Sketches, Wireframes & Logo Ideas – Meet Our New App

Logo for Hello Application

We’re working our asses off in the next four days to build a simple app called “Hello”. The strap-line is “Turn to your neighbor and say …”, so you can probably guess what it does.

We’re hoping you can use this experience to pick up tips on …

  1. Code: We’re releasing it live and open-sourced, as we build: github.com/carsonified/helloapp. Feel free to fork it.
  2. Design: We’ll be sharing the logo and UI design, as it progresses.
  3. UX: We’re scanning our wireframes, no matter how rough, and releasing them to download (see below).

Why are we doing it?

  1. To entertain and amuse you :)
  2. Help you learn from our mistakes
  3. Shed some light on another company’s design and build process
  4. Open up the conversation about ASP.NET MVC

Some of you may be suprised by #4 as we usually build in Rails. The reason we’ve chosen ASP.NET MVC is because we feel that a lot of developers blindly choose frameworks like Rails because 1) Everyone says it’s cool and 2) They hate Microsoft.

There’s a negativity towards the Microsoft stack that we think is narrow minded. Surely we should be technology agnostic, and simply choose the best tool for the job, right? If Jeff Atwood (founder of Stack Overflow) codes in ASP.NET MVC, then surely it’s worth a look. For those of you who haven’t come across the framework the description from the site is:

A free, fully supported, web framework that provides total control over your HTML and URLs, enables rich AJAX scripting, and facilitates test driven development.

With that in mind, we pitched an idea to Microsoft where we use some of the sponsorship funds for Future of Web Apps to build an app in ASP.NET MVC. We’ll share all the positive elements of the framework, along with the frustrations. Hopefully it’ll be interesting for all of you.

I want to say a huge thank you to Matt Lee, an awesome ASP.NET MVC developer from Red Gate, who is building Hello. Keir is helping with the database design, Mike is doing all the design work, and I’m doing the wireframing, filming and blogging.

First Draft Wireframes

Black board with home page wirefame sketch
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Black board with alternative home page wirefame sketch
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Black board with two wirefame sketches
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Second Draft Wireframe

Second draft wireframe, done on white paper. Home and alternative home page.
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First Draft Logos

Hello App logo number one

Hello App logo number two

First Draft Home Page Designs

Home page design number one

Home page design number two

Home page design number three

Feel Free to Follow Along

We’ll be tweeting from @carsonified with progress updates, interviews and photos. We’re hoping (fingers crossed) to launch at 5pm London time on Thursday Aug 13th. It’ll be a fun ride :)

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Comments

0 comments on “Sketches, Wireframes & Logo Ideas – Meet Our New App

  1. Very interesting idea. I’m curious to find out more about what Hello will do as well as how your experience with ASP.NET goes. Thanks for doing this Ryan.

    • We’ve never really taken time for IA. To be honest, you need a freaking huge budget to be able to afford doing that. Also, it’s one abstraction too far away from reality, for most web apps, in my opinion.

      • “We’ve never really taken time for IA. [...] Also, it’s one abstraction too far away from reality, for most web apps, in my opinion.”

        Thank you, Ryan! You just made me realise Carsonified is just a really elaborate practical joke. Had a big laugh at that one. Feel free to send me an email with the number for your dealer, because I want some of that funny crack you’re smoking.

  2. Great stuff that you’re opening this all up – I think process is one of the areas that is still not very widely discussed in a completely open way.

  3. > Surely we should be technology agnostic, and simply choose the best tool for the job, right?

    Well sure, but I’m sure many would rather not support a corporation that has no issue causing millions of people pain and misery on a daily basis. Free framework or not the hate they get is entirely their own fault.

    (ok that’s maybe a little exaggerated but you get the idea ;) )

    Anyway I’m liking what I see and hear so far, especially the hexagonal logo.

  4. Rails has a ton of great FOSS apps that you can fork and hack away. Peepcode, etc.

    No license costs. Vendor lock-in is a business *risk* if you’re an internet startup.

    ActiveRecord FTW. Scaffolding FTW. Probably just me though.

    ASP.NET does have drastically better IDE and toolings though. This is a good blog about RoR for .NET guys: http://www.softiesonrails.com/

  5. I’m not going to lash out against using Microsoft since I wouldn’t be contributing to what everyone already knows, but I assume that you’re using ASP.NET MVC because Microsoft is paying you to promote it amongst the web design community (hence their very visible appearance and sponsorship at Carsonified events)?

