The new Handcraft is here!

Stripe beta in the Netherlands – how is it?

For those of you following our blog because of our series of posts documenting our (mis)adventures trying to get payments up and running, some good news: Stripe is now available in the UK! And not only that, we’ve been lucky enough to get access to the beta of Stripe for the Netherlands. You can too by signing up here.

So, how is Stripe? In a nutshell, it’s amazing. It instantly makes our current payments stack of Spreedly, Ogone and Atos Worldline redundant. And we’re able to throw away most of the code we’ve had running to support the previous stack. Our monthly costs have dropped dramatically, from over $100/month to pay for the three different providers to just 2.9% + 0.30 per payment for Stripe.

To get started, you just follow the excellent, extensive documentation for Checkout, the basic Stripe feature that gets you up and running quickly. Plug the javascript into your signup page and you’re good to go. Stripe allows Dutch companies to process euros and US dollars, although right now to get paid out in USD you’ll need a US bank account. All major credit cards are also accepted, so no hassle having to manually go out and figure out why American Express is being difficult.

Signing up for an account with Stripe itself is also effortless – they just need email address and a password and you can go ahead and start implementing. To activate your account, just fill in some business basics (BTW number, KVK, address etc) and you’re good to go. Add a bank account to actually get paid, which happens every day with a seven day delay.

This couldn’t have come at a better time, since we’re currently in the middle of getting ready to launch a completely revamped Handcraft (plus, Spreedly is selling off its subscription platform to Pin Payments, which didn’t appeal to us). So thank you Stripe, for finally making it over here and for making it easier, quicker and safer to process credit card payments in the Netherlands.

More reading:

What’s next for Handcraft


It’s time to start talking about the future of Handcraft!

Handcraft began as a HTML prototyping tool aimed at designers and developers with little to no coding experience. And it’s worked really well: we use it all the time to prototype and mock up quick sites and interfaces. Thousands of people have used Handcraft to learn the basics of HTML with our getting started guides. So Handcraft is a success! We’ve really enjoyed the ride, from experimental product struggling to find its identity to a great way to learn and explore ideas through code from inside your browser.

But Handcraft was based on an internal prototype and we never found the time to take a good look at how we’d keep growing. It turned out that to offer the best security, stability and options for future growth, our server-side architecture needed some serious reworking. So at the end of 2011 we decided to rewrite Handcraft from the ground up on a different platform. We tried to avoid common pitfalls and keep the team lean and we think we have something cool to show you now.

Although the original goal was to redesign our platform architecture, we also ended up taking a close look at how Handcraft works. This new version comes with a completely new logo, visual style, and user interface. We’ve been using it internally and we think it works pretty well, but we’d love to hear what you think.

On top of the visual and architectural changes we made, we also decided to reorganise how subscriptions work. Previously, you had to sign up for a paid subscription in order to use Handcraft for more than one prototype. Over time, we realised that that was making it hard to really use Handcraft as much as you wanted to. So in the new Handcraft, we’re flipping things around: from now on, on free plans you can create as many prototypes as you need, add as many users as are necessary, and upload as many files as you want. If you want to make your projects private, you can upgrade to a paid subscription that allows you to do so.

The new Handcraft, which we’re calling “Handcraft 2″ for now since so much has changed, is available for beta testing starting today:

Try Handcraft 2


Some things to keep in mind:

  • Handcraft now uses Google for sign in
  • You can test our subscription-only features during the beta, but once we launch you’ll have to actually pay ;-)
  • When the beta ends, we’ll begin a migration of the existing Handcraft to Handcraft 2, ultimately replacing the old one. We’ll keep you updated during this process.
  • The beta will last at least one month, if not longer, as we iron out issues and make sure everything works smoothly.

We hope you like the new Handcraft. Have fun!

Braintree coming to Europe later this year

For all you European businesses with web apps and services that have been having as hard of a time getting your payment processor up and running as we have, Braintree have apparently now announced their international expansion starting this autumn. Hopefully this means fewer headaches for everyone!

Braintree appears to be a good solution because it’s one of few payment processors that offers a “full-stack” solution. That means that you sign up with them and pay them a monthly fee and they handle all of your problems: processing, card handling, merchant account, gateways, recurring billing, etc. Currently there isn’t an existing service available to Europeans that matches that kind of offering, so it’s great to see them taking the next step into the international market.

Here’s the list of countries they’ll be supporting: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom.

Head over to their site to see their setup, including which currencies they accept, and sign up for their newsletter – they’ll be giving people access to their beta within the next few months.

Stephen Anderson on wireframes vs high fidelity prototypes

UX thought leader and speaker Stephen Anderson weighs in on whether you should focus on wireframes or push forward with high fidelity, interactive prototypes early on. I like his use of internalising over skipping:

I think there’s a difference between skipping a phase versus internalizing a phase. As young students, we go through a very formal writing process in order to learn the skills needed to be a good writer; I doubt very seriously that any of us go through that same, explicit process as mature writers. We’ve internalized those things we were taught.

At Q42 and on the Handcraft team we frequently do sketches and then immediately move on  to interactive prototypes. Not because we want to skip wireframes, but because that part of the process is kind of redundant. It doesn’t add anything of value when you can just get on with the things you really want to communicate to your client, namely the refined details of the interactivity you’re mocking up.

Stephen comments on communication as an important stage in the process, too:

Asking someone to comment just on the interaction or just on the structure–independent of the other pieces — is a bit like asking someone to judge a chocolate chip cookie based on only a handful of ingredients. “Here, these are the wet ingredients (eggs, sugars, vanilla)–what do you think of this cookie?” How can we possibly expect to get good feedback on such an incomplete experience?

