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Cococello is Deb Pang Davis. Independent print and digital designer, educator and soon-to-be-author.

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Flexfolios: First Impressions

Yesterday I received my July 2010 issue of PDN and was intrigued by the “The iPad as Portfolio” headline.

The article features three different solutions with the same goal: to take advantage of the mobility of the iPad as well as the beautiful possibilities of presentation.

One of the solutions featured is an iPad app called Flexfolios developed by stock photographer Emmanuel Faure and fashion photographer Antoine Verglas.

Curious as hell to see what the app looks like, feels like and more importantly what it can do, I downloaded the app last night and took it for a test spin.

Flexfolios home screen

Initial Set up

So I don’t know what camp the rest of you fall in but I’m one of those, take it for a spin before reading the instructions kind of woman. I have lots of apps and I’m a web designer. How hard could it be?

It took me 20 minutes before I took the time to read the reference manual. What held me up? I couldn’t figure out how to get the dang pictures into the new album I created. (Press down on the thumbnails and drag into your new album). Touch, swipe, double-click, those are behaviors I’m familiar with. Hold down and drag? Not so much but it worked.

Flexfolios Portfolio Screen

It’s Easy to Use

Put the pictures you want to have access to via the Flexfolios app into your Pictures folder and check the box next to your “galleries” (folders). Press “Add to Media” and voila! your galleries show up and load them.

You can edit caption information, delete images, link images to audio, video, etc., upload custom backgrounds, create eCards which then email with an attached PDF and you can also customize the eCard. Sharing is easy. I haven’t tested the video features.

When browsing a portfolio the images are clear, crisp and easy to view via “swiping”.

Visual Design Impressions

So I’ll be the first to admit I do not know the visual limitations of designing an iPad app. There’s a lot to think about for sure.

I will tell you that on my iPad, the apps that I think are visually appealing are Epicurious, The Guardian’s Eyewitness, WeatherBug and The BBC News, to name a few.

Maybe It’s the Typography

I guess for an app that is supposed to appeal to visually savvy people, I would expect a more sophisticated use of typography. As an example, The Guardian’s Eyewitness app uses typography really well.

The Albums or “Portfolios” are Gray Notebooks

It could be I’m not a notebook kind of woman or that I’m not particularly fond of “print” metaphors; not quite sure. This is just my immediate reaction to seeing a 3-ring gray notebook with the name of my new portfolio underneath. And if I create more albums, I have more 3-ring gray notebooks. *Yawn*

Why the Red Sidebar?

Branding with the color and logo, I get. But why have the menu take up so much space immediately after the “cover” of the app is presented? Sure, I guess it makes sense for people who are creating and editing portfolios but for non admin users who are simply viewing the portfolios, an always visible menu doesn’t seem necessary. What about having the option to toggle (hide/show) the “Menu”? Then the portfolio albums could take up the entire width of the iPad’s wonderful screen.

Flexfolios Info Screen

A Few Quick Suggestions

I can’t help but think of ways to improve it :)

Lose the 3-ring Albums

What about giving admin the choice of a thumbnail image? Then rather than rows of 3-ring gray notebooks, there are rows of thumbnail images? Or, have the option to upload a custom-designed “cover”?

Option to Size the Thumbnails

I guess size could be determined by being able to set how many rows/columns the editor wants to show. The more albums, the smaller the thumbnails; less equals larger thumbnails.

A More Elegant Info Box

So when you double click on a large image in a portfolio, you get this “Info” and “associated items” box. Is there a way to make it more elegant? I’d like to see better typography and a more elegant solution to showing information. And, the labels, “Info” and “Associated Items”? Hmmm.... What about “Details” and ... OK, I can’t think of one right now for “Associated Items” but it just doesn’t really match the tone of Flexfolios.

Make the Flexfolios App “Cover” Red

Love the red or the Flexfolios icon. I would highly recommend using it as the background for the “Cover” upon launch of the app. It’s much more sexy and has drama compared to the grey, gradient logo on black. IMHO.

Make Going “Home” Easier

Remember that idea above about toggling the “Menu”? Once you are in a portfolio with the big pictures, the only options are to “close” or view the “info”. Making the Menu always accessible might make things easier to move from one Portfolio to another.

The eCard

I don’t really get this feature. Having a PDF attachment along with a featured eCard image seems gratuitous. Someone please explain this to me. I keep wondering that emailing a  portfolio could be more interesting?

The Fake Hand/Finger

This of course has nothing to do with the app itself but the fake hand moving around is kinda odd. Is there a way to create video tutorials straight up?

Conclusion

I think Flexfolios seems to be a decent presentation solution for anyone who wants or needs to make a visual presentation on the iPad.

$14.99 at this stage seems a bit steep given that it doesn’t seem to do that much more than the iPad’s default Photo application.

I hear people have had a lot of luck with iBook and PDFs! Anyone had any luck with that solution? 

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