Track and Invoice Your Expenses

By Calvin Morris

Expense tracking has definitely been one of our most-requested features, and we’re excited to release our first pass at it today. You can now track expenses, and we’ve made it super easy.

expenses2x

Tracking expenses in Ballpark works basically the same way time tracking does; in fact, it works just like your timer section, but for money, not minutes. Now you can track travel, meals, font licensing, printing fees, pontoon boat rentals, and whatever other costs your agency incurs during a project as soon as the money is spent instead of waiting until it’s time to invoice.

To add an expense, you’ll just fill out the amount, add some details and assign it to a project or client so that it’s ready to invoice when you are.

expenses-create

The highlights:

  • Track expenses to a project or client
  • See all expenses when viewing a project
  • Quickly import expenses when creating invoices
  • Generate expense reports and export them

What’s next?

Like I said, this is our first pass at expenses. For now, you’ll be able to use Ballpark to track your billable expenses. We’ll continue working on expense-related features like non-billable expenses, recurring expenses and receipt attachments.

What about that redesign?

As I mentioned before, we’re working on adding a ton of features to the initial release of the new Ballpark that make it easier to use and better at helping you scale your business. We initially planned to add in expense tracking after we pushed the redesign live, but since the redesign is taking longer than we thought we wanted to go ahead and release this long-awaited feature to you now.

We’re excited for you to explore this new feature. If you’ve got any feedback or questions about how expense tracking works, shoot me an email at calvin@getballpark.com or tweet us @ballparkapp.

Avoiding a Culture of Distraction at Your Agency

By Calvin Morris

You’re finally getting around to completing that pesky task in Flow that you’ve been putting off for months. You’re zoned in, and you’ve got a solid chunk of time to yourself so you’re sure it’s going to get done this time. You hit a point where you’ve got to stop typing for a minute and really think about your next move. The world around you sees this pause in your flurry of activity and pounces.

Slack notifications from three different people at once. You get an email with “urgent” in the subject line. Your spouse sends you a text to remind you about that thing you said you wouldn’t forget to do (but you totally forgot, you knew you would). The calendar app dings to remind you about that meeting in fifteen minutes. A coworker taps you on the shoulder and needs just five minutes of your time before that meeting starts, if possible. You reluctantly change the task’s due date – again – and consider working remotely tomorrow. From a cave.

We can all agree that distractions and interruptions are bad. We know this because we get mad at ourselves when we get distracted and mad at other people when they consistently interrupt us. With the popularity of open office plans, the rapid adoption of messaging apps like Slack, and every single app on our phone begging us to turn on notifications the second we install it, it’s easy to see why distraction is a universal problem.

All of the notifications



We spent an afternoon chatting about this issue a few years ago. Here are some ways we tackle this problem here at Simple Focus.

Pinpoint the Distractions

Make lists of the things that distract you individually and things that others are distracted or interrupted by. Compare lists and figure out what the biggest common problems are. I’m guessing your list will be something like this:

  • Email
  • Instant Message
  • Phone
  • Meetings
  • The Internet*
    *yes, the whole damn thing

What do most of those things have in common? I think you’ll find that your lists mainly consist of communication channels. The problem often isn’t the channel, it’s how it’s used.

Set Expectations

We picked the channels we used most frequently and set expectations for how we use them so that everyone is on the same page. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Email – response preferred in an hour or two, but later is OK.
    Side note: this works because we make it a habit to respond to every email within 24 hours, regardless of who sends it–unless it comes through on the weekend. We’re good like that.
  • Slack DM – response needed in 15 minutes or less.
  • Unscheduled Phone/Skype call – response needed immediately
  • Tapping someone on the shoulder when they have their headphones in – death is imminent.

Fight Back

Expectation-setting is a good start, but it’s not going to magically fix everything and keep you focused. You can fight back against distraction and interruption by preparing for it. Here are a few things we do in our office:

  • Show everyone you’re busy – I throw on a pair of giant headphones. Giant headphones literally communicate that I cannot hear you; therefore I don’t want to; therefore don’t try. Unless, of course, death is imminent.
  • Work somewhere else – a change of environment for a morning, afternoon, or even a week can be super restorative to your focus. Breaking your routine and putting physical distance between you and your habitual distractions is effective.
  • Meeting hours versus work hours – Sometimes after a couple of busy weeks in a row, it’s time to buckle down and churn out some work. Set (and communicate) some consistent hours to produce and some consistent hours to have meetings. We’ve actually started trying to schedule meetings in the afternoons so we can reserve mornings for coffee-fueled productivity and focus.
  • Respect your own time – “Just say no” to meetings. Or at least, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and your officemates to reassess what needs to be a meeting and what needs to be an email.

