HacknPlan major update coming in Q2 2018

majorupdate

Hi hacknplanners!

As the title says, we are heading to a major update to be released in the second quarter of the year. If you’ve been following our progress so far, you probably know we iterate and release frequent updates including new features, improvements and bug fixes, like one or two per month, depending on the circumstances. However, for this update, we will make an exception and will work internally for a longer period of time and will deliver a much bigger update. The reason? Well, we have received so much feedback during 2017 and we think we are ready to take a step forward and implement a series of improvements that will bring the application to another level, changing some core aspects of it that will make it more flexible, modular and efficient. Delivering those changes step by step would cause a long period of breaking changes and instability, so we’d rather bring them to you at once so your work and productivity is not affected too much.

Anyway, don’t be scared of how messy that sounds. We have put a lot of thought into this, we had so much feedback and we are making sure what you love about HacknPlan remains there; we are targeting those aspects that pretty much everyone would agree are for the better. We will be giving you frequent updates on how the development is going.

I’m sure you are curious about which those changes would be, aren’t you? Let’s take a look at the most important ones:

 

Flexibility

 

When we first designed the core functionality of HacknPlan, as a niche tool focused on a very specific industry, we took the decision of sacrificing some flexibility other project management tools have in order to provide a more intuitive, easy to use and ready-to-go way of organizing your projects. However, experience and feedback have proven we didn’t do it the right way. Game development is a niche, sure, but there are many different production styles, project types, team sizes… As well as other tools do not fit your way of doing things because there are too generic and a mess to configure, going to the other extreme and being too strict can cause the same effect. We realized the key to usability and productivity is not being rigid, is being smart about flexibility. These are the changes we are making to improve this:

 

  • Modular design: HacknPlan provides a wide number of features, especially on premium tiers, which can make the tool look too complex or bloated, despite most of them are just optional. You’ll have switches to enable or disable HacknPlan features on a per-project basis, so you keep only what you use, reducing the noise and simplifying it to adjust to your needs. Maybe you don’t use due dates, or don’t care about the GDM, or even don’t really need to categorize tasks… You’ll be able to disable them with a simple switch, removing them from the interface and making everything simpler. We’ll also provide templates with the most common feature combinations, so projects are easy to setup for beginners.
  • Tag system: It’s quite common that you need to give certain properties to a task in order to reflect some important details that help you understand and organize them better. We added many categorization fields to our tasks: categories, subcategories, platforms… However, we realized covering all possible scenarios is impossible; every team is different and what is critical to someone could be unnecessary for others. That’s why we decided to implement a flexible tag system, that will allow you to categorize and label your work with complete freedom.
  • Simplified task creation and edition: In order to make task creation and edition more progressive and less overwhelming, we will make them less “formy”, meaning they won’t look like a permanent list of fields, but as a container of properties. A practical example: instead of having a permanent Due Date field on the task creation dialog, which you may not use much but you don’t want to disable completely, you would have an “Add due date” option in an action menu; you’ll only see a Due Date field when you need it, not always.

Organization

 

  • Milestones, sprints and boards: First of all, milestones won’t be equal to Kanban boards anymore. They represent a goal to accomplish behind a deadline as before, but the specific way tasks and other entities will be organized within them will be different: boards will now be independent entities, and there will be 2 types of them: regular boards, and sprint boards (with start and end date). This means you can have several sprints or regular boards under a milestone deadline, which adds a new dimension to the planning and scheduling of your project. Additionally, the use of milestones will be completely optional, meaning you can just create a board and start working right away. Then, your planning over time could look like this:
    • Backlog (list)
    • Beta (milestone):
      • DEV Sprint 1 (sprint board)
      • DEV Sprint 2 (sprint board)
      • Marketing (regular board)
    • Release (milestone):
      • DEV Sprint 3 (sprint board)
      • DEV Sprint 4 (sprint board)
      • Marketing (regular board)
    • Management (regular board, under no milestone)
    • Support (regular board, under no milestone)
  • Stories: We built our system around the concept of the task as a unit of work and only item to be shown on lists or boards. Everything else is a way of classifying or organizing those tasks: milestones organize them by time frame, design elements organize them by concept… However, when it comes to organizing them by concept or feature, the GDM is not enough for many people, especially those using the Scrum methodology or variations of it. They need features to be items they can prioritize, that they can put on a Kanban board as a card and track their progress without having to manage all specific tasks individually. We will implement user stories as a new type of item that can coexist with tasks on lists and Kanban boards and, at the same time, will be able to contain tasks inside as a way to group them. This will bring new possibilities and will tighten the link between tasks and the design model by creating an item between both of them. It could be like this:
    • Characters (design element)
      • Super Mario (design element)
        • Create the basic Mario character (user story, assigned to a sprint)
          • Create the sprite (Art task)
          • Implement the basic controls (Programming task)
          • Jump sound (Sound task)

