Maintaining the Participant Experience of UXcamp Europe

It seems almost incredible, but UXcamp in Berlin exists for already 5 years now! Pidoco has been supporting the UXcamp from the very first days by initiating and growing the event. When we started back in 2008 we  were curious to find about 200 people interested in gathering for a weekend in Berlin to share all kind of things about UX with each other. The 5th time now there were more than 500 people coming from all kinds of continents, which feels just incredible to us.

UXcamp participants

UXcamp Europe participants in 2011

With growth comes always the question of how to maintain the quality of the camp for the next years. To me the main quality of UXcamp Europe is the Participant Experience, i.e. the reason why we can read statements like

When we started to design the first UXcamp we took all our own experience from previous BarCamps and tried to figure out what is key to such an experience. It resulted in a whole lot of small details that we tried to execute to perfection while at the same time allowing for enough flexibility to encourage spontaneous ideas and creativity of the participants.

Being the first time this year that I was able to just participate I was able to observe all those small details. Many of them still work well, but others are at risk to influence the overall participant experience. During several discussions, the big question was the size of the event and whether it might be too large already. It is difficult to say what the best size is, but I had the impression that it was a little too large this year. Especially during the session planning on Saturday, the Audimax was overcrowded with people leaving no space on the stairs and still standing at the doors. Since the opening session is really important to establish the intended experience, it is also important that everybody is able to fit into the room.

The second big thing is the ticketing. First, I often heard people saying that you don’t need a ticket to come to UXcamp Europe, which is just not true. Yes, we never put anybody at the entrance to reject those without a ticket, but this is also one of the key parts to establish an open environment during the weekend. Therefore, we definitely rely on everybody to be honest with the tickets. Whoever thinks he or she can just appear at our UXcamp without a ticket I have to tell you that by this you are putting the participant experience at risk since otherwise the organising team might feel forced to hire security guys for the doors.

Second, this year tickets were gone within a few minutes such that many many people ended up in a huge waiting list. We feel honoured to see so many people being interested in attending UXcamp Europe, but on the other hand there are also many people who grab a ticket in first place but don’t show up and don’t return the ticket early on such that others might have a chance to make use of those tickets. Returning the ticket just the day before the camp is not very helpful since people have to organise the trip a few weeks in advance by booking hotel and flights. What could be a solution? Selling the tickets for a low price is one. However, this would brake the original BarCamp rules and therefore, it is not easy to decide for such a solution. Another minor improvement might be to open just a few tickets a time such that people have several opportunities for getting one. Would this help much? I can’t say. Maybe this is a point where the shear number of interested people is just too big for our venue and we have to live with the fact that many can’t take part every year.

Another thing that is always a risk for the participant experience: with so many people there are always a lot that just consume. These have to be remembered that a BarCamp heavily relies on the participant’s contributions. This time I didn’t hear of many such “consumers”, but I know there are. There are always things that have to be done during the event where the participants should give a hand to the organising team. It also should not be the role of the very same volunteers every year to do these things. I’d be happy to see all those “long-time volunteers” to be able to enjoy the whole weekend next time because there are enough others that willingly show up to help at the different spots, like the coffee bar, the cloak room, the help desk, etc.

That said, let’s all together work on maintaining the participant experience of UXcamp Europe to be able to enjoy the same unique spirit also the next five years!

Best regards,
Volker

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New Version: Saving Clicks in our Context Menu

This weekend we installed a new version of pidoco with an improved context menu. It is not a lot that has changed. For example, we now have simple check boxes for all those yes / no properties of the elements. We also improved the Target selector, which now contains collapsed folder entries and grows in width for long page names. This helps you find the target pages for linking even faster. The options menu in Pidoco

In addition to the context menu, we also made a lot of changes in the background. With this new version we finished about half a year of work on many internal components that serves as a preparation for new features. Throughout the next months we will add several new versions that will allow for designing more interactions in your prototypes.

Until then we hope that you enjoy working with the new context menu!