Discuss

Distractions and interruptions are going to happen, and they’re going to happen every day (turns out clients don’t really care about your inter-office communication guidelines). But, dealing with problem areas head-on and brainstorming ways to be more productive is important. What do you do to manage distractions when you’re working?

Interview With User Trevor Hinesley

By Andy Newton

Sweeping the Corners: How One User Optimizes Ballpark for His Personal Workflow

 

We have excited users that love our product, and we love our users back. With your feedback, we can make Ballpark better for you. We talked to user Trevor Hinesley for that very reason. He is a Nashville-based startup founder, musician and developer. Trevor is a great person to interview because he has always helped us improve by sending our product manager worthwhile feedback that was based on his actual workflow.

I had the pleasure of chatting with him on a sunny afternoon last week. Trevor does a stellar job of showing us his AHA! moments, and some usability features rarely talked about.

Trevor_Hinesley

via Trevor Hinesley’s LinkedIn

 

Ballpark: You live in Nashville? Tell our readers what type of work do you do.

Trevor Hinesley: Yep I do! I’m involved in two entirely different career fields and love them both. I tour full-time in a band, and do web development full-time as well. I started as a back-end developer, later shifting towards full-stack development. I’ve been lead developer for a startup in the past, and am currently co-founder and CTO of soundstripe.com, as well as doing tons of freelance work for different clients. That’s where Ballpark comes into play for me. 😃 

Sounds fun! (You can plug your band, too!)

I play in a band called VERIDIA. It’s an electronic rock band with a girl singer. Whole lotta fun!

Nice! So do you have multiple workspaces? What’s your ideal workspace setup like? A coffeeshop with your headphones and laptop, or a quiet home office with a pet by your side?

Great question. For a long time, my workspace was me, my couch and some sunshine from my living room windows. I also worked out of a space owned by southernmade.co for a while, they’re good friends of mine and I’ve worked with them in different companies and capacities over the years. Sometimes I’d take a rare trip to a local coffee shop. Now, I use my basement recording studio that doubles as a Twitch-streaming station and full-blown development heaven. I love it. Since I’m around music all the time, it’s funny, but I rarely listen while I code. If I do, it’s something chill like Tycho.

Sounds like you’re making an informed decision! I have seen Tycho end up on quite a few designer playlists.

Haha man, it’s really hard to beat for focus music.

Besides Ballpark, what other hardware, apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

I think I’d be lost without Alfred, Sublime Text, and Cinch. Cinch is a really simple little app for OSX that mimics the way Windows does window snapping. It works a lot better than any attempt Apple has made at recreating the window-snapping feature, and it’s essential to my workflow. I use it constantly. I’m also a Rails developer, like many in the community, and though it’s not an app, the speed at which it lets me get projects up and running, sure makes it feel like a productivity app in itself!

So speaking of apps, at what point did you decide Ballpark was the app that you’d “rather not live without” (to quote Sandwich Video Guy)?

I literally went through pretty much every invoicing software on the market. I’ve even tried some out since deciding on Ballpark, and nothing even comes close to it. Everything is simple and intuitive, but very full-featured. I have auto-generated invoices for my recurring clients, multiple payment options, and even a timer that shoots me an email to let me know when I’ve left it running after work hours. That was a feature I didn’t even know I needed. I got an email one night that my timer had been running for over 12 hours and thought to myself, “If this hadn’t emailed me, I probably wouldn’t have remembered how many hours I worked today by tomorrow when I realized it was still running.”

Features and usability aside, the support and hospitality I’ve received with any questions I’ve asked has been incredible. I even wound up small talking about personal and work stuff with Patrick for a bit one day last year. Killer product and great people–can’t really ask for much more than that. I’ve even gotten inquiries and compliments about Ballpark from clients who were impressed with the generated invoices. 😃

Whoa! High praise! Patrick is a swell guy.

Just speaking truth! Been a customer for a while now, I love it.

 

Pic via trevorhinesley.com

via trevorhinesley.com

 

I like what you pointed out about the timer alert. That makes me think: what advice would you have for someone just starting Ballpark this week?

