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Hello again friends!
After this morning's total myBalsamiq update disaster, we get back to our regularly scheduled programming...
It's been a little over a month since our last release, but it sure feels like a lot longer: we've been busy!
First of all, let's see what's in today's release. Get comfortable, 'cause this is a HUMONGOUS one! :)
The focus of this release is to pick any low-hanging fruit that make the app better, to reduce our customer support load and to pay back some technical debt accumulated in the past.
Note: these changes are not available in myBalsamiq yet. They'll be available on the next release (not sure when, but soon).
If you're using myBalsamiq, please wait until we update it with these changes (stay tuned on this blog).
For other versions, simply install from our download page on top of your current installation. You won't have to re-register.
As always, if you hit any snags with the new build let us know immediately and we'll fix it right up! :)
For posterity, these are the version numbers of today's release:
Although the list above is quite impressive, it pales in comparison to the effort we've been putting in test automation in the last few months. We now have over 500 unit and integration tests in the Mockups editor itself. We have Selenium-based bots running HUNDREDS of tests on myBalsamiq and now Mockups for JIRA (bots for other plugins coming shortly). We integrated most of the automated tests into our continuous integration server so that if a test fails, the whole build fails. We are changing our processes so that no new feature goes out the door without having an automated testing suite to go with it.
In short, we have a lot of code now, and don't want it to break. Since we rely on your feedback so much, your trust in our release quality is really important for us. These automated suites will help us ensure we maintain that quality and sleep better at night. :)
Of course there will always be bugs, but we're doing the best that we can to prevent them and catch them before you do. Thanks for your understanding if we miss some.
Let's see, what else did we do since the last release...
As a last note, I'll be giving a talk in London on April 17th, then Mike and I will be manning a booth at UX London. At the end of April I'll be in Las Vegas for MicroConf, and it looks like I'll be speaking at Business of Software 2012 in Boston in the fall again. Yay! I hope to meet some of you in person at those events!
Alright, back to figuring out how to update myBalsamiq quickly and safely.
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team
P.S.Many thanks to our good friend Mims Wright who helped us with many of today's changes!
For the second time in the history of Balsamiq, I write you today to apologize for our mistakes.
This morning we started what was supposed to be a routine myBalsamiq update. We couldn't do a zero-downtime update because this update required data migration in the database, so we announced a 30 minute downtime, thinking it was really only going to take 10 minutes, but we said 30 just to be safe.
How wrong we were. MyBalsamiq was in maintenance mode for about 3 hours today. Given that we would like to compete on reliability for myBalsamiq, this is clearly really, really bad.
A number of things happened during the downtime, it was a nightmare. We ran out of disk space in the database, a machine got rebooted while running data migration, and even our personal internet connection went down at some point. It was, simply, awful.
Some things were just unlucky, but we should have prepared for most of the others. This was our fault, no two ways around it.
In the end we ended up reverting to the old build, so the 3 hours of downtime were totally wasted on your side. We'll make sure they're not wasted on our side though, we've learned a bunch of lessons and will take them to heart.
First of all, we're going to start doing updates on Saturdays instead of Tuesday mornings. I didn't want to do this because it means that a few of us will have to work during the weekend, both to do the update and to man the support lines in case something goes wrong with the new version. As the CEO I hate to ask people to work weekends, but we all agree that your collective time is more important than our own, it's just the nature of the business we decided to get into, so we'll happily make the schedule change.
Other than that, we are improving our "things to check before a release" checklist with the lessons we've learned today, and going to make changes to our database structure so that data migration won't take nearly as long (in case you're interested, we're going to move the bmml data from the database to S3).
We also need to make sure our maintenance page embeds the @myBalsamiq twitter feed, so that people can stay updated on our progress more easily. Plus I have ideas about automated backups emailed to you, desktop sync, Dropbox integration...all things that should mitigate your downtime in case this happens again.
If you were affected by today's outage, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll credit your myBalsamiq site for 3 months or extend your trial for 3 months. It's the least we can do, and fully understand that it's not enough to regain your trust in our service.
We are committed to making myBalsamiq known for its uptime, but clearly we have a long way to go. We are learning, and I feel very sorry that our early adopters have to pay for our inexperience. :(
Alright, back to work for us. Again, I'm so sorry.
Hi friends, happy new year!
While we work on a couple of BIG features (Cropping/masking for images, groups and Symbols, a new wireframing skin and Mockups for iPad), we are staying focussed on quality / bug fixes / test and back-office automation.
