Sharing experience of building one online product for 12 years

Say no to reports in PDF format

Customer Happiness Report 2014

A report is probably the most common way of displaying data within any substantial business environments. Unfortunately a lot of reports we come across are simply dull and visually unpleasant.

We cannot neglect the power of traditional plain PDF form, although we should not feel excused from being creative and resolute. There is no need to stay idle when technology allows us to experiment a little.

We asked ourselves the following questions:

  • Shall we make the reader download a separate file?
  • How many of them decide not to?
  • Are there any solid reasons to bear with closed format limitations?
  • And finally: can we create a new quality of report by designing it in a well-known form of a website?
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Should your email validator be that complex?

So you’re a keen programmer that one day faces a problem of validating user’s email address. Sounds easy.

You search Google for the best possible regular expression. After a while you end up with the following RFC-compliant best regexp ever:

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Time change in software is done wrong

Last weekend, most European countries switched back from Daylight Saving Time by moving back their clocks by one hour. People in the United States will do the same on November 2.

All modern software solutions adjust the time automatically. However, it turns out that the process of changing the time is not easy enough for the end-users.

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Always use closures in your JavaScript app

Perform the following test in your JavaScript app. Open developer tools in your browser and paste the following in the Console:

_ = jQuery = $ = undefined;

Does your app still work correctly after firing this code? If the answer is no, read on.

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How we connect our apps to dev environments

One of the most annoying drawbacks of developing desktop and mobile apps is the inability to switch between dev and production environments. When a client tells us about a problem with the app, our developers can’t reproduce the problem using the same app that is used by the customer.

Fortunately, we found a neat solution. We hard-code dev & production servers’ addresses inside the app that is released to customers. Then, depending on the platform, we use one of the tricks that tells the app to connect to the dev environment.

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Keep your product healthy everyday

Every product team loves big updates that all customers cheer about.

But it’s important not to forget about those small changes that make your users’ lives easier. I believe good product teams should form a habit of improving the smaller parts of the app everyday. That’s what we do at LiveChat over and over again.

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What developers can learn from roller coaster engineers

I’ve found an interesting analysis of roller coaster’s safety systems in Theme Park Design: Behind The Scenes With An Engineer book by Steve Alcorn.

It’s easy to imagine what happens when roller coaster’s breaks fail. Immediately, lots of guests are in danger.

There’s no room for failure in a roller coaster car.

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Intelligent typing indicator

Do you recall the situation of writing a text message to a friend and seeing the following indicator: “X is now typing…”?

When most of us see this information, we stop typing and wait for the friend’s response. But so does the friend. As a result, everyone waits for the second person’s reply and nobody sends a message for a while.

We noticed the same problem when our customers talked with their clients using LiveChat.

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6 tips for clear email communication

Email has been with us for 20 years now, but we can still improve the way we use it with a few easy tips.

Writing proper emails gives your team a number of benefits:

  • everyone is on the same page when discussing a topic,
  • there’s a higher probability of inducing valuable discussion,
  • it’s easier to get back to discussed topics after a long time.

Tips mentioned in the article result from my experience gained when working with the LiveChat team. Thankfully, all of us understand that writing proper emails is important. It helps us work more efficiently and, as a result, build a better product.

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Beware of features overload

Originally published on UXmatters, March 25, 2014

It’s interesting that many popular apps from the 90s are not available on the market anymore. New Internet users will never hear about RealPlayer or ICQ, products used by millions 10 years ago.

I think one of the reasons why they are gone lies behind the bad user experience of their end-users. Lots of new features turned the simple and usable apps into hulking space stations.

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