After a long bout of scheduling conflicts and swine flu, we finally caught up with David Womeldorf, VP for Redliner.com. Redliner is led by CEO Jerry Grabowski and brought to life by a small team of experienced developers. With a decade of previous web/tech startup experience, David joined the Redliner team about a year ago, back when this technology was still in concept form.
Plain and simple, Redliner is a document-collaboration and group-editing and -approval solution. There’s only so many ways to make this space sexy, but after experiencing it and playing around for a while, I’m not going to lie — I’m a little turned on. And this baby is still in beta!
Let’s start with the dashboard:
You’ll notice the standard doc toolbar/editor, list of participating/shared workspaces and list of stored/shared docs. More toward the right, the “pending redlines” improve efficiency, in that you only see/manage what’s relevant to you at the moment: what needs my attention (personal) & what am I waiting on (external).
When diving into specific documents, you’re only going to see what’s new, not the entire revision history. The Redliner approach of combining robust functionality with a clean user interface makes for a compelling experience.
From a marketing perspective, I consider the product website to be above average in its effectiveness. Personally, I would minimize (read: remove) the lame stock photo of the team jumping for joy (Redliner to the rescue?) and replace it with some of the positive/credible press received (GigaOM, MS StartupZone, etc.). Also, I suggest enlarging the promo video and embedding it on the homepage vs. taking me to another page. Video screencasts, demos, tutorials, etc., are great tools that are proven to engage first-time visitors for longer periods of time because they can effectively convey complex and detailed information in a simple, easy-to-digest, passive format. Kudos to Redliner for (almost) nailing this. (Side note: I think every web tech/product/startup should leverage video with an integrated call to action/next step.)
Moving on, the “Try it Now” button sticks out nicely but could benefit from improved typography. The video tutorials rock and probably save them a ton of energy in the help desk/support areas.
I dig this product but don’t feel that it will be particularly applicable for my needs. Google is suitable for 99 percent of my collaborative docs, so depending on the price point (subscription model not yet set), it’s unlikely that I can justify it once they start charging. But, this product isn’t for me, and Redliner knows that. It’s targeting those spaces that mandate intense collaboration and detailed iteration. PR and Legal are two markets that, if accepted/adopted, could quickly take this startup through the moon.
My only qualm is that, according to the marketing communications, the notion of “…without having to install new software…” isn’t 100 percent true. This technology requires the Silverlight framework install and deployment. Semantically, Silverlight is more of an add-on that a full-on, stand-alone software, but an install is an install, as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps corporate IT may be more forgiving? Not the end of the world, and it takes less than a minute, but I mention it because (a) it’s arguably contradictory to the claim and (b) when you’re bringing new technology to market that is competing with either the status-quo or simply the fear of change, little extra steps can be giant leaps for new/prospective users, and first impressions are critical.
The good news is that from what I understand, Silverlight ships standard with Windows 7, and Redliner is also pursuing an alternative approach that would, in fact, require zero installs.
Best of luck to David and the Redliner Team on their path to “Official Release” and their quest for funding!