Anatomy of a Campaign

November 26th, 2014

Anatomy of a Campaign

We here at Bruji love technology, you could say we are filled with Technolust. As such, we’re always on the lookout for software to make our lives, if not easier, than certainly more interesting. This article will examine how we created our Summer Sales campaign with a focus on the technologies used, in the hopes that it can help other folks out there learn about them. This won’t be an in-depth technical article (no code) and we won’t delve too deeply into the apps, just a nice bird’s-eye view.

The software we’ll be taking about here (for the impatient) are the following:

  1. Sketch 3
  2. Sass
  3. CodeKit 2
  4. Rubymine
  5. Macaw
  6. Firefox Developer Edition
  7. Ulysses III
  8. Rdio

The Idea

But it all begins with an idea. I wanted to do a Summer Sale campaign with happy, light colours and a flat look. To me, nothing says Summer quite like the beach, so off I went in search of some good beachy images for inspiration. It helps to be specific so I wanted a shot of the ocean and sand, an umbrella and a simple beach chair. The obvious stops include:

  1. Dribbble
  2. Behance
  3. Google Images

Armed with a good image, the brainstorming started. You’ll find lots of photos in Google like this one, which is very nice, but is not what I wanted at all. I wanted more of an illustration look. Another search netted me a bunch of illustrations like this one or this nice one on Dribble, but none were quite right. So we extrapolate a little, we grab what we like and build from there.

Design Flow

I created first the umbrella, chair, ocean and sand in Sketch. Everything else followed from that design and the colours used. This was my first time with Sketch and I was learning as I went along, which can be very frustrating, but is also an excellent way to learn because you’re tackling a real-world project and not just following along with a tutorial.

umbrella-and-chair

Palette

It is important to have a cohesive colour palette, you don’t want your design to look like a rainbow unless that’s exactly what you’re shooting for. So based on that first image I created the colour palette for the rest of the elements. It’s got nice warm colours that feel summery and light.

palette

When selecting a colour palette, remember that Black, White and Gray are also colours and they mix well with pretty much everything.

Black can be overpowering so use it sparingly or reduce it’s value (tending more towards dark gray), white can also be overpowering, in which case you can use some off-white value, what the paints industry calls bone-white. Lastly, gray is your friend, don’t leave it behind, if you need more variations of colours in your palette, try mixing an existing colour with gray (in small doses).

Sketch

Sketch is, in my opinion, the best App out there for Web and iOS design. After using Photoshop and Illustrator for about 20 years, I switched my workflow to Sketch. If you do any design for web or iOS, I encourage you to try it, there’s a 30-day trial available. The export features alone in Sketch are enough to make you want to switch, as are the ease of use and low learning curve compared to Illustrator, and the price is right, especially compared to Adobe’s overpriced offerings. It does have its quirks however so be patient, it is ultimately worthwhile. But, if you do a lot of heavy illustrations for print and not web then Sketch is probably not for you since it doesn’t even recognize CMYK colour values and is lacking some of the more advanced illustration tools you might find in Adobe Illustrator.

Sketch’s layouts revolve around the idea of artboards (though you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to, unlike Illustrator which forces you to create a sized canvas before you can start doing anything with it) and they’re actually very useful. In artboards.png, I have the Desktop and Mobile artboards side by side. It makes it really easy to create your designs for multiple platforms, Sketch comes with a number of ready-made Artboards to take the guessworks out of your designs, from iPhone screen sizes and icons to paper sizes and OS X icons with a number of responsive web page sizes along the way. Inserting a new Artboard is as simple as pressing A on the keyboard and choosing a size.

artboards

Exporting in Sketch is a joy. Group elements into a single Layer and create an exportable image from that with a single click. Even better, if you choose to export your image in PNG format, Sketch will ask if you want it to automatically create 1x, 2x and 3x versions of your image and name them appropriately for you, yes please! Click Export, you’re done. If clicking and selecting a size is too much work, simply drag your grouped object to the desktop or any finder window and Sketch will create the image on the fly, nice.

The Bezier curve tool (called the Vector Tool) in Sketch is also the fastest and easiest I’ve ver used.

I don’t want this to turn into a raving review of Sketch, so I’ll just end by saying that object alignment has never been easier. Do yourself and favour and check the app out.

Macaw

Macaw is an HTML editor with the, sadly unfulfilled, promise of letting you create web sites visually instead of coding. I’ve been pretty critical of Macaw in the past and I stand by what I wrote, I don’t think Macaw is ready for primetime yet. So why am I talking about it here if it’s no good? Well, I think that for web mockups Macaw is excellent. Currently, with version 1.5.9 I would never create a full website with it but for a single-page promo that will be up for, at most, a week, I think it’s fine.

