Let’s cut back to 2008. 37 Signals had been on a productivity march unprecedented in web application development. They were the de-facto standard in most web apps, as well as the voice behind how the new web studio worked.
We drank the Kool-Aid more deeply than most. We made our first foray into remote workers, our first pushback against meetings, and a concerted effort into being a next generation development studio. All of this was built on the back of 37s apps.
Sure, some of us seemed to struggle with the organization of the apps. Sure, the remote workers among us always felt slightly more isolated than the rest. Sure we split our time between multiple browser windows always wondering what was happening in the other.
We were logging our time in one app, chatting in another, keeping track of most things in another app, but a few others in another app still. Finally we were doing the bulk of our work in Jumpchart, and feeling even more disconnected for it.
Un/luckily we hit a relatively slow period in our design studio workflow, and we decided to see what we could do to fix the problem.
We started with chat, and built on top of that. We wanted to keep the keyboard central to the experience, and push the mouse to the secondary experience. (maybe because we’re primarily programmers?) What eventually evolved was “Staction” —a weirdly named app that was a sort of Twitter that also allowed you to tag jobs, and todos right there in the stream of the chat.
No joke; Our workflow changed overnight. We were so much more connected, so much faster, and honestly, so much happier. Staction was our water cooler. Our meeting room. Our buddy chat.
As much as we loved it, Staction was also a commercial failure, never making more than a few thousand dollars a month. We still use it today, but it’s apparent that it is on it’s last leg. Slower, weirder, and more out of tune with the modern web all the time.
Change the world?
Despite our effort to change world, Basecamp is still a world dominating force, and Staction is an aging novelty. Why? We built Staction for nerds. That’s not to say a niche product cannot be successful, it can! but it needs a unique marketing pitch, and a unique process to sell. We built a niche product, and marketed it like a mass market product.
So of course the history is written. Basecamp owns the world of productivity, so much that 37S is changing their name to that of their most successful product. Staction never owned a fraction of a percent of the mass market… But we still cannot give the stupid thing up. Here are a few reasons why:
- We hate switching between apps, tabs, and keyboard to mouse.
- Basecamp, apologies to the king of the world, feels like talking to a filing cabinet.
- We need to log time as we work, not as yet another thing to do.
So we continue to try out Basecamp, and a myriad of other apps. All brilliant at some facet of group work or more, but even more-so deficient in the next. And so we continue to use an app that we haven’t found time to update much since 2010 for our day-to-day.
Cut to today
We’ve been actively working on a new version of Staction for quite a few months now. It’s been a wild mess, and we’re having a blast digging into it. We’ve already got one failed demo under our belt, and we’ve started in on a few new exciting rounds of mockups. Maybe this is headed nowhere, but we want to share some of our progress with you.
Showing people your half baked ideas is terrifying really. It’s going to be great!
Paste. This blog. Our apps. Jumpchart. You might know some of them, most of you don’t know all of them. We’ve never been a “culture” type of company, so if anyone is actually reading this post, you are one of the few. We don’t push the blog, we don’t repeatedly email, in a lot of ways we do a crap job of running this business as a business in the normal sense.
There are reasons why. You see, although Paste is a huge part of our lives, our profits, and our vision of the future; it’s not what we spend most of our time on. Some of you may know this, but we’ve never broadcast it. Our main business is as a design studio called Entermotion.
This business has thrived since 2001, and it’s our bread and butter. Quite honestly, without the revenue from the studio, we couldn’t do what we do with Paste. But it’s tough to pretend to be all-in on one thing when you’re part way into something else.
This means the blog is often stagnate. Features are sometimes delayed. Support is fast, but not as fast as it could be. Etc. You’re distracted, you don’t do your job as well as you could. It only makes sense.
How did we get here?
When we started Paste, we didn’t do it on purpose. We made Jumpchart because we needed it, and decided to make it a product after the fact. When Jumpchart started to get a following, we decided to spin it off under it’s own brand. We didn’t want to confuse out new customers. and we really didn’t want to confuse our existing clients. We could almost hear it… “Are you working on my project, or your own stuff?” “Are you going to hit the deadline, or work on Jumpchart?”
Even now, the decision sort of makes sense. But fundamentally the path forward was based on an untruth. We pretended that we were two companies, but in actuality, the same employees split their time.
Not being able to be 100% open to either audience meant we often didn’t bother talking to them at all. Regardless of the justifications, it was a bad decision to “split” the businesses.
Cut to today
Today we know several new facts that might have changed our minds back then had we known.
- Our design clients actually only respect us more knowing that we actually build the applications that help people plan websites worldwide.
- We have over 100k accounts in Jumpchart! (many of which are dormant, —but still) and the reason is because we built what we need. Many people also need what we need.
- The Paste users we have don’t care at all if we actually also design sites as a business. They don’t see us as competitors, but as fellow peers in their industry. That much more capable of creating tools to help them do their job.
We’re sick of having multiple blogs email newsletters and etc. to update. We’re one company (currently with 15 people) that build client websites, identity packages, and also web apps. We’re proud of that fact, and we don’t see a reason to gloss over it anymore. We want you to know what we deal with, what we suffer with, what we’re trying to do, and what we’ve just failed to achieve.
