As a part of the MacStories Apps Tree event (where you’ll find a huge giveaway worth $10.000 of 450 Mac and iPhone apps licenses), I had the chance to interview the team of GoSquared. GoSquared provides the amazing tool called LiveStats (which I use on daily base) that enables you to watch your website's traffic flow in real time. I heard they were also working on new stuff, so I decided to send them some questions and they've been so kind to reply with long and interesting responses, for one of the best interviews I've had in a long time.
This is the 5th of many interviews and guest posts I’ll publish on MacStories during this week.
Hi! Can you please introduce yourself to MacStories readers?
Hi there, I'm James Gill, the founder and designer of GoSquared. If you haven't heard of GoSquared, we create web applications for site and business owners to help them get seen, earn money, and monitor their traffic. The GoSquared team is based just outside London, England. We love what we do.
What can you tell us about the design scene in your country?
I feel very privileged to live near London. It's a hotbed for culture and design, but few people around me seem to appreciate this fact. I feel extremely lucky to have been brought up in such a place. As I'm sure you know London has some of the most famous art galleries and design museums in the world. I'm especially inspired by the architecture of London - we have some true icons such as The O2 (formerly called The Millennium Dome, love it or hate it), the Gherkin Building, the Lloyds Building, the London Eye, Wembley Stadium, and soon The Shard. I'm not an architect but I love architecture.
Iʼm also proud that England has produced one of the greatest product designers of the decade: Jonny Ive. Despite everything that leaves Appleʼs factory floor being labelled with "Designed by Apple in California", without Jonny we would likely still be using beige plastic boxes to work on.
GoSquared seems a huge project. You have LiveStats, the upcoming Ads marketplace, Liquidicity... What else should we expect from you guys?
We've always enjoyed building products when we know that we're truly innovating and pushing things forward. I obviously don't want to say too much, but there's more to come on LiveStats very soon.
With regards to Get Seen + Sell Ads, it's going to be interesting to see how the new version goes. We feel we're in a great position to help Site owners earn more money and enable companies to gain more traction from their ads in this market. We have some other projects that are in far earlier stages of development, and they may come as a bit of a surprise when we finally release them. Enough said!
For now though - we are really pleased with the success of LiveStats so far, and we're looking forward to releasing Get Seen + Sell Ads early 2010.
Do you use Macs in your office? Can you please tell us something about your setup?
I am the Mac guy at GoSquared. I was lucky enough to get a PowerMac G4 back in 2002 when my dad's company decided they no longer needed an in-house designer and chucked the Mac to anyone who wanted it. I worked on that for years, upgrading components when and where I could. It was a great machine and it introduced me to the Mac platform at a point in my life when computers were becoming more than just a place to write essays. When I first got the Mac, it had OS 9 installed. At the time I felt like a professional with my old school OS when people around me were drooling over XPʼs blue theme. Then I got OS X and started to appreciate the finer qualities of interface design and usability.
Earlier this year I finally made the upgrade to Intel and bought myself a lovely UniBody MacBook Pro 15". I have this hooked up to an external display with a handful of external hard drives from LaCie. We've also got a Mac Mini that we bought for iPhone Development. It's a nice little machine that gets the job done. You haven't seen any iPhone apps from us yet, but weʼve been experimenting with the SDK for a while and weʼll see how things develop.
Have you ever tried other apps besides Photoshop / Illustrator? For example, Pixelmator?
We all have a copy of Adobe Creative Suite so we can share mockups and images easily across the team. I really dislike the Adobe Suite in many ways though. I think the Adobe Gripes blog sums up most of my dislike for the suite.
I became so frustrated with the bloated nature of Adobe's apps that I started looking elsewhere. I'm not sure where I first heard about it, but DrawIt is a fantastic app for creating pixel perfect icons and images for the web. It gets updated on a very regular basis (at least weekly) and has some lovely interface touches that you wouldn't see on any other platform. Bohemian Coding are a great company and I've spoken on Twitter with Pieter who provides fantastic support and is always on the ball. He's even working on Sketch, a lovely lightweight vector drawing tool that I can see replacing Adobe Illustrator in the future.
Which are your favourite Mac apps?
I've already mentioned DrawIt and Sketch by Bohemian Coding, but Coda by Panic is absolutely my most used 3rd party OS X app. There are better text editors, and better FTP clients, and better CSS editors, but Coda does it all to the point where it's a pleasure to use. And it does just that and nothing more. Take that Dreamweaver!
To communicate with the team, I use Adium, which is almost always open in my dock. I was never a fan of MSN - too many contacts with stupid 180 character names and animated butterflies swirling around them. And who wants to decorate their chat client with furry leopard skin or neon lights? Adium is great because it offers just enough customisation to keep me happy, and allows us to talk over Google Chat (our medium of choice) with ease. It would be nice to see an Adium 2 at some point with audio and video tools. iChat still wins on the video conferencing front.
LittleSnapper is the best one of the most useful tools in my workflow. I keep screenshots of hundreds of sites that inspire me - itʼs almost like a visual bookmark manager. Not many people realise that if you snap a web page, LittleSnapper also stores the pageʼs source code as a webarchive. The interface of LittleSnapper is a pleasure to use, with beautiful icons, and some lovely core animation transitions that are guaranteed to impress anyone unfamiliar with OS X.
I can't talk about my favourite Mac apps without mentioning Tweetie. I don't think I need to say much on this, but wow. Tweetie is everything I look for in an app - beautiful and simple yet capable of doing everything I could possibly want. Loren Brichter at Atebits really is a god among interface designers.
Speaking of apps to manage a huge network like GoSquared, what do you use?