With that in mind, here's what's in today's release:
IMPORTANT: if things look wonky in the myBalsamiq editor or in the web demo version, please clear your browser cache and reload the page.
If you're using myBalsamiq, you're already updated. Just log back in and enjoy.
In other news, we're a few days away from hitting $10,000,000 in total Mockups sales since launch (June 19th, 2008)...WOW! Who'd have thunk it! ;)
Our newest baby myBalsamiq is also doing well, it already made around $11,000 in December. Not bad for its first full month of being public, very encouraging! :)
We also posted a little blog post about Our Donation Policy. Check it out, 2% of our profits go to charity each year. It's the right thing to do.
Jan 17th UPDATE: I just did a quick release today to fix this bug.
Hi again friends!
Today's release main feature is a major optimization to our skin assets and icons, which results in dramatic improvement in loading times for the web and plugin versions of Balsamiq Mockups.
See for yourself in this before and after video:
The back story is that as part of the work to provide a cleaner skin for Mockups we moved our assets out of a .fla file into separate PNG files. This had a nice side-effect of reducing our skin file size from 3.2Mb to 1.1Mb, just like that!
Other changes and improvements in this build:
Easy! Just install from our download page on top of your current installation. You won't have to re-register.
On June 19th our little company turned three years old! We now have over 50k customers, sold over $6,600,000 of Mockups, and are lucky enough to be working with nine awesome people, doing what we love together. Who knows, maybe we even helped rid the world of a little bit of bad software, which is still our ultimate goal. Life's too short for bad software! :)
I don't usually dwell on things, but I'm letting myself be proud for 5 minutes today. Here's to 30 more years! :)
Hello old friends. If you've been wondering what we've been up to, I won't blame you. We say we release almost weekly and then if you look at this blog, it looks like we do nothing for a month.
Well, that's actually not the case. We have been doing lots and lots of releases (I think we did maybe 6 releases since our last blog post), but we've been releasing myBalsamiq, our web app, which is still invitation-only.
Since I don't want those who are not invited to feel too bad, we haven't been posting release updates for myBalsamiq here. When myBalsamiq finally goes live we'll be posting that stuff here along with the Mockups updates and everything will be back to normal, with weekly or biweekly updates. Give us a few more weeks, and thanks for your patience and understanding.
So we've been totally heads down in myBalsamiq, but we've also had time to work on Mockups for Desktop and on the plugin versions a bit.
Let's see what's new in today's release, starting with a few new features.
This new feature will help those of you who use the linking feature extensively.
Just right-click on a file tab at the bottom of Mockups for Desktop and select "Rename Mockup...": the app will go through all the BMMLs contained in the same folder as the one you're renaming and look for links pointing to the current mockup. If it finds any, it will show you this:
Pick a new name, hit Rename and voilà, Mockups will rename your file and update all the links in all the other mockup files for you! This should save you a few hours here and there... ;)
This one is pretty advanced.
As the dialog says, this is primarely useful if you're uploading a mockup from the Desktop to a version of Mockups that doesn't support symbols yet such as Mockups for Confluence, or myBalsamiq (symbol support for myBalsamiq is getting there...).
The feature transforms the symbols into groups in the exported BMML (without affecting your file), so that the BMML snippet you're sending or uploading is more self-contained. Note that images will still not be included.
You can now place the icon on the right of the label in the "Icon and Label" control.
Thanks to all those who pushed for this feature!
On other news, we added a new member to our Balsamiq family! Her name is Joy, read the announcement here!
We also added a bunch of new recipes to our What should I make for dinner? feature, check them out! Yum! :)
Hi friends, we're doing a quick release of Mockups today to fix a few bugs you've reported and to introduce a new fun and yummy project we're starting up.
First, the bug fixes and improvements:
We know how it is. It’s 5pm, and you’ve just had a glorious day of work, creating awesome wireframes for your next project. You are giddy with excitement, and cannot WAIT to see your designs in the hands of your sure-to-fall-in-love-with-it-immediately users.
And then it hits you: crap, what should I make for dinner tonight?
The eternal question. The hardest part of cooking. Too many options, and none of them comes to mind.
How anticlimactic, going from the heights of creative excitement to the panic of the looming dinner deadline, only a few hours away.
That’s where we come in.
