Jack Holmes

Posts tagged “mystartup”

2:30am, writing code. You can take the person out of a startup, but not the startup out the person.

Me, finishing off traintweeter.com.
Finalising wireframes for tomorrow :) Working on some cool business features! (Taken with instagram)

Finalising wireframes for tomorrow :) Working on some cool business features! (Taken with instagram)

App Signup

Our app is nearing completion, we’re pretty much just a few days away from wrapping it up and sending it off to Apple. As with many apps, it automatically logs into your account when you launch - so I haven’t actually seen our signup / login page for months. 

Initially, when we designed the app it was just a simple two box form. As we’ve developed more features, added Facebook connect and other things the ‘stuff’ on the first page has grown and grown. I was in for a shock when I looked at it today. It’s turned into some hideously confusing mix of forms, buttons and text. Even I’m not exactly sure what all the buttons do or how I sign up. If I don’t get it, I can’t expect users to figure it out for themselves. Although we are trying not to add any new features, so we can just get shipped, this needs sorting in my opinion. We’ve opted to remove a few features because they don’t work as well as they should rather than take the time to improve them.

Back to the drawing board, this afternoon I’ve been working out how to best organise the page. After looking at multiple other app signup processes I’ve decided Twitter probably has the most intuative. Facebook is shockingly bad whereas Path has done a pretty nice job including a great introduction to the product.

Adding a tour is something we’ve been working on for a while, but it’s not going to be making an appearance in the first app release. All I needed was an idiot proof signup page. 

The majority will be signing up for the first time unless they’ve registered online first. Ideally all users with register with Facebook because it’s simpler and we don’t have a connect with Facebook option after signup. (For reasons I wont go into).

I’m thinking a massive blue ‘Log In with facebook’ button in the middle, followed by ‘signup with email’ and then a ‘Log In’ button at the bottom. The big blue button will work regardless of the user setting up a new account or if they are logging into an already created account. 

Lesson learnt, don’t just give your developers tasks to add stuff. Always ensure everything has been developed with the user in mind. 

Tonight I teach myself InDesign (Taken with instagram)

Tonight I teach myself InDesign (Taken with instagram)

Oh that’s coming soon….  (Taken with instagram)

Oh that’s coming soon…. (Taken with instagram)

Start-Up Business: Why Your Startup Doesn’t Need a COO

This is an interesting read. Working for a company which may be getting a COO in the new year I have to agree with the majority of points. I’m unsure in the early stages of a startup exactly what a COO would do all day. In my view it’s of paramount importance that the CEO is focused on product. We all know a startup which puts its business case before the product might make a small profit but is inevitably doomed. Having a person who is just focussed on running day to day activities would take some peruser off the CEO. Allowing them to focus more on product. Someone to focus on accounting, HR, marketing, PR could well be valuable.  In a small company though is there really that much to do? 

You have to consider whether the money would be better spend on more designers or developers. People who can actually help us ship product more quickly.

When it comes to scaling the business having a person who has been there are done it all before would be invaluable. In the beginning stages however, I’m not so sure it’s completely necessary. Of course this is all dependant on the company and skills which other team members have.



It’s very common for startup companies to have COO’s. So I know I’m getting myself into a bit of trouble by writing this. But …

Startups don’t need – shouldn’t have – COOs. I have this conversation with every startup that comes to see me and has…

What can people do before registering?

We had this debate in the office a few weeks ago, trying to determine between letting people see the benefits our site will give them, but not letting them get too much without giving us their email address to make them a proper user. We came up with a few options:

Here’s why I argued against the top two points

First off lock the site down. This just seems bonkers. When you’re launching something new, especially when you’re bringing a new way of doing something, what’s the best way of telling people what you’re doing. Well yes you can make a video and create a jazzy ‘learn more’ page and I’m not saying don’t do those things. I believe though the best way to tell people what your product does is to show them real people using the site. To lock potential users out with only access to a few screenshots and some words just doesn’t cut it.

I’m no big fan of the second either, although it is probably better than the first. This works great because users can navigate the entire site, take all the advantages that your site can offer but you get no relationship with them. You hope to high heven that they like the site enough to sign up. I’m always up for a gamble but this just seems to much of a risk. You could well have many people using your site but only a small percent of people are actually registered users. With my business hat on, that’s a bad situation to get yourself into. 

