Tuesday 15 May 2012

A new-look Smartmessages

Last weekend we rolled out a complete overhaul of our user interface. For the most part it was a revamp of the underlying systems that provide our web interface, so it won't come as too much of a shock to our long-term users, but there are hundreds of small visual and usability tweaks throughout the site.

So what's changed under the hood?
  • Switch to HTML5 based on html5boilerplate
  • A new consistent CSS framework built on Twitter Bootstrap 2 and LESS
  • Responsive layouts for improved usability on small screens
  • A complete overhaul of template structuring using Smarty 3's inheritance
  • Switch from Prototype.js to jQuery (1.7.2), requiring a rewrite of all Javascript
  • Removal of nearly all images
  • Use of vector artwork and fonts (with FontAwesome)
  • Javascript graphs courtesy of Morris.js
  • YSlow optimisation
  • SPDY protocol support
We're hitting a score of 98 on Yslow - we would be at 100 if Google set longer expiries on their web fonts! We actually had to report bugs in Yslow as we were being marked down for using SPDY! Replacing images with font glyphs generally means that things look much cleaner and sharper on high-resolution devices such as iPad 3, plus it helps reduce the number of trips to the server.
Combined with SPDY support in browsers that support it (Firefox 11+ and Chrome), this makes for a much snappier experience overall. SPDY is a good fit for Smartmessages as we deliver everything over HTTPS anyway.

All of these changes took about a month to implement, and they improve our ability to change things in future, so we've now got a great base on which to build the new features we're planning!

We hope you like it.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

ISP Outage: resolved

Our ISP appears to be having connectivity problems that has taken all of our servers offline. We're not sure what's up yet, but will update on here when we do.

Update 18:11: Our ISP is suffering a DDoS attack resulting in packet loss; they are investigating.

Update 18:51: DDoS traffic has been blocked upstream, services are now back to normal. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

Friday 27 January 2012

New features: RSS and more!

We're very happy to announce some big new features:
Many customers have asked for this, and it's finally here! We've had internal suport for it for years, but now it's out in the open. You can now build templates that dynamically import content from an RSS feed at send time, and you can format the overall feed and the stories within it separately. This is  great way to shorten the amount of time it takes to prepare a newsletter as you don't have to refomat content from elsewhere - just point it at your blog/CMS and have it pull in your latest stories automatically. Docs on how to use it are on our wiki.
Social network integration
We now have tags for Facebook 'like', Google+ '+1', Twitter 'tweet' and LinkedIn 'share' buttons. Just drop the tags into your templates and the rest will happen automatically, complete with open graph tags, allowing the networks to find important details about your mailings easily. You'll see a new section in reports for the stats you've got on social network activity. There are quite a few considerations when using social network buttons, so please read the docs.
Revamped callbacks system
Our callbacks system has had a major overhaul, has some new events, selective event registration, more consistent parameters, better handling of failures, and now supports retrying if your system is down. Of course there is updated documentation to go with it.
Gravatars allow to you to obtain personalised icons associated with an email address via gravatar.com. If a user has set their own icon, it will be used, otherwise it will generate a unique one from their address. For example, here's the one for info@smartmessages.net:
info@smartmessages.net Gravatar
and here's one for an address that has no predefined icon (and is thus generated automatically):
Unknown Gravatar
We've been using them in our admin interface for some time, but now you can use them in your templates too.
There are lots of other small tweaks throughout the system, and as always, there's plenty more to come!