Can't believe that several weeks have passed since my last post. Financial year end and the re-branding of my day-job company might have something to do with it. Today is also the day we publish the first enterprise wide performance management dashboards across our company. A big (and hopefully successful) step towards bringing more accountability across a diverse media group. If I suddenly change jobs this week then you will know I was wrong.
Turning from the macro to the micro of a software startup, it has also been an eventful few weeks at Six Degrees Of Data (6DD). Despite the technical successes of our linked open data application we were unhappy with the user experience. So in June I launched a UX competition at DesignCrowd. This is one of a number of online marketplaces that have arisen on the web over the last few years. I chose DesignCrowd because they were recommended to me by a friend and they are based around the corner from me in Surry Hills, Sydney.
I've no idea why the latter was important to me but it gave me a good feeling to know that I was (in some small way) helping another Aussie startup. That and the fact that my previous experiences with 99designs (yet another Aussie venture) were not great. They weren't bad either, it's just that I didn't get the wow designs that I had hoped for.
In terms of budget, there is not much difference in the pricing models that I could see. Either way, at a cost of a couple of thousand dollars, we had a chance of getting a new look and feel. Now I admit that directly engaging a talented UX designer would almost certainly deliver a better outcome but the cost was not attractive to us at this stage. We are bootstrapping 6DD and trying to follow lean startup principles. In short, cash is treasured almost as much as equity is.
In this respect 6DD is a bit of an experiment for me. In previous ventures I have taken on external financial partners or provided substantial funding myself. This time we are funded on the smell of an oily rag and we hope to launch to market having spent under $100,000. That's $100K plus a bucket full of blood sweat and tears from the founders of course ...
DesignCrowd was an interesting experience. We didn't get many responses to our design brief (and many less than with 99designs) but there was one designer who stood out to us. He was the clear winner and within a few short weeks we had a full set of re-designed screens. I guess it goes to show that quality trumps quantity most of the time. Finding a single great designer was all we needed.
We are very happy with the results. They still may not be perfect due to time limitations, but they are much better than they were. Also, we have yet to beta test them, so only time will tell if they 'work' for our future users.
There was also the announcement from Apple of iOS 7 that happened right in the middle of this. Initially I didn't like it but it has definitely grown on me. Apple has also subsequently changed some of the typography they recommend so we have taken the plunge and Bridger will reflect the iOS 7 design guidelines.
Here are some sample screens to give you an idea:
Remember, our product is called Bridger - hence the screen backgrounds.
It has also been an interesting challenge to develop screens that perform well on mobile devices (primarily the iPhone 5) and in browsers. HTML5 continues to impress me with its capabilities - but maybe it is more due to the skill of the 6DD technical team and they should get the credit. It is becoming difficult to tell which interface (iPhone or browser) you are using when they both support gestures in identical (to the user at least) ways.
I have great hopes that HTML5 will help us in the near future to rapidly create and support other platforms such as Android and iPad.
The tech team are currently integrating these screens into our back-end application and I hope to report soon the completion of our first beta release.