Today we officially launch DOManager, a simple interface to manage all of your client’s web information in one place. This beautiful project was brought to me by Frédéric Sune from WP Expert, and it was loads of fun, and a great learning opportunity. Just the type of project I’m after!
When Frédéric approached me, he had been thinking about his idea for two years already, but never could find the time to build it. It was the typical scenario: he had looked at a bunch of tools out there that could do the job, kinda, but nothing felt quite right. A technical being, he even looked at online tools for building his own, but again things didn’t quite feel right. So when he heard about me, he reached out.
The idea behind DOManager is that to do his job, Frédéric needs to keep track of a bunch of information about his clients: where is their website hosted? Who’s their domain name registrar? What theme and which plugins are used on their WordPress website? All types of technical information that, up until now, would be stored in a Word document, or a Google Sheet, or… Not very secure, and not very easy to use. So his idea was simple: an online app to store all that information, securely, that he could access from anywhere. Having worked with web agencies and freelancers before, I knew he was on to something. I didn’t need a lot of convincing to come on board!
Now for all you techies out there, you’re probably thinking (like I was) this is simple enough: a bunch of simple list and edit screens, and a number of database tables and voilà – problem solved. Well…
There were a few surprises along the way, things that were harder than anticipated, or simple little details we did not think about. I don’t care what others are saying, I’ve come to accept that no matter what you do, there will always be stuff you didn’t think of. That mandatory 2-factor authentication that requires you to scan a QR code when you first login was a great security feature. But when you’re doing this on your mobile phone, how do you get out of the web app, to fire-up your QR code app to scan the (now hidden) web app???
We also decided very early on that we wanted this to be a truly pleasant experience, and extremely easy to use. Handling all that technical info is not super fun to begin with, so it might as well be through a nice, quiet and airy interface, and in an intuitive app. So a lot of time was actually spent designing neat little UI widgets that made code reuse easy, and standardizing the interface simple. Easier to build for me, easier to learn for our users. But all that time refining UI widgets was time I had not planned for – not to this extant anyway.
It was my first big project under my nibnut philosophy, and of course there were some kinks in my process. For one thing, I have learned that the best possible way to communicate about anything on the topic of an app is through visual mockups. Text specs are just like a written contract: super useful, you shouldn’t do most things in business without one, but nobody really reads it all. Visual mockups of your app’s screens are so much more evocative: everybody around the table sees the app, and it’s much easier to infer how things will work. Even for tech0minded clients – it’s just simpler and easier than trying to figure out if we even use the same technical jargon, or what level of techpertise they are actually at.
I’ve also learned that what matters most to me are clients who want quality above all. Clients who understand and trust I am working my hardest to produce the best possible application for them. I want to be proud of what I deliver. If that means a bit more time than planned, so be it. If the extra time is my fault (bad planning) I won’t bill the client. All I ask is they be a bit more flexible in their delivery date – that’s the one thing I can’t erase. There are just 24 hours in a day. But it underlines again how working with someone is a collaboration, and requires trust and communication on both sides. I was keeping Frédéric up to date on developments, and he trusted (and saw) I was working on our project, and I was responsive to his requests, and just there for him. I think that matters a lot. I felt he gave me some leeway, and understood that this is not always an exact science. I understood that he wanted this to move forward, not stall or be put aside, and he wanted to have the best possible app to show his clients.
The application we are launching today is a big deal. For me, as a person, it is one of the apps I am most proud of so far in my career. So proud in fact, Frédéric and I are now associates in this venture. Not only did I learn a bunch of neat stuff, I am also reaping the benefit of seeing users enjoying the app. To a coder, this coder at least, this is the ultimate reward. And for Frédéric, he now sees this app he’s been dreaming of for years become a reality. I raise my glass to excellent clients like him, and to our excellent app DOManager!
P.S. Now off you go! Go check it out for yourself! https://domanager.co