Kanban, It’ll Rock Your Productivity

In modern society we’re always on the lookout for new ways to eliminate waste and improve productivity. In our personal lives, and especially in day-to-day business, productivity improvements are seen as the holy grail, to be strived for and achieved each and every day.

We’re regularly inundated with new tipsideasconceptssoftware and strategies. But which way do we turn? How do we sort the good from the bad? Today I’m going to show you a way that’s as simple as its name is short, one which will help you increase productivity with a minimum of effort — it’s called Kanban.

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A Github Issues tip that will make your life easier and 4 GitHub tricks and facts

Just a few days ago Github announced their new update of Github Issues. You can see the updates with some screenshots from here. Also, please take a look at the new Deployment API if you haven’t already.

Move beyond the simple Issues

Starting at the same day something else were released, not by GitHub, but still connected to Issues. Let me show you, how you can use a chain of tools to make your GitHub Issues even more useful for your team.

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Super Powers for Web Developers

These days being a developer isn’t an easy task. Among all the tasks and challenges you already have to deal with, you need to deal with bugs. And here’s the rub, most of the time bugs, specifically client-side bugs, are submitted by end-users. We see 3 key problems with this:

1: Most Users Are Not Tech Savvy

It’s true and whilst we not say it to them directly, we know it. The user knows something’s wrong, because the website is not working for them, but they don’t know why, how to fix it or how to report it.

Try asking your Grandmother what JavaScript is for example. I’m sure it’d be a short conversation. And some users don’t know what the browser is. So how can they properly describe the problem?

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Designers are from Venus, developers from Mars

Every good web team should have at least one designer and one developer. I think we can all agree this is out of the question. Of course, you will need to have other “titles” to keep everything going, but today we will focus on these two because we think we can help you make them more efficient without hacking their comfort zone.

We know that because we are a team of designers and developers and we are using the same approach. It helps us work better together, be more efficient and have fun at the same time.

What is the problem anyway?

If you are running an agency or a web project team you probably heard conversations like this one:

Designer -Developer talk

I am sure you have similar misunderstandings in your own team. The problem is that the designer is approaching the problem differently compared to the programmer.

For him/her moving a layer 3 pixels left is 11 milliseconds, but for example, this can be 30 min of work for a developer and usually, he/she will use the same words – “move this layer 3 px left, please”. There is no such thing like layer for the programmer.

On one hand, you’ve got the designer’s creativity and thinking about the details and on the other hand is the way how the programmer thinks about a problem and what is his/her approach to finding a solution.

Let’s not go deeper but this is a problem and we know how to easily solve it.

The Solution

I’ll keep telling you how we actually solve issues like that in our team and in our clients’ teams.

Please read carefully because this is how you can solve your communication issues, make your team more efficient and ultimately have 8 man-hours more per week. That’s a whole day!

We are using something called “visual annotated screenshots” in order to help designers and developers to be on the same page.

Instead of “Can you move this (pointing at your monitor) 3 pixels to the left?” how about this?

can-you-move-these-3px-to-the-left-pleas

The designer can show what exactly he/she needs, using the tools that any designer is familiar with.

The developer will get a bug report in the project management system you are using with all the necessary details, plus:

  • browser version
  • operating system
  • screen size

and more data automatically collected to help them work better and to understand what the designer needs exactly.

Additional details

The staging server

Most of the successful web projects are using a server where they can deploy the current snapshots of the projects so developers, designers and the rest of the team, we will not mention in this article, can work together.

Usersnap can be installed on this server with just few lines of code and will bridge the communication gap between programmers and developers. Now they are on the same planet (remember the title).

They live on the “Completed on time”-continent.

Do you have the same problem?

Probably if you are reading this and if you are here, you do. So let’s get started? Oh, if you don’t have a staging server, don’t worry, you can use Usersnap on any server and website.

(Also feel free to forward the instruction to someone who is responsible for setting up things like that)

  1. Sign-up for an account with us by clicking here. It’s free for 15 days and we will not take your credit card now.

  2. Log in and configure your first project: Usersnap_-_Your_sites_-_2014-06-05_15.10.46

  3. Hit Save and use the code that will appear to embed Usersnap to your web project.Usersnap_-_Your_sites_-_2014-06-05_15.14.13

  4. While there, take a look at the right side of your browser – here you can set up where the feedback will be delivered – you can use bug tracking system, project management system, helpdesk software or even your own internal solution

Usersnap_-_Your_sites_-_2014-06-05_15.15.23

Not convinced yet

Feel free to contact us by writing help@usersnap.com.  It’s always nice to know who we are working for day and night.

How to automate your Web Design Sales

Usersnap is a great tool to help you give your clients the web design of their dreams. But you gotta get those clients first. We ran into Quote Roller at the Pioneers Conference in Vienna last month and we just knew we each had tools to help each other’s customers with their feedback.

We share a growing base of rockstar web designers, graphic designers, SEO saviors and other small creative businesses just looking for fast and easy ways to show off their work and close more deals.

Quote Roller is a business proposal software that allows you to create, send, track and get legally, electronically signed sales quotes in minutes. Instead of simply writing boring, boilerplate content, why not use your proposal as a way to both address your clients’ needs and to show off your work? We say, instead of spending pages writing what you can do, show them!

