We are at Tech Crunch Disrupt 2012, come visit us at Startup Alley!
We are going to keep this post short. Some of you may already know that we’ve moved to Dallas, TX. Although things have been a bit slow on the front end, we’ve still been busy cooking up stuff behind the scenes. Expect big things in the next few months as we get ready to round up our product for a public launch. Any suggestions or feedback, please feel free to email us at hello [@] attico.us.
P.S. For those from Dallas and around, come say hi at the “Tech Church” or hang out at a coffee shop around uptown.
P.P.S. ^Above especially applies to designers but we’ll have an exciting formal announcement for ya’ll soon.
In this two part series, we take a high level look at the decisions and factors that have helped us create our system. This first part will talk about the user-facing aspects of our system, the ones which directly affect users and their interaction.
We hope to give you a quick overview of our process and philosophy from where our ideas and decisions emerge, and the direction we are heading in the future.
The trend we noticed about people and the Internet was that they prefer to create content over spending time arranging, organising and making them look nice. With activity finally moving away from the computer, we are using our post-PC devices to document our actions right from where they takes place. The last few years have seen a lot of new types of content that users can create thanks to various services looking to carve out their niche and get a piece of the “social” and “cloud” pie. Compare the services today to those even as early as five years ago, when pretty much everything was either a blog or a photo library, and you’ll see what we mean.
We wanted to give users a way to not only bring all that fragmented content together, but also get real value out of them in a meaningful way regardless of their size or form. That’s why we adopted the mantra “Let the user continue doing what they do best, we’ll handle the rest”, which, together with the above, goes a long way into deciding how we implement a feature. In short, a feature to us is one that adds something to the incoming content over and above what the service (where it came from) already does, as well as reduce the burden on a user to maintain it.
We’ve also tried to make the default settings generous and good enough to cater to majority of users —- so they will not have to change or customise most of the things —- while the ones who want more power will also have it available to them as the system becomes more stable. Hosted services are notorious for not having the flexibility, control and transparency of self-hosted software, but we want to change all that.
Our designers are the most powerful members of the team. They have the final say on how a feature works at a high level. This draws from the idea that the interface drives a feature, and a feature is only as effective as the interface used to interact with it. If an implementation of a feature makes the interface and the “user-flow” —- the steps taken by a user to work with the feature —- awkward, then the feature is reworked to simplify them.
There are two main guiding principles behind how an interface is implemented —- simplicity and consistency.
A lot of interaction with content today is repetitive. Creating photos and posts, editing their meta data (things like the title, content, description, tags), sharing with people on social network sites … all these things make up the lion’s share of all actions taken by a user regardless of the kind of content they’re interacting with. Even something as arbitrary as checking in to a new place in a service like Foursquare involves steps that are analogous to creating a blog post —- picking a location is the same as writing a title, adding a message is the same as writing the body, tagging people is the same as adding tags, and so on.
Single purpose services don’t have to worry too much about consistency since they deal with just one kind of data. We, on the other hand, plan to work with all of them simultaneously. Our job of keeping the interaction paradigms consistent is very important so that the users don’t feel like they’re interacting with the service, but rather the content without having to worry about where it is coming from. When you share a status update on your website, you and your viewers won’t have to care about if it came from your Facebook page or Twitter. Data is inherently interface-less, so we use that as a feature to design a consistent experience —- if you know how to write a blog post, you automatically know how to edit a photo because the way you interact with them is mostly similar.
Moving ahead, we will continue implementing these ideas more consistently to bring about a uniformity that makes working with your website more easy, rewarding and fun. But that’s all for now; in part two, we will look at our back-end and how it works from technical perspective, some challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome them.
As always, we value your feedback so keep them coming at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll return with more soon!
I believe we are! After a brief mention back in September, we decided to buckle down and focus on getting ourselves ready for a launch as soon as possible. We couldn’t wait to show everyone what we have been cooking all this while, and we are now ready to do so.
Over the next few weeks, we will be inviting friends and people who signed up to get a peek at Atticous and try it out, giving us feedback while we further improve it for a full launch early next year. Atticous has come a long way since its first outing in how much it does and allows users to do, but we realised that not everybody immediately understood what it’s really about since it really is a re-imagining of things we know and are already used to. So we’ll use this first post as an opportunity to talk about the idea and concept behind Atticous, and what we have in mind for the next few months.
Very simply put, Atticous is your online identity. It’s a way for you to see and share everything that you are and do on the Internet — all in one place. It’s what having a website should mean, without all the hassles that come along with having and maintaining one. Of course, Atticous can mean different things to different people. It can be your simple, hassle-free, beautiful looking website, or it can be your one-stop shop for your entire personal brand.
We started off by adopting one mantra, “Let the users do what they do best, and we’ll handle the rest”, and that’s at the heart of everything — from the setup to the maintainence — in the sense that there is no set-up and there is no maintenance. The way we do this is simple; we save all your content from the services you use — whether that be tweets from Twitter, or photographs from Flickr, or posts from Tumblr, or any (yes, any!) other service that you use — and keep it up to date. All this content is then mashed together and used to build you a beautiful website. That’s right — we build your website for you. So, take for example that you’re a budding photographer. You will no longer have to give people different URLs to your Flickr, Picasa and Facebook pages; from the moment you sign up with Atticous, you’ll be able to give them one URL that shows all your photos, served from your website for that extra professional touch. Because we store all your content, it also means that even if those services were to go down at any time, your photographs will continue to look pretty because your Atticous account is completely independent. The same idea applies to any other service that you use. We are working hard to integrate as many services as we can, as quickly as we can in the next few weeks. So there is a good chance that we’re already working on adding your favourite service if it’s not already there. However, feel free to drop us an email if you use something that’s not so popular or you think we might miss, and we’ll work harder to add it just for you.
Our administration panel showing photos management. Photos from all photo services are aggregated alongside your uploads in one place to make it easy to keep track of them.
We’ve tried to build a powerful, yet easy to use system that lets you customise your website. Other services make you build your website by adding widgets and pages and all that ugly stuff. Let’s face it, this is ‘11, and things really should be easier. That’s where we come in. Your Atticous website is ready to go from the moment you sign-up, and as you connect the services you use, your content from those services will automatically show up on the correct pages without you having to do anything else. Should you choose to make your website look truly unique, our powerful theme editor makes it fully customisable — from the colours and background pictures to the text. We will be adding more themes in the coming days which you can choose to use — for no charge — and then customise using our theme editor to make your site look just the way you want to.
The theme editor in action. Here you see the background picture, colour and the website’s name being edited.
Atticous will be free to use during the closed beta period, so you can try it out without any hassles or commitment. We will reveal our pricing plans as we near a public launch, so you will have enough time to make a decision.
For those joining us during our beta, we hope you like using Atticous as much as we’ve liked making it for you. Don’t hesitate to to send us feedback about what you like or don’t like, and what you would like to see that will help make your experience better. For those who are not a part of the beta, we’ll be adding more and more people every week, so sign up for an invite and keep an eye on your inbox!