Last week, we rolled out a very large upgrade that primarily addresses the speed of Projecturf. I won't get into the nerdy details too much, but at a high level we moved from our dedicated server environment to a cloud-based one instead. We left our Oracle database on it's own dedicated server (as it was before), but now both the cloud servers and the database server are located in the same geographic location, which eliminated the latency we were experiencing before. After thorough testing, I'm happy to report that we're seeing page loading times drastically improved across the board, and in some instances, they have increased up to 20 times. However, the most important thing to you, the customer, is that as you hop around Projecturf from project-to-project or section-to-section to get things done, you will notice a significant difference in how fast things load.
If you would like to read more about this update, check out the press release.
I want to personally apologize for the week prior where we did have several maintenance periods and a few issues we tried to fix very quickly. Thank you for your patience. These updates make things much speedier, but also have addressed a few requests a lot of our customers have asked for on our suggestion forum. It also sets the table, sorta speak, for some bigger things coming later this year :)
As designers, the details of every aspect of an interface are critical. Even the smallest change can affect how people use your product or website, so sweating the small stuff, as they say, takes on a whole new meaning in UI design. To illustrate this point, I'm going to discuss our thinking on where to place toggle arrows in the next version of Projecturf, which may, on the surface, appear to be a minor if not insignificant detail, but I would argue that it makes all the difference in the world.
In our initial design, we placed the toggle arrow on the inside (to the right) of the checkbox in the tasks section. The arrow allows you to expand and collapse the subtasks that are connected to the parent task, and if no subtasks exist, the arrow simply is not displayed. The mere presence of the arrow indicates that the task has additional items connected to it. The checkbox, in contrast, will exist on every single task on the screen, which allows you to mark the item complete. Given that the checkbox always exists, we initially thought it made sense to have it be the first item on the left. But after we started building the screen and testing it out, we realized this was a mistake that we had to fix.
Something about its placement felt strange. This led to doing some research and we used a computer OS as the foundation of our decision. What we found was that both MAC and Windows placed the arrow to the outside of any additional elements, such as folders or icons. The arrow was always on the far left. When we flipped it's position in our design, it naturally felt odd. This resulted in us moving the arrow to the outside of all elements, whether it's a checkbox or an icon (as you'd find in Documents), and it now feels natural and easy. You no longer think about it; you just intuitively use it.
There is something to be said for familiarity when it comes to interface design. The simple fact that the user is already familiar with how toggling works because they use this functionality on computers already allows us to position our element in the same fashion; essentially eliminating confusion. If the user has to stop and think about something like a toggle arrow (either consciously or subconsciously), we've complicated the experience. Therefore, it's extremely important to consider how a user will inherently perceive the elements in your UI as you are designing them. This is the level of detail of superior interfaces, and that we constantly strive to achieve.
This year is already well underway and it's been a very busy and hectic time at Projecturf. There are a few big ticket items that we're concentrating on and that currently have the majority of our focus. I want to share which items these are with you.
Early this year, some of you may have started to experience slower response times in our application. This slowness is a result of the growth in our user base and traffic, some hardware issues, and to a large extent, our database. We have been focused intensely on this issue and have made serious headway as of today. Our database has been upgraded to an enterprise-level Oracle database and the majority of our procedures have been completely rewritten from scratch. In our testing thus far, in some instances, we are seeing speed increases upwards of 20 times faster than the current application. This, obviously, is a drastic and very important update that we will be rolling out shortly.
This has, unfortunately, stalled our progress with a couple of other projects that are very important to me and our company. These projects include our iPhone app and our API. The good news, however, is that while we have been focusing on the new database, we have been essentially finishing the API at the same time. This does not mean that our API will roll out in conjunction with the speed update, but it does mean that it will be coming shortly afterwards. In addition, the database updates have allowed us to work in a single sign-on approach. This will give many of you the ability to use one email address to sign into Projecturf where you can then access all the various systems and client accounts you work in. This is another big update that I know many of you are waiting for. These two updates should drastically improve your work efficiency.
In short, our aim is to roll out the new speed improvements as soon as we can in the next few weeks and then follow that up with single sign-on ability. After that, we are going to publish the beta version of our API followed by our iPhone app. We are striving to have all these items for summer.
I also wanted to share with you a little bit about our evolution as a product. I will discuss this in more detail in future posts, but needless to say we have been working on the next generation of our app. We started this process last year and it is starting to really ramp up. It's a little too early to share screenshots or other details, but over the next couple of months I will be discussing it more here, on our blog. We have some very exciting things in the works.
There's a lot we're working on this year to make your Projecturf life better. Follow me on Twitter and check our blog often. I am going to start discussing some of the interface challenges and resolutions we work though on a regular basis and will be providing insights and hints as to what you can expect out of Projecturf 4.