Honestly, there’s not much that I can say that you wouldn’t be able to figure out in the first fifteen seconds of looking at the product. If I had to give some advice, it would be to group things into Projects, even if you aren’t going to allot a specific number of billable hours to that Project. Being able to track time for specific Projects is great, because you can look back at not only how much time you’re spending on individual clients, but where your time for that client is going. It’s a nice 10,000 foot view, instead of having to scroll through individual timers with differing descriptions to see where your time is being most-spent. This is super helpful for freelancers, because you can see what KIND of Projects are more time-consuming, and you can find common denominators like that across multiple client Projects

Agreed, glad you pointed that out. I make good use of Projects, too. We take a look at that view on Friday afternoons, just to get an idea of how our workweek looked.

Helps a ton. It helps get a bit more granular than just, “Marketing sites don’t take as long as eCommerce apps,” haha.

Totally. How else do you use Ballpark in your workflow?

I use Ballpark for Estimates as well. Which is really helpful for me, because the times I’ve needed Estimates, they fill a perfect hole in the client acquisition workflow. I had a client once that needed quite a few things built, but with Ballpark’s Estimate feature, I could build out an Estimate that had each feature of the site broken down as a flat-fee line item. This allowed them to look at the invoice, and quickly pick out which features were priority. It also unknowingly helped them map out an MVP. They were able to save money and time on the initial build, by seeing what features could come later based on cost/need. Very useful.

That also gives me a way to get my thoughts on the architecture and planning of the site down on paper. Before, it was just a series of emails back and forth, and I’d have to compile the consensus at the end. Now it’s all in one place, organized and easy to digest.

It sounds like it provides a great view on the front-end project management / overview tool; i.e., putting you and the client on the same page, roadmapping an MVP.

Exactly. It’s a similar concept to doing it the email route, where you discuss it back and forth, but this way you can do it all inside the Estimate view so it’s contained. By doing this, it’s not cluttering up your inbox with tons of other client project discussions, and the info you need is already right there in the Estimate.

It’s also a nice archival tool. I can go back and look at the discussion pertaining to that Estimate/invoice right there in it. No need to dig through email accounts and compile a conversation.

Exactly, a lot of our users love that siloed communication, where everything concerning project scope is recorded right there.

Bingo.

What is your best Ballpark time-saving shortcut or workflow?

Probably the recurring invoice feature. It’s almost like a reminder as well. On the 15th of the month, I have my recurring invoices generated and drafted. I can then go review them, make any necessary changes, and send them off. It prevents me having to write up a new invoice every month for a contract structured as a retainer, and it keeps the layout/format consistent for their records and mine, because each invoice looks almost identical, give or take a few minor changes and date differences.

Yeah, that’s invaluable. It’s like having an assistant just draft it up for you!

What is one dream addition you would root for in Ballpark?

A dream addition would be allowing the management of multiple organizations, profiles, or personas from one account. Some way that I can just have a solo account like I currently have, but write up invoices as different business entities. It’d be great to write up my music-related invoices through Ballpark as well!

So you want to toggle Ballpark for your different types of businesses–that makes sense. How would you use it for music industry-related tasks? Settling up with promoters?

Most of it would be related to gigs, yes. But other stuff too. When in the studio, I have to keep track of my hours just like a regular freelance gig. Being able to do that with Ballpark, and do invoices for per-gig, per-rehearsal, or per-event flat-fee projects would be super helpful. The features are all there to make that happen, I’d just need two accounts to do what I need.

Oh, wow! Not to get too granular, but do you quote mix projects on an hourly basis? Or, rather, would like to?

I do (recording) engineering as well, but am not engineering as much lately. My hourly stuff is mainly related to when I’m acting as a session musician.

Well, you may have hit on a wider-angled application for Ballpark, especially in the Nashville area! You’ve such a good sport to do this today, Trevor. Wrapping up, what’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

The best business advice I’ve ever received, was probably to remain teachable. There’s always more to learn, and that includes everything, not even business concepts in particular. I’ve learned so much about ethics, kindness, humility, etc., from the people I work with, and that’s invaluable.

That’s a really upbeat note to end on. I can’t thank you enough for taking your time today and talking with me.
No problem at all! Glad to help out. Thanks for thinking of me.

How do you know it’s time to rewrite code?

By Calvin Morris

When every commit requires fervent prayer, it might be time for a rewrite.