After exporting all my images in SVG from Sketch (more on the SVG format later on) I bring them into Macaw and try to recreate the design in an actual web site and see how it responds. One of the nicer things about Macaw is that it’s very easy to add breakpoints for different screen sizes and devices. I usually add a breakpoint for iPad at 800 pixels (as opposed to the iPad’s actual portrait width of 768px to have a little buffer) then another for iPhone at 320px.

After you have all the elements in Macaw, properly named and properly placed, it’s time to start testing those breakpoints to see how things react and what breaks. Don’t forget to test them on an actual browser as well as Macaw’s built-in browser to make sure things still look good and, most important, make sure that the sizes between breakpoints still work. Macaw does make it easy to move elements around visually when adjusting for different screen sizes. For example, for the iPhone I usually create a very different layout than for Desktop, I don’t like sites where they simply scrunch all the elements into a tiny window where you can’t even read the text.

macaw-320

Macaw would be a lot easier to recommend if it were free (or worked as advertised). I’d say it’s a tool to keep an eye on in the hopes that one day soon they’ll fix all the niggling faults and make it really useful. For now, try the demo but make sure you create a real website and not a tutorial so you can truly evaluate the product. I’m one of the original Kisckstarter backers so I’ll keep using it until they demand more money for a newer version.

Lots of elbow grease

Now it’s time for Rubymine and lots of coding. I know I said that Macaw was fine for a single-page promo, but the truth is I have to integrate it with our existing Bruji site, this means all the different menus and layouts (desktop, iPad and iPhone) and the different scripts we use on our site and this is, unfortunately, not possible to do in Macaw.

Rubymine is an awesome IDE for Ruby coding by the good folks over at Jetbrains. It’s where I spend all day most days (when I’m not designing or fighting with Macaw I’m knee-deep in Rubymine). Both the Doghouse API and the Doghouse Admin are all written in Ruby using Rubymine. If you do any Ruby (or Rails) coding at all, do yourself a big favour and check out Rubymine. If you’ve ever tried it before and wrote it off, give it another try. I remember trying version 5.0 and being less than impressed with it because it was slow and ate up my CPU faster than champions at a pie-eating contest, but I tried version 6 and was hooked immediately, now I can’t live without it, it even has a very good built-in Database editor! I started out coding Ruby in SublimeText, which is an excellent text editor but not an IDE and doesn’t hold a candle to Rubymine. After using Rubymine, I could never got back. Rubymine even has real code refactoring, something that not even Xcode has for Swift (at the moment).

But what does all this Ruby talk have to do with a website written in HTML? you might be asking. Simple: Rubymine also happens to be an extremely good web editor, much better than SublimeText, in my opinion. The autocompletion is great and the way it handles and integrates CSS is superb. I do all my heavy HTML work in Rubymine, in fact, Bruji’s new website was built almost entirely, to great fanfare and general adulation, in Rubymine.

So I integrate the craziness that Macaw wrote and tweak it in Rubymine. If we’re going to reuse any CSS I try to convert it into SASS (or SCSS) for future reuse. This brings us to our next technology:

Sass

Sass is a CSS preprocessor. Basically it’s a much better way of writing and using CSS. Let’s face it, CSS is not great. It was fine 15 years ago to style a simple web page without having to use dreaded tables. But these days it’s really lacking and often contradictory, it’s quite a mess really. Enter Sass. Sass is a way to write CSS to make it less painful and much more usable, it includes simple concepts like nesting CSS rules together without repetition (something so basic CSS should be ashamed not to support it) all the way to variables, partials and conditionals. It also integrates well with plain HTML and more complex frameworks like Rails, etc.

Sass makes working with CSS an almost joyful experience.

However, in order to work with Sass, you need some sort of compiler that will turn your fancy Sass code into vanilla CSS that any web browser can understand. For that we turn to Codekit.

CodeKit

Codekit, as their website states, is like steroids for web developers. Basically it allows you to use all sorts of modern frameworks and preprocessors by compiling them all in the background and updating your web site every time you save. This might not sound like a big thing but it’s actually huge. You simply write your Sass, Haml, Slim, Coffeescript, JQuery, etc and Codekit does the rest. CodeKit compiles Less, Sass, Stylus, Jade, Haml, Slim, CoffeeScript, Javascript, TypeScript, Markdown and Compass files automatically each time you save.

