Do More Possibility-Driven Development

A top restauranteur spends countless hours discovering new ingredients, educating themselves on cutting edge cooking techniques, and dining at other top restaurants for inspiration.

With so many great libraries, services, frameworks, and templates out there, it makes more and more sense to allow all those possible tools to inform your design and build decisions.

I call this “possibility-driven development”.

Just like that restauranteur works with their chef on the best dining experience, you should be constantly familiarizing yourself with the latest trends in web development and tools, and working with your development teams to creatively apply them to your business.

  • When you see a site or app that behaves in a unique way, ask yourself “how’d they do that?”
  • When you read about a new service on Tech Crunch, figure out how your product would be different if you were an early customer of theirs.
  • Check out cool front-end techniques on sites like WebAppers, or Smashing Magazine and modernize your app a bit.
  • Keep an eye on trending technologies and play with the sites that use them.
  • And of course, read ClearlyTech where we’ll be highlighting great tools and trends all the time in plain english.

As a non-developer, you have a unique ability to look at new enabling technologies in an un-biased way. Take advantage of that, and open a dialog with your tech team. Find ways to integrate new technologies and services to make your product shine.

Thousands of open-source and commercial projects are finding possible ways to make your product great. It’s up to you to seize the opportunities.

Email in 2014 is Mostly Mobile

Email testing and tracking company Litmus published a great look at email client traffic in 2013. The upshot is that more than half of all emails are being read on mobile devices, and the trend will continue. Litmus finds a whopping 38% on iOS alone.

In response, you’d better be testing how your emails look on those devices, and doing responsive email design up front to make the best impression with all your email communications.

Email Client Market Share
Email Client Market Share

You Should Be Using Email “Plus Addressing”

There’s a great trait of most major email providers sometimes called plus addressing.

It gives you access to unlimited email addresses based off your one single email account. If you add a “+” sign in your email name, followed by anything, it will still get delivered to your inbox. So:

  • will+extra@example.com will go to will@example.com
  • steve+august2014@example.com will go to steve@example.com
  • ops+salesforce+account@example.com will go to ops@example.com
  • and so on….

Lots of power-users use this feature to help automatically filter email into folders/labels. Some give out a unique email to every site to help figure out which services are selling their address to spammers.

This feature is probably supported by your mail provider. At least including GMail, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, and FastMail. (And if that doesn’t cover you, you probably have bigger problems, like you are running your own inbound mail server, yikes!)

Support Emails With +’s

Pretty please, if you have a signup form in your application that takes email addresses, test to be sure it accepts emails with plus-signs in the recipient part. If it doesn’t, give your development team a demerit for me.

Use Plus Addressing Liberally When Testing

You probably have to regularly test a signup process. In fact, I’d wager that signup flows get manually tested more than any other class of feature.

Rather than jump through hoops creating all sorts of dummy email addresses, or aliases to your Google Apps users, use plus addressing. If I’m testing a new welcome flow, I’ll use addresses like:

  • will+welcome1@example.com
  • will+welcome2@example.com
  • will+welcome3@example.com

Bonus Tip: example.com is a special reserved domain, which you can guarantee won’t actually send anyone an email. Of course, if you need to receive a welcome email or other part of your workflow, be sure to plus-address your own actual email address!