Below is a 1:1 conversation with Alex Bullington of MarkUp.io and Amy French. Amy is a copywriter and editor who recently came across MarkUp.io. We discuss her use of MarkUp.io, introducing it to clients, and why writers and editors should use this platform more.
Before we dive into the product, I’d love to know two things. First, how did you come across MarkUp.io? Secondly, what did your workflow look like before MarkUp.io?
Amy: I’m a writer, so I didn’t immediately imagine that I’d be a target user for MarkUp.io. I imagined it as more of a tool for designers and developers.
But one of the things I do is write website copy. Oftentimes, my clients have a designer or a developer in place before me. So, after I’m brought in, we need a way to discuss where the copy I’m going to write will appear in the design, along with possible ways to alter the design.
It can be hard when you’re collaborating on a piece of content and you say, “You know that part of the page where it’s at the top and it’s — no, not there, the part in the corner” and blah blah. That round and round way of talking about design. My clients and I needed a more efficient way to have those conversations, so I was happy to find MarkUp.io.
How has MarkUp.io alleviated that pain point for you?
Amy: So MarkUp.io has helped in leaps and bounds. It’s much better than capturing screenshots of the site or just trying to mark up a PDF of it. With those techniques, you lose so much of the design. There are alterations that happen when you create a PDF from a webpage.
With MarkUp.io, you retain the authentic design, the actual visual you’re working with. Plus, you can place comments on that page. Beyond that, you can discuss all of your comments directly next to the visual.
Another way that I used Markup.io recently was with a client that was pushing toward launch and needed a better sense of the work that remained. I marked up all of the pages of an interactive tool they’re creating — and there were a lot — so that all of the discussions around the pages could happen asynchronously.
We didn’t need to have meeting after meeting about it. It was much more efficient. I found myself feeling very grateful for MarkUp.io because no one else on the team knew about it. I got to be the hero who delivered the “cool tool,” so that was great.
Who are most of these clients?
Amy: The client I have used MarkUp.io with the most is launching a product website. They needed branding copy across the site, UX copy for the interactive pages, and blog content. MarkUp.io was helpful for all of those purposes. I imagine it would be good in any case where the visual presentation of the words is important, or where there are words in lots of different nooks and crannies on a page. Anything, really.
I actually didn’t know if MarkUp.io would work with the UX copy because those pages were interactive. We did have to use screenshots on several of those pages instead of just plugging in the URLs, but even with that adjustment, MarkUp.io has been head and shoulders above anything else I’ve found. The ability to have precise placement of the area of the page that I wanted to comment on just made work that can be tedious and frustrating move so much faster.
That’s great. You mentioned you’ve been able to work through some early quirks with MarkUp.io. It’s really nice when a user can work through a product even with its imperfections. Can you talk a little more about that?
Amy: If I held out for tools to be completely developed, I’d just be missing a lot of value. And there are drawbacks to that at times. But, I really didn’t feel like I was losing much with regard to the things that MarkUp.io can’t do just yet. I was just getting so much value I couldn’t find elsewhere out of the things MarkUp.io can do already.
What was the process like for your client to jump into MarkUp.io?
Amy: The team had mostly been using things like AirTable and workflow-oriented products that were designed for much broader use. And those were good products, but weren’t focused on having a conversation around a visual.
They did think they had an okay way to assign tasks so that digital content could be written and approved, but discussing that content was difficult. That sort of thing doesn’t fit easily into an all-purpose spreadsheet or Trello cards.
So, I went to them and said, “Hey, let me just show you this new product; I think it could help a lot. And if you don’t like it, we don’t have to use it.”
But after using it, right away they were like, “Hey, this is great!”
I also found MarkUp.io to be really compatible with tools they were already using: AirTable, Trello, and others. If I wanted to create a workflow in Trello, it was very easy for me to copy the links from MarkUp.io projects and paste them in. It wasn’t because I was using MarkUp.io that I lost the functionality that was available in other tools. It was very easy to integrate all of these tools together. MarkUp.io augments them really well.
One of the things I find most intriguing is that when you reached out, you said we should focus on marketing this product heavily toward copywriters too. Can you dive into that more?
Amy: Well, you should! It’s as close as you can get to an over-the-shoulder design collaboration in a remote environment. The more that I rely on remote collaboration, the more value I see in MarkUp.io.
Again, in the newspaper environment — I worked for The Charlotte Observer, and it was great to have little spontaneous collaborations by pulling in a writer, a designer, an editor, a photographer, etc. There was an energy to that, with the ideas sparked by being together and saying, like, “Wow that headline is really effective,” or, “I love the way that headline and illustration play together.” You were pointing at the page, so it was clear what you were talking about.
For a long time, you couldn’t quite do that remotely — especially not asynchronously. But with MarkUp.io, you can. I think the extra collaboration power could work wonders for so many people who do copy editing or writing for products, websites, or marketing collateral.
Ok, I’m going to play devil’s advocate with our own product. We’ve been growing really well, and no doubt the rise in remote work during the COVID crisis has helped to fuel a lot of growth. So, the question is: What about 2022 and beyond? Do you think the usefulness of MarkUp.io will wane as we transition back to office life?
Amy: Well, I think the path to remote was becoming more traveled long before COVID. What I think COVID did was accelerate the acceptance of remote collaboration by organizations that had no other options.
Since I left newspapers, many of my former colleagues and I are finding work across the country. I live in Memphis, Tenn., and I have a client in St. Petersburg, Fla., a client in Baltimore, Md., and a client in California. So, this has nothing to do with COVID for me. I’ve needed remote collaboration tools for a long time, and the exact right ones just haven’t come onto the scene as quickly as I would have liked. Now that COVID has pushed larger organizations to use remote options even for their in-office workforce, I think they’re seeing the value of those tools.
I do think there are things that will go away. But there are other kinds of tools like MarkUp.io that enable asynchronous collaboration, and that’s valuable even if people are working in the same building. With MarkUp.io, you know where everything lives, the conversation is on the page, and anyone can access it. You might still need to have a meeting or want to have a meeting, but this doesn’t inhibit or replace that. It augments that. MarkUp.io is not just a remote tool; it’s a work facilitator.
That’s a really intriguing take there; thank you for providing insight on that. What about product recommendations moving forward? I have to be honest, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask our users about their willingness to eventually pay for certain features. MarkUp.io’s core product will always be free, so that’s yours forever. But is there anything you would eventually pay for at a higher level when we implement that?
Amy: I do think having an auditory component would be great because it is sometimes hard to express yourself regarding a design in writing. I shouldn’t tell you this, but after I discovered the usefulness of it, even at the free level, I would have paid for it. But I wouldn’t have discovered its usefulness if it hadn’t been available for free. So that’s the Catch 22.
I feel guilty for the value I’m getting, but I am doing word of mouth for you, so that’s gotta be worth something, right?!
But one thing that might be valuable — for free or at a higher tier — might be the ability to change permissions on projects once people no longer need access to them. For example, if someone leaves a team, you might not want them to retain access.
Amy, this has been fantastic. It has been great to connect, and I’m looking forward to your work on future projects with MarkUp.io!
Amy French is a former editor for the Charlotte Observer and now provides content-creation services as a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn. If you need someone to tell your company or product story, you can contact Amy via email at Amy@AmyFrenchInk.com.