From within Balsamiq Mockups, go to the Help menu and select “What should I make for dinner?”. You’ll be taken to http://balsamiq.com/dinner.
Lots and lots of EASY, EVERY-DAY recipes, in super-quick 30-second video format you can watch as you put your jacket on right as you leave the office.
Just browse through the list of videos, pick one that looks good, jot down the ingredients and run out the door.
Nothing fancy here, this is what we cook for ourselves when we don’t know what to make.
Valerie cranks out a new video almost each week, so check back often. You can subscribe to the YouTube channel’s RSS feed here.
We hope you’ll want to contribute with your every-day staple dinners. This could become quite a cool little library! Wiki-simple-video-recipes-edia anyone? ;) If you’d like to contribute with your video, just email us and we’ll figure out a way to publish it. If you don’t have a video but still want to contribute, send us your recipe via email and Val will try to make it!
Buon appetito! :)
Your friends at Balsamiq
Hello friends, long time no see!
So sorry for not keeping you in the loop more about what's going on in Balsamiq-land.
Although it might seem like we're not doing anything from the outside, the last few weeks have been actually quite intense. I should have done a better job at staggering our work, but I got greedy...it all looked so fun and important! :)
Here's what we've been working on:
As you can see, we did a complete revamp of our website: graphic design, information architecture, updated copy, screenshots and screencasts, better URLs with 301 redirects...the whole 9 yards.
Look around and tell us what you think! :)
This was a MONUMENTAL task. No, EPIC. Mike is a friggin MACHINE, a GENIUS graphic designer and WordPress GURU. We're so lucky to be able to work with him.
Mike will blog about the details of the changes and about our process in his UX Blog later today or tomorrow.
We are only a few check-ins away from being able to share the 1st BIG chunk of this feature to you.
We're going to do a screencast of it this afternoon and plan to release it to the pre-release page tomorrow.
This was also a MASSIVE effort, a huge refactoring of the very core of our code-base. Marco is also a MACHINE and has been heads down on this for longer than most people could bare.
Finishing this feature is our current #1 priority right now.
We made a lot of progress in this area, with almost weekly releases to the beta group.
You can now archive and unarchive projects, follow projects completely via email, and soon you'll be able to propose an alternative mockup as part of a comment.
We only have 3 more releases planned before launch (moving to a more scalable infrastructure, reworking the signup flow and integrating with the payment processor). Exciting times!
We have also released tentative pricing for myBalsamiq, here.
September was a bit tough for me personally. When I first started Balsamiq, I had this vision dream of it being a 5-6 person company one day. I thought that 6 great people were a good size team, yet small enough for me to be able to lead it successfully.
At the beginning of July, we got to that point, and let me tell you, it was a great feeling.
What happened over the course of the summer was a bit of an eye-opener for me: it turns out that if we keep adding 1,500+ customers each month (we're at over 30,000 now), six people are NOT going to be enough to support them as well as we want to.
We also want to do more things now, and as the last few weeks have shown me, it would help to have more hands on deck to tackle them all.
In short, I had to come to the realization that my initial vision was not sustainable. It took me a little while to learn to let go of it, come up with a new - bigger - one, and most importantly gain the confidence needed to lead a bigger team. I'm ready and SUPER-excited now, but it took some time for me to envision this new phase of our company (we call it Balsamiq 2.0). :)
To put it another way, I learned that the needs of the market are more important than the original vision of the founders.
We're not going to change the way we work, we're still growing organically and loving every minute of it. The only difference is that instead of artificially capping our growth at 6 full-time employees, we'll let the market tell us how big we need to be in order to serve it properly.
More on this to come, for sure.
This has been a time of big personal growth for me as well.
I got to fulfill one of my life's goals by speaking at the Business of Software conference. It was an awesome experience all around, but a very scary one as well. I was so worried about it that I made fear and worrying the topic of my talk there. :) The talk was well received, and I can't wait to share the video with you.
Here I am at the speakers' dinner. I know, I can't believe I was invited either! :)
As part of the website redesign I splintered off a new personal blog.
The Business of Software was my last talk for a while. My goal for the next few months is to take each topic from all the talks I gave this year and turn them into different blog posts. I can't wait! In the meantime, go there and subscribe to it if you want to read my ramblings about bootstrapped software startups... :)
This update is a small one, we're still recovering from our first company retreat, which was AMAZING.
You can read all about it in Natalie's trip report here.
