Major Roadworks on Interstate

Just over a month ago we pushed out a minor update to Interstate which included a few important features such as file sharing and roadmap exporting, which we hope you loved. “Yeah, that was cool but what have you guys been doing since then?”, I hear you ask. Well, I can sure promise you that we haven’t just been sitting around watching Reno 911 and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia all day.. Well, O.K., maybe we have, but we’ve also been hard at work working on the next Interstate release! Which by the way, has just been launched!

Routes

This one’s a biggy. Ever since we shipped the original Interstate BETA, back in August 2010, there has been one feature which almost everyone has asked for: sub-roads. You lovely BETA testers have been telling us that you’d like a way to add roads inside of roads (I N T E R C E P T I O N) so that you can add many tasks to one individual feature or group lots of small features together. Well if you were someone who wanted this functionality, today is your lucky day. We have just released our implementation of sub-roads which we’re calling “Routes”.

Routes allow you to create a parent road (which can have a title and description only) which you can then assign roads to. A route’s progress is completely based off its sub-roads. For example, if you had a route which let’s say had two sub-roads, with one set to “10% complete” and another set to “50% complete”, the route itself would be set to “30% complete”. This means you can see, at a glance, how far along each individual task is and how far away the feature in general is from shipping. Handy, huh?!

We’ve tried to keep our implementation as simple as possible (without losing important functionality) so that it should meet everyone’s needs and can be used in almost any situation.

New Frontend

For some time now we’ve felt as though our frontend site didn’t really show off what exactly Interstate offers. For a company that’s charging for its product and relies on revenue to keep its service afloat, having a descriptive homepage is something that is majorly important. But as you know, we here at Interstate do not yet charge for our service as we’re in a BETA testing phase and so this hasn’t been something that we have had to rush to fix.

But as we’re getting ever closer to a full release of Interstate that we’re both 100% happy with and willing to charge for, we thought it was a good time to come up with a new frontend site and so we did just that.

The new frontend, which was launched today has a brand new design, improved tour page, re-designed roadmap page and lots more. Hopefully this’ll make things easier when explaining what exactly Interstate offers to your colleagues, etc.

Roadmap Sharing

Since the second release of Interstate we’ve had the simple functionality of allowing you to have a public-facing roadmap using our http://roadma.ps/ URL. Well, since we originally released this feature we’ve had some feedback on how to improve it.

The main comment we received regarding this feature was making the short URL actually a short URL. You see, up until now every roadma.ps link looked something like this: http://roadma.ps/4c2d3b5f8ead0ec070010000. Which, well, isn’t very short. For this release of Interstate we went back to the drawing board and we were able to make our short URLs well and truly short and look something like this: http://roadma.ps/8d. Much better, no?

The second idea we often received was to add more privacy settings to public roadmaps. We listened to this feedback and in the new release of Interstate, you are now able to set your public roadmaps to be password protected. This means you are now able to add an extra step of security to your public roadmaps by adding a password which people must first enter before they can see your roads.

The next feature is something which hasn’t been suggested that often but we feel as though some of our users will find it useful. Even if you’re using the roadma.ps short URL to share your roadmaps (instead of embedding them on your website), you may still want to link back to your website or provide a way for your users to get in touch regarding a road on your roadmap. Because of this we’ve added three new roadmap settings:

  • Homepage URL
    This input lets you link back to your website so that people viewing your roadmap know its source.

  • Support URL
    This URL is a way for your users to get in touch with you. We generally recommend to fill this input with an email or a Get Satisfaction page (or something similar).

  • Welcome Message
    If you’d like to give a quick update/message to people viewing your roadmap or just link to some other places (such as your Twitter, Facebook page, etc), you can now do so by entering a message which will appear at the top of your roadma.ps page.

Share to Twitter

From using Interstate ourselves, we know that when you set a road to “Launched”, you often want to share this change with your users to let them know the feature is now available. In our case, we do this via Twitter. So we thought to ourselves, why not make things easier for everyone else who works like this?

In the new release of Interstate you are now able to connect with a Twitter account (1 per roadmap) and as you set roads to “Launched”, you will be asked (unobtrusively of course) if you’d like to tweet this change. You don’t have to tweet the change straight away and as you continue to change more roads to “Launched”, the pre-generated Tweet will change also, to include the newly launched roads.

Export Redesign

Roadmap exporting is a feature which was added in the last release of Interstate and whilst the feature works as we’d like it to, the design used when exporting roadmaps wasn’t, in our opinion, the best it could be.

Because of this we decided to redesign the PDF version of roadmaps to look a little simpler, show a lot more data and look more like the regular roadmaps view on Interstate.