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So we attended this Web Summit thing in Dublin…

As we were selected for the Alpha Program of the fourth annual edition of the Web Summit (undoubtedly the biggest tech conference in Europe), Florian and I spend our week in Dublin. With the evening activities involving pub crawls, after parties and get-togethers with fellow startuppy people, we definitely had a great time in Ireland. And we also got some important business stuff done.

On Tuesday Advantage Austria had prepared a ‘Pitch Perfect’ seminar for a group of Austrian entrepreneurs. Paul O’Dea (CEO, Select Strategies) warned us right off, that there’s no 1-to-9 plan when it comes to creating a pitch for your company. Using the battle-card canvas, he explained how explaining which problem or pain you’re trying to solve with your product or portfolio for your sweet spot customers, delivering measurable value and beating the competition at the same time, helps you drill down to a paragraph that functions as your larger pitch.

As challenges on the way to a perfect pitch, our group mentioned their struggles with picking the right storyline. And what if the product is very technical? Profiling our sweet spot customer, Paul suggested to filter them by the following ‘characteristics’: Continue Reading “So we attended this Web Summit thing in Dublin…”

Save Bug Fixing time with Usersnap

At Usersnap we strongly believe that an improved feedback and communication process will save you (and your team) a lot of time spent on communication in your development process. Picking the right communication tools does not only directly result in better workflows but also affects the time needed to fix a bug which is particularly important if you are publishing your code continuously.

Communication: Development costs’ secret hideout

Phone calls, meetings, IM chats and screen sharing sessions are efficient ways to discuss bugs and planned improvements of every software development project. There are two stashed requirements here: two people need to communicate at the same time. This is not a roadblock if you are sharing a desk but it can be a challenge if you are working in a distributed team or if you simply don’t want to interrupt your colleagues.

On the downside, one-on-one communication is only effective if nobody else needs to be involved after the topics have been discussed. As the famous group intercommunication formula for a team of N people still is N*(N-1)/2, even small teams should focus on effective communication to reduce the communication overhead.

If you are working in a startup environment (e.g. a team of 10) and take into account that some issues will be reported by your customers (e.g. +10 people you should listen to) you easily end up with 190 possible combinations of one-on-one communications streams. Online SaaS productivity tools like bug trackers and project management tools are basically striving to solve this problem by enabling people to communicate in groups, asynchronously. Anyways, the root cause of misunderstandings lies somewhere else.

The inconvenient truth about bug reports

Well, crafted bug tracking tools help you to keep up with the communication challenge. However, in the end, clients will send bug reports and feature request by email which will lack the context of the perceived bug and might read as:

“The blue button does not work”

This is exactly what’s perceived but there is little help here for solving the bug as it requires to guess the context of this bug. Specifically, in web development, it is common to deal with browser-specific bugs (“It works in Chrome but not in Internet Explorer”). Also, the rise of responsive web design introduces another important information to reproduce perceived issues on web project: the current user’s browser size. Developers know what’s necessary to reproduce a bug but clients and users who want to report bugs may not understand why a good bug report necessarily needs some contextual information.

If you are exceptionally lucky those emails might contain a word document with the collected issue or even a PowerPoint presentation with sketches of your clients’ suggested UI improvements. Continue Reading “Save Bug Fixing time with Usersnap”

How to integrate Usersnap in your development workflow

Usersnap can be integrated easily to any type of web page. The Usersnap help page offers an overview of how to integrate Usersnap in your site using a simple JavaScript snippet. We offer various CMS plugins for WordPress, Drupal or Joomla – but it doesn’t end there!

If you want to customize your Usersnap integration – for example: show it only to logged-in users, or add additional backend information to the report – you need to include Usersnap manually in your template. Are you a PHP, Python or RoR dev? Then you’re in luck, as we describe how to integrate Usersnap using those languages in this post! Speed up your development workflow!

Include Usersnap with PHP

Save your Usersnap snippet in a file called usersnap.inc.php which includes your API-Key. You can even fetch this API key from a config file or environment variable.

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Continuous Feedback through Continuous Deployment

When you’re developing a product, you’re constantly surrounded by questions like, “How can I improve my product?”, and consequently, “What’s the next step to take?”. There are 2 ways to answer these questions:

  1. Ask your customers
  2. Decide yourself

Ask your customers

Asking your customers appears like the better solution: You’re building the product for your customers, so they should know what they need. Unfortunately, they don’t. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Your customers are biased with current solutions for their problems, that’s why you can’t expect true innovation from them.

Decide yourself

It’s your task to innovate, not your customers’. The problem is that you don’t understand your customers’ problems entirely in advance. Your most important task as product developer is to learn to understand your customers better than they understand themselves. Make a hypothesis about what your customers need and then try to prove (or even better: refute) this hypothesis. A hypothesis is always a guess, but you will become better and better at guessing the more you validate. Continue Reading “Continuous Feedback through Continuous Deployment”

Getting things done with Asana and Usersnap

Asana is a shared task list for your team, keeping everyone on the same page. Asana’s mission is to empower humanity to do great things. Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, both Facebook alumni, created the project management tool to help take that step; to improve the productivity of individuals and groups. Implementing it at Facebook, the results were promising: fewer meetings, the volume of emails went down and the teams got more done with less effort.

Now we are all-in for less emails, especially the ones that come with a subject along the lines of “It does not work, FIX IT“. To help your visitors, customers, and team members describe what they (don’t) see on a page you need a visual feedback tool. Working with Asana already? That’s great, then we only have to connect your Usersnap account to your Asana dashboard!

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