This is how we decided to overhaul our SaaS app. When I say redesign, most folks think I’m talking about look and feel. The redesign of Ballpark is about much more than layout updates and color choices, though. We want everything about Ballpark to be better, not just different, and that includes the code base it’s built on.

I’m sure a few of you read the title and thought, “Um, it’s never time to do that because that sounds horrible and scary and expensive.” In a way, you’re right. It can be horrible and scary and it is definitely expensive, but sometimes it’s the best way forward. Here’s how we came to the conclusion that it was time for us to do things differently.

Big Issues

Like all product companies, we want to be able to bring features to our users quickly, efficiently, and confidently. This honestly was our primary motive behind the decision to re-evaluate the code. We bought the product, so naturally, we inherited a codebase that we didn’t write.

Slow As Molasses in January

Inheriting code isn’t a huge deal, but imagine it this way: you’re in college, and you miss a month’s worth of classes (your teacher doesn’t take roll or something, so you aren’t going to automatically fail – chill out). But there’s a huge exam coming up and you need to know everything the class covered while you weren’t there. You ask to borrow a classmate’s notes, but he’s a really big hipster and only writes things on parchment paper with a feather-tipped pen. In cursive.

You both speak the same language, and you both can read, so this should be fine, right?
Yeah, but even being comfortable with another’s handwriting, versus your own, will slow you down a little. And it’s going to slow you down a little every time you look at his notes.

Like, in perpetuity.

All those little slow-downs add up. In our case, these cumulative code slow-downs were part of the reason for the re-write.

Testing The Waters

Another big problem was the lack of testing built into the code. If you haven’t worked with an application before, tests are ways of knowing if you broke something when you make a change to the code. A good test suite will automatically run when a commit happens, then tell you if you broke something, and where you broke it. Not having tests contributed to an incredibly high ramp-up time for developers and a low level of confidence in pushing new features.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re a small team and we often have to bring in extra developers to help out. If we want to set them up for success (and in return, save ourselves some money), they need to be able to dive right in and start contributing in a week, or less. We don’t need a bunch of folks all up in the code like:

travolta-gulp

This is how we do it

Once we started entertaining the idea of a rewrite, we took a look at the scope of the project. We determined that the back-end was super solid, but the front-end is really where most of our problem areas lived. Specifically, it was a mixed bag of Javascript that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

trouble-with-tribbles-10

It’s important to clarify that, for us, deciding to redo the front-end did not mean refactor. We wanted to end up with a high level of comfort at the end, so that meant our developers wanted to touch everything. Since the new design is a pretty big departure from what we’ve got now, we chose to completely scrap the existing JavaScript and the stylesheets.

We also enlisted some Rails pros to help us implement those tests I talked about earlier. We’ve already got a much better process for scaling our development firepower, but that’s still a work in progress.

Going forward, we’re going to have a method to the madness, and a much higher level of confidence in the code we write.

Timeline and cost

This rewrite has not been easy. It has not been fast (read: ‘spensive). We think it’s worth it. But the most important part of deciding to do a code rewrite is having long-term commitment from the folks that matter. Your stakeholders have to be convinced of the importance and the future value of this Herculean task, and then you need to be prepared to justify yourself along the way.

We’re super excited about the foundation we’re laying for making our product better – and the ability to make it better, faster – so that we can deliver a delightful experience for all of our users.

I didn’t want to get too far in the weeds with all the decisions we’ve made with our codebase so far, but if you want to talk details you can reach me at calvin@getballpark.com, or tweet us at @ballparkapp.

How We Choose Features for Ballpark

By Calvin Morris

At Simple Focus, we use Ballpark every day. We’re lucky to have a product that meets so many of our needs as a creative agency, but we’re always asking ourselves what we can do to make the product better.

But what does “better” mean for us?

More Better

All product companies say they want to make their product better. We’re more than a product company though – we’re a creative agency that has clients, and those clients expect us to help them make their products better. One of the ways we do that is by aligning and familiarizing ourselves with our clients’ vision.

We take the same approach to our work on Ballpark that we take when we work on client projects, the only difference being that, with Ballpark, we’re both the agency and the client.

So, what’s the plan?

Part of vision-setting is deciding what we want to work on, and in what order.

We’ve obviously got the redesign chugging along – slower than we’d like, but hey, the client has really high standards. The primary goal of Ballpark’s redesign is to set up an app that is more scalable and easier for us to build on.

