Friday, 22 March 2013

3 Months, 35K Users: Out of the beta and into the mobile world

We're pleased to finally take MindMup out of beta. Three months ago we set out to make a zero-friction, productive mind mapping canvas for ourselves. We ended up creating an opensource, community-driven, cloud based free service. Through word of mouth, roughly 35000 users created and shared maps on the site in the process. This was an incredible learning exercise for us and if you are one of those users, thank you very much for sticking with us and helping us define the vision, test, troubleshoot and shape it (especially everyone on Reddit and HackerNews for the great technical suggestions around Google Drive).

With a stream of updates over the last three weeks we finally made something we're sufficiently proud of to remove the 'beta' marker. Thanks to all your comments and feedback, MindMup is now:
  • More productive: All map editing operations now have keyboard shortcuts, which then enables users to get the most of their screen real-estate by hiding all menus and toolbars. We use HTML5 capabilities as much as possible to avoid file transfers to the server and back, for example importing from FreeMind works completely in the browser, as long as the FileReader API is supported.
  • Even less friction: Full Google Drive integration enables you to access your maps easily from any device, control privacy and sharing without the need to open a separate account or remember new passwords. Better FreeMind compatibility recognises the most important layout options when importing (such as folds, positions, and background colours). Improved layout algorithms make larger maps easier to work with. Prompted by a user who wanted to import a 10MB map with 75K nodes, we significantly improved rendering performance for larger maps.
  • Mobile: We improved rendering performance on mobile devices by two orders of magnitude, and implemented the typical touch gestures to zoom in and out by pinching and to scroll with swiping. Menu items progressively disappear based on importance as screens get smaller (for example "My Maps" gets hidden when a map is changed on portrait phone screens). We redesigned some interface elements for smaller screens and ensured that all operations work well with a touch interface (floating toolbar gets replaced with a menu, for example). 
We also decided to stop investing time in making the site work well in browsers used by less than 2% of our users. Going forward, until the usage patterns change significantly, we'll test the site and ensure it works well in recent versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari on the desktop, Safari on IOS and Chrome on Android. It will probably also work in other standard-compliant browsers, but we won't waste time on working around quirks. (I'm particularly happy about not forcing myself to fight against CORS bugs in IE any more). After all, MindMup is opensource, and if it's important for you to have some other browser supported, consider contributing time to test and code to work around problems. Looking at the immediate future, votes seem to go in the direction of offline work through a Chrome App, so this is our next priority.

Thanks again for all your ideas and support so far! We'd love to hear your thoughts on what would make MindMup your first choice for mind mapping.
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