“We are very excited to share our biggest release to date with our clients. The aim is to enhance user experience in line with the first of the Brandworkz company values ‘striving for simplicity’. The redesigned DAM module and new user interface allow client users to interact with their assets more intuitively and more quickly. Users will notice a number of improvements in the look and feel and in how they perform tasks.” [Read More]
The mods consist of UI enhancements to the toolbar, side panel, albums, folder tabs (a new feature), folder search, asset previews, keyboard shortcuts, context menus, drag and drop and filter sort. More details are on the blog article written by Anna Cotton.
There are a number of points to note about this release. Firstly, it’s entirely UI-oriented, I note that a few years back, they issued a slightly tongue-in-cheek release informing everyone that there were no new features. I guess that joke stops being very funny if you try and use it more than once and they might argue they have actually got one or two new features this time, but I can’t help but be distinctly underwhelmed by what is on offer here. The fact that some serious minutiae is covered in the functionality descriptions suggests we’re well into the ‘gilding the lily’ phase for many DAM solutions (and this applies to all their peers in this market as much as it does to them).
The source of inspiration for the functionality seems to be web browsers and operating systems, see the ‘folder tabs’, ‘context menus’ and ‘filter sort’ for examples. Essentially, it reads a lot like they are in the process of building a system that replicates a number of features found in your Mac or Windows OS (or browser in the case of the tabs). History repeating itself is a commonly observed phenomena in the IT/software market (where very little has not been done before) but this appears to be going full circle back to the period when web-based DAM software tried to replicate desktop apps because there was a perception at the time that they were superior or ‘serious DAM’. I don’t think that is the motivation this time, it is a more straightforward issue: they just can’t think of much else to do.
I am not sure where the inspiration for these new features has come from. This reads quite a lot like it’s the systems/technical personnel who have sought to copy the UI from their tools they work with on a daily basis (tabs, context menus, sorting etc) into the product. I get the ‘strive for simplicity’ (and I wouldn’t disagree with it) but this seems to be symptomatic of the CXM cul-de-sac I have mentioned before. I can appreciate the benefit of these features and necessity for them, but I question why that is all there is in this ‘major release’ (their own words). This is not a point release, but it certainly reads like one.
My suspicion is that the source of the malaise which we’re in with DAM apps now is excessive focus on the needs of marketing. Because the end users are usually not information/data management professionals and they are more interested in branding and communications, they can’t give vendors a great deal of practical guidance to enable them the to develop better tools for optimising how they manage metadata (and by proxy, digital assets). The result is that everyone stares at each other blankly and hopes the other party is going to be the first to come up with a fresh idea that both isn’t a gimmick and is a significant step forward in terms of tangible productivity benefits, rather than UI tweaks. CMSWire published an article by Dom Nicastro recently where he describes a presentation by Meghan Walsh for their DX Summit. I intend to discuss this properly in a separate article, but one point from her presentation which Dom has picked out (and that other people have noted as significant also) is that DAM needs to be addressed at an enterprise level, not for a single use-case. If the focus is just on one department, it becomes an endlessly reducing feedback loop and that may well be why not much is happening in DAM currently.
I am currently contemplating some methods by which DAM News can offer some practical guidance about this (for both vendors and end users) it may well form the basis of a series of articles in the near future and I hope to be able to involve some others in addressing this subject, as I am certain it will require the input of more than one individual.