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Unbounce’s First ShipIt Day

ship-it-header

Last Friday saw our inaugural ShipIt day at Unbounce. Modelled on the concept popularized by Atlassian, the intent of the day was to work on problems not necessarily on our current schedule and demo where we get to at the end of the day. The purpose was to have the opportunity to try something different, to spark creative thinking and perhaps even have some fun.

It seemed pretty simple in theory. Meet in the morning, pitch ideas to the whole group and potentially get buy in to your idea and/or form teams to swarm on ideas. Oh, and make it open to the whole company – not just the engineering team.

We ended up settling on a few simple rules:

  • Open to everyone at Unbounce
  • Not limited to existing product at all
  • You must demo at the end of the day

We settled on the following format for the actual day:

  • Meet at 9am to pitch ideas and discuss
  • Break off into teams or individuals and work on ideas
  • Get together at 4pm and demo where we got to

We had representation from the entire company including Customer Success, User Experience, Product Development, Engineering and our Events Strategist.

Some Highlights

Mobile app for upcoming conference by Matt & Vivi (UX team)upload

Our Events Strategist (Stef) pitched the idea of a mobile app for attendees of our CTA Conference in September. Matt and Vivi took up the challenge and showcased clickable wireframes and a working PhoneGap app with speaker schedules & bios, prototype session reviews and WiFi details for Android and iPhone.

Open source portal on GitHub by Chris Cummer (Dev team)

We use many open source tools, libraries, frameworks and systems. We have also tweaked and made some contributions to a number of projects. Chris (one of our dev team leads) was keen to contribute back and showcase some of what we are doing so decided to setup an Unbounce Open Source portal on GitHub.

Form submission using Vert.x + DynamoDB by James & Kadeem (Dev/QA)

We are always looking for new and interesting technology. Recently we have been exploring Vert.x as an asynchronous, polyglot platform. James (dev) and Kadeem (QA) teamed up to create an app running on Vert.x, backed by Amazon DynamoDB (NoSQL store) and using Amazon SQS message queues to process and store form submissions. This was a great example of new technology being used in interesting ways.

jQuery multi-step form widget by Mark (CS team)forms

Mark wanted to create a simple way using jQuery to add a simple multi step form to existing Unbounce Pages. His approach allows for walking through various steps in filling out a form and finalising the result in a form submission. All without needing to write any backend code.

PS2 globalizer by Carl (CTO)globalizer

Our new Page Server is geo-located in multiple data centres. Carl, our CTO, thought it would be awesome to show hits via our page servers on a rotating globe to highlight data centres and where end users are accessing them from. This was initially shown during our Page Server launch in February but Carl went a step further to get it running in the cloud and showing on one of our office dashboard screens.

Other interesting ideas

  • PSD to Unbounce page bundle by Carter (Product/UX team)
  • improved testing setup for linux based developers by Aaron (Dev team)
  • point to point WebRTC video+chat in JavaScript by Paul (Dev team).
  • wiring up our own HubBot to HipChat so we can start automating tasks via chat by Chris Spicer (Ops team)

There was lots of buzz and participation from the whole company and some great demos of what can get done in a day. Overall it was a resounding success.

Special thanks go to James and Chris Spicer for organising a great day.

Lessons Learned

  • A single day is quite short, limiting scope or swarming around an idea are useful to keep in mind in order to achieve a demo-able outcome
  • Pitching ideas in advance may help with the first point
  • We would like to capitalize on momentum by having a pathway for great ideas to make it into the product roadmap

As always, we like to inspect and adapt most things we do, our ShipIt day was no exception. For the next incarnation we aim to apply our lessons learned to capitalize on some of the momentum and ensure an even better ShipIt v0.2.

Our inaugural ShipIt day helped us think outside the box, promoted cross team collaboration and focused on what is achievable in a day.

Do you have similar ShipIt days? Let us know how you do it.

-Geoff Webb
Director of Engineering

  • http://unbounce.com/ Oli Gardner

    Wuuuuuuuuuut! Multi-step forms! That is seriously badass. Wow. Way to go Mark!

    • Liesl Barrell

      Agreed, game-changer: I NEED that feature!

    • http://www.unbounce.com/ Carter Gilchrist

      Ya that was pretty much the reaction of everyone around the table when he demoed it. Seriously slick, he’s working on cleaning up and putting the code up in our tips & tricks section I think.

  • Stefanie Grieser

    Seriously, I LOVE Ship it day. Can we do another one?

    “Oh, and make it open to the whole company – not just the engineering team.” >> And that was the best part.

    Thanks Spicer, James & Geoff for making this happen.

    #shipit

  • http://invokelabs.com Duncan Blair

    We have had similar experiences with our hack days here at Invoke Labs. I would definitely support the notion of getting the entire company involved – it is a great way to get people working together who might not have a huge amount of interaction day-to-day, uncover hidden talents, and for people to learn more about the product development process who aren’t usually in the trenches.

    I would also echo your lesson around constraining ideas to ensure that you can produce something that is demo-able. That gets easier once people have been through one of these events, as you get a better feel for what is possible.

    Having a path to get great ideas on the roadmap and fully built is also really important. We are about to launch an idea that came directly out of our last hack event in the next couple of weeks – can’t wait to ship it!

  • Liesl Barrell

    Awesome stuff! Can’t wait for the next ShipIt Day! Maybe we can get MTL involved somehow, too :)

  • http://www.unbounce.com/ Carter Gilchrist

    Thanks for organizing James, Spicer & Geoff! I loved seeing contributions from all departments. Will definitely be giving some thought to how we funnel these kinds of projects onto the roadmap.

  • Rick Perreault

    My fav what the PSD to Unbounce landing page converter. Huge potential