Group things that belong together

After our release back in August where we improved the usability of our layer system, it’s time for another major feature on our road to redesign pidoco: groups. With the current release you can group several elements together such that they behave as one single element. You can move them, clone them, copy them to a different page, do whatever you like, without the need to first select all single items. It is also possible to add groups to another group.

Why is this a major feature? Because groups will become custom stencils in the future. To be more precise: you will be able to convert a group into a custom stencil that is available in your palette. This way, you will be able to change several occurrences of such a stencil at once by modifying the custom stencil. But this is future talk, for now there are just simple groups.

This not being enough, we also added two new stencils: unordered and ordered lists. They can be edited similar to the way you define the hierarchy of a menu but are converted to the HTML ul and ol elements. All entries that begin with stars (*) are unordered items and all entries with the hash (#) are ordered items. This way, you can also mix both types in one list.

Do you have ideas for further stencils? Are you missing a feature very bad? Have a look at our feedback forum and add your thoughts or vote for existing suggestions.

New Release: Improved Usability of Layer System

Some weeks ago I blogged about how we are redesigning pidoco. Yesterday, we finished the second iteration of Usability Tests. Although we did not yet analyze the test results in detail, our impression is that we did the right steps with this iteration and we may now continue with designing some details.

In the meantime, we started with improving the layer system of pidoco. We know of many people who struggled with the layers and needed some time to understand how pages and layers are related to each other. Another issue was the way too long list of layers that you got when prototyping for a while.

The new implementation solves these issues with just a small change: every page may contain elements itself. You can think of a special layer for each page, that is not shown in the Global Layer Repository. All elements of a page are on top of any layer that is visible on the page, but you still may rearrange the global layers among themselves. To represent this special layer (or better to say, the page) we added a new item on top of the global layer repository, which you can choose to edit the elements just as you would choose a layer:

The big advantage of this system is that if you want to you may ignore the layers completely and just work with pages. And once you are at the point that things get too complex on a page you can add layers to structure things. Without all the layers that just appear on one page the global layer list is a lot less cluttered now. An improvement we only realized while implementing this feature is that our word export now makes a lot more sense having a chapter for pages and one for global layers.

We’d be happy to know what you think about this improvement. Please feel free to chat with us and tell us whether this helps you or is just confusing you.

Funky Code: All Things Technical

This blog is intended to cover many different things around Usability and Wireframing and some related stuff we do at pidoco. In some situations we were hesitating with publishing things of our daily work at pidoco that are rather technical and might be a little misplaced in here. Therefore, we started the blog funky code a while ago with some of our fellow students from Hasso Plattner Institute where we can publish all our ideas about web development, working at a startup, project management, or what just comes to our mind.

Today I published the second part of a double blog post on JavaScript testing (first part) and how automated tests can be integrated into a continuous integration server (second part). If you think that such topics could be of interest to you, please feel free to bookmark http://fun.kyco.de or add it to your favorite feed reader. If that is not the case, you won’t be bothered with these things in here anymore.

Eat your own dog food: Designing the next version of pidoco with pidoco

We have been using pidoco ourselves for years. But right now it is getting more interesting since we are working on the next version of pidoco.

In our usual development cycle of three weeks we concentrated on many smaller improvements and little features that help you prototype faster. With the next version we want to implement bigger improvements like adding more structure to the repository and editor, allowing for easier reusing of smaller components within your prototypes, or increasing the flexibility regarding the interactions that you can model with pidoco. This will include the suggestions that we received through our uservoice forum or that were mentioned in our support chat.

Making such big steps will be a nice challenge that we are facing. Currently, we are developing a prototype of the final version that is supposed to include all changes we would like to do. After some initial brainstorming a while ago, Tino started to create the prototype. And he surprised me with some very creative elements, like the little boxes with a ‘V’ inside, which are menus with just one top level entry. They act as simple hover menus, very similar to our current context menu.