It will also alert you of any error you might have in any of those frameworks, very nice.

The best part is there is nothing to install apart from the app, no servers to run or background processes to watch, you don’t need to learn to use yet another editor or anything like that, you work in your preferred Editor like Rubymine or SublimeText and every time you save a file Codekit does its magic behind the scenes.

Check it out.

Firefox Developer Edition

Finally, it’s time to make sure everything works on a real browser, for this I use Firefox Developer Edition. It has all the bells and whistles a developer might need built-in and Firefox’s DOM inspector is the best there is in the world, no contest. I used to use Google Chrome, like everyone else, to test my websites (Safari’s developer tools are the worst) but recently switched to Firefox simply because of its DOM inspector. Firefox has been instrumental in figuring out gnarly CSS problems. Plus it’s free.

Ulysses III

A wonderful writing tool. I write everything in it, I’m currently writing this in Ulysses. It might seem a bit pricey, but if you do any writing it’s quite worth it, especially if you like Markdown.

Rdio

Last but certainly not least, Rdio. Nothing could be done without Rdio. It’s the finest music streaming service out there (I’ve tried them all) and so much better than iTunes’ Radio. Superb design and great music selection, Rdio is always running on my Mac.

Conclusion

For the Summer Campaign it took a little more than a week to get everything done. This may seem like a long time, but the early stages of any design take a bit of time while you’re figuring out what you like and what you don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work, etc. Also, I was learning to use Sketch so that added quite a bit of time to development, on top of that fighting with Macaw without a manual made things tougher. I was also developing a workflow which I’ve used later for subsequent campaigns and that takes time. I simply mention all this so you don’t get discouraged if coming to grips with new technology is eating up your precious time.

So there you have it, a glimpse into just some of the technologies that Bruji uses. This is just one side of the coin, on the other side we have Xcode and all things iOS-specific, but that’s a different can of worms for another day.

Hopefully you’ll find something interesting here that you might be able to use for your own projects. If you do, let us know in the comments. Also let us know if you enjoy these articles, we have plans to write more technical ones in the future once we can actually find the time :)

Cheers.

Flag it!

October 31st, 2014

We’ve implemented yet another new feature in the Doghouse to make your life even easier and your mornings happier. Yes, I know, we keep adding new features just to make you happy, it’s what we do.

The moderators out there may already know about the Flagged Status for an entry, it works like this:

Any entry that you find suspicious or you would like another moderator to check, just set its Status to Flagged. If you’re a Moderator and see the Flagged status, check the entry out for potential problems then fix it, Approve it or delete it as you see fit.

The New Stuff

The more avid moderators among you will have noticed that none of this is really new, it’s been around for a while, so where’s this new feature that’s going to make my coffee for me in the morning?

Automatic Language Detection!

That’s the new feature. We’re attempting to detect the language an entry is in when a new one is inserted or when a Mirror is done.

This is more of an issue than you might think. Often people will have collections in different languages but their Mac’s locale is set to one language in particular and this will create a discrepancy.

So we’ve implemented a system where we try to match the language by looking at the title and the summary of an entry, if the language we detect does not match the incoming Locale Language we flag the entry automatically so a moderator can take a look at it.

I’ve been experimenting with this feature for about 2 weeks and have caught a lot of issues with Books so far.

Note: this feature is not turned on for Albums, just Movies, Books and Games.

How to use it

Just visit the Flagged entries when you get a chance and see what’s there, fix the language or any other discrepancies you find.

More Info

Check out the new Flag It page in our Moderator’s Guide for more info on this, complete with nice pictures.

Doghouse Moderator Guide

October 24th, 2014

The Doghouse keeps growing thanks to all our great users but we also need to make sure that the data we have in there is as accurate as possible. If you’ve signed up to be a Doghouse Moderator you’ll want to visit the Doghouse Moderator’s Guide page often.

We’ve recently updated it with information on handling duplicates with its own section for clarity. We also updated the styles for better readability.

Instead of creating a lengthy entry here in the blog repeating the instructions on the Moderator’s Guide, please refer to the pages directly.

We’ll keep updating this guide and adding new info as regularly as we can so make sure to check it often.

Version 5.3: Wawona Tunnel

July 31st, 2014

5.3 has been a long time in testing and we would like to thank all those that volunteered their time during the beta tests to make this a solid release. This is our release with the most beta versions ever. The fundamental internals of the program have changed to be memory managed so as to be more compatible going forward. We’ve been pushing the limits of backwards compatibility to give everybody the best program possible, but looking forward the next big version is likely to go 10.8+ only.