My view and what we will be doing is a mix of the both. It’s important to show people the value of the site, but don’t let them get too much before signing up. That sounds perfect but how are we actually doing that? 

First off if a user posts a link to their social network streams linking to a post they left on our site - we want all their friends to be able to see the content which the user has left. People coming from links into the site can see the content their friend has left, but that’s it. If they want to do anything else a big box pops up saying ‘hey buddy, you need to sign up before doing that’.

Another idea which I’m not sure if we’ll actually end up doing is to put links to popular posts onto our homepage. As a person who’s maybe read an article about the site they can see the content left by others without signing up. They will then be stopped if they try doing anything else with a signup box. This hopefully means they get the idea of the site and can see how some real people are using it. For the user to get any real value however they must signup.

The trick is showing them enough to get them excited and signed up. Exactly what that level is I’m still to work out. 

Post inspired by a question asked by Startupdreamer.

App Marketing

I’ve been working at this company for 5 months now. So far I’ve been doing user experience stuff, user interface design, product design, troubleshooting, copy writing, video making, social media, user growth, business case, product planning and generally as the CEO put it the other week ‘throwing grenades at everything we’re doing’. I’m sure there’s a bunch of other stuff too, but that’s all that came off the top of my head.

Tonights topic however is App Marketing

We’ve pretty much built a kick-ass app, with a great website to go with it and have the video. What the hell do we do next? Thank God for Google and Quora. 

Having read quite a bit my conclusion is that app marketing is a bit of skill and quite a bit of luck. The general conscientious seems to be mixed:

That’s the blog dilema right there, any help would be appreciated at this point.

Some things which everyone does seem to agree on are:

Things to avoid - getting your twitter account suspended. Yeah that happened. Not a good start.

Seriously though if anyone has any tips / has done this before please message me, if you’re in London I’ll happily buy you lunch v66jack@gmail.com It will be much appreciated. 

OK, where are we now?

Clearly this isn’t everything but in the last few weeks:

Still on track to get this in the App Store sometime in January.

Not exactly sure what we do after that… Only one way to find out I guess

Disclaimer - yeah I’ve forgot about this. [Again]

I promise to try harder next year. Maybe I’ll make it one of my resolutions - blog more. Yeah, that’s a pretty cool 21st century kind of resolution. Just in case anyone actually wants to know about the startup here’s the latest scoop:

We now have a video which explains the product. It’s pretty good actually, maybe a bit detailed but I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out. Will be premiered on our site when the app hits the app store. We’ve got our new ‘look at us we’re building something so amazing your nan will wet herself when she she’s it’ landing page. So people hitting that page sort of get what we’re up to. Before you would have been forgiven for thinking we were building a game.

The online product direction has sort of gone back to where it was originally in an attempt to build a user base. Although I’m new to all this, I get we sort of need one of those. So there’s been a bit of back pedalling in that department. 

We’ve moved offices to a building with one of those really posh boiling water taps. I’m pretty sure that’s why we chose it.

Still waiting for the app to be finished, we’re expecting next week, so we’ll be going out to all of our beautiful beta testers and I’m sure they’ll rip it to shreds. On a serious note though I think it’s pretty good.

If you’re interested in my lame excuse for not blogging it’s that it’s coming up to coursework deadlines so been busy with uni work and preparing for a trip to India that never happened. But that’s a story for another day. Which in all honesty I’ll probably never get around to writing.   

If it’s shit don’t ship it

Had a sort of product meeting today, just to make sure that the whole team is singing from the same hymn sheet. Turns out we were because not much has changed recently - still waiting on our app developers. 

We’re developing a range of digital products, some of which are amazing, ground breaking and some of which are, well less so. I’m very much a believer in “if it’s shit, don’t ship it”. As a result I’ve really tightened what are actually shipping to focus right in on the iPhone app. That is our gem, the one thing which is absolutely awesome. 

Now my problem comes with the products which aren’t “shit” but are far from outstanding. The floaters I’m starting to nickname them. We don’t have the time or money to make them outstanding. However they are so close it does seem a shame to leave them out of v1 completely. So I’m pulling functionality out of the ‘floaters’ in an attempt to make them better. It does seem to be working. Am I right to be stripping them down, or should we be pulling them out all together? I don’t know, I’m just a 19 year old kid.

