It’s October 2008 and we’re starting our initial FileGuardian development plus we’ve named our venture Shugo. Optimism was sky-high as we’re well on our way to greatness, or so we thought. Our near term agenda was booked solid: finalize a logo, create a corporate website, continue to build our early adopter relationships and get a beta version of FileGuardian in place.
Finalizing a logo
If you remember from part 4 of our story, I wasn’t all that enamored with the original design of the Shugo logo. Something about the shield and the connect the dots S inside just didn’t sit well. I loved the colors and understood the concept but it may have been to “abstract” for this logical fellow to appreciate. Nevertheless, I gave it some time to sync in and shared it with a few close friends and colleagues.
Shockingly (well at least I was shocked), I seemed to be in the minority. The overwhelming response was positive. In fact, I believe I was the only one who wasn’t 100% in love with it. Based on our initial goal of providing small businesses (accountants) the ability to securely exchange data it fit perfectly. Heck, even some of my accountant friends understood it and I thought I was more creative than they were.
I don’t know if I caved but after a few days of consideration I decided to keep the logo. Part was from the initial response received. Part was from my belief that we had bigger fish to fry and we could change it later if we wanted (though it would prove costly at that point).
I wanted to concentrate on our corporate website and FileGuardian itself. The hope was to have a beta FileGuardian version in place for the 2008 tax season. This meant we needed to be able to have it in our early adopter hands and train them before 1/1/2009. If not, we’d miss the beta opportunity (and I sure didn’t feel like waiting another year).
Building a websites is easy…or so I thought
How hard could building a website be? Just place some text and images inside of a static HTML website and you’re set – or so I thought. I mean come on: I’ve designed and built huge web applications to handle large amounts of transaction processing and to process payroll. Building a simple static website should be a breeze.
If you’ve ever built a website yourself, you’ll know that’s pretty naïve thinking. Besides nailing the overall design aesthetic, the next hurdle is filling your website with intriguing content. Plus the web was changing: SEO, blogs and social media were starting to come into play and you needed it integrated into your website as well.
Honestly, I wanted to concentrate on keeping it simple. I’d tackle all that Web 2.0 fun another day. Our initial goal was not only to provide valuable content about how important it is to securely exchange data but in the end entice our website visitor to sign up for FileGuardian. So we had two main objectives:
- Educate our website visitors on the necessity of securely exchanging personally identifiable information (PII) and share the latest on government legislation requiring services like FileGuardian
- Guide visitors to sign up for a free trial of FileGuardian
Our website needs to look clean and professional
Before I worried about enticing content, I needed an overall design. It had to be simple, clean and easy to use. Ugh, not my forte but my marketing friend once again came to the rescue. Good thing I had done a few things for him in a previous life as now he was repaying the debt. Honestly, he’s a great guy and even if I hadn’t worked on things with him the past, he would’ve offered to help anyway.
After a few iterations back and forth, we had come up with a look and feel. I was pretty proud and remember setting up a meeting with my own accountant to get his thoughts for our design unveiling. He and I had known each other for years and were friends before our professional relationship. So like any good accounting/client relationship, we decided to meet at our favorite watering hole, The Grey Lodge.
He’s actually the one to introduce me and my group of friends to The Grey Lodge. It wasn’t the sexiest of places but featured one of the best beer menus of any bar in the area. Sure you can find the mainstay beers in bottles (Miller, Bud, Coors, etc…) but their specialty was the selection of microbrews on tap and in bottles. Seems like commonplace today but back in 2008 finding a bar with a great microbrew selection was difficult. We’ve stayed loyal to the Lodge and still frequent it today.
It felt pretty funny walking into the Lodge with my laptop since I don’t believe I ever entered it before with anything but a full wallet. The unveiling was taking place and here’s the design I was sharing.
Not bad eh? At least back on 2008 we thought it was pretty damn good. Funny enough to this day I and many others can’t stand the stock image of that lady. There’s something pretty creepy about her.
But I digress as overall the response was very positive and now the hard part of any website was upon us: filling it with intriguing and fresh content to make our visitors sign up for a FileGuardian trial.
Easier said than done and if you know me you’ll also know I’m not one who likes to read long paragraphs. I like bullets that summarize information since they catch my eye (it’s why I’ve carved the Shugo story up into many different posts and inside of each post there’s a few sections) . So the job was not only enticing content, but in summarized bullet points!
Finally, FileGuardian development
If you’ve never been on a software development project before you may think the first step is to get coding. In reality, that’s far from the first thing you work on. For FileGuardian, there were two main tasks to start:
- Create our development and QA environments – this is actually a pretty big undertaking and is way more complex than what I can get into here. There’s a few important items though that are worth mentioning like choosing our source control environment and creating our internal quality assurance area. For the former, we chose to use Subversion and still run it today. For the latter, we had a few servers purchased previously so one was designated for our internal testing environment.
- Complete a full application design/architecture – building software is much like building a house. You first identify the needs: how many bedrooms/bathrooms, how many windows/doors, etc…. You then rely on an architect to create a blue print of how the house will layout based on your needs. This blue print describes all the rooms in the house, how big each is, how they connect, etc… After the blue print is approved, you’ll then start gathering material and workers to take it from paper to a reality. Software follows a similar set of steps (plus a few more). I was busy identifying all our FileGuardian needs (what it was meant to do) and my colleagues (the two employees from the consulting company) were creating a software architecture/design to support these needs. We’d review it all together before writing a stich of code.
The clock is ticking
It’s October 2008 and our timeline is approaching. We need the beta version of FileGuardian available to our early adopters well before 1/1/2009 or we’ll miss out on this year’s tax season. Time to put the pedal to the medal. Oh and I forgot, still do enough consulting so we can feed our families. No pressure at all!