1. Mocking Pad Artwork

    October 31, 2010 by accidentalfish

    I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the lovely folk at Tricky Business on a couple of projects and so I was really excited to have Ben, one of their designers, work on the Mocking Pad icon:


    You can also see it in situ on my iPad below (bottom right):


    I’m incredibly grateful to Ben for this work, go check out their site!

  2. Getting Productive

    October 25, 2010 by accidentalfish

    Developing a reasonably sized application like Mocking Pad for the iPad while working a full time job really made me think about ways to maximise my productivity and focus and as a couple of people have asked me how I did it I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things I learned over the last 5 months.

    1. What are you willing to give up?

    Take a long hard honest look at your day and figure out whats really important to you. Of the many things I enjoy and do I quickly came to the conclusion there were only two things I wasn’t prepared to give up. They really were standouts. One was software development, the other was weight training. If you can’t narrow down your list to something that includes the kind of work you need to do – forget it, you won’t get it done.

    I’ve not discarded my other interests permanently, and will no doubt return to them some day, but I wanted to build Mocking Pad and that required certain sacrifices. Though in truth I no longer see them as sacrifices – I wouldn’t give up the pride and joy I feel at having completed Mocking Pad for the world.

    2. You have more time than you think.

    Do you really need an hours lunch break? Or can you get by with 15 or 30 minutes? Carry your laptop with you (or whatever tools you need, assuming they are portable) and use this time. I generally get a solid 45 minutes work on Mocking Pad done every lunchtime.

    How about after work? Do you wait for a car share colleague? Do you commute by public transport? I don’t do either but I do have regular appointments with a personal trainer 3 evenings a week which starts about an hour after my work ends. I manage to squeeze 30 minutes in here.

    3. Get agile. Really agile.

    If you’ve got a set of 30 minute and 1 hour windows then think about what you can best do in that time. Try and pick things you have a shot at completing – small features, refinements and bug fixes are my usual choice. I treat these as tiny sprints.

    In the same way your weekends are the time to plan for “big” (2 day!) sprints. Get your big tasks done then but again pick things you can achieve in the time you have available.

    If you plan your sprints well you’ll feel like you’re accomplishing things and moving forward at a heck of a clip. Its all about keeping up momentum.

    4. You need your downtime.

    The aim is to build something useful, not kill yourself. Right? And if, like me, you’ve got a full time development job then your employers are not paying you to turn up work exhausted and burned out – I think it is bang out of order to short change your employer, or other contractual agreements you might have, in this way. Therefore getting some downtime is essential.

    I class downtime in two forms: rest and active. Rest is sleep. Everybody needs a certain amount of sleep, for me it is between 6 and 7 hours but it varies for everyone. Unless you’re one of the lucky people who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat then you also need time to mentally unload. I certainly do and have a rule to help me with this: no coding after 21:00. No matter what. After this time I sometimes blog but usually I read.

    Active rest I think of as being mentally or physically active but not using the same part of your brain you use for software development (or whatever it is you are doing). I also believe that if what you’re doing is essentially mental, like software development, then you should do something physical. And vice versa. I weight train, which I find to be perfect – I’m concentrating so hard on my technique and pushing myself through the sets that I simply have no room in my head to think about code and complex problem solving and so when I’m done I feel physically tired but mentally refreshed.

    5. You don’t always need to push through the wall.

    Like a marathon runner chances are that at some point, no matter how passionate you are about the project, you’re going to hit the wall. The point where the task feels so large that you can’t carry on. Or where you’re just “not in the mood”. Eight times out of ten you do need to push through this and you can and will, but sometimes you can push and push and you know nothing productive is happening. At that point give up for the day. Quit and enjoy some active rest. But come back tomorrow. When this happens to me I give myself 2 hours – if I’m not in the zone and fighting like hell after 2 hours then I quit for the day with no guilt but I always, always, come back the next day.

    I hope some of the above is useful and relevant to you. It might not all apply – everyone is different. I’d love to hear your own productivity tips too – leave a comment!

  3. Mocking Pad Update (iPad Wireframes)

    October 23, 2010 by accidentalfish

    Since getting the Mocking Pad release candidate ready and running on a few iPad’s I’ve been doing more deliberate testing and have had also had some “real world” scenarios to try it on – by which I mean rather than dreaming up pretend scenarios for the purposes of testing I’ve been actually using it to design real applications and websites – nothing brings out bugs and Ux issues like using software for real.

    I’m happy to be able to say that its worked well however I have fixed a couple of niggles as a result.