Today we decided to strip a bunch of stuff out and put a few other bits in as we get close to launch. The next couple of days I’ll be specing all this out and let’s see how we’re felling then.

I’m sure all will be great!  

Sean M Everett: Why Are There So Many Options In iPhone Apps?

A very interesting read. My personal view as someone starting out in the world of UI/UX and Product Development is there are two main reasons why ‘stuff’ gets added to apps.

1. Our fear of standing still. We all know from the My Spaces of this world, if we sit still as everything goes well - it’s all going to end badly. To avoid this we must all be seen to be innovative, fresh and ahead of the trends. For this to happen more ‘stuff’ is added. Which if not managed carefully could well spoil the UX. If simplicity is what made your app popular in the first place, you have to be super carefull not to harm that.  

2. Users. As an app developer I want to build something, ship it and then build something else. Unfortunately users seem to have other ideas. There’s endless demands for features they see on other sites and of course we bow down to their every need. Take Instagram for instance. Primarily taking photos and sharing photos with your friends. Then users want to be able to discover new photos. They want to ‘like’ and ‘comment’. They want to hashtag everything and tag other users. All this functionality has to be built in which can completely change way your app is experienced.  

One other thing I’ve found myself doing. Whilst I’m waiting for bits to get built or just at random times whilst on the bus or in an accounting lecture. I can’t stop coming up with ideas. As a Product Developer I want to be developing stuff. It’s what I love doing.



I counted the number of potential actions you can take on the main screen of the Foursquare iPhone app (“Friends” tab). There’s 10 of them:

  1. Radar - on/off button
  2. Notifications - number of notifications badge plus link to notifications
  3. Nearby/Worldwide - switch for timeline view…

App, video, name and more…

The sheer variance of stuff you do when working for a startup has to be my main attraction to working for them. Currently I’m working on everything from developing wire frames for the iOS app tutorial, through to finalising content for the promo video and working out how to write our company name. All lower case, big first letter, two words or put them together? You really don’t get these sorts of opportunities in non-startup environments.

Wrapping up a few stories from previous posts. The animator has been awesome. We had a meeting with him and gave him about 8 scenes of badly drawn diagrams to which he is currently putting the video together. It’s looking so good.

The app is nearing the end of development, we’ve still got a few things to get fixed but pretty much there. We’re trying not to keep adding things, but a couple of our latest additions have been pretty great.

The way I see it, if I show it to someone and they go ‘wow’ or ‘that’s cool’ then it’s worth spending time putting into v1.  

The day when a competitor launches something really, really similar to what you’re a couple of months away from launching - this is today. Huff

So I sort of forgot about this blog

Ok, hands up I forgot about this blog. I was originally going to post every day about what has been going on at the company. I’ve only ever been the intern before, so that was a bit un-realistic as I now have actual stuff do to. It’s been manic.

Since my last post I’ve gone back to uni and am working on the product part time, which isn’t ideal. I seriously considered dropping out of uni to do this full time. However with no investment there isn’t the money to support me. So I’ll keep doing both for now. 

We finally have a test version of the app which seems to have many bugs causing endless crashing. Huff. A bunch of stuff still hasn’t been completed and I’m at a point now where I’m telling the CEO ‘this doesn’t really need to be in v1’ Which is a shame but I know we need to get this launched. 

I’ve not been involved with this from day 1, but I believe there are some big scalability issues, which if/when this takes off are going to be a real headache. Some stuff which the product is suposed to do I’m pretty certain are going to cause functionality and usability issues. However it’s difficult to push these things through when no-one else seems to think it’s a problem. This is the problem with not having a technical team in-house. We can/do sit for hours discussing stuff that really none of us are 100% sure is fact. 

We now have a ‘community department’ which is twice the size of product. ie 2 full time people. I haven’t seen too much stuff coming out of them, but I guess it’s hard to build a community without a product. So I’m still not sure exactly what it is they do all day.

I’m off to learn about Operations Managment with a guy who will probably spend most of the 2 hour lecture talking about his love football, real ale and trying to work out how the projector works. Fun Times.

Tomorrow we have a meeting with the animator who is doing the video. If I remember I’ll let you know how that goes.