Adding Folders and Custom Stencils

As already mentioned in our previous blog post about the new navigation that we implemented, there were a few new features that had to be finished before we can continue deploying the new version of pidoco. That is also the reason why we weren’t able to deploy this yet, since the features first had to be tested and stabilized to include them into this new preview. Up to now we have finished four out of the five open issues that we mentioned in the other blog post:

Navigation to other pages

We added a little menu to each breadcrumb that opens when you hover over the little grey arrow as shown in the screenshot. It lists all the elements on the same level and you can pick one to switch to that view. We also added a button that opens the desired view in a new browser tab such that you then can easily switch between several views. This way, navigating through your prototype should be as fast as before.

Folders

You can now add folders to your prototype where you can put anything inside. This allows for better organization of all the pages, layers, etc that your prototype contains. In order to move an item to a different folder, use the context menu. A drag and drop moving into a folder has not been implemented yet.

Custom stencils

We already have layers to reuse groups of elements across several pages, but they are always at the same position. From now on you can convert a group of elements into a so called custom stencil that then appears in the palette and can be added anywhere in your prototype. You can add several instances of it to the same page, you can choose different positions, and any change will automatically be applied to all the instances.

New visual design

Since it already took longer to implement things up to now, we skipped this part and will change the design in one of the next versions.

Stability

A whole lot of bugs have been fixed already, but there are still some left to be fixed. As long as we are not satisfied with the quality we won’t deploy the new version. However, it shouldn’t take very long anymore until we reach that point.

Let us know what you think

We would love hearing from you what you think about this new version! If you have any suggestion or feel that there is something important still missing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Many thanks for your support!

After a long journey: our iPhone app is available

It has been three months ago that we added the pidoco Mobile Edition for you to create specific iOS prototypes, which you can run directly on your iPhone or iPad using our new apps. Since then we were discussing with Apple to get our iPhone app into the store. Today, we’re happy to announce that the app finally is available in the App Store!

When you search for it you may notice that we have a Pidoco app that is for 99 cents and a Pidoco HD app that is for free. You may ask, why you have to pay for the app? Unfortunately, Apple’s App Store policies prevent our app from being free because pidoco° itself is a paid service. So, for your benefit, we chose the minimum possible price. With the iPad version of our app we were just lucky to get it approved before we made our pricing public, therefore it is still for free. But once we have to add a new version, this is likely to be changed.

If it were for us to decide you would get the app for free. However, we preferred having the app in the store instead of having no app at all. Our hope is that you will understand that to date it was not possible to get a free pidoco app into the store. Having now achieved that the app is in the store we will continue to think about a solution that both satisfies Apple to make some money with our app and you to get the app for free. After the last three months, I’m not yet convinced that this solution will be possible in the short term, but we’ll work on it.

Oh, you haven’t heard about Pidoco Mobile yet? Please read this article that describes how the mobile edition works.

Our biggest improvement is on the finish line: the tabs are gone!

As you may know from previous blog posts (Redesign, First Step, and Second Step) we are working for quite a long time on improving pidoco with a completely new navigation of our prototype creator. We do this in preparation for a few new features like folders or your own stencils.

The most visible change that we did: we removed the tab navigation and introduced a breadcrumb navigation. Have a look how this will look like in the future (we plan to deploy this into our live system in November):

The first row of the pidoco interface now contains three elements: to the left we added two buttons that navigate back and forth in your browser history. Next to them is a breadcrumb component that always shows where you are in your prototype. In the upper right corner we placed some helpful links, like our support chat.

The new features in detail:

  • Breadcrumbs: whenever you open a page, screenflow, or layer for editing, the breadcrumbs will show where you are. You can do various things with them:
    • Open the context menu to edit any property of the given item
    • Edit the name by double clicking on a crumb. This works also for the name of the prototype
    • Navigate to other items (not yet included in preview) by choosing it from the list of items that are on the same level
    • Open the item in a new browser tab by pressing Ctrl or Cmd while clicking
  • Browser Tabs: you may know our real time collaboration feature. We now use this feature to sync several native browser tabs with the same prototype. This way you can open the same prototype in several tabs (or windows) and have all the pages or layers accessible that you are currently working on.
  • Browser History: we enabled pidoco to track in your browser history where you have navigated while prototyping. This allows for using the history back and forth buttons. You may use the native browser buttons or the two buttons in the upper left corner, which do the same as the native buttons.
  • Bookmarks: add the pages or layers that you need most often to your bookmarks. Since we enhanced the URL, the prototype can be opened directly in any specific page or layer.
  • Global layer in Prototype View: up to now, we only show the pages and screenflows in the prototype view. With this version, we also added the global layers such that you can immediately open a layer for editing, no matter on which page it is visible.