Honesty. Plain old. So look forward to a different tone here. We can’t promise to update any more often than usual, we’ve got a lot on our plate. Documenting that is not the top of the list. But when we do talk, expect more gravity. We’re a small business with a lot of challenges. A lot of goals, a lot of ambition. We fail more often that we succeed. And we think it’s going to be a more fascinating story to read.
The Blendtec videos were viewed over six million times within five days of their posting on YouTube and on Blendtec’s website. They’ve been viewed more than 100 million times since.Keep Reading
You may have noticed we recently launched some updates to Jumpchart. We wanted to cover a few of the highlights in case you missed them.
Improved Print Styles
If you’re like us, you like to print things sometimes – helps to have something physical to mark up, and it gets old looking at the screen all day. Now your printout look more like what’s on your screen – with content and navigation organization fit to show clients if you so choose. We also eliminated all the extra browser elements that tend to crowd a page.
Export to PDF
Introducing one more way to share projects with collaborators and clients (in addition to inviting them to the project, or showing them a public wireframe, of course). Now you can export the full project to a PDF – and send that file however you’d like; via email, physical copy, zip drive – whatever. As you know, a PDF holds its formatting across browsers, and even operating systems. No matter how outdated your client’s computer is, they’ll see what you see.
Sitemap Printing Support
Now the sitemap is easier to print, too. The new graphically enhanced sitemap will show the organization of your project in a succinct layout you can pitch to anyone.
Export to Drupal
Jumpchart already supported WordPress exports – the most popular CMS on the web. Now we’re supporting another one of the biggies – Drupal. Your full site export is now only one click away.
Focus on Content
A clean screen is a must. Now you can zone in on the task at hand by eliminating all other elements on the page. You can even choose to work on a light or dark colored background. Don’t worry, your editing menu will still be accessible with a quick click.
Dumpster Divers – Rejoice!
Just because something is in the trash doesn’t mean it actually belongs there. If you’ve ever accidentally deleted a page (and all its subpages…), you know the feeling of panic that immediately ensues. Now, recovering your “lost” content is as easy as reaching into the trash and pulling it out.
The More, the Merrier
Add another win for efficiency – now you can invite multiple collaborators to your project at once. There’s plenty of room in the invitation field – and you can still add a personal message to them.
We’re not sure how, but it’s time again for our annual Holiday Break. We’ll be out of the office until January 2, doing things like hanging out with friends and family, chasing kiddos around, and maybe succumbing to a nap here and there. Our response time might be a little slower than usual until we’re back in the full swing of things.
If you have an emergency during the break, just shoot us an e-mail – we’ll do our best to get you taken care of as quickly as we can.
If you’re using Jumpchart, you’re probably organizing content for a website project. And if you’re working on a website project, you probably know you’ll have to get feedback… at some point.
The hard part is deciding when. Early? Before you get into the nitty gritty? Or later? After you’ve already done the hard stuff? There are pluses and minuses to both. But because you’re using Jumpchart, you’re lucky… you can go either way and still stay on track. Here’s how.
Getting Feedback Early.
Picture this. You have big ideas for this site. You can’t wait to get started, but you’re working really closely with your client. Your idea of a partnership is a give and take – and that means feedback every step of the way. So you work through the architecture of the new site; that’s your step one. Maybe it goes something like this. Once you have that knocked out, it’s time to show your client. You have two options for letting your client see it. You can either invite them to the project (with full access, or read-only access – your choice!), or show them the public link to the site map. Inviting them to the project allows them to make comments on each page. Those comments will stay with you throughout the project’s existence, so you can always refer back to them to make sure you’re staying on the right track. You either get instant approval, or you and your client work through initial revisions together. Then you move on to the page-level content. Since you’ve already shown your client, they have access to your progress, and can provide feedback as you go. Your project progresses at a pace you’re both happy with, and as always, you can refer back to notes because they’re right there in your Jumpchart project. Keep Reading
I’m a big fan of putting words before pixels, but I’m aware that only gets you as far as launch. What do you do after the big red button has been pushed, and the whole world knows about your website?
Keep adding content. How? By developing a content strategy. This is totally a 30,000 foot view of what content strategy really looks like, but there are others who do a much better job of getting down to the gory details. In a nutshell, figure out a plan that answers these questions: How will you let people know you exist? Will you blog? Will you tweet? What will you say? Can you pull this off using one voice? Have one underlying message? Keep Reading
You’ve heard it here, you’ve heard it everywhere: content comes first. But that’s actually not entirely true. There’s something even more important that comes before content. It often gets lumped in with the content planning phase, but I think it’s important enough to have a blog article all its own.
You know, the real backbone of the site. This is actually my favorite part of planning a site (nerd alert, I know) because it forces me to really focus on what the site’s purpose is. Kicking off content creation for a project, I have a bunch of notes scribbled in my notebook: headline ideas, tone concepts, calls to action, or things the client has mentioned they want included. It starts to pile up on my desk, but before I pay attention to any of it, I put together the thing that will tie all that chicken scratch together. Keep Reading