Along with  all the improvements, better ISBN searches, faster speeds, UI tweaks and bug fixes that come with 5.3, what I want to highlight in particular is all the work done by Alex over on the Doghouse Online Library side. This is the beginning of easier sharing with friends as well as having your library on the go, should one  – gasp, the horror – not have Pocketpedia. Do test it out and let Alex know about any bugs you might find. With such a massive undertaking and in the early stages there is still a lot to add and tweak, but it’s best to do so live with web applications so that we can receive a broader feedback.

The programs are running great on Yosemite, so if you are one of the lucky few in the Yosemite open beta do not hesitate to give the new version a try. There’s still lots of work to do for OS X Yosemite, but we have left all this UI work and new features for after Yosemite launches as the final design and internals could change between the beta and the public release of Yosemite.

Hence why this post is called Wawona Tunnel. This is one of the most famous view points at Yosemite park and reached via the southern entrance to the park. From the Wawona Tunnel view point, one can look all the way down the length of the park to Half Dome. So that’s where we are at with the Pedias: in Yosemite but still not down on the valley floor with our camping all set up.

Beta Version 5.2.2, Yosemite Edition

July 10th, 2014

The next beta version, 5.2.2, of the Pedia programs is out. This one is a major overhaul of the memory internals, making all the Pedias faster and lighter. It also addresses a number of issues with the upcoming Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, due out in the fall.

Bookpedia Beta
CDpedia Beta
DVDpedia Beta
Gamepedia Beta

Some of the changes include the new system font of Helvetica Neue which is now used in the details view for Yosemite, table headers match the new Yosemite style and several freeze and bug fixes for Yosemite. One of the few changes that will appear for all users, regardless of OS X installed, is a thinner divider line between the views in the main window. Also included is the final version of the new Doghouse online library option.

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 2.38.38 PM

 

A couple of known bugs with Yosemite are the gray background and incorrect highlight in the collection view and deleting text from the internal search does not update the results. These are Yosemite bugs that hopefully will get fixed in an upcoming beta version, but otherwise will work around them after the release of the Yosemite Golden master.

If you happen to be testing the beta version of Yosemite do give 5.2.2 a whirl and let us know about any other issues you experience. Especially usability issues such as freezes and crashes. If you’re not running Yosemite do test the betas all the same to make sure the modernization of the code for Yosemite did not break any functions all the way back to OS X 10.5. We’ll be releasing an official new version soon on our web page followed by the Mac App Store version.

The next version of Pocketpedia with fixes for both iOS 7 and iOS 8 is also in the works and should be out in a couple of weeks.

New Users Online Library

June 25th, 2014

We here at Bruji are always looking for ways to make our user’s lives easier, it’s what we do. So we’re very happy to announce the new User’s Online Library feature.

What is this, you might ask?

It’s a seamless way to view and share you pedia libraries with anyone in the world without any extra effort on your part.

We’ll give you a unique link to our doghouse website and your pedia libraries will be displayed there automatically, like magic.

Sound awesome, where do I sign up?

There is no sign up form or anything dreary like that. All you need to do is access your unique link for any web browser and that’s it.

Libraries are private by default, only the original user can view them. If you want your library to be public you have to explicitly make it so.

You will need the latest beta of the pedias.

The only thing you have to do to send the initial sync to our servers is open the Pedia Doghouse -> Settings window, check the box that says Sync my Library to Doghouse and click Log in. You need to do this only once, even if you’re logged in, it tells the pedia to send your library to our servers. From then on, the Pedia knows to keep your library up to date in Doghouse.

Instructions for everything can be found here.

How much does it cost?

Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

You’re welcome.

Parting thoughts

This is version 0.9 (beta) of this feature so we very much welcome your feedback on it. Please use the Forum instead of email to make it easier for everyone to follow along.

New DiscoGS Authentication Requirement

June 23rd, 2014

Discogs
Discogs will start requiring authentication for searches starting August 15th. Unlike the previous image download authentication requirement that was implemented without announcement, this change has been announced via email to developers. This gave us plenty of time to work the needed changes into the upcoming releases. Especially important since the review time on the Mac App Store slows down immediate fixes. The latest CDpedia beta already has the new code in place for authentication.