In the current preview we have only two levels for the breadcrumbs: the prototype view and any other view in the second level. With only these two levels, the breadcrumbs may not yet make big sense. However, we plan to add further levels soon. Both within the prototype (folders) and on top of the prototype (maybe something like projects that wrap several prototypes). Especially with the folders you will realize the full power of this feature.

These screenshots show the different views and how the breadcrumbs and the URL change in all the views. For comparison, the following screenshot shows the current (old) version with the tab navigation.

When will this be available?

We know that people prefer what they are used to. And because of the big impact of this change on the way you use pidoco, we decided to give you the chance to preview what is coming up before we deploy this feature. This way you can get a feeling of how to use pidoco in the future and the surprise is hopefully not too big when we have this in our live system.

The current state of the preview is not exactly the state that will be deployed. These things will be done before deployment:

  • Navigation to other pages: we want to add a feature to the breadcrumbs that shows you a list of items on the same level, where you can open any of these items with one click. Currently, it is required to go one level up and choose the item to open, which is a step we want to provide a shortcut for.
  • Folders: we very likely will add folders to your prototype such that you can organize your pages and that the breadcrumbs will make more sense.
  • “Custom stencils” (working title): a while ago we already started working on a feature where you can create your own stencils out of a group of elements. Our plan is to add this feature as well, because we were missing only the breadcrumb navigation to complete this feature.
  • New visual design: together with the breadcrumb navigation we developed a facelift of our visual design as well. Although we didn’t decide it yet, we may include the new design as well.
  • Stability: although we did a lot of tests for this preview version, we did not yet fix all the tiny bugs. Until we deploy this version you can be sure that we will fix all of them.

The time frame for all this to become the next version of pidoco is November. We will create another preview version a few days before go-live to show you how this will finally look like.

What if I have an idea / feedback on this?

If you have had a look at the preview and want to get in touch with us, please go ahead and let us know:

We are looking forward to talking to you and hearing your feedback!

Pidoco Mobile: Create and Test iOS Prototypes

We’ve constantly been asked whether we do have some specific iOS stencils for pidoco. Today we can say, yes we do!

We are starting the roll-out of Pidoco Mobile with a private beta phase where you may be added to create iOS prototypes and test them directly on your device. Some of you may now ask, ‘and what about Android?’ Once we have fully rolled out the iOS part of Pidoco Mobile we start working on Android, so please be a little patient about it.

What is Pidoco Mobile?

It consists of two parts: the web application for creating the iOS prototypes (as you know pidoco already, but with new stencils) and the iOS app to simulate the prototypes on your device.

For the web application, you need to have a modern browser on your desktop PC (or Mac, for sure). We officially support Firefox, Safari (Mac only is recommended), or Google Chrome. On top, we heard that Microsoft IE 9 is working well, too, although not yet being officially supported. The iOS prototypes that you can create do run only in these browsers plus Opera and IE 9. We skipped the support for the older IE versions (8 and earlier) to simplify our development efforts. In general, if your browser supports native SVG then it is very likely to run our prototypes.

The iOS app provides you with a list of your iOS prototypes. First, pick one of these prototype and you see its pages. Then pick a page and the prototype is opened in either the sketched or plain mode. Take it from there to test your prototype, get a feeling for the correct sizes and measurements of the elements, and see whether your concepts work. We have added a demo account with which you can try a prototype of the Facebook app to give you an impression of what’s possible. The pidoco app is available for both iPhones and iPads.

How can I participate?

To install the iOS app on your device, please sign up with testflight right from your device. You will then have to register your device so we can add it to the builds of our app. (You might have heard that for such a test, we have to add every single device to the app for it to be installable.) If you followed the above link then we will be informed and can create a new build that we then can send you. To install the build you will have to open the link from the email on your device, the rest is done by testflight. UPDATE: we finished the private beta phase. It will be released soon for everybody to use.