After we deliver the redesign early this summer, we’re planning to tackle expenses (the crowd cheers) as part of a big push to make Ballpark better at budgeting. Budgeting has to be, as one of our designers likes to say, “so easy it hurts”. If it’s not easy, folks won’t use it, and they’ll be missing out on an opportunity to make their business more efficient and profitable.

Once we’ve got budgeting right where we want it, we’re going to move towards building cash flow management tools into Ballpark. These tools will give you deeper insight into the health of your company, and growing healthy companies is a huge part of where we see Ballpark in the future.

ballpark-todos-ha

And that should take us right on through the end of 2016 (I’m an optimistic guy).

Priorities

In case you didn’t notice, I way oversimplified our game plan. Getting all of that stuff done is a tall order. Here’s the face I make when I look at our todo list:

If we’re going to get it all done, we have to prioritize. There are several factors that help us decide what to do next:

  • We’re Users, Too: We use Ballpark every day. I mean, our whole team of 20 people uses it. So every glorious nook and cranny of the app – from timer-only users to the admin side – we know it. If there’s something we need it to do to make us better at running our business, you better believe that’s going on our todo list.
  • User Feedback: Our users are great about letting us know what they think about everything we push and everything we’re planning, so a big part of setting priorities is listening. If lots of people are asking for the same thing, then it moves up the list.
    However, there’s a caveat to this method: the requested feature must line up with the vision and the roadmap. If we’re not working on that part of the app yet, then we’re going to put it in the icebox.
  • Only So Many Minutes In A Day: Finally, we determine priority by  bandwidth. We’re a small company, and we have to balance our work on our products with our client work. Just providing support, pushing bug fixes, and regular maintenance on an app like Ballpark takes lots of time. Somewhere in all of that hustle, we clear out blocks of time to design and develop new stuff that we’re proud of.

Conclusion-y Things

We’re pumped up about the direction we’re headed. I get to see all the cool stuff before everyone else, but I love sharing.

If you’ve got a question about our direction, want to talk more about how we balance client work with product work, or just want a screenshot of the new hotness, shoot me an email: calvin@getballpark.com. You can also tweet us @ballparkapp.

Project: Projects

By Calvin Morris

We promised a long time ago that we weren’t done with Projects. We also said that even though Projects makes time tracking and invoicing much less painful than they used to be, there’s plenty of room for improvement. We’re introducing lot a of these improvements when we release the Ballpark redesign.

The problem(s) with Projects

Projects added a lot of organization to time tracking and invoicing, but there were a few problems that surfaced after we added them. While the flexibility of being able to track time to a Company or a Project is cool, it’s potentially confusing for team leaders and team members. Our goal is to make life easier (and more organized) for everyone – not more complicated.

Having Companies AND Contacts as two separate areas within Ballpark is kind of weird. Soon, Companies and Contacts will live together in harmony as simply Clients, which is where you’ll put the people who work at a company and receive your estimates and invoices.

Now that we had gotten that out of the way, we had to address the confusion around time tracking. Projects are a great way to keep up with the health of your business at a glance, but that’s not actually true if your team isn’t tracking all of their time to Projects.

So rather than leaving that up to the team leaders to communicate, why don’t we just make it easy? In the upcoming release of Ballpark, all time will be tracked to a Project, for a Client.

projects-lg

Hooray structure!

Things are about to get really organized up in here. Don’t worry, your historical data and gobs of tracked time aren’t going anywhere. The short version: all clients will have a default project, so anything that hasn’t been assigned to a project already will get dropped into that bucket.

We think this structure is going to make Ballpark much easier to use for everyone on your team. We’re already working on some super helpful workflow articles for you that we’ll post after we’ve released the new Ballpark out into the wild. We’re excited to share more of our expertise about working better, working faster, and staying informed on the health of your business.

I’m sure this update has raised a few questions for you, and I’d love to chat more about this. Just leave a comment here or shoot me an email!

I’m Calvin Morris, and I’m Managing Ballpark’s Redesign

By Calvin Morris

… and I’m here to answer some of your burning questions.

Nice to meet you! I’m the product manager here at Ballpark. If you’ve ever contacted support, there’s a chance you’ve spoken to me. But for the most part, I stay behind the scenes having meetings and directing our vision and new features. I’ve been coordinating the efforts behind the Ballpark redesign we’ve been talking about lately here on the blog.