Overview

It’s an important part of Interstate yet it just didn’t seem to live up to its job. We originally wanted overview to provide you with a great experience for getting a general idea of what’s been going on. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to live up to this requirement. It was rather dull and lacking on the descriptive front.

To rectify this we’ve improved the overall look of the feeds which includes display people’s avatars and including a more detailed view when a road is updated.

On top of that we’ve included a little section to see who is currently active or when they were last active. This should allow you to work more closely with other people on your team, even when you are on different sides of the world.

Most importantly though, commenting has arrived. A lot of people had questioned whether road updates were truly the best way to allow a team of people to communicate what’s happening with a particular road. Commenting was something which was asked for however we always said it just wouldn’t fit into the requirements we set out for Interstate a long time ago. This meant we needed a clever way to allow interaction without over complicating roadmaps, activity commenting was the way to go. What this means is when you are actively working on a road with someone you can spark a discussion based on what has actually happen rather than what you think has happened or plan to do. Time will tell if we’ve got this one right!

People

The people section of Interstate has always seemed like the lost child. I didn’t get much attention on the original release of Interstate and was neglected ever since. We’ve had a little refresh of the page to make it more appealing as well as bring some important features to the foreground. Previously you were required to visit a rather empty page in order to see who has requested access to your Interstate, this now appears to the right hand side on the main page. Why make it more difficult or time consuming than it needs to be?

Adverts

Over the past few months we have been part of the Yoggrt advertising network, this was to try and provide us with funds whilst we built Interstate. The income from the adverts helped somewhat towards the running costs. We’re grateful to have been accepted onto the Yoggrt network and wish the network luck for the future. Moving onwards we will now be displaying adverts courtesy of Carbon, an advertising network aimed at various circles of development and culture. We look forward to a happy relationship with Carbon and it’s team.

Prototype → jQuery

Up until this release of Interstate, all of our Javascript was based on the prototype.js Javascript framework. Whilst we’re big fans of Prototype, we felt it was time to switch to jQuery for several reasons, mainly because benchmarks we ran showed jQuery to be faster for our use cases and also the community which jQuery has. Literally everything we required for Interstate (that we didn’t really want to code ourselves) was available as a well-documented and good looking plugin (such as colour and date pickers).

Whilst this won’t have too much effect on your experience using Interstate it should make the UI feel a little more responsive and it’ll also help us get releases that rely on Javascript functionality out faster.

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Calling all commuters! We’re looking for some interesting companies to be featured on our upcoming homepage redesign. If you’d like us to feature your site then just post a reply to this blog post with a link to your public roadmap or email the link to us at getfeatured@interstateapp.com.
If you don’t currently have a public roadmap then what are you waiting for? It’s easy! Just head over to our developers portal, grab our example Javascript code, paste that sucker on your website, replace a few bits and bobs (it’s all explained on the page) and you’re good to go! Plus, if you have any trouble you can just get in touch either via our Get Satisfaction or by dropping an email to us at help@interstateapp.com. We really have you guys and gals covered.

Calling all commuters! We’re looking for some interesting companies to be featured on our upcoming homepage redesign. If you’d like us to feature your site then just post a reply to this blog post with a link to your public roadmap or email the link to us at getfeatured@interstateapp.com.

If you don’t currently have a public roadmap then what are you waiting for? It’s easy! Just head over to our developers portal, grab our example Javascript code, paste that sucker on your website, replace a few bits and bobs (it’s all explained on the page) and you’re good to go! Plus, if you have any trouble you can just get in touch either via our Get Satisfaction or by dropping an email to us at help@interstateapp.com. We really have you guys and gals covered.

Philip Rosedale (SecondLife Founder) talks about being open when running your company. What better way to do this than sharing your development roadmaps with the world?

Work has begun on a mobile version of Interstate. First up is the iPhone (which is a favourite here at BakedCode) and if you visit your Interstate via Safari on your iPhone you will see it in action.
It is still in the early stages as it was more of a test of user experience using our current code. The entire design was merely done by defining iPhone CSS files, we aim to make a more native mobile site in the future. At the moment various pages aren’t available by navigation such as theme, config and the various pages related to roadmaps.
We’d love to hear your feedback!

Work has begun on a mobile version of Interstate. First up is the iPhone (which is a favourite here at BakedCode) and if you visit your Interstate via Safari on your iPhone you will see it in action.

It is still in the early stages as it was more of a test of user experience using our current code. The entire design was merely done by defining iPhone CSS files, we aim to make a more native mobile site in the future. At the moment various pages aren’t available by navigation such as theme, config and the various pages related to roadmaps.

We’d love to hear your feedback!