Does offering phone support make a difference? It does—but not in the way you might think. At Cloudmanic offering amazing customer support is a top priority. If you want us to do backflips we intend to try. Why, then, do we not offer phone support? The bottom line is that phone support costs a lot of money. Many of our peers do offer phone support—and their prices are at least double ours. It really comes down to this simple fact: because 98% of our customers never require support we don’t feel that it makes sense to raise our prices for the 2% who occasionally do.
In the very beginning we had to make the tough decision to provide support only via email (and sometimes Twitter or Facebook). We stand by this decision. We understand that email is not some users’ preferred way of receiving support, but we have not yet encountered an issue that we could not resolve with a customer via email.
Is your work style get-it-right or git-r-done? That is, are you more process oriented or results oriented? If you’re habitually the former, chances are you pay for your obsessive tendencies with time. Remember that task you were totally sure you could bang out in one hour? The one you labored over for six? How did that happen? Sure, the final product was a marvel of perfection (or so it seemed at the time), but was it worth it?
They don’t say time is money for nothing, and tumbling down the rabbit hole without regard for the relative importance of a task is not a profitable business model. But is it really just a matter of poor time management? To avoid a time warp, some experts advise that you start by identifying the components of a task and budgeting time for each. This advice might be sound in theory, but it can be difficult to follow. To wit: I tend to set time limits and then blow them successively. One hour mushrooms to six because the finish line keeps moving. This tendency is not, however, entirely due to a pathological inability to accept that good is good enough.
It’s also partly the result of a tenacious devotion to quality. Great ideas do not form on command, after all. And occasionally I need to take the time to address a knowledge or skills gap. Sometimes good might be good enough for the job, but not for me personally. In such cases, the additional time spent is by choice. If I think getting something just right is important and I have the time to sacrifice, I will ignore the insistent tick-tocking of the clock. True, the extra effort might not be readily apparent to others or immediately rewarded, but the value of developing my abilities and doing my best is intrinsic.
In web design I see modal windows misused repeatedly—though, admittedly, this is just one man’s opinion of improper use. (Or is it? read on...) But I should begin by clarifying three things. First, a modal window appears within another window, something like this:
Second, while Cloudmanic products do use a few modal windows, most reflect poor judgement on our part and will be phased out over time. And third, there is a time and place for modal windows—some examples are described below. Nevertheless, I submit that 90% of the time modal windows are misused.
Why Modal Windows Are (Usually) Bad
Modal windows are useful because they delimit a space in which
the user performs one or two simple tasks. The unpleasant side effects,
however, are often not worth it. Here is my short list of why you should use
modal windows sparingly:
Most developers neglect to think about different screen sizes with respect to
content. For example, if the modal window content requires scrolling, the
screen displays both the modal window scroll bar and the browser scroll bar and
your wheel mouse behaves differently based on where the cursor is. Yes, the
browser scroll bar can be disabled, but doing so has never felt natural to me.
mobile friendly.Modal windows are almost always difficult to manage on
mobile devices. They’re slow to load and slow to hide. Unless the developer
does tons of testing, the content can get wonky—such as when when the onscreen
keyboard pops up.
They require a
lot of developer time. Developing a modal window requires extra effort
because the association between the parent page and the modal window page must
be maintained. And developing modal windows for a modern ajaxy type web
application is especially complex.
and cause angst. The appearance and disappearance of a modal window
disrupts the screen in a big way, forcing the user to refocus. And if, when the
modal window disappears, users do not refocus on the correct area of the parent
screen, they might wonder if anything even happened. Users need good visual
cues to confirm that a change has occurred. The idea of modal windows causing
Cloudmanic users even such micro forms of angst bothers me.
Like most people I ask myself regularly, “What is important in terms of my career?” Typical answers include salary, benefits, type of work, location, hours, and the like—but recently I concluded that angst is my top concern when it comes to crafting my career.
Often, working conditions cause a lot of angst. You might have a difficult client. You might be managing a difficult employee. Your coworkers might drive you nuts. Your workload might be too much. Your deadlines might be too tight.
Sometimes angst is minor and other times major, but angst in any form can lead to stress, lack of motivation, and unhappiness. Why would anyone want to spend 8+ hours a day working in any state other than utter delight? Of course, some might say that a workplace where everyone is free of angst is a fantasy. I respectfully disagree.
Removing angst from the workplace has to come from two places: management and employees. Management needs to foster an angst-free workplace, and employees need to stand their ground and not allow the work environment to cause them angst. That said, simply ignoring things that cause angst is not a solution I would recommend or tolerate at Cloudmanic Labs. Instead, you must identify angst and destroy it (carefully, of course).
How Do You Build An Angst-Free Workplace?
Every workplace is different. Every manager is different. Every employee is different. Therefore, no one solution can work for every company. The best advice I can give is to encourage every member of the team to be the guardian of their own angst. For example, if the way tasks are assigned to you is causing angst, consider the possible alternatives and collaborate with your managers and coworkers to enact a solution.
The Cloudmanic Team is stoked to announce that Skyclerk just
got better and cheaper. And here’s the best part: in most cases you don’t need
to do anything except pay less than you were paying before. Lucky you! Let’s take
a moment to investigate the details together.
