I have just launched a new product. First some back story. A few years ago, my wife and I were renovating the house we live in now. Trying to schedule and track all the different tasks, tradesmen and quotes was a real pain. We stuck Post-it® notes onto a whiteboard to try to keep on top of it all. The Post-it notes represented the various jobs that need doing. We placed them in columns (representing what stage they were at: needs quote, accepted quote, scheduled, doing, done) and rows (representing the various trades: plumbing, roofing, electrical etc). It worked, but it was far from ideal:
- I wanted to see status vs trade, status vs room and room vs trade. But changing the layout was a pain, so I had to pick one layout and stick with it.
- Colours were useful for extra information. But we were limited to just the few colours that Post-it notes come in.
- There was only limited space to write on the note.
- My wife couldn’t read my handwriting.
- We had to use a separate spreadsheet to track the budget.
- Post-it notes would fall off and get lost after being moved a few times.
- I ran out of Post-it notes.
That is when the idea of Hyper Plan first occurred to me. It has been burning a hole in my brain for the last 5 years. Now I have finally got around to implementing it.
Hyper Plan is Post-it note style planning, implemented in software. In software you are no-longer limited by the number of Post-it notes you can afford, the amount of wall space you have or the number of colours Post-it notes come in. You can even change the layout and colours with a mouse click. All with animation and easing curve loveliness.
The sorts of planning you can use it for include:
- project planning
- planning what is going into your next software release
- event planning
- Kanban / Scrum / Agile
- planning a holiday
- to do list (I know!)
Anything where you have discrete tasks that you want to be able to categorize (e.g. by person, status or type), schedule or track in a visual form.
Here is a 2:42 minute overview in video form (with audio):
Can’t see the video? Try this mp4 version (10.7 MB).
Hyper Plan is quite different to anything else I have seen. That could be a good thing or bad thing. I am putting out an early beta to try to find out.
Hyper Plan is not currently for sale. I don’t want to take the time to set up all the payment processing and licensing until I am confident someone might actually buy it. The current beta version will run completely unrestricted until 17-Jan-2015. There are Windows and Mac versions. Hopefully a commercial version will be available for sale by the time the beta expires. If not, I will release another free version.
Currently it is very much an MVP (minimum viable product).
- The UI is a bit rough around the edges.
- The logo was done in 5 minutes in Word.
- The documentation is just a quick start guide.
- Some important features are not implemented yet (e.g. printing, exporting and undo).
But I have tried to follow my own advice and resist foul urges to spend months polishing it (which is hard!). What is there is pretty robust though, and I think it demonstrates the concepts. Hopefully I will know in a few weeks whether it is worth taking the time to polish it to commercial levels.
I would love to know what you think. Particularly how useful you find it for ‘real’ planning tasks. Even responses of the form “I wouldn’t use this because…” are helpful. Please also email a link to anyone else you think might be interested. Particularly if you have ever seen them sticking Post-it notes to a wall or swearing at Microsoft Project! My contact details are here.
Q: Why is it desktop, rather than SaaS/mobile?
A. I think stories of the death of desktop software are exaggerated. Also:
- I can build a minimum viable product much quicker for desktop.
- Differentiation. Some people prefer desktop apps, e.g. because they don’t have reliable Internet or don’t want to store their data on third party servers.
- Less competition. Everyone else seems to be doing SaaS/mobile.
I might add SaaS and/or mobile versions later, if there is enough demand. Note that DropBox (or the Google, Microsoft or Apple equivalents) allow you to easily sync a Hyper Plan file across multiple computers.
Q: So it’s Trello for desktop?
A. Not really. I had the basic idea before I ever saw Trello. And I’m not stupid enough to compete with a free tool from the great Joel Spolsky! Trello is great at what it does. But Hyper Plan is different in quite a few ways. In Trello the emphasis is on collaboration and workflow. In Hyper Plan the emphasis is on visualization and planning. Hyper Plan allows you to present your information in lots of different ways with a few mouse clicks. It also has a built in ‘pivot table’ type feature that is much easier to use than Excel pivot tables. This is really useful for totalling effort and expenditure by different categories.
Post-it is a registered trademark of 3M.
The scrum photo is licensed under creative common by Logan Ingalls.
I think you have potentially a huge hit on your hands. I love the concept. Constructive critisism follows … the ‘board’ chould be bigger with all the text around it being capable of being hidden or possibly placed on property type windows, or similar. I think the ‘board’ display and the engine look great – just not sure about the rest of the UI, it looks a bit Win95 … please take that constructively as it is intended. Cheers – Steve
>I think you have potentially a huge hit on your hands.
It is so hard to know!
>just not sure about the rest of the UI, it looks a bit Win95
The UI is distinctly lacking in polish at the moment. I take your point about the controls using up too much real estate. But note that you:
-can use the splitter controls to collapse them completely
-can show the ‘cards’ view full screen
I’m not a big fan of floating window and I am trying to avoid modal dialogs as much as possible. Do you have any good examples of other software that does a better job of solving the same UI problem?
>please take that constructively as it is intended
I like the idea.
I’d tread carefully though as to not make it stand out at a first glance as Trello for desktop as you figured out yourself. I believe adding one or two features that Trello doesn’t focus on would help you create a unique selling proposition and make marketing easier in later period.
For example, I don’t use Trello, because I hate the cloud approach. I have several things on my todo list that I’d prefer to keep private. I don’t trust cloud applications as when something leaves my computer and is not encrypted with my private password, it can be viewed or hacked by anyone. Hyper Plan would sell me if it was advertised as a non-cloud approach, but I wonder if there are many people from target audience who think in such a weird way :).
Problem is, majority of people don’t want security. Rather, they want accessibility and ease of use as a priority and that is why web-based or mobile apps work so well. I also think desktop applications death is highly exaggerated as I stick with desktop in my projects as well.
Do you know already what marketing channels will you focus on in the beginning?
I think it has quite a few differences from Trello. I’m not sure how easy it is going to be to communicate those differences though. Time will tell.
Some people certainly see non-cloud as a selling point.
I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on the marketing, but prefer not to say much about it at present.