The CoachAccountable Blog

What's new with the CA platform, tutorials on using it, and customer spotlights.

Archive for November, 2017

Version 3

This has been in the works for a long time.

It was January of last year (2016) that I invited Lee and Rob, my business partners from back in the Version 1 days (circa 2008-2009), for a meeting to discuss giving CoachAccountable an aesthetic facelift.

You see Rob was the one behind the pretty pixels of the original CA, and it was those pretty pixels that I have extended, remixed, and repurposed throughout all of Version 2’s tenure.  Though the passage of 8 years rendered that look ostensibly stale and dated, there was no one else I’d rather work with to give CA a cleaner, more modern look, and no one I trusted more to design away the sins of my years of cobbling (and over indulgence in CSS gradients :).

“I’d like to basically give it a fresh coat of paint.  A new set of icons, some updated styling rules to pretty up those areas wherein my own programmer design instincts could be improved upon, and whatever tidying up to better unify the visually inconsistent bits.” I said during our two hour pow wow.  “Could be fun to call this ‘Version 3’, I’ve been evolving Version 2 for over three years now so you could say we’re due.”

Team LeeRob did me way more than I bargained for.

Rather design than a paint job, they went deep into researching modern app designs to re-imagine what CoachAccountable could look like if newly designed today.  The mock-ups they presented me took me quite by surprise.

I confess it was not love at first sight.  I mean it sort of was, because yes, they were gorgeous.  But my overarching sentiment was a mix between “But it looks so different from the current version that I and my customers have come to know and love!” and “Oh fuck, this is going to be a lot of work.”1.

It was all a sort of mental inertia from a successful 3+ years run of the old aesthetic.  Happily, my attitude towards the overhaul softened considerably once I’d built a bunch of it and experienced CoachAccountable in this new, slick style.  After a little while, once V3 became my new baseline for how CoachAccountable “should” look, the old seemed crusty, and even kinda ugly.

At times it was hard to have that crusty version out there as THE forward facing presentation of CoachAccountable, with no one knowing I was working on this new work of art that I kept hidden away.

Which brings us to today, when after a LOT of work I am so happy to finally reveal CoachAccountable Version 3.

So what’s new?

Well, practically everything.  It’s a bit cliche to say with a software release like this, but truly, the entire system has been given an aesthetic overhaul.  I didn’t mess with the core system functionality one bit, I mean that’s really working, and so I would do so at my own peril, but everything got re-imagined and remixed towards the dual purposes of “make it beautiful” and “make it a joy to use”.

Consider the coach dashboard, that vital jumping off point.  From Version 2:

It wasn’t bad! A little busy, a lot of gradients… it got the job done!

And here’s what it looks like in Version 3:

Ahhhhhh…. just…. ahhh.  That’s refreshing.  And flat design is so HOT right now!

Pretty different, right?  And yet super consistent with V2 in terms of functionality.  Longtime users of CoachAccountable should find themselves quickly feeling right at home within Version 3.  Version 3 is fully on feature parity with Version 2, yet there are a couple of key differences worth pointing out in this broad overview.

White Labeling is now Free

One of the most constant gripes about Version 2 is that the right to white label it costs $50/month.  I had my reasons for this, but the main one, to serve as sort of price segmenting that helped me to bootstrap this whole endeavor, no longer holds as necessary.

Business is good, so I’m happy to, as a gift to my customers, give up that sizable chunk of revenue and open up the nicety that is having the system branded as your very own to everyone else.  (Fun fact: this allowed me to skip a bunch of work of bringing forth the branded/not branded dichotomy into the Version 3 code–benevolent laziness for the win!)

Besides being free, White Labeling is improved in several ways.  For example your system-generated email templates are more customizable than before:

That template dropdown has a number of options to choose from, including the classic version.

Desktop and Mobile are now One

CA Mobile was the alternate, minified version of Version 2 that was cooked up to responsively accommodate smaller devices.  It got the job done, but it was a pared down experience focused on the day to day work of coaching interactions.

By contrast Version 3 is completely responsive.  It just works on any size screen, meaning every device is able to elegantly access the complete system.  The only exception is drag and drop operations on a touch only device.  Since dragging on a touch screen is essentially relegated to scrolling purposes, the drag-and-drop course builder, for example, isn’t fully functional on a smartphone.

Please, no one try to build a course from their smartphone. ;)

Otherwise it’s just all there.  You can get a live taste for how this works by firing CA up on your desktop, and just drag the corner of your browser around to resize the window any which way and watch the system rearrange itself on the fly.  It just works.

Behind the scenes, I’m excited because when I build a new feature, there will be no need to do it twice to cover both mobile and desktop–there’s just one code base to rule them all, meaning I can advance the platform more quickly.

Folder Organization

Popular demand for some time has been calling for a way to organize files into folders.  Done and done, and this holds for templates and courses as well.

Create folder hierarchies as deep as you like, drag and drop both items and folders to move ’em around.  It should feel pretty natural to everyone used to working with file systems on modern computers2.

Ooh, I’m dragging one of my Worksheet Templates into a folder! Satisfying.

In-app help, for coaches AND clients

The UI of Version 3 is no longer cluttered with inline instructions like were common in V2.  Instead I’ve put that sort of thing into an in-app help system that is woven throughout the system.  On nearly every page and pop up window you’ll find a light bulb icon, which, when clicked, will jump you right to the relevant article.

For example, take the screenshot just above of the Worksheet Templates page.  When we click the light bulb icon in the top right there, this help article slides right into view, like so:

Once initially loaded (about 3 seconds) this thing is lightning fast to click around through.

What’s cool is that from whatever article is loaded we can surf around to other related articles, or do a search of the whole knowledge base.  We can resize this help sidebar to take up as much or as little space as is ideal, making it possible to have the guide present while we’re doing our thing within the app.

Also cool?  This very help system is present for your clients, too.  Their side of the house contains its own separate collection of help articles, paired down and tailored to just those things that they would need to know and get answers to.  This should make it easier for them to on-board themselves and feel comfortable in this new system you’ve invited them to.


Again, this overhaul that I’m calling Version 3 was much more encompassing than I’d bargained for when I first discussed a design update with Lee & Rob.  Big hat tip to those two for pushing me to make CoachAccountable the best possible version of itself (they’re amazing designers and creative consultants, they’re busy but hire them if you can).  It runs faster, works better, and is prettier throughout.

It is the perfect foundation for moving forward with what’s next for CoachAccountable, and after all the heads down work done is secret to get this out the door I am excited to finally once again extend the platform with new functionality.

Should be fun!

Notes:

  1. Sorry for the cussing, just want to give an accurate portrayal for the record!
  2. A.K.A everyone.  Or at least everyone who’s likely to end up ever using CoachAccountable.