A few weeks ago, I attended the first StartUp Product Summit in San Francisco, and I was really happy with the event. I shared some thoughts about my favorite speakers after I attended, but since then, I’ve also been checking out the products some of those speakers make. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a web-based service for a while now, and I thought I’d start to log some user stories for it with Sprintly, whose CEO was a speaker at the Summit. As Joe outlined in his speech, there are a ton of products in this space, and I have experience with a handful of them (RallyDev, Jira with Greenhopper, OnTime).
First impressions are incredibly important when choosing software in a space where there are a lot of choices available, and my first impression with Sprintly is that they get it. When I signed up for my 30-day free trial, it was very easy for me to create my first product and my first items, and I really love the UI. It’s simple and clean, while still achieving a lot in terms of presenting a significant amount of information without overwhelming me with it. In minutes, I had 20+ items created, and though I haven’t yet done much with those items (I’m just too early in my own process), I did have reason to make edits after I created the items, and to reorder them. Those basic functions in the Sprintly UI are implemented perfectly – intuitive in-line editing for every piece of info on my story cards, drag-and-drop re-ordering of items on the screen. I can say without reservation that I’m really looking forward to further using the product, and I intend to upgrade to a paid account at the end of my trial.
That said, there are a few minor changes I’d make. First, while it was very easy to set up my first items, I couldn’t tell immediately where they went. That’s because Sprintly defaults to their ‘Dashboard’ view. While I imagine I’d use this view more often later in the process, right now, I’m only creating user stories, so I’m working entirely in the ‘Items’ view (Item being the generic top-level data object that acts as a user story). It would make more sense in the on-boarding process to dump a new user into the Items view first, since all new items fall into a queue called ‘Someday’ as soon as they are created, and this queue is only displayed in the items view. The Dashboard view only displays items that are in the backlog, currently being worked on, or are completed, and that’s the disconnect.
As soon as I figured out that’s where I needed to be, though, I’ve had no issues with navigation in general. I’ll also add that the other main views offered in the app seem intuitive, though I don’t yet have useful data to look at. When I load the screens, they don’t show me my items because I haven’t put any of them in the backlog or estimated them, or begun working on them, so things like velocity and the team cadence don’t yet have data. The other thing I’d recommend is that Sprintly place their logo on all the screens. As you can see in the associated screenshot, the logo is nowhere to be found on a working view, and it’s a really nice-looking logo. The little sprinting man is perfect for dropping into a page header unobtrusively, and they do use it as a sort of ‘loading’ indicator when you switch from one view to the next, but it goes away after your screen loads.
A final note is that while I had the opportunity to hear Joe Stump speak, and that piqued my curiosity about the product, I also really like what I’ve found online. In the company’s blog, Joe explains how they made some recent major performance improvements, and talks about his philosophy about the Agile Manifesto, and I really like his style. It tells me that the company isn’t just making another product to track user stories. They expose what agile means to them, how they use it, and lift the covers on some of their code along the way. In terms of first impressions, after spending maybe an hour with the product, I’m walking away thinking this is the kind of company that wants to contribute to a community, and if Sprintly can leverage that and bake it into their culture and operations on an on-going basis, it may be a valuable tool in their quest to collapse and consolidate what is now a pretty heavily segmented market. I think the tech community is made up of people that largely want to support other people that give back, and this is a fresh new start-up that I’m happy to get behind.