Dev Diary 27 – Stage clear!

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Hi hacknplanners!

Finally, the first update after the release of version 1.0 is here. This is a small one, though. We haven’t implemented many new features, we were more focused on solving bugs, improving the stability and performance of the system after the official release, and planning a roadmap for some important epics coming in the next few months, like the public API. However, we managed to implement one of the features people miss the most in HacknPlan Studio: the customization of task stages (kanban columns). Although we encourage people to keep it simple when it comes to kanban columns (for the sake of usability and clarity), is true bigger studios and teams often need a more complex workflow to reflect how they work, especially when it involves more QA and validation phases or working with regular patches and maintenance that requires going to production as part of the lifetime of a task.

Let’s take a look!

Features and improvements


Customizable stages (Studio)

HacknPlan Studio users can now add, modify and delete task stages (kanban columns) from the project admin settings. Our first idea was allowing different stages for each category, what would allow you to personalize the workflow of tasks of a different type, which would be really nice. However, we had a major inconvenient: that would be completely incompatible with the general kanban board which displays tasks from all categories together. We decided to make stages global for now, but we are considering adding the option of having stages per category in the future for those who prefer that feature over the “All tasks” multi-category board.

Each stage has the following data:

  • Name: The name of the stage, displayed on the header of the column.
  • Icon: The icon displayed next to the stage name.
  • Color: The color of the stage.
  • Task status: There are 3 statuses that can be set to the stage, that are used to build metric calculations and other stats:
    • Created: The tasks on this stage won’t be considered as started.
    • Started: The tasks on this stage have been started. You can create several stages using this status to define different steps in the process of finishing a task.
    • Closed: The tasks on this stage have been finished, whatever the outcome is. Besides the stage for tasks successfully completed, you can create stages for dismissed tasks, or repeated tasks…
  • Unblock dependent tasks: This switch determines whether, when a task is at this stage, unblocks the tasks that are dependent on it or not. Some people want their blocked tasks to be unblocked when the dependency is completed, others when it is on review… You can configure that now.

You can add as many stages as you want (of course too many stages would be difficult to manage), but the minimum number of stages you can have is 3, one of each task status.

Important: When you go from HacknPlan Studio to another tier (after a trial or after modifying or canceling your subscription), the stages are set back to the four default ones. The tasks are reassigned based on the task status: Created ones go to “Planned” stage, Started ones go to “In progress”, and Closed ones go to “Completed”.

Date Time format options:

We have added date and time format options to your user settings, so you can display dates in a format that is familiar to you. The options are:

  • Date format:
    • Year, month, date (yyyy\MM\dd)
    • Day, month, year (dd\MM\yyyy)
    • Month, day, year (MM\dd\yyyy)
  • Time format:
    • 12 hours (hh:mm:ss a)
    • 24 hours (HH:mm:ss)

You can also opt for the automatic option, which displays the date and time as they are at the moment.

Task editor maximization:

Sometimes, especially on lower screen resolutions, the task editor can be too narrow if you are working extensively on it, for instance, a long conversation in the comments tab, or even a long and detailed description. For this reason, we added a maximize/minimize button to the panel located next to the close button. When the panel is maximized the task list (both on the kanban board or the game design model) is hidden and the panel takes the whole space. The right side of the panel, where the details like subtasks or comments are displayed, takes the 40% of the available space, becoming way wider and allowing to work more comfortably on the task.

Performance improvements:

When projects grow in size, especially if you have big milestones (200+ tasks), loading the full kanban boards could get demanding in terms of memory and time. We are trying different approaches to making performance better, and this time we added a solution that we don’t know if we will keep in the long term, but it really improves the loading times of the boards of really big milestones. This first approach is to load only 25 tasks per column and adding a “Load more” button at the bottom, which makes the initial load much faster. Most of the times you will be working on the tasks on the top of the columns, so this solution would make most common accesses to the board a lot lighter. Is true that, in case you want to go to the end of a long list (when planning or reorganizing), the access could be a bit slower (you have to click on the “Load more” button one or several times), but it’s probably worth it in general. Anyway, we strongly recommend keeping your milestones as small as possible, and if they get too big, split them. It’s not just a matter of performance; a long kanban board gets unusable if you need to scroll really long lists when you could just be selecting a different milestone from a dropdown. We recommend keeping milestones under 100 tasks if possible.

Note: You may notice a slowdown when loading the boards for the first time after the update. This happens because we had to reset a server-side cache system we use to improve speed, but it will be a lot faster after the first time.

