Go with the (work)flow.
June 6, 2006 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I work at a small design firm. On our staff are several people responsible for drumming up new business. They would like to be able to edit and update text/images to a sales document. They want do this without having to task one of the designers to work on it. They want to be able to do it themselves without screwing anything up.

This is a 14 page introductory sales document. It could be easily templated with some pages consisting of columns of text and other pages consisting of images of the work with accompanying captions. This document will be used in various mediums, on-screen client presentations (via powerpoint or acrobat), as a file that can be emailed (via pdf) and will be printed as hard copy on a color printer (from InDesign?). I want to set up a system that is bulletproof. They should be able to add/edit/swap text and images without a steep learning curve and without screwing anything up.

What are some ideas on how best to accomplish this? Should I begin with an InDesign file and have all the text imported via an XML doc. That way they only need to edit the XML doc and review changes in InDesign. Should I do the same with the images? Have them name the files appropriately and link them to the InDesign for automatic updates. I've never seen an example of how something like this is done so any suggestions would be helpful.
posted by quadog to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It depends how much you care about the quality of the finished product. There's more to body text than just running the text in. A good designer considers things such as rivers, bad turns, hyphenation etc, and will usually go over the whole text to check it's correct.

To me, it sounds like you're asking for a lot of heartache. There are too many "ifs". What if someone types in so much addition that it runs to overmatter at the end? What if someone messes up spacing, so you      end     up with some-thing   like this? What if they use dashes instead of hyphens? Straight quotes instead of curly? What if they copy-and-paste and it takes formatting with it, and sends the leading to hell?

Get a designer to make the changes. It's not even a matter of the sales people "reviewing" their changes, unless they know what they're looking for. Odds are, they won't. I know journalists who've worked 30 years in the trade, and I still wouldn't let them type straight to page.
posted by bonaldi at 9:58 AM on June 6, 2006

Adobe Acrobat Pro. create a PDF of the document, distribute to the sales wonks. The designers can set limits on what can be altered.
posted by Gungho at 10:05 AM on June 6, 2006

I worked at a design firm a few years ago that built a tool to do just that. It was an Access database containing images, case studies, all the design comps we had ever done, etc. They had it connected with Macros (I'm assuming) to a Word template. You went in, selected what you wanted in a form, and it delivered a Word doc with the stuff you selected, plus the boilerplate intro, etc. It was pretty slick.

Sorry I'm short on details, but maybe this will be inspiration enough to do something similar.
posted by COD at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2006

I'm with Bonaldi. Do you really want to spend the money you'll need to so that you can license legal copies of all type and necessary software for these salespeople? Do you really want salespeople typesetting a document that will be used to market a design firm? Sounds like you are setting your firm up for a very, very costly mistake. This is exactly what a good design firm should be working against - not for. If the salespeople don't see this, they shouldn't be working for a design firm!
posted by luriete at 10:49 AM on June 6, 2006

You can do this with a quality backend/intranet. I used Nylon Technology to build mine but I'm sure if you contacted any quality web developer they could design this for you.

Also, I know a number of my colleagues use Jaffe Pitchbuilder with some success. Perhaps you can research that.
posted by MeetMegan at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2006

In my experience, it's never a good idea to let the sales force customize company documents at-will. You'll end up with umpteen different versions of the same document. Many of them bordering on misrepresentation or, at the very least, promising things that might not match reality.

Any changes in client-facing materials should be vetted and approved internally before they are allowed to see the light of day. And, if you are going to go through that process, you might as well hand the approved copy to the designers to update the pieces.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:25 PM on June 6, 2006

If you allow the sales department to do this, you're telling your clients that they don't need a design agency. That's my short & sweet view of the whole thing.
posted by luriete at 12:34 PM on June 6, 2006

Another vote for keeping the sales people's paws off the documents.

A simple workaround is to export the fully styled (i.e. everything has style sheets applied) text from your InDesign document, have the sales team edit it in Word, save and then have an artworker run the updated text back in & do the usual checks (line breaks etc.). And you don't need the designer's fonts installed on the editor's machine either.

In InDesign:
File > Export… (Apple-E), set the Format to 'Rich Text Format' & save.

When you open the file in Word the ID style sheets will still be attached so that the updated Word file can be run back into the ID original fully styled.

I use a similar method with QuarkXPress (bleurgh!) -- which exports in Word 2000 format-- to get various clients to make manual amends fairly painlessly.

Just remember: Always have the ID copy fully styled and if you want character-level –– e.g. an oblique word -- formatting you must have a character style applied otherwise you'll lose the formatting when you re-import.
posted by i_cola at 2:45 PM on June 6, 2006

Thanks for the comments everyone. I agree that there needs to be some quality control on the layout that only a designer can really provide. What's motivating the goal is instant gratification (for the sales folks) and getting a solution in place that doesn't eat into designers' hours. Some good ideas here. Even if they don't fit the ideal they can certainly make the workflow more economized.
posted by quadog at 3:12 PM on June 6, 2006

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