Full-time Startup: Skribit Week 8 (Redesign)

The last few weeks of working on Skribit have been proved to be rewarding. It's finally gotten to a point where it's noticeable that we are making some progress with product development. This past Friday I pushed live the new redesign of Skribit.com. A few weeks ago we hired graphic designer Justin Ruckman to pump out some mockups for the next iteration of the Skribit website design. Justin was already quite familiar with Skribit — he was at the original Startup Weekend that spawned Skribit.

He drove down from North Carolina for an extended weekend stay and we turned my living room into a makeshift office.

Skribit Office - Paul Stamatiou and Justin Ruckman

So what got done that weekend? Justin started off by tweaking some of the colors in the Skribit logo to provide better contrast. Let it be known that the Recolor tool in Adobe Illustrator comes in handy when trying to adjust the colors of groups of linked objects together (Edit -> Edit Colors -> Recolor Artwork).

Skribit Logo Color Tweaking in Adobe Illustrator

From there, Justin started with a blank Photoshop document and employed the 960 grid system. From that we began with logo placement and menu structure. We spent a while deconstructing the site's current site map and reordering pages based on utility. For example, we decided that there should be a noticeable separation of pages related to the currently logged in user, compared to other pages not directly related to the user. This lead to a "Me" menu, making it easy to find links to things like account and profile settings.

Eventually, these mockups below were created and established a visual language that could be used to style any page, regardless of content.

Skribit Redesign Photoshop Mockups by Justin Ruckman

The next few weeks were all about me applying the design of Justin's mockups to the Skribit code-base. While the process was tedious — 96 commits, 216 modified files (6021 insertions, 2744 deletions) — it felt great being able to see Skribit grow up and become more like what we had originally envisioned. However, I wasn't just doing a bunch of CSS and XHTML work. I made better use of tagging in this release. Blogs can now be tagged, in addition to groups and suggestions, making it easier to find related content that might interest you. Also, there are more pages that allow users to explore blogs, suggestions and groups on Skribit. Previously these things were scattered around the site and hard to find. The next step will be full-text search and we're looking into Sphinx for that.

I also added sections for featured users, groups and blogs as selected by Skribit staff. From time to time we see some interesting uses of Skribit and we've always wanted a way to highlight those people. Now we have a way.

Calvin has spent a great deal of effort working with Amazon Flexible Payments System to help Skribit accept payments for paid Skribit Pro accounts.

Before pushing the new features and design live I went through an Internet Explorer debugging and testing session. Painful is the only way to describe it without using profanity. Needless to say, there are still a few Internet Explorer 6 and 7 issues running in the wild that will be fixed eventually.

This is more or less what you'll see if you visit Skribit.com now:

Skribit - Cure Writer's Block

The hardest part of pushing the new design and features live was deciding when to stop coding and just get it out there, instead of waiting for it to "be perfect." This upcoming week will be filled with lots of tiny updates and fixes based on feedback received from Skribit users.

Other Skribit Happenings

Aside from the redesign, Skribit is now an entrant in the Georgia Research Alliance/Technology Association of Georgia Business Launch competition. The application needed an executive business summary and outline of the backgrounds of everyone involved with the company. The next big deliverable will be a complete business plan, which is a great thing to have on paper regardless of the outcome of the competition. In the next few weeks I will need to meet with some people with advertising and publishing backgrounds to help flesh out the details of our business model. The competition is limited to companies with less than 500k in funding, which makes Skribit look tiny in comparison, so I'm not getting my hopes up about the 100,000 cash prize.

Calvin and I have started getting hold of our "books" and will be receiving some QuickBooks 2009 training from a small business consultant. We also received our bank account checks and I wrote off a few to pay our outstanding bills for legal and business work. In addition we now have Skribit business debit and American Express charge cards that I'll soon tie to our Amazon S3/CloudFront and 37signals Basecamp accounts to pay off monthly charges.

Thoughts? Thanks to the several Skribit suggestions that inspired this post about my recent Skribit status. So that's what has been keeping me busy recently. I'm trying to find a way to get more energy after work to write more here instead of just going to sleep early. ;-D Ideas?