    Nothing wrong with that at all (tell me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think why there’d be any other reason to use asp.net), and if it is a commercial decision I’d definitely do the same. However I’d probably tell people that I was being paid by MS to do it in the spirit of transparency.

    • Hey Daniel – You must have missed this part of the post:

      “With that in mind, we pitched an idea to Microsoft where we use some of the sponsorship funds for Future of Web Apps to build an app in ASP.NET MVC. We’ll share all the positive elements of the framework, along with the frustrations. Hopefully it’ll be interesting for all of you.”

      • Doh – sorry yeah I did miss that; I was taken in by MS’s big blockquote bigging up the framework.

  6. It’s always interesting and often inspirational to see someone else’s design/development process so I look forward to following this project and trying it out at FOWA.

    I’m also still wondering what happened to Truvay ;)

  7. > Some of you may be suprised by #4 as we usually build in Rails. The reason we’ve chosen ASP.NET MVC is because we feel that a lot of developers blindly choose frameworks like Rails because 1) Everyone says it’s cool and 2) They hate Microsoft.

    Also, because Microsoft are one of your major sponsors, and they’re paying you to do it :)

  8. Although I do agree— if it’s a decent framework, it’s a bit silly not to use it— but i’m against using it just to use it, and i’m against the fact that Microsoft has no business in trying to innovate in one area where they are making web designers and consumers everywhere else cry. However if it works, hey.

    Design wise, I’ll comment: the first designs seem a bit bland. I understand where your going with the simple retro circles, i just don’t think the concept plays out.

    I really really like the honeycomb concept, and that deep purple works good. But, I think the combination of the simple honeycombs and Helvetica with Georgia as your body font it doesn’t mix.

    Just my two cents!

    But yes, definitely go with the third homepage.

  9. You are most certainly welcome to use ASP.NET and wish you the best. I have developed several ASP.NET apps since 2001 up to last year. While there are some good things to be said about ASP.NET, the pain and expense of being locked into Windows for the server (and Mono really isn’t there) was too much. So, I no longer developer ASP.NET apps – preferring the immediacy and affordability of the LAMP stack for web development. So, I must beg off in participating in this. All out of morphine :)

    • Hey Carl – we’re specifically excited about the ‘MVC’ element of the framework. It looks pretty compelling – especially with Visual Studio.

  10. I’m excited to see the outcome of this. I’ve realized there’s been quite a bit of hype with RoR and no one pays mind to anything else except that nowadays and not trying ASP or even ColdFusion.

    Loving the logo and color scheme concepts too nice work Mike. Not a fan of the last one though :)

  11. A request please. Because this is going to be ASP.NET MVC could you include a starter piece on how to get that all up and running on Mac OS X and Linux systems? I assume it all works in Mono or something similar? I doubt it is Windows only (not too keen on having to run a VM with a Windows license just to follow this project.) Thanks.

    • Hopefully Matt can help you out with that. He’s on a Windows machine, but he might know if that’s possible.

  12. Hey, I’m really pleased to hear that you’re giving ASP.NET MVC a try – although I’m not a huge supporter of Microsoft (I need to say that to retain what little credibility I have among the hipster community) it’s good to hear that you’re not closing yourselves off from a potentially good framework.

    Carsonified is just the sort of company that I expect to set conventions, not follow them. Power to you guys!

    Oh and design 1 is cool, not really feeling the hexagons so much…

  13. Great idea, and I am looking forward to seeing your progress. I’m assuming you were aware that most people would disagree with your choice of technologies. It’s cool to see someone use a less popular technology to build a high profile app to show that there is more than one way to achieve the same effect.

    That being said, I am a Rails newbie and would have preferred to watch a Rails app being built. Oh well, maybe next time.

    Will you be doing Unit Testing along the way?

  14. ASP.NET MVC is a good framework, but it’s a shame that there are a great many people making it a lot wankier than it needs to be. I think the strength of Rails is twofold – firstly its simplicity, and secondly the ecosystem.

    ASP.NET MVC is pretty simple, but as soon as you get into stuff like testing it’s pretty poor. Then you’ve got the ALT.NET crowd who lump complexity on top of it all for absolutely no reason. I’m totally sick of seeing a million interfaces in every ASP.NET MVC project just to support buzzwords of software “design”.

    The ecosystem is trickier, because the way in which Rails can plug in functionality is really a fundamental limitation in the predominant .NET languages. You simply can’t get the mixin-style features in C# and VB.NET that you see in Ruby, and so extensions to the framework can’t be as drop-in-and-go.

    Overall I think you’ve done good to choose ASP.NET MVC for this experiment and I hope some cross-contamination between Rails and ASP.NET MVC comes from it.

