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Simplify the creative review process
with Adobe CS Live

by Dave Klein

It took a while, but I finally gave into the idea that I might be losing some credibility as an online marketing consultant by visiting my clients with an old PC and a battle-scarred Blackberry Pearl (circa 2006). Finally, I decided it was time for an entire system upgrade, so I purchased a 27-inch iMac and Adobe Creative Suite 5 Web Premium. With a deadline looming, my first order of business was to install Adobe CS5.

After installing every application, I opened Photoshop to admire my vast new creative landscape. I then opened a web page in Dreamweaver, and as I sat there staring at the expanse of code and design sitting side by side, the CS Live button in the Dreamweaver Application bar caught my eye, so I decided to click the button and explore. Ultimately, this single click of the mouse completely changed my mindset about project collaboration and meeting with clients.

Adobe CS Live is a set of online services that integrates with Adobe CS5 software to simplify the creative review process, help speed up website compatibility testing, and more. CS Live includes Adobe CS Review, Adobe BrowserLab, Acrobat.com, and SiteCatalyst NetAverages, all of which I’ll cover in this article.

Note: CS Live services are available on a complimentary basis for a limited time. If you sign up before April 30, 2011 — either by registering your CS5 product or by signing up online — you can take advantage of one year of complimentary access to CS Live.

CS Review: Streamlining the creative review process

I had just started working with a new client who is on the cutting edge of orthopedic medical treatments. While driving home from our first project review, I realized that a weekly meeting was going to cut deeply into our small 40-hour per month consulting agreement (a one-hour roundtrip drive to their office and a one-hour meeting each week would essentially wipe out 20% of my time allocated for this client). Further compounding the problem was the need for everything to be reviewed prior to site updates going live. Operating under strict FDA guidelines, the company understandably had concerns that I might tweak their words and get them into trouble.

I needed to find a way to easily and conveniently share my work with clients for their feedback or approval, while minimizing the number of meetings that inevitably sideline me for much of the day and leave me playing catch-up in the evenings. Adobe CS Review was the first component of CS Live Services that caught my attention and inspired me to begin working the entire solution into my day-to-day client interactions (see Figure 1).

Several of the Creative Suite applications offer easy access to CS Live Services.

Figure 1. Several of the Creative Suite applications offer easy access to CS Live Services.

I’ve experimented with a few collaboration tools in the past, but I was sold on CS Review and its future the first time I used it. CS Review enables me to create unique online workspaces for individual clients or projects and then upload creative work for review with a couple of clicks, without leaving the authoring environment I am working in. I can then invite people to review the documents automatically through the CS Live interface. No special software is required, and the online user interface and commenting tools are easy enough for even the most technically challenged clients to understand.

With a simple marquee-style selection tool, clients can highlight areas of the images and make comments that become immediately viewable by everyone else with access to the document. The comments are instantly fed back into the original authoring environment for an at-a-glance list of updated comments from the workspace (see Figure 2).

A look at the CS Review panel inside Adobe Creative Suite 5 applications.

Figure 2. A look at the CS Review panel inside Adobe Creative Suite 5 applications.

Adobe Buzzword is the online word processor at Acrobat.com. By associating an Adobe Buzzword document with my uploaded images that contain a substantial amount of copy, my clients can make updates to the text as necessary or replace it completely, allowing me to then copy and paste it back into the original artwork or web page for quick and easy updates.

Adobe ConnectNow

Adobe ConnectNow is the core web-conferencing component of CS Live Services. I’ve used many iterations of this virtual meeting technology for several years during its evolution, and it just keeps getting better.

I spend a lot of time with clients looking through their websites, analytics, search marketing campaigns, and a host of other things online. For me, the biggest benefit of ConnectNow is the ability to talk with clients wherever they are and share my screen with them as if they were sitting next to me. In a one-on-one environment, ConnectNow truly shines, and it helps me stay close to my clients without actually being onsite with them.

(Now if someone would just create a webcam that doesn’t make everyone look like a zombie caught on a security camera, it would easily advance video conferencing by several years. Until then, I think I’ll leave my camera turned off.)

SiteCatalyst NetAverages

SiteCatalyst NetAverages summarizes data gathered from Adobe’s SiteCatalyst web analytics solution to provide Adobe CS Live users with insight and an at-a-glance look at trends and averages among Internet users across multiple devices, operating systems, and browsers. It is not a summary of the entire Internet browsing population, but SiteCatalyst is an extremely popular and powerful analytics platform used by many of the largest brands and sites on the Internet, so it’s definitely a solid representation.

This brings me back to feeling like the only guy at my local coffee shop without a MacBook Pro. According to the SiteCatalyst NetAverages pie chart of operating systems in Figure 3, Apple still has a lot of catching up to do with Mac OS. There’s no clear reason why I shouldn’t be enjoying my coffee with a bunch of over-caffeinated PC owners.

SiteCatalyst NetAverages shows Macintosh as only 9% of the operating system market.

Figure 3. SiteCatalyst NetAverages shows Macintosh as only 9% of the operating system market.

I won’t get into my theories on correlations between coffee shops and MacBook Pros, but the point of my story is one that I discuss frequently with my clients. It is natural to assume that your perception of a situation is reality, but it’s much more difficult to be completely open to the idea that your perception may be wrong. Our environment, past experiences, geographical location, friends, and line of work all shape our perception and opinion of things in ways that may be skewed from the facts.

As a subscriber to the Adobe Edge newsletter, there’s a good chance you are already in the top tenth percentile of computer and Internet users in terms of being tech-savvy. Can you think of any unrealistic assumptions that this group of newsletter readers might be prone to make?

SiteCatalyst NetAverages simply provides us with a look at what’s really going on today and gives us additional information on monthly and yearly trends that can help us make assumptions about the future. It’s a nice addition to CS Live, and with the huge amount of detailed data gathered by SiteCatalyst analytics on a daily basis, I would love to see Adobe expand this feature with more details in the future.

Adobe BrowserLab

For web designers and developers, Adobe BrowserLab is a useful tool within CS Live Services. It enables you to efficiently see web pages side-by-side or in a layered (Onion Skin) view in the popular browsers and versions of your choice so you can ensure your pages will render as you intended before you deploy them to a live site. Designing for the web across myriad browsers and operating systems can be incredibly difficult. Adobe BrowserLab helps web developers identify problems—and fix them—before users ever see them.

Summary

My hardware transition is now complete, and I’m fully loaded with new Apple and Android technologies. It wasn’t cheap, and I only feel slightly cooler than I did before.

But thanks to the switch, Adobe Creative Suite 5 and CS Live Services are now adding value to my business and helping me become more efficient and productive. In turn, my clients are saving money and getting what they need in a more timely and convenient fashion. Adobe’s integration of CS Live into Creative Suite applications was a giant step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to riding this cloud-based collaboration and productivity wave into the future.

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Dave Klein is an online marketing consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. He has worked with several Adobe partners focusing on 3D software and technologies since early 2000. Reach him at kleinnewmedia.com.