Having this initial prototype, we invited some few people to remote usability tests. They were asked by Tino to do some simple tasks, mainly navigating through the given dummy prototype. (Now it’s getting recursive…) Since we used our own tool, we did not have to travel to Frankfurt am Main or Hamburg to meet the people for one hour of test. The complete session was recorded, including all mouse and keyboard interaction and the voice of both Tino and the test participant. That enabled me to review the test sessions, making notes, and collecting all the ideas that arose throughout the tests.

With the notes I spent most of this week in modifying the prototype, applying some simple ideas from the tests, and thinking of solutions for issues we realized during the tests. Following will be an internal review with our team and, possibly in the course of the next two weeks, a further round of remote tests. Until now I’m quite happy how everything worked together. Conducting a test with no setup time, handing over the prototype to different people to work on without any hassle, being able to describe many ideas in the prototype without too much work.

Once we think the concept is kind of finished, the real challenge will start. We do not want to lock our doors for two years and implement the next version in one step. We’d rather like to cut the concept down into manageable pieces that we can implement in a short period of time. Usually, we tried to deploy a new version every third week. This time we might have to break with this rule, but my hope is that we can do most things within 6 weeks (two sprints) or at most 9 weeks, which makes a new version at least every second month. That said, let’s see how it will be in reality. I’ll write some updates every now and then…

Now back to my prototype.

UXcamp Europe: wow!

Wow!

That is all I can say about the awesome feedback we got after the UXcamp Europe taking place a week ago.

To give you an idea:

  • @elreiss: “UXcamp Europe in Berlin was a SMASH success. Thanks to the fab organizers for making this happen. And keep it open and dynamic!”
  • http://twitpic.com/1sh7mw: “Ranjeet Kumar came from India to #uxce10 and says it was a best conference he ever attended (other were paid).”
  • Hilko Holweg (maczarr.de) “Das Camp zählt zu den besten, die ich bisher besucht habe.” [The Camp is among the best I ever attended.]

During the closing session on Sunday some were suggesting to have the UXcamp take place either twice a year or make it 4 days long. Well, this might be a little too much for us to organize, but maybe there are others out there who want to do a camp themselves. We’d love to support you in that, so please speak up!

One thing we should not forget is that we only set the infrastructure for the weekend, but the participants filled it with live. Therefore, we have to thank for 57 great sessions (Saturday and Sunday). You can find many of the presentations on slideshare, where we even were a featured event! Many people helped us at either serving coffee all the time or taking care of the cloakroom, which we couldn’t have done ourselves. So, a big THANK YOU to all the 400 people who came to Adlershof to share this weekend with us.

About a third, maybe even more people were traveling a long way since they are not living in Germany. Some were even coming from different continents! We are really happy that we were able to welcome you in Berlin. In my opinion it is quite exceptional that so many people traveled that far just for a BarCamp.

When meeting people after the camp a lot are asking me: “You are doing it next year as well, don’t you?” Well, we have not yet talked about that. It is quite time consuming to organize a BarCamp for 400 people. On the other hand, I have the impression that if we won’t do it again, people might get angry with us and stop talking to us. We’ll let you know…

UXcamp Europe is on the finish line

It is just two days until our second UXcamp will take off with the warm up party. The badges are already printed and prepared, 11kg of coffee arrived last week, lanyards and t-shirts arrived today. We are just preparing the session grid and after having a look at the session proposals we hopefully have enough rooms for all the sessions. I can’t help it but I have the urgent feeling that we might have forgotten something. But I guess that is a necessary feeling two days before a big event!

Today we also signed the last sponsoring contract. We are very pleased with having so many sponsors supporting the UXcamp. Without them we would not be able to host such an event and make it free to the participants. Oh, and talking about participants: it was a pleasure to read all the countries on the badges where people are coming from. We have several attendees coming from overseas! In addition, we recognized some pidoco users on the participants list. It would be a pleasure to get to know you in person, so please approach us during the camp.

