed to upload the image but struggled to display it. At certain zoom levels, parts of the image weren’t displayed.
Here’s the software we settled on
Unfortunately, we didn’t find one tool that had all the features we were looking for. We found two useful tools.
(By the way, none of the links on this page are affiliate links. We’re vendor neutral, and we don’t profit from recommending technology.)
So far, we haven’t been able to find anything that beats Notable. (That’s why we chose to use it for the image near the top of this page.) Notable doesn’t allow you to actually draw or write on the image—it just lets you attach comments to those orange rectangles. Also, we were hoping to find software that would allow us to see comments being added in real time without having to refresh the page, and that’s not possible with Notable either. However, for us, the fact that it runs really fast with no glitches more than makes up for that.
ConceptShare has all the features of Notable and many more, but it feels a bit slower, and we find it less intuitive. Its customer support is very good.
One of its packages is purpose made for critiquing video. Video is really hard to critique remotely, so if you know people who work with video, they might find this feature invaluable.
Would you like to learn more about conversion?
If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your business, you should see this list of useful tools for identifying why your visitors aren’t converting. You should also read the following case studies, which show our process in action:
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