The Discogs API already implemented a technology called OAuth for user authentication to private data such as collections and want list access. Although this is the wrong technology for the general search API, because it requires too much user interaction, it’s easier to integrate for developers. Taking this in mind it seems the Discogs developers have been generous enough to leave the search API without any limits on a per account basis, allowing for a single account sign on and the API to continue to operate without friction. So the new plugin is authenticating automatically with a CDpedia Discogs account and will continue to be as ease to use.

Should you for any reason want to authenticate with your own account, this can be done in the Preferences -> Sites by double clicking the gear button to the right of Discogs in the list of sites. It will expand the details view to full screen and load the Discogs site. Here you need to login, if not already logged in, and then approve CDpedia for access. From then on your own generated tokens for CDpedia will be used to authenticate into Discogs.

Also integrated into the update is a small change to beef up the genres. The styles information now goes into genre field if there is no custom field named “Styles”.

For big fans of Discogs, do take the CDpedia beta for a spin and if you find any issues with the new authentication please me us know.

Bruji on Facebook

June 17th, 2014

We don’t do much advertising here at Bruji. Every once in a while we run a Google AdWords campaign or sponsor a blog like Daring Fireball. Our main advertising “campaign” has always been word of mouth from our users but nowadays word of mouth doesn’t necessarily mean that people talk to each other by the water cooler, instead they exchange links on Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve been on Twitter for a while (you’re following us, right?!) but for some reason we never made it onto Facebook. That has finally changed and we’re ready for friending, liking and posting lots of cat videos and baby pictures. (We don’t have any cats here at Bruji, so we’ll post dog pictures instead.) Here is our new Facebook page now you can tell your friends you ‘like’ us.

We’re still figuring out how it all works, including Facebook Ads, but hopefully this new step will help us reach even more Mac users and spread the Pedia love. Thanks for your help and support!

Family Sharing

June 6th, 2014

Along with all the other new goodies that Apple recently announced at WWDC, they also included family sharing which lets members of a family easily share photos, calendars and purchased apps from the App Store and iTunes Store through the cloud.

This is great news for the Pedia programs because our regular serial numbers (the ones you get when you purchase the programs from us directly as opposed to the Mac App Store) are already family licenses which allow everyone in the same household to use the same serial number. Now we can offer that same freedom to our customers on the Mac App Store and iTunes as well.

Apple has also announced that they will bring bundle sales into the App Store and iTunes Store as well so hopefully we’ll be able to offer that our customers soon too.

We’re still playing around with all the other new features Apple has revealed but once we get to know them and see what fits well with our programs we will work on integrating more of them into the Pedias.

Heartbleed bug

April 19th, 2014

By now, you might have heard of this thing called the Heartbleed bug, which is making the rounds on most Internet news sites.

The truth is, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The vunerability was pretty bad, but in practice, for any of our users the risk was minimal.

First, the bad news: some of your data might have been exposed to anyone sniffing our traffic. The operative word here is might. Chances are very, very slim that any sniffing took place, plus this was not a breach in our database, they didn’t have access to any of the data we keep there (user name and email address, if you provided one) they would only been able to grab your password if they were sniffing online at the actual time you logged in. Think about it, with the trillions of web pages out there, the chances of someone actively sniffing Doghouse pages are what? A quadrillion to one?  An Octodecillion to one? Something crazy anyway.

As I say, extremely unlikely.

The good news:

  1. We have patched all our systems so the Heartbleed bug is no longer an issue.
  2. If you are worried about this bug, change your password in Doghouse. Here’s a link explaining how.

Which services were affected?

Only Doghouse, and only when you contribute any data from the Pedias or when you logged in to admin.bruji.com or doghouse.bruji.com (they’re the same page). If you only use Doghouse for searches and have never contributed any entries you have nothing to worry about.

What data do you store?

We only store your user name and your email address if you provided one so we can communicate with you if the need arises. We never sell or expose your data to anyone, ever, under any circumstances. You can view our privacy policy right here.

What about my password?

Your password is stored with high-grade encryption and looks like this:

e8afdd90d1dec343128b090e39e77eb08f859d4d78ce88262db6fb8f3d9a314ab7a486508567c21ded896bf3c32048fa6abd8987b5d57a1f46fcf6441a30d59a

That doesn’t mean that even if someone got a hold of it they could use it to login with your username because we also use an added security measure appropriate called a salt and there is no way to reverse this encryption to figure out what the password really is.

But, I repeat, nobody but us has access to this data not even through the Heartbleed bug.

OK, this sounds good, but I’m still worried, what should I do?

Just change your password if you use it elsewhere and are worried someone might have caught it as you were logging in and you’ll be fine.