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Specify App Review

by: Kent Schneider 12/02/10

For some time now I have been searching for an online project management/storyboard tool tailored to the interior design trade.  In a perfect world this tool would hold images, and product specs along with costing and pricing information that I could toggle on and off by user permission allowing me to share with both members of my design team and the client without having to create duplicate documents.  Allowing collaboration is an absolute necessity and if it could present in both list and storyboard form that would be ideal…oh and I want it to work on an ipad.

My journey to find this tool has taken me in many directions.  When Google Wave came out I thought I had found my tool.  I thought surely someone would either make a plug in that would allow permissions on a wave and I could use that to share all the conversation surrounding a project.  Well, that never happened.  I still use Wave internally and find it to be a great tool for in-house collaboration but once you start adding in pictures and pricing it all becomes a jumble.  Next up I tried Basecamp.  Basecamp is a fantastic tool for managing projects but it just wasn’t a perfect fit for design portfolio management, and storyboarding was just not really an option…or at least I gave up before I got it to do what I wanted.

Google docs and Google notebook provided a few nice options in terms of flexibility and collaboration, but to get it to do exactly what I wanted it was also a bit of a brute force tool.  It was after all these that I arrived at Specify.  Let me first say that this tool is not everything I am looking for…yet.  But it is the best that I have seen so far.

The interface is very simple and intuitive.  I used the demo version so I was only afforded one project and a few of the features were disabled.  I logged on rather easily after a simple input form.  It gives you free access for a 30 day trial for a single project.  I just gave my project a dummy name to get going but I used portions or an actual project to get the feel for how this might work.



Above you can see a blank entry screen after I added a generic project name.  The system is broken up into two main sections: Specs and Bids.  Basically you create a new spec for each item you are considering using.  When you create a new spec you will see several field that help describe the piece based on the “spec type” which can be casegoods, seatings, tables…They pretty much have a spec type for all major decorating categories.  If for some reason they do not have what you want you can create your own.



Now that you have your specs entered it is time to assign them to areas.  You can create these areas as you see fit but for my project I was working in two main areas (a living room and kitchen).  Once the areas are created you can assign the items (or specs) to them.  If you have taken the time to enter your “areas” first (which after using the system I recommend) you can assign your “specs” as you create them.  There is a third notation on the screen called Labels.  I actually did not use this feature but I can see how it may allow for a useful third tagging and sorting option.

When you are creating your “specs”, in addition to expected cost, size and other info the system will prompt you to enter a Source and Manufacturer.  This info is important (particularly the Source) because it enables the easy use of the Bid part of the site.  In our case the Source would be Verde Home with the manufacturer being Cisco Brothers (for the sofa).  But if you are looking for competitive bidding on an item you would enter multiple sources here.

Naturally you can always go back and edit this information before you send your specs out for “bid” but when you are ready to do so you hit the Bid icon in the upper left.  The screen changes a bit and you enter the Bid section.  The bid section is nicely laid out and is capable of showing everything you are specifying as well as who is bidding on them and who has been awarded the bids.  If you have maintained your contact email well it will even send out a digital bid request form on your behalf and populate the info as it comes back.



This is a great system and better than most that I have seen or tried to use.  If had to lodge a complaint I would say that it is bit more geared for commercial rather than residential interior design and that I wish it had a storyboard feature.  I am not sure if it was just my version, but the software also seemed to lack summary reports and I was not able to invite other users in and see if I could control viewing permissions but otherwise a very good first step.



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