App Review ~ Portfolio Pro
Fifteen months ago I interviewed Nick Kuh for this blog and reviewed his iOS app, Portfolio To Go (link to review). In our interview, Nick stated he had taken Portfolio To Go to it’s logical conclusion – a well refined app that did the job he expected it to do, in fact Nick considered it a learning experiment (it was his first iPad app).
It seems since that experiment, Nick has been busy on his latest and arguably his most important app yet, Portfolio Pro. Portfolio Pro caters to the professional image maker for presenting content to clients. Portfolio Pro is primarily a playback tool, with Nick sticking to his belief that an iPad should be consumption device, not a content creation tool. This makes for a simpler, lighter, easier to navigate app; eschewing many options for editing content. In an ever increasingly crowded market, will this approach still be successful? Let’s find out.
Website – www.nickkuh.com
iTunes link – Portfolio Pro
On First Use
There are a few pieces of text to read in order to set up the app for the first time, but nothing complicated. After stating your preferences, a new gesture (a triple tap) allows switching between editor and client modes. Note, triple tapping is location aware and a helpful time saver when you’re aware of it because you don’t have to return to any particular screen in the app to access the settings, but before I realised this behaviour, I had actually set up my screen saver page thinking it was the galleries page!
There are three options to import images from, Dropbox, Flickr and the Photo Library. I was mostly interested in the Dropbox support and it worked fine on my network with my wifi only first generation iPad; perfect for the photographer who has a new piece of work stored in the cloud. The only thing I didn’t like was that you can’t select folders; only their contents, so there is a bit of navigating to do if you have your work split across multiple folders. Helpfully, Portfolio Pro automatically selects content it can detect for use and allows you to import from different folders at the same time.
Editing images and galleries is limited to captioning, ordering (tap and hold to drag and drop) and hiding them. They work as advertised and aren’t particularly complex, though I would liked to have seen some custom UI rather than the standard iOS text fields. A custom UI wouldn’t functionally do anything differently here, but it would have added some character to the app. There’s another neat touch for navigating within the app; you can swipe inside a gallery to reach the next gallery. You don’t have to tap in and out of galleries to switch them.
The good news is Portfolio Pro provides many ways to customise the app to presenting to clients. You can tweak everything to your hearts content with regard to the titling, captioning, selecting background colours, slideshow and logo preferences and customising themes.
Returning to the lack of custom UI within the app for a moment, the app’s manner for displaying the settings is one long scrollable list, my preference would be to introduce some side tabs so I could jump to a particular option. In this case navigating is too simple and not very efficient because of the adherence to the standard UI in iOS.
The ability to create themes is a welcome feature in Portfolio Pro. There are some themes included to get you started, but if like me you’re not a fan, you can create, customise and save multiple themes of your own. One of the included theme’s biggest sins is to mix Arial and Helvetica together and while aesthetics will be hard to code for everybody, many will probably end up making their own themes.
EDIT: Earlier in this review I made an error where I stated a user couldn’t create and save more than one then at a time, you can.
Surprisingly the choice by the developer to include as many options as possible for theme creation is a weakness in this section. I didn’t think a theme requires seven options for fonts, for example. Some of the better default themes will include fonts from the same family, so if all I want to do is select Gill Sans and the app can automatically add the other weights and sizes for me where appropriate. I think it would be better if the app took more control over this aspect. There is an upside to all these options and it that I can take a very minimal approach when it comes to branding; what I am able to show off can be distilled down to only what I want to show.
Video and Captions
Surprisingly a few competitors still don’t support video, but Portfolio Pro isn’t one of them. The player controls are dead simple and big and mashable; just the way I like them apart from oddly, a slider to skip ahead. A neat design in the video component is the placing of the timer as a ring around the play/pause button like Apple does with previewing content on iTunes. Portfolio Pro can play MOVs, MP4s and M4Vs.
Captions are a feature in Portfolio Pro, but I would like for there to be a more mature way to display them, along with the option to temporarily hide them during a slideshow.
Branding & Presenting
Once everything is set up and running, navigating is just as easy on the client side as it is on the editor side. The home screen slideshow works well enough and behaved the way I wanted it to. There is room to even add a logo, which reveals itself in landscape mode. There is only one transition included in the app and its flip show one and while I like that transition, you’re stuck with it if you don’t. It might find it curious to read, but some apps still don’t support save state, again Portfolio Pro isn’t one of them. So if you need to exit the app you know it won’t take you back to the home screen on returning to it. One last thing before I wrap up
I enjoyed using Portfolio Pro, apart from fiddly nature of editing the look and feel of the app, it is straight forward. It does the job of presenting content well, navigating is breezy enough and 90% of the work in the app doesn’t require a PC, which is pretty good for those on the go, it’s just the exclusion of an email function, which is a sticking point. The underpinnings of the app are stable, quite a few apps crash on me during these reviews doing simple tasks, Portfolio Pro didn’t. It’s also a relief to find some of my gripes from previous reviews have been taken care of like saved state, inclusion of video playback and video controls.
Sadly, for all the praise Portfolio Pro deserves, it isn’t leapfrogging its competitors and if it wants to succeed and acquire some buzz it’s got to do something the competitors don’t already do, or advance well known features that people are going to sing about. There is also the lack of a strong brand identity and sophistication with the adherence to the default UI of iOS. Some competitors have their own custom UI and do it at a lower price.
Looking at the iOS market as a whole for a second, beyond just portfolio apps, there have been some high profile apps hitting the tech websites because of their decision to roll their own UI, Clear for example is just a simple to do manager and considering how crowded and established that category is, it made some big news for itself. The same awareness can be said for Paper by 53 and the recent UI update to give Skype a Metro look. So while Portfolio Pro is entirely capable, it needs a novelty and to build upon what is a stable release that will define itself over its competitors.
- No email (coming in an update).
- The colour picker is the same colour as the default colour it’s resting on, it’s hard to notice.
- Themes are not updated on the fly, but other options are.
- Only one transition, take it leave it for the moment.
- No custom UI/strong brand for the app.
- A solidly built app, never crashed during use.
- Clever short cuts to navigate content.
- Import options
- Good branding options for users (logo and screensaver).
- Supports iOS mirroring
- Saves the state of the app, pick up where you left off.
- Simple to use
Portfolio Pro can be found on the iOS App Store here.