If you already have a pidoco account, then we need to activate the iOS prototypes for that account. The best way is to send us a short mail (contact@pidoco.com). In case you have not yet an account you may create one and use the 31 days free trial. In this case we also need to activate your account before you can create an iOS prototype.

I have feedback. How do I let you know?

We know that this beta version of Pidoco Mobile might not yet be complete and that you will very likely miss a feature. If we know about this we can add it to our development process. There are different ways of how to tell us such ideas:

Just pick a channel to talk to us, we’re happy to hear from you!

(Please note that we created the Facebook prototype on our own and only for demo purposes. There was no involvement of Facebook.)

Use our Chrome Web Store-App and find our Easter Egg

Together with Google Germany we have developed an app for the Chrome Web Store to ease the access to pidoco.com if you are using Google’s browser. To install the app simply open the (German) store with Google Chrome and search for the pidoco app. After you installed the app, simply open a new tab to see it listed.

Play with the pidoco app and find our Easter Egg

We have hidden a little surprise in pidoco if you are using it through the Chrome App. You just have to play around and try all our features, at some point you will stumble upon it. Once you found it make sure to follow the links and get into the raffle for some shiny chromebooks!

Happy searching!

Hunting for Performance

We just applied some hot fixes to our JavaScript Code that improves the server roundtrips while editing a prototype. We received reports about this performance issue for quite a while, but were unable to find the cause for this until now. From a developer point of view, it is always difficult to work on such things if you cannot reproduce it on your machine or in some test environment. In this case, I was lucky to chat with a user last week, with whose prototype I could see the issue and identify the problem. Today, we found a solution that lead to a speed improvement of a factor of 10. We hope that you can feel this improvement when you work with pidoco from now on.

The change of today is one in a series of performance improvements that we did during the past months. In January, we were able to speed up our database and optimize every request to our server. In February, we could improve the loading time of the rendered prototypes and show the contents of a page earlier in a page load. And now in March, we again accelerated the server roundtrips, but this time the part in your browser. Since we do rely on your feedback while working with pidoco, we’d appreciate if you could give us another challenge for April. Which part would you say is still too slow? Where should we continue to hunt for performance? Let us know!

Changing our UI: introducing the ‘prototype view’

UPDATE: Today, December 23rd, we deployed this new version with a short delay. Thanks for your patience.

A while ago I posted about the redesign of pidoco and how we implemented the first step of it. Now the second step is approaching.

In about a week we will deploy a new release of pidoco including a major change in the UI. Since we change the ‘home screen’ of the prototype, we felt the need to announce this modification ahead of time. The screenshot shows a preview of this new home screen, that we call the ‘prototype view’.

This view contains all the pages and screenflows of your prototype represented as icons in a grid. The upper part shows the pages and the lower part the screenflows. Both lists are ordered by name, giving you the possibility to adjust the ordering by changing the names. In order to add a page you can either click the ‘+’ button next to the ‘Pages’ title or use the new ‘add’ icon in our toolbar. To open an item, just double click on it as everywhere in pidoco.

In contrast to the screenflows we do not use thumbnails in the prototype view for one reason: performance. Although browsers have become a lot faster than two years ago, they still have trouble rendering complex vector graphics. Therefore, we use simple icons for each item. Our goal is to accelerate opening different pages, which you had to do via a screenflow before.

Another improvement that comes with this new view is that we can hide the panel on the right hand side for both the prototype view and the screenflow view. This provides you with some more screen space when working with screenflows, especially if you are using a rather small screen.

We expect this release to arrive the next weekend, so be prepared to a different look of pidoco when you open your prototypes the next week.

Stories told by UX professionals

When working with people you collect a lot of stories about and around your profession. Jan Jursa, a good friend of us, has collected 42 such stories in a free eBook UX Storytellers. People he met at different UX conferences and events have contributed to this project, among whom are names that you may already know (Dave Malouf, Mark Hurst, Henning Brau, to name a few) and a lot that at least I have not yet heard of. Nevertheless, you will find stories about all kinds of topics: accepting Star Wars at work, how a UX pro goes car shopping, how driving a cab or sex and drugs lead to being a UX pro, and the famous Acme Corp appears as well. Thanks to a sneak preview I was able to read a few stories, so I can tell you that it is worth having a look at this collection. Happy reading!