July 10, 2012
Have you ever had a situation where your marketing team comes to you and asks for numerous creative assets that target multiple customers, so the website can be more relevant to its different visitors?
Let's take, for example, that you are tasked with overlaying the product image thumbnails for your company’s catalog of shoes with small emblems, or badges, that indicate when an item:
• is an exclusive;
• is part of a promotion that’s only running in certain states; and/or
• has a unique feature, such as being waterproof, orthopedic, leather, etc.
Sounds like a big creative task, correct? Well, you are right on, it is.
After a few painstaking days developing comps that everyone agrees on (which can be a job unto it itself), you’ve finally got dozens of unique creatives. You go ahead and save your PSDs, optimize the creatives for the web, and hand off the files.
And then Murphy's law strikes! Your marketing team comes back to you with a list of changes:
• 20 items were miscategorized as orthopedic
• a dozen states were missing from the promotions list
• 5 new waterproof products have been added to the catalog
* there are 14 new exclusives in the sandals and sneakers categories
Just when you thought you were done, you need to unarchive and reopen the PSDs, identify the layers to change (hopefully you have not flattened the layers), re-save, and compress every new version created—and then hope that your web development team replaces the correct images.
Wrapping up these fixes quickly is a priority, since you’re already past the project deadline and now putting other jobs in the creative queue on hold.
Sure, last-minute changes happen more often than not in the creative process, as we’ve all experienced. And in the fast-paced world of ecommerce, continual updates have become the norm. But isn't there a better way of handling revisions to creative assets that are commonly reused? Yes, there is!
Welcome to the World of Browser-Based Technology
With the immense advancements in browser technology, your creative workflow is about to get more productive. What I like to call "Photoshop in the browser" is now possible. So forget the old ways of doing things I described above; instead, let technology work better for you on a creative level.
Going back to the example of the shoe thumbnails, you now only need to design the “exclusive” emblem ONCE in order to highlight every product in the catalog that’s an exclusive.
When a visitor enters the website and sees multiple product images with the "exclusive" emblem, all those graphics are displayed in real time on the visitor’s browser. Web-based technology pulls the appropriate creative asset and layers it onto the specific product images, without designer interaction.
Since the process happens in the browser, based on business rules in the ecommerce database, all you ever have to do is design the handful of overlays to indicate which products are exclusive, waterproof, part of a promotion, etc. The days of reworking product thumbnails have become a thing of the past.
Getting Excited Yet? There’s More!
The benefits of browser-based programs for streamlining creative workflow don’t stop with image overlays. You probably design lots of versioned banners to target messaging to different visitor segments. Wouldn’t it be great to simplify these jobs as well?
For example, if a banner campaign calls for messaging personalized to website visitors based on attributes like their geolocation or purchase history, you could create a single banner creative that accommodates the insertion of variable text messages. So, if the campaign parameters call for the promotion of a 25% discount on Puma products to return visitors who shopped this brand before but didn’t convert, text fields can be set up to automatically populate this message in your banner template. This same banner also can be used to serve text personalized to the visitor’s city or current weather—whatever message the marketing team has targeted to different visitor segments.
Now I know you’re probably thinking, “I’m not thrilled about having a web technology limit me to web fonts like Arial, Tahoma, or Verdana.” No worries there. Browser-based creative solutions let you upload and work with any font you already include in your designs, so you can keep your creative just the way you envisioned it.
It's Time to Rework the Creative Production Process
What it comes down to is that a tool like Photoshop is great for lots of different creative uses. But, as they say, “work smarter, not harder” is the message here, so be sure to explore new creative tools that support alternative ways to address your workflow challenges.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your take on this topic, as well as brainstorm with you on any ideas/challenges around creative and processes.