  15. My main problem with ASP.NET MVC is primarily due to their site being a perfect example of how a framework shouldn’t work.

    I’m told that the site is actually a bad example of the framework, and lots of the terrible practices (form tag wrapping the entire document for example) aren’t required. But that just makes me wonder what kind of developers would allow the official site for a framework be the worst possible example of its use.

    I’m interested to see how things go though, I love the coloured circles version of the logo.

  16. For a long time I earned my living as an ASP developer, but switched to an open source stack about five years ago.

    One of the big drawbacks developing on a Microsoft stack for me wasn’t the technology, but the licensing. The problem isn’t as simple as cost alone. Free is always preferable on paper, but when it really comes down to it those costs aren’t usually so high that they become insurmountable. I think the problem is twofold.

    Firstly, the licenses are extremely complex. There’s no single fee that you can just pay and then get down to work. You need to license each server and then license those servers to talk to each other and then license other people to talk to those servers, and it’s all just a headache.

    The second problem is a symptom of the first. Because licenses are charged out at different rates, there is necessarily the need for artificial limitation on what any particular license allows you to do. In order to charge more of some features, the vendor has to turn those features off in the cheaper versions. This results in having to make a choice at the outset as to what you’re going to use, and then pretty much denies you the flexibility to change further down the line.

    This is pretty much counter to the way a start-up operates. You need to be able to quickly change your plans and be 100% flexible as you go. Commercial licensing can make this a real pain to achieve.

    I completely agree about choosing the best tool for the job. I also stand by the commercial software model for many types of software (I develop commercial software myself). When it comes down to the fundamentals of the platform your business is built on, I think it’s important to be able to choose the best tool, and not have to compromise on a technical choice because of license restrictions placed on you by an external software vendor.

    • Hey Drew – really great point – and one that definitely needs to be addressed.

      Let me take this up with Mark and Mark over at MS and see what they have to say. I wonder if it’s going to get simpler with Azure?

      • Great feedback Drew – thank you!

        I hear what you are saying and would be interested to hear what particular elements of licensing have caused you pain. Will ping you an email offline.

        We are trying to make things easier for developers to pick up our stuff, develop with it and be appropriately licensed through some of our technologies like Azure and programs like Bizspark:

        Bizspark http://www.bizspark.com – this is our programme for startups and gives easy access to all our software with the appropriate licenses, etc. There are loads of great examples of how startups have used Bizspark to license and use MS technologies in their products/services

        Azure http://www.azure.com – this is will definitely make application development in the cloud easier and provide the clarity/flexibility to grow as your business grows. It isn’t the solution for everybody but definitely has loads of potential

        Hosting – We work closely with hosting partners to help them figure out the licensing issue so that you as the end customer shouldn’t have to. We continue to invest in this area to make it easier for customers to use our stack – e.g. creation of a Web Server version (or ‘SKU’) of Windows Server specifically to help hosters and customers simplify and specialize in the web hosting space

    • Microsoft licensing for some of their key products is a well known minefield of confusion, and even many MS employees do not fully understand the true complexities of it.

      However you can abstract away nearly all of the complexities of your licensing headache depending on how your business operates. Small to medium sized firms can lease thier hardware and software- think hosting- if i lease dedicated servers they come with leased software installed- Sql server/Windows server etc. This is not expensive- it costs me $25 per month for a full license for Sql2008 Web hosted on a dedicated server (at $250 per month for the server). Great value for me as a MS web developer my clients and my business. If they release a new product i will migrate, just as I migrate to new better, faster shinier hardware every 12-18 months. The cost to change is minimal.

      If you have to develop and support LOB apps in the workplace and host servers yourself- well that gets more expensive. We have just purchased a new Sql2008 license at work for £20k- but this is a core underlying component to the business that supports hundreds of employees all using a custom built LOB application.

      As most of the readers of this blog are really talking about web based enterprises/business’ the licensing costs are negligable. Not free, not as cheap as a LAMP stack, but not prohibitive. There ae many ways that a development shop can get dev and testing licenses for next to nothing (microsoft Action Pack £200 per year enough licences to sink a boat).

      RE your start up comment- you could use the biz spark programme which gives you full development tools, production server licences and everything you need
      for no cost (IIRC). http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/Faqs.aspx

      Developing MS apps/sites is not free, but its not necessarily that expensive (though it can be depending on you line of business).

      Ben

    • Unfortunately you are right about the licensing, it is confusing. Personally I leave worrying about that kind of stuff to the ops guys at work! A few things to note…

      Microsoft are listening to the open source movement, more and more projects coming out of Microsoft are published under the MSPL http://www.opensource.org/licenses/ms-pl.html. ASP.NET MVC is just one of those.