Fully interactive prototypes allow the client or stakeholder to comment on the actual experience rather than a picture of it. That way you get a constructive discussion going early on about the final product instead of wandering around in idea land for too long. Getting to this stage as fast as possible means you can spend more time testing with real people, which is another point Stephen makes:

I’d argue for an integrated, holistic approach to UX that serves up as complete an experience as possible, as early on in the process as possible. I’m talking days, maybe even hours in some cases. This is not so we can be done more quickly, but so that we can use this new found time to iterate more frequently with actual users, leading to better, more user focused experiences.

We talked about this in our presentation at UX Brighton last summer: focus on the details rather than skipping over them just because you want to be done sooner.

Stephen’s a great thinker and writer and it’s awesome to see a gradual move towards this kind of thinking in the design industry overall. Read all of Stephen’s thoughts on the subject at The Pastry Box Project: Wednesdasy, 4 April. Here’s hoping he works this angle into a future talk!

App Storm reviews Handcraft

Check out this review of Handcraft by AppStorm’s Darren Meehan:

Using Handcraft has been an interesting experience. Building a web site directly in a browser is something I never thought I’d be doing, though looking back now it doesn’t make any sense not to. I regularly use web apps to write posts for Appstorm, whether it’s on Appstorm itself powered by WordPress or using Google docs, so I might as well use a web app to create my own sites or write up web code anyhow! If you’re looking for a text-driven website designer for the web, give Handcraft a try. You might find yourself addicted to your new favorite online text and web editor!

Darren even noticed that we built the Handcraft website with Handcraft:

Both the site and editor have an intuitive functional design, which looks awesome! And while building sites on a website is a funny concept to get your head around, this next interesting fact will make that all the harder – the Handcraft website is built in Handcraft itself as a prototype! It’s great to know the developers themselves use this app themselves, never mind using it to build their website!

Much appreciated!

Handcraft is Appvita’s cloud app of the day for March 9th

Stephanie Miles has written a lovely article about Handcraft for Appvita:

If you work in a field that requires collaboration for success, then Handcraft could be a tool worth checking out. After you start a 30-day trial, Handcraft will guide you through all the steps to create your first HTML prototype. Give your first prototype a name, select the URL where it will be located, and then get to work perfecting it using the Handcraft editor. Handcraft’s editor was designed in a way that lets you skip repetitive work across multiple pages and automatically completes commonly used HTML and CSS codes. The editor also includes an error-handling tool, which scours your prototype to help you figure out what’s not working correctly. Copywriters, meanwhile, will appreciate being able to write their text directly into the HTML code, rather than emailing back-and-forth with developers.

That’s great! Thanks Stephanie and Appvita!

How the new Chrome Web Store increased signups to Handcraft by 1000%

Last week’s release of a renewed Chrome Web Store by Google increased signups to Handcraft by 1000%. What happened?

A list of apps in the Chrome Web Store

Continue reading →

An open letter to Stripe

Update: Stripe responded below, and if you want Stripe in Europe you can leave your name and country here

Dear people at Stripe,

Stripe sounds lovely and I wanted to add a voice from Europe calling for you guys to hurry up and get over here. The payment processing industry is probably a mess in the US, but I can almost guarantee you it’s even more of a mess over here if you’re not in the UK. Sounds like a great business opportunity, right?

In getting ours set up we went through a 3-month long nightmare/adventure and finally settled on Ogone+Spreedly. I’m sure you know of both. Spreedly is like Stripe in its elegance and simplicity, but it’s not full-stack, which means we’re required to suffer through the terrible UX and customer support of Ogone. Seriously, if there’s a company I could say I actually hate, it might be Ogone.

I wrote some blog posts about our experiences that I’d like to share with you in an attempt to hopefully convince you to expedite your trip across the Atlantic:

Please come to Europe as soon as possible. We’re over here waiting to give you our 2.9% + 30c.

Yours faithfully,

People in Europe who want to make money off their web-based software

Continue reading →

“A designer who does not write markup and css is not designing for the web, but drawing pictures.”

Andy Rutledge wrote a blog post saying that web design is product design:

Web design is product design. Drawing a picture of the product is not designing the product. Web design is experience design. Drawing a picture of on-screen content or mechanism behaviors is not designing the experience. The functioning html/css (and sometimes JavaScript) is the design.

The key quote here is “the functioning code is the design”. All too often people view “design” as just describing something visual. But the design of a building isn’t the picture of the building, it’s the blueprint. The design of an iMac consists of more than just an illustration of the iMac, it involves all the specifications and internals. That’s design. To wall in design within the visual is to misunderstand all the skills designers must have to do their jobs well.

In the case of web design, as Andy says, the code is the design. The beautiful thing about that is that you can work on just the design, writing HTML and CSS, and suddenly you have the end result. You don’t need to go into, say, mass manufacturing. You just publish your code (and maybe clean it up a bit). This is why we made Handcraft.

Don’t stop calling yourself a UX designer – it’s working!

It seems like there’s a neverending debate over whether people should be allowed to call themselves “user experience designer”. On one side of the fence you’ve got people assigning themselves the title because they feel that it represents best what they do, or have done for years. On the other there’s a crowd calling the former group names because they don’t feel they “deserve” to call themselves something they appear not to be.

But wait just a second. Has no one noticed what this argument is really about? About what the consequences are of everyone left and right wanting to call themselves a user experience designer?

That’s right. It’s becoming cool. Continue reading →