Thursday 26 August 2010

Week 4: We are….

We finally have a face and a name. For anyone that has read my previous posts, you'll know we had a real struggle with creating a logo.  Luckily, we were able to locate a great local designer called Aegir (  We chose him because he has excellent web application design skills, but he is also a font nerd; and that is apparently a good thing for logos.

We found that having a big sheet of similar logos all together made it really hard to choose one.  Once we cut them out and looked at them in isolation, it was much easier.  We also dropped them individually into a sheet of logos from other companies in our industry, and it looks more modern and more technical; which is just what we wanted. We hope you like it, but if you don't, please be gentle.

Once we had the logo, we could create our holding page for the (still to be built) website.  Mike had his heart set on Wordpress so I gave it a shot for him.  We installed it OK, but once I tried to make a simple holding page, I realised it was total overkill. You should never have to work harder to create something simpler.  We've given up on Wordpress for now, and reverted to good old HTML/PHP.

Other progress this week has been in the software development.  We've made great progress and it's looking good. Of course, the easy bit is writing it, the hard bit is making it secure, robust, and fast. That's still to come.

So what do we do? Well, that's something I'll leave to our site to explain in the coming weeks.  Chances are that our product won't be for you, but hopefully you'll still like us and be interested to see if we succeed or not.

Excitement levels: Surely it can't be this easy?

Thursday 19 August 2010

Week 3: Keep it simple and choose who we compete with

We've settled into a routine here at start-up towers but that doesn't mean we've been getting complacent.  Last Thursdays we dragged our user interface guru; Andy, up to the office to do our first user experience session.  That's where we sit in front of mock-ups of our application and decide whether it's any good or not.  Lucky for us, Andy isn't shy when it comes to telling us we've missed a trick, and we were quickly looking for ways to improve the user journey.  After an hour or so of bouncing ideas, we got to a completely different way of creating the journey and I reckon the users' are going to love it.  You know when something is right, and we were buzzing all the next day about what we'd created.  Thank you Andy, you're a legend.

In other developments, Rog and I have put our heads down and coded away at the basics of the system.  With my new framework, and our new way of under-complicating everything, we've made great progress.  Funny, we're finding that everything can be made simpler, and I think when it comes to a start-up, keeping it simple is so important.  We've got to make it past the first few months yet, so no point worrying about whether a decision now will affect us in year two.

The final news is we've just finished our latest roadmap lunch.  The outcome was really interesting.  Firstly, don't order fish finger sandwiches from the Fountain Head (under-whelming), second we really have to focus on what we want to sell.  With software it's so easy to think "we'll add this bit on here and that bit on there" and before you know it, you've got an application suite on your hands.  We don't want that, we want to be the best at one thing, and be indispensible and seamless at providing that one thing to our clients.  If we keep focussed on that, and justify our product choices that way, then I'm confident that we'll get to our destination as quickly and inexpensively as is possible.

Excitement levels: Look at the size of our database!

Thursday 12 August 2010

Week 2: Home sweet home

We're in! I kind of expected an office to be a "nice to have".  I didn't expect it to be something we'd sort out in the second official week.  We've only committed for three months, and it isn't using up too much of our precious cash, so it feels like a good move.  Thanks to Nerys and Charlotte at for getting us in so quickly.

In other developments, we've been using to create the mock-ups for our software.  So far the experience has been more positive than negative, and at just $59 for the year, it is certainly great value for money.  We have our first usability review tonight, and if it goes well then it's a big step towards understanding how our software will actually feel when using it.

After our unhappy experience with we took a different approach to find a designer.  We decided to only look at freelancers, because we felt you get more for your money and we decided to only look at people in Brighton and Hove because we wanted to be able to meet them easily.  So we got onto, searched the directories, and then we went through all the websites reviewing their portfolios.  It is incredible to me why a freelance designer wouldn't have a decent website.  If any of you are reading this, here are my tips as a potential client: get a website, make it usable not an art project, put your contact details, oh and make it clear you want me to call you no matter what project it is.

We had a meet-up with the designer we found, he's a great guy and we're kicking things off straight away. A good designer is another thing we've decided we can't scrimp on.  If the software doesn't make the users feel the way we want them to then it'll fail, and that really would be a waste of money.

Finally, today is our first roadmap lunch.  We wanted a way to let Mike explore the excitement he has for the future without being an interruption to our development.  Development needs momentum, and interruptions are a killer.  Of course, Mike's imagination and excitement is what made this company possible, so we don't want that lost either. So, we have a designated lunch hour each week, Mike runs it, and we don't get stressed that we should be coding. Should be fun.

Excitement levels:  Can't talk... coding.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Week 1: Go!

So, here we are; a company. At least, we will be when we get our certificates of incorporation, but every day it feels as if "the company" becomes more real, more tangible than the day before.

Our sales strategy is to get a trial product ready for 1st November 2010. That's just three months from now, and we started officially on Monday.   Of course, it's not like a development cycle at Pure360. There we would be starting fresh every few months.  Here we have an accumulated history or thinking, waiting and planning. For me it's a few months, for Mike you can count it in years. So are we ready? Hell yes.

Three months to develop a brand new software product and not a bad start this week.  We've signed off a project scope, and I've decided to try something different with the specification process; we're creating a "functional workflow". I'm not sure I'm using the right phrase, but we've worked out what data is needed at what points without thinking about the user experience. This'll form the "restrictions" for when we design the user experience. I'm hoping that by doing it this way, we'll catch more functional issues so we don't get so many re-designs later in the development. It's a hunch, but I don't believe in blindly following someone else's system.

The advantage of having developed software for so long is that I know if my development team has the right skills. Our team was light on user experience knowledge and interface development skills. Roger and I can ace the rest, but get to building an interface and we don't shine. We went looking and were lucky enough to find the right man for the job.  He's a user experience don, an interface whizz, and just the right amount of crazy to want to help us in his spare time. We'll have more on him in the future.

It's easy to think that all we have to do is write software, but I'd say it's like we're juggling with one hand but we're also trying to catch balls with the other; there's companies house, setting up a bank, investigating payment systems, getting a logo, sales and cost forecasting, not to mention that little thing called sales. For us, it was a simple choice; Mike is the company, Roger and I are the tech. Mike has beavered away in the time he has available and we're making good progress in catching those balls (note to self, avoid "balls" analogies).

Last thing, we've decided to get an office for the period of the trial development (and probably beyond). We think the investment will pay back in improved efficiency. I think that as a collective that'll probably hold true. Thanks to twitter, we hooked up with the lovely people @CECBrighton and hopefully we can sort something out with them pretty soon. If we do, then expect a 'moving in' pic next week.

Excitement levels: We can do this.