Friday 29 October 2010

Week 13: Countdown to collection

Our beautiful offer calendar

Most of this week has been spent testing.  We've had some useful assistance from our payment processor, Datacash and especially Kieran (lady) who spotted a problem with our testing and helped us fix it without us even asking. Nice.

If we were having competitions with who draws the shortest straw, then I'd say Mike had it clearly in the early weeks with having stacks of forms to fill out.  This week though, it's firmly in Roger's hand.  He's working through a spreadsheet of 215 PCI DSS security compliance questions. We completely agree with the need for standards, but there is a sense that the "one size fits all" approach creates a few anomalies. Still, better safe than sorry.

We had yet another great session with Andy this week.  It feels great having time to spend looking at the completed application, loving the workflow and tweaking the design to improve the experience.  Now that's how software development should be. It shouldn't be a race to the finish where important principles are abandoned to meet an arbitrary deadline. Oh no. [Firmly dismounting now from my high horse].

So, we wait; ready to launch. What's more, this isn't just new for us and our client, this is new in the market, and what happens with us could change that market for everyone.

Excitement levels:  Wound like a spring. Expect sparks.

Friday 22 October 2010

Week 12: Our first customer

It's not hard to wake up with this view

In our twelfth week as a company we have our first customer. It's a great lift for us at Savvy towers, not least because it helps assure us we aren't just three deluded geeks sitting in a room. What's more, becoming a customer isn't a one off thing, it's an on-going relationship, and we can't wait to reward our first customer with the joys of using our application.

As far as the software itself goes, we've completed the first phase features and next week is for testing and for tweaking the user journey.  When we develop, we have to sometimes skip over little bumps so that we can keep momentum.  What we don't want to do is leave those bumps in there for our customers to trip up on. I think we might need the services of our trusty UX sandpaper (Andy).

We've been monitoring the tea rounds recently, and there has been a distinct shift from one morning and one afternoon round up to two rounds morning and afternoon.  This may seem like a little thing to you, but I felt it might be sensible to record it here in case it later turns out to be significant. You never know.

Keep it in your diaries: we go live proper, 1st November. It will be an exciting day.

Excitement levels:  It feels like the calm before the storm

Thursday 14 October 2010

Week 11: Tonsillitis and trade shows resident baby gull 'screech' and mom.

Ok, well I guess I deserve the first calls of "sick note" for the company. With one tonsil the size of a small peach, I was confined to sick bay all of Monday. Still, with Roger never taking a sick day in his entire life, and Mike not showing any outward signs of human physiology, I suppose it was destined that I would be the first to show signs of weakness. Thankfully, I was rescued by penicillin and hot Ribena, and was back at the coal face the next day. Joy.

The day I returned, Mike was off at our first trade show. It was a specific event for technology in the debt recovery industry; pretty much the perfect event for us. So much so, we were discussing attending the event before was no more than a few scribbled notes and some garish PowerPoint slides. We couldn't have dreamt we would have already run our product with live data, already have sales collateral, a website, some prospective clients (real ones) and an office. I think this has been our first "look how far we've come" moment. I'm sure we'll have many more in the future.

As for the trade show itself, Mike pounded the floors and listened to our competitors' pitches like an undercover spook, and the feedback is, we have nothing to worry about. I can't wait until next year's event, we'll have some serious reality to show those guys and it'll look beautiful.

Inside the (slightly sick but not too bad) office, we've plugged in our payment provider, so our customers will be able to actually pay through the system. Still a lot of testing and design work to complete, but I'm already excited about converting the great engagement rates we achieved in our test run into cold hard cash.

Next week the whole payment process will have a lovely (Aegir designed) face and it'll be great.

Excitement levels:  That graphical calendar is going to look sweeeeet!

Thursday 7 October 2010

Week 10: Website, pricing and futures

Our new website with the alternative phone version
It's been an important week at the residence; we've put our marketing website live, worked out our pricing model and discussed our future.

At the end of last week we were putting the finishing touches to our website.  We've designed the site to achieve goals for two clearly defined user profiles.  I love that the site we've come out with doesn't look anything like the standard sites. I guess either they have different user profiles to us, or they just don't care about the user experience.  Can you explain why every single item on your website is on the page? We can, and that makes me smile.

The next big thing we tackled this week was pricing.  We'd kind of avoided it as long as possible, because it's scary.  In the end, we decided that no price list is ever going to be perfect, but we can at least make sure it's simple to understand.  I'd say we've achieved that with ours.  We had a weird, "what, so that's it?" moment when we came up with it, but it feels good to make it simple.

Another big development has been about our futures.  We've all kind of trundled along knowing that at some point we needed to formally agree what we each get from the company at the end.  It's really clear we should have had these conversations much earlier, and waiting was a bad move.  Thankfully we're now much clearer on everything and it's a big lesson learned for a new start-up - get it sorted early.

Finally, progress in both sales and development has been rocketing along this week.  We're deliberately keeping Mike honest; "If it ain't signed it don't count".  Rog and I are claiming we're one up because we delivered a working application. Mike prefers the analogy that it's 1-1 at half time, but Rog and I have had more of the ball. You can take an analogy too far!

Excitement levels:  What, another deadline smashed?