Balsamiq update: Week of Feb 11th
Welcome to another long rambling weekly update.
In this post:
- Product Updates: Mockups
- Website Update
- Beta Updates
- Business Updates
- What I’m reading
- How I’m feeling
Product Updates: Mockups
Fixed a few bugs and made the following improvements:
- I re-did the icons to be hand-drawn (thanks Mariah) - a lot more icons to come but it should be very easy to add new ones now
- Added the following UI control types:
- Volume Slider
- Playback Controls
- Video Player
- Vertical Tabs
Try them today! http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups/live
- You can now hold shift down while resizing to constrain proportions (thanks Will)
- Option/Alt+drag clones and moves the selection, just like in Illustrator (thanks Will). It's not super-performing right now but it works, which is really cool - it's also cool that it took 5 lines of code to make it happen, it means my foundations are good. I was surprised :)
- the text field used to edit text is now more WYSIWYG (thanks Jason) and its background is not so jarring (thanks Daniel)
- Improved the icon inspector and border inspector (thanks Jason)
I have also update the product's home page http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups to focus more on the benefits and less on the features. I also shifted the focus a bit from Mockups being a tool for Product Managers (thanks Karen) and more towards "the whole team", including developers - this is a direct result of the feedback I have been getting from you guys: Jason, Seth and I (all developers) are the ones using this tool the most! :) Anyways, more thought must be put into this (more on this below).
The focus for next week is *no new code*, just fixing bugs and dealing with edge cases, basically I'd like the tool to feel smoother to use than it is now - that's one of my differentiators so I really want to spend some time on it.
Oh, one thing: Daniel suggested moving the UI Library to the right and make it two columns wide, what do you guys think?
I removed username and password and instead put up a bumper page here http://www.balsamiq.com/
I continue to make tweaks to the website copy every day. It's really hard, but I feel like I'm really learning a ton in the process.
The big news is that I have decided that I'm not happy with the current website at all...I know, after all this work! :(
The main problem with it is that it's too broad, it represents where I want to be in a year or so (a few plugins for a few Web Office platforms) and what I have now is only a very small subset of it.
In other words, I can't wait to "go live" with what I have, and I want the website to reflect where I am, not where I want to be. So I'll be slashing and rearranging content in the next few days, stay tuned.
This will be the 3rd version of my website, and I'm not even public yet. Funny? Ironic? Pathetic? Oh well.
The nice thing is that I'm using Mockups to think about the new site content/design, it works pretty well! :)
I added Google Analytics code to all my html pages, not a lot of data there yet but at least it's set up.
We have two new participants in the beta:
- my main mentor and great friend R## T##
- D## W##, a good friend and one of the top AIR developers in the World ;)
Thanks for joining and for your time!
Branding: I met with my branding-guru friend Rob on Friday and I'm going over to his office on Tuesday to continue the conversation. Most of what he says is still pretty much Greek to me ("you need to think about the media conversation...", "what do you want your brand to do for you?" and stuff like that), but some of it is slowly starting to seep in via osmosis. He clearly knows his stuff, and I am lucky to have him help me. He is warming up to "Balsamiq", the thing he liked the most is a sentence that I wrote on the site: "my software adds flavor". So we might explore that "flavor" direction more...like I said, Greek :)
I also explored other business-related things this week, like getting a Skype-in phone number, a bank account for the company and setting up an account at E-Junkie (more on that in a future update), which made me want to incorporate ASAP.
So I bit the bullet and wrote an email to a lawyer (talk about being out of my element), and he replied in 30 minutes, on a Saturday. I'm impressed. I'm meeting him on Tuesday afternoon. I hope he can help me set up my LLC and explain to me why I need a lawyer in the first place. ;)
I am also getting another two referrals from some other friends, we'll see. Look at me, shopping for lawyers...who am I? :)
If I can get myself to do it I will email a small-business CPA next, who knows maybe the lawyer will know someone.
Anyways, I want to get this admin/legal stuff behind me as quickly as possible. I think that Mockups is in good enough shape to be shown to the public (even without the Confluence integration). I feel a certain sense of urgency in going public because I think that people who use it can help me define what it is and who it is for. For instance, if it's developers that use it the most, maybe I should integrate with JIRA (Atlassian's popular bug-tracking / project management tool) instead of Confluence (their Wiki).
Guy Kawasaki says: "ship, then test".
What I'm reading
I did some research and started collecting a bunch of feeds from Micro-ISV owners and other small-business / software start up people. I found some good stuff that way already. For instance, I learned that there's a conference focused on micro-ISVs in Berlin in November. Mariah and I will make a week-end out of it! :)
I also read most of this e-book: http://www.47hats.com/index.php/2008/02/15/microisv-sites-that-sell/ - it's a pretty good book for me, it explains some marketing techniques in terms that a coder will understand. I will be applying those lessons when I redo the site this week.
How I'm feeling
I expected the emotional roller-coaster, I just didn't expect it to swing up and down so frequently! It makes a week feel like a month. Last week I was stressed out at the thought of quitting and talking to my landlord, this week those worries are gone and it's a whole set of new worries.
First the old issues: it's possible (likely?) that our landlord will not want to sell our place in the end, which means no buy-out for us (thanks a lot economy). He is now coming up on the 27th to chat. I'm OK with that, it was money that was going to help but that I didn't feel like I had earned, if you know what I mean. If he doesn't sell, we'll leave on June 1st. Quitting: every day that goes by I find it harder to go to work and give it my 100%, so I am now actually looking forward to "coming out in the open" with my boss. I suspect the conversation will happen at the beginning of March after I talk to the landlord.
On to the new set of worries: right now I see myself in front of 4 big walls, with only a little chisel in my hand:
- incorporating, legal stuff, banks etc - stuff that is totally foreign to me, stressful (money is involved) and just super-dry. As I mentioned earlier, I have started tearing down this wall already.
- website: the challenge here is both to structure it right and put the right text in it (includes the branding/positioning discussions), but I also want to design it from scratch myself (which means I'll need to master CSS and come up with something not-totally-ugly) and I want to put a CMS like Drupal behind it (which I have never played with before), all at the same time. Painful, but I'll tear this down too, with time.
- server-side integration with Confluence/Jira, etc. I don't know why I'm so afraid of this one. I basically want the Atlassian guys to dedicate a couple of hours of one of their engineers to help me get set up and point me in the right direction. Somehow I have been shy about asking. I'm sure I'll look back at this and laugh about how much I worried about it, it'll probably take a day or two of coding to do the whole integration in the end. Here's hoping...
- CPA/international taxation - I don't even want to think about it now, yuck.
So, it all feels a little daunting right now, but I'm hopeful it won't last. The first steps are always the hardest, then it should be downhill (at least until the next wall).
Overall, this start up thing is AWESOME. Both the ups and the downs. I am learning SO much and stretching my limits every day. It's a bit painful at times but I know they are growing pains, with *growing* being the key word here.
OK thanks for letting me ramble again.
Until next week,
P.S. If you use Mockups let me know OK? The feedback I have gotten so far has made a huge difference in its quality already. Keep it coming!