      Microsoft are also listening to startups http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/startup-toolkit and are trying to resolve some of the problems you’ve highlighted.

      Of course a different approach would be to look at Mono http://www.mono-project.com, they’ve actually got ASP.NET MVC running on the Mono platform http://mjhutchinson.com/journal/2009/04/02/aspnet_mvc_monodevelop_addin_preview.

  17. This looks to be another exciting activity brewing up at the Carsonified hut. I admire your bold choice to go with the MS framework. I actually enjoyed using VB.NET for 12 months. It taugt me a lot. In fact it made my PHP coding better because it pushed into OOP.

    The main issue I have with .NET is how evolution of the framework breaks setimes crucial functionality with little or no warning. And there are some nasty gotchas when you try to improve performance.

    Not major concerns however and still an interesting project. I look forward to seeing the final result!

  18. I think one thing to be clear on is that to use Microsoft languages such as C#, or frameworks such as .NET MVC you don’t have to use a full ‘Microsoft Stack’. There’s the obvious Mono on linux but also you can connect to any database (such as MySQL) from .NET. So your license costs may not be that high and your choice is definately not limited.

    Additionally, tooling is an important issue that is often neglected when discussing development (I’m personally yet to use an IDE that I would rate higher than VS). Which is odd considering the seemingly accepted costs for a designer if they use the classic Adobe CS apps. I doubt many designers use only the GIMP and so I don’t think the cost of VS is a barrier to entry (anymore than Photoshop for designers – and MS provide VS Express for free). Yes its costly and yes you will pay a bit more for a windows server than a linux server (although, on one of the budget hostings, I use its less than a dollar difference a month between windows and linux). You could develop using VS Express and deploy with any database of your choice.

    Of course you don’t have to use MS at all, but the argument that you are locked in and have difficult licensing issues seems to be often more of a knee jerk response than a thought out issue.

    Good luck with MVC, we’ll be following your progress with interest. We’ve been using it both internally and personally at Headscape and so far find it particularly powerful and exciting.

    • Hey Craig – thanks for stopping by. We’re big fans of Headscape :)

      I think the issue of tooling is very important, as you said. I’ve been particularly impressed with Visual Studio. After seeing it, it’s kind of shocking to go back to TextMate.

  19. I’m really looking forward to seeing this, the logo looks absolutely stunning. I actually designed something really similar for an A5 leaflet recently. Can’t wait to see it :)

  20. Good for you – this should be interesting. The strongest .NET card is the IDE: Visual Studio is without peer, especially when it comes to debugging.

    I am disappointed if this is solely inspired by the vendor’s funding. A wise developer has an obligation to understand the entire choice of tools regardless of how cash flows. I like to read blogs such as this on the assumption they’re more or less independent. (See also the Vodafone-backed widget project…)

    Anyway +1 to the comment above regarding Truvay. The progress and/or suspension of a troubled app’s life are just as interesting as new ones’ glamourous early days.

  21. Love the thinking behind this project.  You are creating something practical, funding via the technology provider and positioning as a community case study.   Its almost as enjoyable to see the well orchestrated collaboration as it will be to see the finished product.

    Fuel had considered .NET MVC for a recent project and decided against it.  I agree with your point about being unbiased toward technology; our discussion was whether we wanted to sacrifice focus and whether the incremental gain would be worth the benefit.  So aside from the case study in progress, (Which of course has stand-alone value) our team is definitely interested in both an objective look at .NET MVC in action and if whether the education, time investment & cost of implementing vs. something like Rails, will be worth the benefit.

  22. So do you pay Matt Lee for his work, you’re basically outsourcing the actual coding to another company or is he “part” of this say start-up project?

    The option in this case for a company is hire a dev or have the existing dev’s learn a new language. It would have been interesting to see what your inhouse dev’s would have made from switching from one language to another for a new project. Would you have done the same or just stick with what you are used to using?

  23. I DO like the hexagonal direction, definitely a fan – Great idea for this project and it’ll be awesome to watch it progress!

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  26. I saw your tweat about hosting problems. Never had a problem with hosting for ASP.NET MVC. Dedicated hosting is not essential. E.g. I use a local company Global Gold for to host my blog:-

    http://www.timacheson.com

    Here I’m running ASP.NET MVC and Entity Framework on a standard shared hosting environment, it’s cheap and performance is unbeatable — with or without the awesome power of OutputCache at page-level.

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