The silent dictum for successful web-based applications thus far has been: make it so easy anyone can use it.
While the new web-based CD label building application MediaFACE Online is nifty, I’m not sure it’s worth the price tag at $19.95.
Though it represents a definite step in the right direction for the much-anticipated Web 2.0 movement, the Neato, Inc., software title suffers in a number of respects, which will keep users away on both sides of the beginner-expert graphics design coin.
The program is certainly not without its positive features. There’s an easy sign on process. As soon as you go to the MediaFACE website you’re greeted with a number of self-explanatory options. Do you want to build a CD label? An iPod wrap or skin? A DVD insert or sleeve? Cool. Choose your poison. Smooth sailing up to here.
Next you get to pick and choose from a wide variety of formats matching different label configurations produced by Neato, Inc, which is a subsidiary of Fellowes, the office supply company. You can make 30 CD labels at once, or design just one, it’s up to you. No problem.
This is where it gets tricky.
The software takes you directly to the web-based application after going through the initial setup phases. Anyone with a newish operating system, decent chunk of RAM, and a recent browser release should be able to run this puppy.
Here’s where I think users will get lost, and this is a doozy. MediaFACE has too many fairly advanced graphics designers’ tools for an online application.
Neato was going for the best of both worlds: an online application with the options and power of Photoshop and all the usability of a beginner WYSIWYG website builder that makes you look like a pro. On the left side of the screen there is a standard palette of design tools. You can crop, insert shapes, pictures and text. Though the tools are standard for graphics designers, they still aren’t any easier for the beginner trying to figure out advanced touches like utilizing different layers, integrating pictures seamlessly, warping, shading, fading and all the other esoteric tricks used in a good design.
Therefore, unless you want your labels coming out looking like amateur hour, you’re going to have to invest a significant chunk of time learning to use these tools if you don’t have any design experience. There aren’t too many busy beginner users who are going to want to pay for and spend time learning this program.
Not as long as there are black Sharpie pens.
If you’re already an experienced graphics designer, you probably already have software like Adobe Photoshop that fits you like an old shoe. I highly doubt you’ll abandon your application of choice for the relatively underpowered (by comparison) online MediaFACE application
For causal users this product just doesn’t have the kind of simple click it and go interface that it needs in order to attract beginner level users from the bottom of the ladder and expert level users from the top looking for good quick fix.
All in all, a nice effort, but Neato needs to consider who’s going to be using their program.