    I also thought it might be fun to re-imagine the wireframes from my previous post in Mocking Pad itself and had a quick crack at that this afternoon and have attached some screenshots below. I’ve also attached a screenshot of me then editing one of the wireframes in Illustrator – the ability to use the resulting wireframes in vector art packages is one of my favourite features as it lets me also play around with some basic theming.

    tn_shortrange.png tn_longrange.png


  4. Prehistoric Wireframes

    October 21, 2010 by accidentalfish

    I mentioned in a previous post that I’d recently found some old, verging on the prehistoric, wireframes that I produced about 20 years ago. I think it was 1988 but I could very easily be wrong about that.

    In most peoples folders of “treasured memories” they have photos of old girlfriends, intimate letters and postcards, or photos of places they visited. I have wireframes. Explains a lot!

    Anyway not wanting to lose them I have some scans which I’ve uploaded and thought they might be interesting to share with fellow wireframers:

    Wireframe 1 Wireframe 2

    Wireframe 3 Wireframe 4

    The wireframes resulted in the game MouseTrek. At the time I think I was using some form of 80386SX PC and TurboC 1.5 was my weapon of choice. Fun times!

    I’d love to see old wireframes others have created, if you have something you’d be happy to share please drop a link in the comments or send them to me and I’ll post them here.

  5. Graph Paper – Open Source Release

    October 18, 2010 by accidentalfish

    For an upcoming project I have the need for some simple vector based artwork that has to be rendered using Quartz in Objective-C. Despite tools like Illustrator and Inkscape I still often find myself reaching for a piece of graph paper, a ruler and a pencil for such things and then I translate the co-ordinates into code.

    Old school I know! Or should that be old skool. I’m never sure.

    However since I got my iPad I’ve found that this kind of use case translates to it really well and since I had a free day I decided to quickly knock up some digital graph paper for the iPad. The result: Graph Paper.

    It lets you tap points on a static grid to draw either polygons or ellipses and then converts the resulting diagram to either Objective-C code or HTML 5 canvas code. Couple of screenshots:

    tn_gpedit.png tn_gpexport.png

    I don’t plan on making this tool much more elaborate, I like its minimalism, but I do want to add the ability to draw simple lines and save and load diagrams then I’ll put it up on the App Store as a freebie.

    I’ve already made the source available under the MIT License and placed it on GitHub.

  6. A Big Week for Accidental Fish

    October 16, 2010 by accidentalfish

    Last week (to be precise the 7 days running from Monday 4th October to Sunday 10th October) was a massive week for both me and Accidental Fish.

    Firstly Accidental Fish was incorporated as a limited company in the UK (where I’m based) with a simple mission: to develop kick ass apps that I want to use and have fun doing so. I’m conscious that I used a personal pronoun in that last sentence – its tempting to use a plural such as “we” and pretend the company is bigger than it is but really its just me right now. When I look at other small software companies the ones I find I admire the most are those who have an honest approach to business, perhaps most prominently Peldi of Balsamiq. After all – do you really want to do business with someone you can’t trust or seems sneaky and like they’re hiding something? I know I don’t.

    The first application to be released (though I guess the second if you count Photo Drive which was kind of an unofficial Accidental Fish app) is Mocking Pad which leads me into the second big event of last week: after 5 months of work Mocking Pad made it to a release candidate – it’s stable, got all the planned v1 features in place and has been handed out to iPad owning friends, colleagues and contacts for feedback and testing. Its a fairly sizeable application and has been a massive job to undertake as most work as occurred in the late evening and weekends after an already full day so it felt fantastic to hit that milestone.

    If this is the first time you’ve heard me talk about Mocking Pad then briefly its a wireframing tool that runs on the iPad with particular emphasis on being easy to use and great for collaboration. It was something I wanted right away on the iPad – I’ve been wireframing since before I knew it was called wireframing. In fact last year I came across a folder containing some old pen and paper sketches for a game I wrote about 20 years ago in Turbo C.

    Finally, having spoken about both Mocking Pad and Balsamiq in this post: clearly their Mockups product is in the same general market as Mocking Pad. And in fact I’m a regular user of it, both at home and at work. I even used it to design Mocking Pad. Its a fantastic tool with a good trial available and I recommend you go check it out. Do I see Mocking Pad as being in competition with it? Not really no. For the simple reason that Mockups doesn’t run on the iPad and Mocking Pad doesn’t run anywhere else. If Mockups did run on the iPad then chances are that Mocking Pad wouldn’t exist – I would have had no itch to scratch. However now Mocking Pad exists I’m using Mockups less and less even when perhaps Mockups would make a better choice – if there are pain points in the software I want to find them before my customers and that means maximising my exposure as a user.