When information technology specialist and homeowner Bruce Johnson and his wife remodeled their kitchen a few years ago, the couple’s busy weekday work schedules and family-centric weekends made it difficult for them to meet with the designer. “I knew that with the Web, we could solve this problem,” he says. So when Johnson sold his IT company, he decided to invest in creating an Internet program for communication between homeowners and designers.
The result is DezynePad, a subscription-based Web service where designers post plans and products for client review and comment. All members of the project team can access the site 24 hours a day from any location. “The whole process moves along,” Johnson says. “The project is completed faster and the client is happy.”
Johnson wanted the program to be easy for homeowners to use. “You don’t need computer experience,” he says, noting that most people are familiar with the Internet. Clients highlight locations or details on the online plans or images with a mouse and insert comments. Everyone associated with the project receives an e-mail with updates.
Besides busy clients, Johnson says that DezynePad is especially useful for clients who are remodeling a vacation home or those who frequently travel, especially if they are in a different time zone. The designer can set up the client’s user name and password and conduct a quick tutorial in the office or showroom to explain how the service works. “Many use the service as a selling tool,” he says.
Christine Jurs, vice president and senior designer at The Advance Design Studio, in Gilberts, Ill., was one of the testers in the DezynePad pilot program and continues to use the service today. The four designers at Advance use DezynePad to varying degrees, but Jurs is the most frequent user. Designers post drawings, floor plans, and 3-D elevations they have created using Chief Architect software.
About half the firm’s clients use DezynePad. “It depends on their availability for meetings. If they are busy or they travel, instead of waiting two weeks for an appointment you correspond on DezynePad. It’s as if you had a meeting,” Jurs says.
For a recent project during which the homeowner’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Jurs used the service for a “live” meeting between the wife, the husband, and herself. “She was in one place, he was in another, and I was in the office,” Jurs says. “We went live, back and forth between DezynePad and e-mail.” The team used DezynePad to finalize plumbing and lighting.
Clients only have access to their own projects in DezynePad. One feature Jurs has not used, but which she says could be important to some designers, is the ability to lock drawings so that they cannot be printed.
DezynePad costs $75 per month for one designer; $100 per month for two to five designers. For each of those user plans, you receive a 5% discount if you sign up for six months or a 10% discount if you sign up for one year. If you have more than five designers, the cost is $100 per month for the five, plus $10 per month for each additional designer. Johnson offers a 30-day free trial.
The service can also be customized for each remodeling company, so when users log in on the DezynePad site the remodeler’s logo appears at the top of the page. Many designers include a link to DezynePad on their company Web site.
Designers usually give the client a quick tutorial about the service’s features when they meet with them, and then send the client an e-mail to notify them of their user name and password.
Designers can also set up an online training session with a DezynePad rep, which is included in the subscription fee, and get support to set up their first few clients.
Johnson is considering making some upgrades to the software, but points out, “There are a lot of things we could do to make it more sophisticated, but that means you need a market that is willing to engage with sophisticated software.”