We use a few handy apps, especially web apps to manage certain areas of GoSquared. We use Lighthouse to internally handle bug tracking and keep an eye on what each of us is working on. For most internal organisation, we try to use tools weʼve built in house so we can integrate further with our products than using off-the-shelf solutions.
For the techie stuff, though, I think I should hand this question over to Geoff:
On the Windows side, we use a whole myriad of administrative applications that help us develop and maintain GoSquared. These include the MySQL GUI administration programs (Query browser and Administrator) as well as a MySQL client developed by JT himself. We use the PuTTY terminal, and touchTerm on iPhone for emergency remote command line tweaking. Server side we use PHP 5, MySQL 5, Apache, CentOS 5, memcached and quite a few other custom scripts & applications that we really shouldnʼt go into here ;-)
Let's talk about the Adobe CS suite for Mac. Many people think it's a simple porting of the Windows version, with an outdated UI and not so many "Apple style" features. Your opinion?
It seems with every release Adobe want to build this consistent Adobe style interface while ignoring the conventions of OS X's user interface. Why do I need to use an Adobe Installer, an Adobe Updater (don't get me started) and an Adobe Help application when all of these are already built into OS X for every other app. Do Adobe believe these tools are better than the ones already in OS X? Because they're not.
I think in some ways, Adobe's desire to release more and more bloated apps in the insanely overpriced Creative Suite is a great thing for the indie OS X developer scene. I think many people are realising that they would much rather put their hard earned money in the hands of passionate, top notch developers and designers than the corporate juggernaut that is Adobe.
Do you use specific software to organise all your work stuff like Yojimbo or Evernote, or do you still prefer a well organised Finder?
For me, it's a well organised Finder, Mail, and its To-do lists and notes. Heck, half the time Iʼm using a Moleskine to make my notes while Iʼm out. I hear YoJimbo is almost indispensable for the people that have got into it, but I have always kept things pretty consistent and default to OS X. I find it allows me to ensure a degree of flexibility if working with other platforms. I very nearly purchased Things because it's such a beautiful app on both OS X and iPhone. I can't remember why I haven't done that yet actually, in fact I think I'll go and do that after this interview...
For me, note-taking is often a very visual task - I tend to sketch rather than write to get my points across and I guess this is partly why I donʼt put too much effort into using and learning a new app like Yojimbo. When Apple finally releases their tablet, I think it will be able to accept pen as well as touch input, making note taking and sketching almost as natural as drawing in my Moleskine.
Is there something of Mac OS X interface you'd change? Or do you think it's already perfect as it is?
I still think the Finder has some way to go with functionality. I know Apple likes to keep things simple yet extensible but the Finder still doesn't let me delete files easily enough, or CUT. I mean come on Apple! I understand they would rather err on the side of not deleting things, but advanced users still need some core functionality in the Finder without having to install sketchy plug-ins to enable features.
Address Book seems to be one of those much overlooked apps. Especially with the iPhone's importance in my workflow I really think Apple could innovate here. Facebook integration anyone?
On the iPhone side of things, why am I not allowed to look at my own SMS texts on my Mac? I know they're on here in a backup file somewhere, but it would sometimes be very handy to look back at something I've said on my phone a few days ago, just like I can with my email. I guess it's a privacy issue of some form, but this really confuses me.
I mentioned the other day on my personal blog that in terms of OS X's general interface, scrolling has been an integrated function of every MacBook Apple has made for the last few years, and the same with the Mighty Mouse and now Magic Mouse. I think it's only a matter of time before Apple look at scrollbars in a different way. We'll have to wait for OS X 10.7 for that though I guess!
Do you think the Mac platform is more suitable for designers? Is it possible to achieve good results on Windows too?
I think it's possible to achieve the same results on a PC as a Mac, but highly unlikely. I don't think it's anything as superficial as the "look" of the interface though. Designers have always been drawn to the Mac for a number of reasons. For those designers that truly stand out, they all have an appreciation for certain qualities that the Mac exudes. The general attitude of PC owners is that "better specs = better computer", but to my mind other factors influence my opinion of a computer, as well as specs.
Apple's own design philosophy is one that should be adopted by more computer manufacturers. Without wishing to sound like too much of a fan boy, they really are doing so much right at the moment. The packaging - beautiful, useful, and efficient. Hardware design - beautiful, functional, elegant, and long lasting. And the software - intuitive, beautiful, and flexible. No other company puts as much care into every avenue of their business, thatʼs why many of the best creatives use Macs.
Do you have / have you ever tried a Magic Mouse? Is it good for designers?
I picked my Magic Mouse up the other week and it is truly a delight to use. At first I wasn't too sure about the shape - it's a little slim for my hands, and I don't have huge hands. It's one of the few products that I don't necessarily want to be "nano" in dimensions.
The scrolling though is absolutely brilliant. There's something inherently natural about sliding your finger over the surface to scroll rather than having to use (and find) a scroll ball or wheel. My Mighty Mouse's scroll ball became clogged up after a month or so of use which made me wonder why they would evolve mouse design to use lasers for tracking (instead of the old tracking ball) only to add another one on top. It never made sense
And of course having another USB port free on my MacBook Pro is always nice.
What would you like to receive for Christmas?
James: 27” iMac with all the trimmings please. Also, I quite like the look (and sound) of BassJump for my MacBook Pro.
Geoff: A warehouse of servers. And preferably some guy who's some kind of über-guru for distributed processing who can help us run it too.
JT: What Geoff said.
Thanks for chatting with us! And keep up the great work!
James: Thanks for the interview, and if you would like to know more about GoSquared, check out the site at http://www.gosquared.com/
We leave you with the wise words of someone very smart:
“Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and achieve them.”