Hm, still thinking that I forgot something… Anyway, see you on Friday at Volksbar or Saturday morning.

Prototyping and Project Management going hand in hand

When managing a software project, a lot of the time goes into specifying what the software should do and what it should look like. Once the specification is written it is transformed into many small tasks that have to be assigned to different people working on this project. Designers have to develop some shiny screens, developers have to write the code in behind, maybe the UI has to be localized into several languages, just to name some. However, we all know that there is no project where the specification doesn’t have to be adjusted to new requirements. At this point many project try to adapt some facets of Scrum or other iterative approaches to keep the project manageable.

To date, there are many different tools available that support the project manager in handling all this, one of them is plan.io. We at pidoco use plan.io for quite a while right now and are really happy with it. Since we also use pidoco to create wireframes that represent the major part of our specification, it would be nice to have some kind of integration between the two systems. Having the prototype in the plan.io wiki where you can write some explaining texts around, but at the same time being able to click through the prototype to feel the intended interactions, would be great. In addition, when people comment the prototype using our review feature, most of the times it results in new tasks that we have to do in the next iteration.

From now on this becomes reality. We have developed a small plan.io app that integrates pidoco prototypes with the wiki with one click. In addition, there is a list of all discussions to the prototype, where each of the discussions can be transformed into a new task. On top of that we put all the discussions into the plan.io activity stream, which you can grab the RSS feed and get regular updates of new comments to your prototype. In order to try our plan.io app you need to have both a pidoco and a plan.io account, which you can both test for free.

As already mentioned above, there are plenty of tools out there and you are probably using a different one. However, if you let us know which one, it should be easy to integrate pidoco with your tool as well. While developing the plan.io app we also started developing an API, which we plan to publish soon, for those who would like to write their own integration. More on this is coming soon.

Product Release: Colors and Permalinks for your Prototype

This weekend we added two new features to the pidoco Prototype Creator: colors and permalinks. From now on you can choose the border and fill color for rectangles and ellipses to highlight certain areas of your prototype. We also added a semi transparent grey filling which you may use to create overlays and modal dialog boxes, similar to what you see on the screenshot.

Get a permalink to your prototype

For the second new feature we slightly modified the invitation dialog and added a new feature to the invite menu entry. In this new dialog you get three links, one points to a png image, one to the sketched html, and the third to the plain html version of your prototype. You can choose the page they will point to and copy paste the link into your wiki or send these links via chat to your colleagues.

UXcamp Europe opens tickets next Wednesday

The first European UXcamp will open the ticket lists on next Wednesday, 3rd of March. Be prepared to register and grab your ticket since we expect the tickets to be gone rather soon. However, there will be two separate lists, one for all Germans and one for our international guests, so there should be enough tickets for all foreigners. If you need some advice for booking your trip, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

To all of you who plan to give a presentation or workshop, please have a look at our Session Forum and add a note on what you want to talk about. We hope to see some very exciting sessions!

New Product Release: Custom Stencils and Dollar Payment

This weekend, we added some new things to pidoco. First, you can now pay in dollar directly with a fixed price. Since many of our test users live in the USA, we thought this might support you. There are no more exchange rates to consider or some special fees from your bank for paying in Euros. Prices start from $9 per month and user. You may want to have a look at the complete pricing list. The free trial remains with 31 days which you can use to extensively test pidoco.

The second thing we added are custom stencils that you can create. We thought the most likely case is that you want to have elements in your own style. Therefore, all images that you upload or add via URL are automatically added to the stencil palette. From there you can use them just like you use the other stencils: simply drag them onto a page. That not enough, we made all images linkable. You can set a target just as you do for a button or a link. This way, you may create and use your very own buttons in a pidoco prototype. Since some pictures may be rather small, you can give them a name that is visible in the palette to distinguish similar looking images.

This is only the first step in adding custom stencils to your prototype. What would you like to be able to do regarding custom stencils? Let us know, either by leaving a comment in here or by adding your idea to our feedback forum.