We didn’t have to create Just Made My Day. There was no imperative dictating the (at this moment) mostly unprofitable format, and definitely no room in the market for another site that lets users share updates about their lives. We did feel, though, that it was worth it to craft a little beacon of positivity on the oft-negative internet. It has been so good to us, after all.
The following is the casually recollected time line of concept-to-creation for Just Made My Day: Unit’s latest way to brighten people’s day:
Nov. 4th, 2009 — An idea comes to Andy while showering. Not specifically focused on anything, he thinks about how nice it would be to create a place online where “folks could just celebrate the cool things that happened to them, especially the cool people who did something nice for them”.
Nov. 5th, 2009 — Andy takes R.A. and me out for coffee. The trip is a Trojan horse laden with a new undertaking for Unit. It’s solid idea from the start: “Just Made My Day” (JMMD if you’re savvy) will be a site to allow users to easily share the little things that make them happy. We discuss the various implications, difficulties, and merits of launching such a site. Quick sketches and wire-frames are scribbled on scrap paper. R.A. uses phrases like “implicit moderation” and “social-media authorization APIs”. We emerge highly caffeinated, with a foundation for moving forward.
Nov. 5th, 2009 — While watching a documentary on Monty Python—Almost the Truth: (The Lawyers Cut)—I think it would be nice to rip-off Terry Gilliam’s collage style for something. It occurs to me that JMMD would be ripe for experimentation.
Nov. 6th, 2009 — Although there’s no plan for me to design JMMD, I decide to get a jump on a look and feel rattling in my head. I spend a quite Friday morning making a collage of landscape elements. I want to create an impression that is inherently positive, and will behoove users to behave. While playing with more organic layouts of nature, I realize that a fully symmetrical approach allows the landscape to both be more pleasant, and act more as a background to the form elements, not a focal point. The resulting masthead gets me excited; I decide to finish a full design comp.
Nov. 10th, 2009 — I finish out a full comp of the site design. Somehow, the thrill is gone. I wind up with what I feel is a muddy attempt at redesigning Rotten Tomatoes. The design needs more simplicity, and serious amount of editing. It occurs to me that I’m riding a little too hard on the landscape concept; it needs to be a website, not an art project.
Nov. 13th, 2009 — I show Andy my design. We decide this is the right direction, but it needs some work. Angela later tells me about some great little games on the Xbox arcade.
Nov. 17th, 2009 — On Angela’s recommendation, I download Braid late one evening and am blown away by its ingenuity and pure artistry. Shortly before bed—still humming a haunting tune from Braid—I have a few design-related epiphanies. When I say them out loud, my sleepy wife does her best to act like I am smart, God bless her.
Nov. 18th, 2009 — I complete the design that will become JMMD. I make some tweaks to the form to give it affordance, and help it feel more balanced. Now, we’re ready to build this thing.
Nov. 19th, 2009 — The entire Unit crew sees JMMD as an opportunity to push our knowledge. We have already begun delving in to HTML5, and this looks like another great opportunity to work with it. I think that a parallax technique will really make this design sing, and begin learning how to pull off such a thing.
Nov. 24th, 2009 — I finish the parallax effect, add some birds and the main title in Chunk Five, using some @font-face goodness via Font Squirrel. I put up a teaser site, and begin developing the rest of the site.
Nov. 25th, 2009 — I really want to make sure I am using HTML5 to its fullest, so I read up on everything. I start working heavily with CSS3 techniques as well. We discuss the ramifications of leaving Internet Explorer in the dust. We are okay with this.
Dec. 7th, 2009 — I finish front-end development. We decide WordPress will work best as an engine for posts. I begin integrating a theme and R.A. helps me build a set of plug-ins to allow users to post. Basically, we turn WordPress inside-out. Next, we begin learning authorization APIs for Twitter, Facebook, and Open ID.
Dec. 18th, 2009 — Early on, we decided that in order to lower the barrier for entry as much as possible, we would need to allow users to log in using social media accounts. We were sure they wouldn’t want to create and remember a whole new account for our little site. Twitter authorization (oauth) was the easiest (IMO). We test and then soft-launch JMMD without Facebook or Open ID integration. Over the holidays, we leak the site to a few friends and family, and allow some initial posts to build up.
Jan. 13th 2009 — I finish up Facebook authorization using Facebook Connect. We use RPX to allow Open ID. Next we fire up the Twitter clients and start telling the loyal web denizens of our latest project.
So far, response has been overwhelmingly positive. Even if it were a failure, though, this scrappy Unit staff was able to take a great idea from concept to launch in just over 2 months. We learned a lot and we are proud of the fruits of that labor.
Thank you to everyone who is making days, or sharing about days made!