 

Usability

 

  • User interface: This update will include an important iteration on the user interface of HacknPlan, with the purpose of making it more intuitive, usable, and a little prettier too. Some of the sections will be rearranged and the left menu will be enhanced for a more clear and intuitive navigation. A breadcrumbs bar on top will help with that too. Additionally, we will try to reduce the steps needed to perform common actions, including things like creating new categories on the fly while creating a task, batch operations, etc. Also, we will optimize our web client as much as possible to be fast and lightweight.
  • WYSIWYG text editor: In the early stages of HacknPlan, we decided to go for the Markdown syntax to write documentation, descriptions and other text content. However, we realized this wasn’t a decision everyone liked. Although Markdown is a very productive and elegant way of formatting text content, is true that not everybody is comfortable with its approach, especially non-technical people. While programmers are normally used to work with it, producers or designers often struggle and miss features other editors provide. That is why we will incorporate a rich text editor and will let you choose which flavor of text edition you prefer on a per-project basis. Technical teams that document less will probably find Markdown more appealing, while teams with dedicated producers and designers who add plenty of documentation and definitions will be more comfortable with this new editor.
  • Help and documentation: As a way of making HacknPlan easier to learn and understand, we will include more inline help and tips as part of the UI, that will also link to relevant full articles in the documentation.

 

Other features

 

  • HacknPlan API v1: Along with this important update of the application, we will release the first version of our public API. We have been talking a lot about this in the past and it has been delayed way more than we would have liked but the truth is, since we were planning some important breaking changes in the system, we didn’t want to release something to almost rebuild it shortly after. This first release won’t include all the functionality this API will end up having but will cover the most common actions of the application. The API will allow you to start building interesting integrations and automation that will take your productivity to a whole new level.
  • Advanced search: We will provide an advanced search section that will allow you to retrieve tasks, stories and design elements by text and/or other fields, and will let you save the searches for future use.
  • Organization enhancements: Metrics and planning tools like the calendar and the Gantt chart will be available for organizations (HacknPlan Studio multi-project environment), providing an overview of all the ongoing projects at once very useful to managers. Additionally, a rich organization dashboard will be available for all users, personalized with their current tasks, upcoming deadlines and events, metrics, etc… This will simplify dealing with multiple projects at the same time, something common in bigger teams. Ah! And copying and sharing data between projects will be also possible.
  • Other improvements: We will review and enhance many other existing features and sections, like metrics, integrations, notifications, filters, etc.

 

We are probably forgetting some things, and maybe we end up adding some features we didn’t plan in the first place, but this is more or less what we are trying to achieve. After several years of quick iterations, feedback, and hard work, we felt we needed to slow down and take a look at the big picture. We are so excited and we believe this update will be the “level up” many game developers were waiting for.

Before this happens, we are working full time on a technical update that will improve performance and stability, what we consider critical before taking any other steps. We’ve been getting a lot of new users recently and the number of concurrent users has crazily grown during the last few months, which caused some performance issues and downtime during January. We fixed the most critical part of it, but we have done a deep analysis of our system and have found several optimizations and architecture upgrades we want to make that will make HacknPlan faster than ever and ready for future growth. This is almost ready and will come at the end of the month.

I recommend you keep an eye on newsletters and social media, we will be publishing details about the progress and showing screenshots and videos of the new stuff.

Happy planning!

Chris Estevez

HacknPlan Founder

This entry has 6 replies

  1. Marijan says:

    Hi Chris,
    HacknPlan has become our go-to tool since it fits nicely with the way we work and it’s great t hear you’re bringing in more flexibility to it.

    Thank you for this great tool.

    • Great to hear that, thanks!

  2. Serkan ÖZAY says:

    Hi Chris, we are using Hacknplan for a week. I’m happy to learn about these improvements.

  3. Juan says:

    So many changes! Hope they apply smoothly. I love this thing.
    Thanks!

  4. What’s the word on a public facing side to a hack n’plan board?

    We manage several projects, and would like our community (We do a multiplayer game) to be able to see what we’re working on. (With the ability to conceal some tasks)

    • That is something which is definitely in our backlog, but it will happen after these changes we consider more critical at this point. After those are resolved, we will start working on the public side of HacknPlan, including board views, bug reporting and such.