Sharing and keeping tabs on code is relatively simple for coders thanks to GitHub and the like, but developers aren’t the only folks who could benefit from services like that. Designers could also use a smarter way to manage their projects, and that’s exactly the sort of niche that San Francisco-based Pixelapse is aiming to fill.
The problem first really came to light when co-founder Min Ming Lo spent time working as UX design intern at Google — as it turns out, the process of keeping tabs on designs and mockups there wasn’t pretty.
“They didn’t really have a process to version-control their work,” co-founder/CEO Shravan Reddy said. “Everyone dumped their files in a single giant folder. It was hard to tell whose assets were whose. Giving feedback was a pain— it was kind of a mess.” Reddy went through some similar design headaches at his own job, and it wasn’t long until Pixelapse went from idle thought to Demo Days at StartX at Stanford and Y Combinator.
Reddy said that the team refers to Pixelapse internally as being like GitHub for designers, but after playing with it for a little while it’s hard not to include Dropbox in that comparison.
Once the Pixelapse companion app has been installed, it creates a Pixelapse folder where users are meant to save their works in progress (in the event the user already has a folder for that sort of thing, they can point the app to monitor that instead). After that, Pixelapse quietly sits in the background and waits until the artist in question decides to get down to business. Whenever it detects that changes to a file in the pre-set folder have been made, it backs it up to the Pixelapse user’s allotted server space.
This all sounds sort of mundane so far (though Reddy noted that “syncing was a tremendous problem” to get right), but the real magic happens once those files are saved to and viewed from Pixelapse servers. From there, users can log in and view a visual timeline of all the revisions made to their stored files, as well as download any of those revisions as needed. This, in short, is awesome. It gives those designers instant access to versions of their files that may not exist anymore for one, but it also serves to highlight the thinking that went into those projects.
The ability to keep a running record of a person’s works in progress is neat enough, but Reddy’s vision for Pixelapse extends beyond just catering to individual designers looking for a way to track projects. The team is aiming to make Pixelapse a must-have tool for groups of co-workers, design firms, and internal design departments so they’ve also baked in the ability for invited collaborators to leave comments on the work in progress as well as visually annotate the images.
Sharing with colleagues is one thing, but Reddy and the rest of the team also want to make the Pixelapse platform for learning instead of just meeting client demands. To that end, they’ve also built in a public gallery that encourages people to share their art (and the revisions that led up to it) with a community of like-minded designers.
“When shared to the public, those revisions show the growth of a piece,” Reddy said. Meanwhile, the team is kicking around a bunch of ideas for the public site, like forking off existing designs and merging them back into the main project.
It seems like Pixelapse is maybe trying too many things at once, but early traction paints a very positive portrait of its efforts. To date, over half a million image revisions have been hosted on Pixelapse, and while Reddy wouldn’t give me a firm number of users, he did note that Pixelapse’s user base has grown into the thousands since it first kicked off its private beta. A vast majority of those people don’t actually pay for the service though. Instead, they’re making do with the 1GB of free space that comes with the free account. In fairness, Pixelapse has only just rolled out its new tiered pricing plans, but the big question now is whether or not those non-paying users will convert to being actual customers. Still, it’s early days for Pixelapse, and I imagine more than a few designers will find reason to stick with the service.