Releasing CRäKN, Week 3: A Design Demo, Early Feature Delivery, and High Anxiety
This post is part of a blog series that follows along as we work with our client, CRäKN, to build a software-as-a-service app. First post here.
This week kicked off with nerves running high. On Monday afternoon, there was a design and user experience demo scheduled with CRäKN Founder Scott Mindrum and Chief Sales Officer Tim Zeuch, and the team shifted into high gear in preparation. “I definitely had anxiety leading up to it,” said Gaslight designer Lauren Woodrick. “What would the reaction be?” CRäKN product owner Shawna Becknell shared her concerns.
Unfortunately, a series of tech snafus piled onto the stress. A printer failure prevented Lauren from creating hard copies of her designs, and the overhead projector in the Gaslight conference room didn’t quite capture the high fidelity of the first design mock-ups. Luckily, the presentation ultimately ended up as a win—even if it sometimes meant huddling around laptops to view the work.
Lauren presented the general design and navigation for inquiries, a general form that’s used when calls are made to a funeral home. She brought these detailed designs into an app called InVision that allowed her to turn the designs into a clickable prototype. This gave the CRäKN leadership team a chance to try out the basic experience of moving through the app during a client call.
Scott was really excited to see the first pieces of the project and reacted positively to the design. The team also collected some general feedback on polishing this section of the app. Scott and Tim, for example, suggested adding a note field that allows funeral home employees to add pertinent notes that may not map to a specific form field. This note and others helped define Lauren’s to-do list for the rest of the week.
Once the demo was over, the dev team set their sites on delivering one of the early features this week. Developer James Smith was on vacation, so another Gaslight dev, Kevin Rockwood, temporarily came onto the project. “Kevin’s style is a little different than James,” Shawna said. “James is like a solitary wizard. And Kevin is more like ‘Hey, let me sit next to you and pair!’”
Kevin focused this enthusiasm on pairing with Gaslight developer Katherine Tornwall on saving a specific type of inquiry. It involves logging critical information when people call a funeral home. “It’s proof that the whole information flow works from the front to the back end,” Katherine said. One challenge was figuring out the best way to test an Ember app talking to a Rails API. Writing tests as the build moves along takes longer upfront, but those automated tests pay off in quality code as the project moves along.
In general, the dev team is trying to implement a huge form piece by piece. It looks like easy stuff—saving names, phone numbers and other details—but it adds up to a lot of work. Figuring out these first pieces of the form is part of the skinny skeleton. Instead of big picture architecture, the team is learning and making decisions along the way. Why? “Right now we are the dumbest we will ever be at understanding the business and how this app will work,” Kevin said. “We’ll make decisions as we gain more knowledge and become smarter about the project.”
Check out the Week 4 post to read about being a good product owner, coding through a pizza lunch and approving the first features.