How To Use WordPress To Manage Your Clients
Why haven’t you heard from that client? You emailed him the last draft a week ago. Why hasn’t he given you a sign-off or feedback yet? You definitely emailed him. Right? Right?!
Many a freelancer designer has known this feeling and has created a system to be able to efficiently submit drafts to clients and receive their approval and comments on that work. To do so, some go about emailing designs, creating email chains that make it easy to lose an email or forget who last contacted who, especially when inboxes are crowded with junk or the emails pile up on each other. Other designers opt to simply upload files to a Dropbox and share them, but this method does little to ensure that the other person has reviewed and approved the submission.
What the freelancer graphic designer needs is an application that will allow them to:
- Display the designs as they should be seen
- Make the design, and its earlier versions, easy to find and reference
- Communicate easily and clearly with their clients.
Now there is a plugin that looks to be able to do all of those things and make it easier for graphic designers to run an efficient design business from their WordPress website: Design Approval System.
What Does It Do?
This is what you get:
Design Approval System creates a customized post template that looks like the above for displaying your designs. In addition to the display properties, it also makes it easier for you to manage routine submission, input, and review processes with the client. Working clockwise from the upper left hand corner, you have:
- A display for when this version of the design was posted and for which company it was intended
- The name of the designer and the logo of his/her agency/company
- An easy toggle between different versions of the design. It will automatically display the linked to version of the design, but will also allow the viewer to select any of the versions of the design in a drop down menu.
- The design itself. This is 300×200, but it will display whatever size you enter, even if it overflows the browser window.
- A button which, when clicked, displays a pop-up that allows the client to formally approve the design (sample below). This is only for final approval of a design and is not intended to be used in for each bit of feedback (although it can).
- Designer’s notes for the client to read as well as a description of the notes that the client has requested previously.
- A button that allows the designer to send an email to their client notifying them that the design is ready for their review. This function is not triggered automatically and this action must be performed every time the designer would like the client to review a design.
This “quick” 22-minute tutorial video of their’s is a pretty comprehensive guide on how to install, setup, and begin using the plugin:
For those of you who do not believe that 22-minutes is short, here is a brief summary of how to get it working. First, download, install, and activate the Design Approval System plugin as well as the Custom Post Template plugin (both plugins are necessary for the DAS to function correctly). The plugin will then go ahead and create a separate Dashboard menu for the Design Approval System with tabs to create and view DAS posts, create DAS tags and categories, get help with DAS, and adjust the settings of DAS. You are then required to enter your company’s name, logo, and email address in the DAS Settings panel (while there, you can also start to customize some of the automated email messages the plugin sends out).
To add your first design, simply insert an image into a DAS post as you would in any other WordPress post and it will display as you can see in the screenshot above. You will also need to enter the appropriate information in the custom fields, you can see them below the text editor, so as to identify the creator and recipient of the design as well as enable or disable the client notes. To ensure that this design is linked with others for the same client, it is important to add a client specific DAS category. This can be done in the post’s category manager or in the DAS Settings panel, but it is important to not neglect it as the plugin groups different version of the same design by their shared category.
There are two reservations that I have about this product. The first is that I did have a couple of issues with installation. Since it relies on the Custom Post Template plugin, you will have to have your site updated to WordPress version 3.4; otherwise it will not work. Also, although I wasn’t quite able to isolate that this was the problem, I believe that it does not play nicely with the Cloudflare service and the plugin will fail if your site is in the Cloudflare network.
The second reservation is that some of the options that I would like to see standard are only offered in the USD$15 extension pack, such as:
- Designers can prevent clients from submitting requests for further changes until they have completed payment on their existing payments to the designer.
- Clients can enter comments on the Design Display page.
- After the client has submitted their design request, the plugin can email both parties with confirmation emails.
- Can allow the designer to customize the confirmation emails messages and “Thank you” messages.
If you are a photographer and are looking for something which has a somewhat similar functionality to the Design Approval System plugin, check out WP Shutter and its add-on, ShutterProof. This plugin and add-on will allow you to display a variety of proofs to the client privately and allow the client to select the photograph(s) that they like best.