Here's what's new in today's release:
We also fixed a number of issues with myBalsamiq, and plan on updating the beta on our production machines this week.
Easy! Just use our badge button below! Blog-via-email readers, head to our download page instead.
Peldi for the Balsamiq team
I mentioned today that I feel like Balsamiq (the company) is really just starting now. The team is in place, the processes are pretty smooth, the revenue somewhat stable, the work for the next year or so clearly defined.
To kick off our company's next phase, I have invited everyone on team Balsamiq and their families over to Italy for 10 days of face-to-face, real-life time.
Valerie, Natalie and Malcolm are coming from California, Mike is already on a plane from New York, Luis will fly down from Paris and Marco will drive up from Bologna.
It all starts tomorrow.
Between staff, spouses and kids, there's going to be 21 of us.
We're staying at a great big villa near lake Como (no, it's not George Clooney's) with a swimming pool, a tennis court and a great big garden. Yes, it's lavish, but I cannot think of a better way to spend some of the profits I've been putting away since day one.
We'll be working together, have fun together, dine together, get to know each other's families... I CANNOT wait!!! :)
I have some activities planned for us to do - like "watch each other work morning" - but like everything else we do, it will be all pretty informal. I think we'll work in the mornings and play in the afternoons. Then, being all in Central European Time, some of us might work some more in the evenings to catch up with our US customers.
If we get to it, we hope to rapid-fire blog about what we do and learn every day on the new Life at Balsamiq blog, we hope you'll want to tune in!
We might be a little slower in our email responses for the next 10 days, and we're not going to have a release next week. I hope you'll understand.
I'd better hit the sack, I have to do 3 trips to the airport tomorrow with the 9-seater minivan I rented! :)
I am thrilled to announce that my very good friend Natalie Gould has joined the Balsamiq team!
We're not sure about what her final job title will be, but "like Valerie, but on Central European Time" should give you a pretty good idea... :)
Based out of our brand new Bologna office (I know!), she will help with sales inquiries, customer support, handing out free licenses to do-gooders and helping me run the Italian company smoothly - dealing with invoices, contracts, expenses and all that good stuff I'm terrible at doing. She will improve our response times for our European customers and free up some of my time for coding, yay! :)
She will also join Valerie's blog, which we are renaming "Life at Balsamiq".
Natalie and I first met in 1999 in San Diego, where I was doing an exchange program with school. We shared a flat in La Jolla and became instant friends.
She's been one of my closest friends ever since... she was even my "best man" at our wedding! :)
There are many reasons I am so thrilled that Natalie agreed to move to Italy and join our company.
Just like Valerie, she's instantly lovable: funny, kind, polite, humble, a great listener, driven by an outstanding moral compass. I know she will be able to handle anything that comes her way... she has the "I'll learn what I need to learn and get it done" attitude that I value so much on every member of our team. If she has one fault it's that she's SO organized it makes the rest of us feel like total slobs. ;)
I can't wait until you get a chance to interact with her, you'll love her.
She's going to spend July and August ramping up and relocating from her current home in northern California, ready to go full-speed starting in September.
It's no secret that my vision for the company is to build "a little 5-star restaurant on the web": family-run, lasting for generations, delighting you each time with an extraordinary experience while making you feel at home at the same time. :)
With Natalie, I think our little restaurant is now fully staffed!
Look at our company page:
Add to that a proven network of awesome contractors, and voila', dinner is served! ;)
I know it doesn't really make sense, given that we are now over 2-years old, but the feeling I have is that Balsamiq really starts now. All the pieces are now in place for us to do whatever we set our minds to.
Another way to put it is that my dream when I started was to put together a stellar little team exactly like this one. Now that we're there, I'm ready to start thinking about a new 2-year plan. In fact, I already have one, although it might be unconventional: I would like everything to stay the same for the next 2 years - a wonderful small group of people doing what they love together, making a good living by helping lots of people be happy because they're building delicious software that makes their own customers happy. Nothing wrong with that, right? ;)
Given our rate of growth, staying small might be hard to do. The fact that we were able to support more than 23,000 customers with 1.5 full-time support staff is encouraging. With 2.5 people, a lot of bug fixes and a good dose of back-office automation, I'm confident we should be able to go up to 75,000 and beyond. We'll see... we hope you'll want to join us for the ride! :)
Please join me in welcoming Natalie to the Balsamiq family. Her email is email@example.com and she's @balsamiqNat on Twitter.
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