Every system ought to be changed once in a while. Previously, I wrote that every two weeks on Monday we will release our summary of our latest sprint. These write-ups tell our users about the changes that were released that morning around 8:00 AM Amsterdam time. Well, guess what? We switched to Thursdays! And instead of every two weeks, we will have weekly sprints. So, even faster progress! This week: dossiers… we completely updated them.
In addition to bragging about our new features, I also like to shed some light on our internal processes. Last blog I wrote about how we manage our backlog, this week I want to talk about The Matrix, Photoshop & Sketch. In other words: how do we go from concept to implementation?
Designing our features: Beer, Coffee, Bike Rides, The Matrix, Photoshop, Sketch, Trello and more
It is incredibly important that FastPortal looks and works great. So how do we make that possible? This is a multi-step process:
Beer & Coffee: The most important first step is discussing the feature amongst the team. We get a bunch of us together, grab some coffee or a pint and talk through the feature or redesign. What is the objective? How will we make the user happy? What to avoid? What other apps have gotten this perfect? We might make a few sketches, but mostly this is really informal and loose.
Bike rides & Showers: Gestation! An idea or feature needs to bounce around in our heads for a little bit. The best ideas usually pop into existence during bike rides, showers, dates with our wives or while looking at other people’s designs. This step can take months, but at some point we see some room in an upcoming sprint and it becomes time to write specs and make designs. For that we step into the Matrix. Also known as Room 1A in WeWork Metropool.
The Matrix: Whiteboards! We love whiteboards! Can’t get enough of them! So when we moved into WeWork Metropool and found a room that is basically one giant whiteboard, we (especially Dylan) went nuts. In this room, we think out the entire feature. From small details to larger elements. By writing and drawing on the walls (don’t try that at home), we can spitball ideas a lot quicker than on paper or a computer. Also: you have to stand in this room and standing improves our creativity and energy levels. Standing and coffee. A lot of coffee!
I prefer doing these sessions on a Sunday, but the other guys are slightly less enthusiastic about that. After we cracked the puzzle and think that we know how to solve it, it’s time for Dylan and his guys to open up Sketch or Photoshop.
Sketch & Photoshop: Now we make stuff digital. Because a whiteboard is a very different medium than a webpage, it is important to see if the ideas actually work within our design and the constraints of a browser window. This can be a fairly lengthy process with many, many iterations. At this stage we lock down everything from font sizes & colors to placement of elements and buttons we want to make available. Sometimes, but usually not, we have to go back to The Matrix to rethink a few things.
Trello & Google Docs: The final step is to put it all together. We write up just enough description, so Theodor and his team know what to build, add the images from Sketch or Photoshop and put the ticket onto out Feature Wishlist Board in Trello (that is the board I discussed last time). Now it is ready for Theodor to estimate the amount of work and then plan it into a future sprint!
This week we only have one really major thing that we worked very hard for: the new Dossier page design! This is a process that has been going on for months. Especially the gestation period (bike rides & showers) took a long time, because we wanted to get it as close to perfect as we can.
Primary Feature: Dossiers Page
The dossiers page is the core of FastPortal. It is where people can find all the information, documents, timelines and more about their services. The previous design was looking a little bit dated, especially given our awesome new upload, filtering and Quick Note functions. So it was time to completely revamp the dossier page. This was a massive group effort that took a lot of coordination to pull off, but I am sure you will agree with me that it looks terrific!
- We made some design changes to how our lists look and work. Much better, if you ask me!
- For the sake of clarity we renamed a few things throughout the application;
- It is now possible to see a full history of invoice reminders (this is necessary for proper bill collection);
- Some small ease-of-use things (for instance, we now remove blocks when an employee resets a password);
- We’ve started (baby steps) implementing a nice little feature where you can get basic information about any person in the system, simply by hovering over the name. This will be expanded and rolled out throughout the application;
- You can now reassign an individual workstep to another employee with just two clicks; and
- We have completed our migration from Amazon AWS to Microsoft Azure. Perhaps I’ll write a blog about why at some point.
If you have any suggestions on how we can improve FastPortal, please let us know. Just send us an email at email@example.com or stop by our offices at WeWork Metropool in Amsterdam (The address is Weesperstraat 61, but please call ahead so we can make sure we can have your favorite drink ready for you!)