We know how frustrating it is to make a decision when you
have too many choices. We also know that your business accounting needs change
over time. Because we are squarely in the simple is better camp, we have simplified
our pricing to a free plan and a paid Premium plan that includes unlimited
monthly transactions, unlimited contacts, and unlimited storage to meet your
business accounting needs whether they are small or big. And soon the paid plan
will include 50 scans a month to help you go paperless and stay organized.
How much cheaper?
A lot cheaper. For example, if you had the $99 a month
Infinity plan, you now get the same service for only $15. At that crazy low
price Skyclerk is one of the cheapest online accounting systems—most of our
peers start around $30 for an unlimited plan. In most cases the change to the
new Premium plan happened automatically. The exception—yes, there is one—is
that if you had a plan bundled with shoeboxed.com, the choice is yours. That
is, you can keep the bundled plan at the previous price by doing nothing. Or
you can unbundle and switch to the new $15 plan by emailing email@example.com.
I am very pleased to announce Evermanic has arrived!
Evermanic is the fastest way to capture recurring notes on the go and store them safely into Evernote.
Or, If you like to know the nuts and bolts
Evermanic is an iPhone application that allows you to set up profiles (templates) for the notes you know you will be taking over and over again.
For example, Bob might keep track of meals with clients taking photos of the meal receipts. These receipts might have to be stored into a particular Evernote notebook and tagged in a particular fashion. Bob might even want the same note title for each receipt. All these are pieces of information that compose an Evermanic profile. Once he has configured his profile (template) with the characteristics of his choice he is ready to go.
Next time Bob is on the go and wants to file a meal receipt, he simply selects the profile, snaps a picture, and puts his phone back in his pocket. Later, when he opens Evernote again, his meal receipt will be stored just the way he likes it.
In general, I tend to use top-quality products. This might not be for all things in my life (just look at my car) but it is true for most things that I really care about or use on a regular basis. I tend to seek the best of the best. Lately, I have been noticing a new data point in my decision making process: price.
I can think of several specific examples when price was a tipping point that made me use one product over another:
I really like my Android Nexus 7 tablet. In fact, I am in love with it. However, when I compare it to the iPad, I sort of wonder why I love it when the iPad is so much more loveable. When I compare the two, I realize that I’m more drawn to the iPad. Yet I own a Nexus 7.
I’m also in love with GitHub (such a great service). Side-by-side, GitHub is a better product than Bitbucket in all accounts. But I find myself using Bitbucket more.
I am madly in love with Linode. It’s a far better product than Digital Ocean, but more and more of my needs are migrating to Digital Ocean.
In all of these examples, I’ve found myself actually using the less expensive product. If price wasn’t a factor, I would only be using an iPad, Github, and Linode.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” ~Wayne Gretzky
Steve Jobs brought Gretzky’s quote to the computer world’s attention in 2007, and since then I have always kept these words in the back of my mind. At Cloudmanic, we like to make decisions based on this philosophy as well.
As many of you know, Cloudmanic Labs is a PHP / CodeIgniter development shop. We have been loyal to both of these technologies from the very early days. But things have changed: PHP is moving forward at a nice pace; CodeIgniter is not. As a firm, we can stay with the puck or skate to where it is going. Internally, we have made the decision to invest our time in Laravel along with Composer.
PHP has, for a while now, introduced two very powerful features: namespacing and autoloading. CodeIgniter, on the other hand, simply has not embraced these ideas. As a consequence, senior developers who contribute powerful libraries to the open source community have moved on. The libraries that we have grown to rely on are now being developed in a way that does not mesh well with the core CodeIgniter framework.
Another factor in our choice is that we want to engage and attract the best development talent we can. It seems most of our development peers have started to embrace Laravel with an increased focus on using Composer with Laravel. What senior engineer wants to work on old technology? To stay relevant and attractive as a company, we need to stay on the cutting-edge.
If you have not already checkout Laravel and Composer do it now. You can thank me later :).
We’ve all seen them: The videos companies make to market their products. For some companies, videos explaining how and why to use their products really make sense (Apple, for example, does a great job at it).
But I have to admit I’m usually skeptical, especially when the video is for a small web start-up. What is the return on investment for one of these minute-long videos? Are they just spending money making these videos to show their VC investors that they are spending their money as fast as possible?
And of course, do people even watch these videos?
For the longest time, I never watched any of these videos when reviewing a product. It just seemed easier and faster to read the website and find out everything I needed to know about a company or product. However, recently I have noticed myself watching promotional videos even before I look at the company’s website.
If my usage patterns have changed, I’m guessing others are finding these types of videos useful as well. Or maybe others have always found these videos useful and I have just been behind the curve.
Either way, it’s time to take the plunge with video. Like most new things at Cloudmanic Labs, we are going learn this video marketing thing by diving right in. We’re please to share our first creation, a quick intro into Skyclerk.
If you follow my writing at all, you will notice there seems to be an ongoing theme of conversation around building great user-focused products. I typically dive deep into building software products, exploring how to build something that will truly ignite your users. Often you do this by putting your users’ needs above all else. So it hit me hard when recently, I was let down by a person/brand that I really admire – Taylor Swift – as she did not ignite me as a “user” of her products.
Yes, I am a Taylor Swift fan. I like her music, but I also really like her as a person. I think she is authentic. She has been pretty true to herself and her fans since she got her start. Comparing Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga is night and day. With Taylor, what you see is what you get. She has always brought a “keep it real” approach to her music and her brand.