These days, people are sometimes surprised to discover I have an engineering background. I normally omit the BSc (CompSci) when I introduce myself.
The last few years I’ve been much more likely to be helping founders with ESOP schemes or shareholders agreements than databases or user interfaces.
But if you go back to some of the earliest posts on my old blog you’re much more likely to find curly brackets than cap tables.
So one of the really delightful aspects of this project has been the opportunity to get back on the tools again and actually build something directly. And also to go again through the very early stages of forming a team who make something more than you could ever do on your own.
The original version of the app (then called HavanaDingus for reasons I’ll have to explain in another post) was built over a long weekend at our studio in Nelson in March 2017.
Nik was kind enough to lend me his expertise and fine taste in optimal coding sounds. We made an iOS app + Rails/ Google Firebase API (to be honest I think tinkering with the later was his primary motivation).
I was actually surprised how much were were able to build in a weekend. It was a functional prototype, including a simple Xero integration, that allowed me to demonstrate to a few friendly people. Rayn in Sydney and Amanda and Gavin in Melbourne had the honour of seeing the very first demos, when we were in Australia the following week.
Encouraged by the response to that I then pretty much did nothing for the next few months (Timely, Atomic and other adventures took priority for various reasons).
One Metric, as it currently is, was started with
rails new on 16th July 2017. I had sketched out the scope for an MVP (with a strong emphasis on the M) and came up with a simple design, with colours inspired by a photo I snapped in Šolta, Croatia in 2016.
Nik continued to help me when he had time and the app started to take shape as an Ember web app + Rails/Postgres API.
Progress was pretty sporadic for the next six months, mostly held back by my completely novice Ember skills. The catalyst for getting it to the stage I can write about now was hiring Jarkko earlier this year. With his dedicated attention we accelerated quickly and expanded the scope slightly to incorporate lots of the feedback I’d got from early demos (thanks to everybody who saw those and provided invaluable feedback!)
As three white dudes of similar age and circumstances it would have been easy for the team to become four and then five. However, I was fortunate to have others involved from the beginning who were thinking about the problem from a different perspective.
Firstly Sacha, who as early as the above mentioned trip to Australia was emphasising the importance of guiding people through the process of what metrics to track for different types of businesses at different stages. At the end of last week I was excited to share some screenshots with her of those ideas we sketched out in a hipster laneway café in Melbourne now implemented.
And Eileen, who we hired to apply her amazing design skills to the mix. She has created a simple but obvious design system that I think looks great. And she’s challenged a lot of the things I had assumed in the user interface and taken off so many rough edges in the process, I’ve lost count. Putting the current designs up side-by-side with what I had previously makes me cringe now. The demo I have now given many times has got a lot shorter during that process, as she has refined the navigation and user-flow through the application.
Before: After: Before: After:
It might be true that if you launch and you’re not a little embarrassed you launched too late. But based on this experience I’d add the corollary that if you launch without first involving a designer you should be embarrassed for different reasons.
I had a moment of crisis one night, when I discovered a couple of tangential products that use a similar purple-based colour scheme, until she pointed out that “purple is a colour in the rainbow”. It’s a good point - we could have easily reverted back to the dark blue I used previously, that is almost identical to half the sites on the internet.
One other memorable moment during the design and build was choosing the font. Given the prominence of numbers to this application I was really keen to find something that really made those stand out. I’m a sucker for a really nice 3, 5 and 8 especially! I’m fortunate to know Kris, who has designed fonts for many famous brands. So I had to ask…
Me: I’m working on this new thing called One Metric. I need a great font for numbers. Can you suggest anything?
Him: Well, you could just buy my font. It's called … Metric.
The tally logo is all my own work, for now - and was a good chance to learn a bit more about SVG editors in the process. I’m told that I’ve drawn it left-handed, which should not be surprising. Hopefully nobody is too offended by that. If there is anybody reading this that wants to have a crack at improving it, which again shouldn’t be too difficult, I’d be interested to talk with you. Especially if you are able to animate it for us.
Next I'm going to need to spend more time on customer validation, working out if this thing is valuable to anybody other than me, rather than being so deep in the code. But I’ve throughly enjoyed this phase and am, at the end of it, proud of what we’ve made. I can’t wait to show it to you all now.
In the next post I’ll include some video…