Oh my, we sure have been quiet. It's time we gave you a good and proper update on what's happening with Zaro.
The beta false start 😭
We were working extremely hard to get the public beta out the door, with multi-player mode so you can collaboratively work together. We even managed to get an internal alpha up and running which we were using ourselves, but it had problems. It has ux problems and stability problems. We realised quickly that we made a mistake in how we organise content and it quickly went from being a joy to use, to being cluttered.
If you're like me, you like to create lots of boards to capture ideas, projects and task lists. This was getting overwhelming. We needed to revisit how we organised things.
Companies, Projects and Spaces
I don't know why, but for some reason we felt that a space was a great place to manage your tasks on a kanban board. Sadly though, we realised that we needed to group different boards together, so we had to introduce projects. This makes absolute sense, but was the main reason we have to go back to the drawing board. It affects the API, the UI.
In addition to this, we need a way for teams to collaborate so we've been working on the ability to manage your company. Don't worry, if you're a solo creative, you can still manage everything in your personal account (which we plan to have free for everyone). This has been coming along very well.
We were using MongoDB for our entity store (based on a framework we're writing to build Zaro). In addition, the UI was very flexible by being able to create anything it needed to speed up the development cycle. This created two major issues. Firstly, the lack of decent joins in MongoDB meant that some queries were pushed into the application layer which would have an impact on performance and memory usage. Secondly, there was no way to constrain what the application did at the server, so testing became much more challenging.
As shameful as it is to say, we rewrote it. We've moved to using Neo4j for the data storage, which so far has been a blessing. It has made our permission framework so much easier and our ability to implement more complex use cases (e.g. counting how many tasks are assigned to you across different companies) amazingly simple.
As for the front end, rather than using the Zaro API in an abstract way (for example, everything was an Entity) we now have first class API endpoints for everything. This has made writing test cases so much easier.
To make things even better, we containerised everything using Docker. We've never used Docker before. I consider that an achievement unlocked 🏆.
Then there's feedback, eek! 😳
If you're reading this and have used tools like Trello or Asana, then it's obvious when we say that Zaro - a kanban task manager - is in a very crowded space. We've reached out to get initial feedback using just the Zaro homepage to get an idea of what people think, and most importantly, what objections they have to why they wouldn't use Zaro.
In short, it can be boiled down to the following two points:
- Why would I use this over Trello?
- It doesn't tell me what the must-have feature is
It's easy to look at this and conclude that we've not built anything new or compelling. Ouch. But actually, it's made us more energised to fix this. This is valid feedback.
So Zaro is just another Trello right?
Yes. Then a BIG no! I've seen Trello used in many agencies and people like it. But I also see the missed opportunities that happen when using Trello. So in a way, Zaro is to compete with Trello, but then it's to leap across the void and be something completely new. But we need that solid foundation to move forward with.
We'll be sharing more of our roadmap in time, but I want to leave you with a sense of our philosophy at Zaro.
At Zaro, we believe in giving the power back to the creatives, by allowing you to reach a state of flow and remove the barriers when using tools and communicating. You deserve to have everything to make the best decisions, to have the best creative ideas, to share those in a passionate and enriching way. We want you to have a habit of success through experimentation, learning and adaptation. We want you feel like a superhero, an unstoppable force being the best at what you do. We want everyone to have access and unlock their creative potential.
To achieve this, we have created Zaro. Our slick and elegant creative collaboration platform, where we have painstakingly refined and tested our product to meet our philosophy.
It's a work in progress, but our product will be designed for that philosophy. This is what will set us apart from the competition. We have big ideas, and we're working hard to form the foundation that allows us to innovate and deliver fast.
We applied to the online Startup School run by Y Combinator. We didn't actually get in, but due to a technical glitch their end, they ended up letting all 15,000 companies who applied in! It's a 10 week online course with lessons and we have to submit weekly updates to share our startup's progress.
We entered because we wanted something to be accountable to. So even though we never made the original selection, we'll put our best in. We're working hard to get this beta up and running and start tracking our metrics as we go. I want to share our progress to you as we go.
There's a lot to do. We've been busy customising a Ghost blog template to make content writing easier (as this forms part of our marketing strategy). We're busy fixing bugs and finalising the last parts of the beta. We need time to stabilise it, but we're more focused than ever.
The long and short of it though is that we're having a lot of fun building Zaro. We love the product and believe in its future. We're pumped to hear feedback from you and to reach out to potential companies and pitch it. It's how we learn.
Over the coming weeks we want to share more about the development journey we've taken to build Zaro. We've learned an awful lot. But until then, expect a new update in a week 😁