Other improvements:

  • We have added some extra information and changed some titles trying to explain better what metrics mean and making them more intuitive.
  • You probably noticed that we often redirect you to the last project you visited when you open the application. This was performed on the client side, which was slower and a bit clunky. This redirection is now done directly on the server when loading the page, which is faster and gives a better user experience.
  • The project admins can now move and update the blocked tasks.
  • When a user doesn’t have edition rights over a task, the card is rendered in a darker color.

Bug fixes


  • We detected that there were cases when, after dropping a game design element as a child of a new parent, the element wasn’t properly attached and it looked like it was removed (wasn’t really removed, refreshing the page would make it appear in its original place). This was fixed and patched a few weeks ago.
  • Sometimes, depending on the start date of a milestone, there was an inconsistency between the progress bar of the milestone cards and the percentage shown in the metrics page.
  • Switching filters in HacknPlan Studio when a sorting method different than “Manual” was set caused the sorting to go wrong.
  • Fixed issue when generating some invoices.
  • The parent of a game design element wasn’t being updated after changing the dates of the child.
  • Fixed some issues when adding files from Google Drive.
  • After finishing the trial of HacknPlan Studio and going back to Personal version, the filters could remain in an inconsistent state.

What’s next?


We will keep working on bugs, performance improvements, and the features that weren’t included in v1.0. This milestone, we worked on an advanced configuration for the Burndown chart to set working days and days off in order to better display the ideal line, but we couldn’t finish it on time. It will be included in the next update. Another goal is adding at least one or more integrations before the summer. If you have any candidates, let us know in the comments.

Happy planning!

Chris Estevez

HacknPlan Founder

This entry has 15 replies

  1. Scott says:

    Great stuff! Keep up the good work!

  2. Rob says:

    That is one feature i really wanted, the ability to customize the stages, and here it is! I have set up projects in Hacknplan that arent just game development projects, so this is truly awesome! Amazing stuff guys.

  3. Trevor says:

    Found this site about a week ago been using it and recommending it to all my fellow developers keep up the great work Chris 🙂

  4. Dan Miller says:

    I really like the improvements and the constant effort to make it a better product. The only thing that concerns me is the 9 eur per seat. If I’m getting it right, if I have a team of 10 then I’m paying around $100 per month vs Atlassian on server pricing which is much lower.

    But not to take away from the awesome job you’re doing and I really like your product.

    • Hi Dan, thanks for commenting. You need to understand our pricing model is very different from Jira’s. First of all, we offer a free version of the tool, without user limit and many features, while the entry point to Jira is 10$ per month for 10 users, if I recall correctly. Nothing is cheaper than free. After that first 10 users, however, their price is a lot higher, and also you get the basic package and any other integrations or special features you have to pay for them separately on Atlassian Marketplace, while all we build is and will be included in the Studio plan. And last but not least, we build a tool for a specific niche, which means our potential market is smaller than Atlassian’s, forcing us to be a little more expensive in order to be profitable. We just have a different business model, fremium is always complicated because you need to make the premium plans more expensive to compensate, but offering a free version for hobbyists and small indies was something we wanted to do as a company.

  5. Dan Miller says:

    Hi Chris, it could be that I misunderstand the pricing a model a bit. I keep thinking that each member on the team needs to have a Studio account and maybe that’s where I am going wrong. Perhaps it would work fine with one Studio account and everyone else has a free account.

    At any rate, great product!

    • Yes, you need to pay for a seat for each member of your team in HacknPlan Studio. What I meant is we also offer the Personal version where you can create unlimited projects with unlimited users just for free.

      • Dan Miller says:

        Got it, thanks. And please don’t misunderstand me, I think you have a really good product going.

        • No worries, I’m happy to hear your feedback and explain our vision and reasons behind our decisions. At the end, our purpose is just being able to make the business sustainable so we can keep offering this product we believe is so necessary, so if at some point we see there is a better pricing model that works for us and is better for the customer, we will go fo it. We are always open to improvements.

          • Dan Miller says:

            Sounds great! I really like the HacknPlan interface compared to Atlassian, and the dynamic GDD concept makes way more sense.

  6. Jordi Nunes says:

    Hi,
    I’m using HacknPlan since february and I have a problem. A few weeks ago I disable some categories but now I don’t know how to enable again or how to disable others.

    Can someone help me?

    Thanks

    • Hi Jordi,
      Please send a support request from the application by clicking on the lifesaver icon on the header.

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