I recently met with our digital marketing partner (we’ll tell you all about them in a future post) and we chatted about all the stuff we’ve been working on here over the last few months. Here’s a questionnaire from their discovery if you’re interested; maybe we answered a few questions you’ve had too!

What’s the origin story behind the Ballpark redesign?

It’s just not organized the way we want it to be. We’ve got a lot of plans for valuable features for our customers with big teams, and there’s just not a lot of room for those features right now. So we decided that we could kind of knock out a few things out at once if we did a redesign: we could rework the foundation of Ballpark to make the UI smarter; we could address the concern that Ballpark isn’t really being actively developed (which was never true, but visually it may have appeared that way); and we could make a UI that gave us room to grow.

When did you start working on it?

We started working on the actual look-and-feel stuff in February, but the thinking and planning phase started back in the fall.

Where did you begin?

The plan was to take into account all the user feedback we’ve gathered ever since we took over (which has been a substantial amount), as well as our own vision for how the product can make growing creative agencies better at the business part of their business.

After figuring out what parts needed the most work, we told the designers that nothing should limit their thinking. At Simple Focus, our partners hire us in part because we’re so good at designing objectively. We wanted to do this with our own product. What I mean is that we approach design based on how it should work for the user, without letting the knowledge of technical limitations or business rules cloud our vision. Of course, after you do that for a little while, at some point you’ve got to move from that frame of mind into reality, and that’s where we’re at now. We took a few of our crazy but smart ideas and made them achievable—that’s just the creative process.

What is the biggest challenge of the redesign so far?

The biggest hurdle is that we’re still an agency. To be honest, that’s probably also the thing that makes us most qualified to be working on Ballpark in the first place. Ballpark is as much for us as for all of our users. We need it to work better than it does for what we do. But yeah, having client work and product work means we’ve got to be really intentional about our time and resource allocation.

Our owner, JD Graffam, has chosen to invest a ton of into Ballpark, we’re finally treating it like a client who has a big budget. He talks a lot about the “opportunity cost” of us working on Ballpark. Basically, we could be working on billable work, but we’re not. He’s been very supportive of our vision for the product.

Who are the ideal BP users?

The new Ballpark is going to be better at helping you run your business. Invoicing is crucial, time tracking is helpful, but there are lots of other SaaS businesses that are doing those things. What we’re moving towards is making Ballpark your tool for growing your business, not just maintaining it. It’s more than just a big collection of features, it’s going to be a vision-setting tool. Of course that means adding features like real budgets (not just hours), expenses, and one day, more powerful cash flow and resource allocation tools. But we’re being really intentional about the way those features are going to work together, and that’s where the vision-setting stuff really comes into play.

With other timer and invoicing apps on the market, where does Ballpark fit?

Ballpark already does invoicing well, and it’s OK at time-tracking. Where Ballpark is moving though, is tying these things together in a super smart and intuitive way (and making them way better than they are now). We’re heavily investing in making Ballpark something that everyone on your team can use.

What is one the thing you are the most excited about?

I’m really pumped about the way our UI updates are going to give folks a clear idea of how to use Ballpark and what it’s capable of doing. There will be a methodology, in a way. A while back we introduced Projects, but to be honest, they weren’t anywhere close to perfect. They were also optional, so there wasn’t really a reason to use them unless you felt like being super organized. We’ve fixed Projects and now they make sense. But that deserves a blog post by itself probably (to be continued?).

Why should current users be on the edge of their seats?

There’s going to be something to be excited about whether you’re a Timer-Only user or an Admin. For Admins, you’re going to really enjoy the way reporting is going to work. We talked about that a little bit on the Timers post. For Timer-Only users, you’re going to love the new My Timesheet view. That’ll keep you from having to sift through everyone else’s time and make you more efficient. More efficient Timer user means better reporting, which means a clearer picture of your business performance, which lets you take action.

What do you think new customers will be most excited about? Why should someone jump into Ballpark?

Probably the structure. Right now Ballpark is a little too free-form. There’s not really a best way to do stuff. A big draw of Ballpark now is how cool the Invoices/Estimates look; they’re getting some attention too, so that will continue to be a big part of what makes Ballpark enjoyable to use for new folks.

When will it be ready?

We’re planning on rolling out the new Ballpark to our beta testers that signed up on our announcement post sometime in late April. Based on how all of that goes, we’re hoping to get everyone on the new Ballpark by June. But we’re not going to release something that’s busted, so if the beta shows us that we missed the mark on something, we’re going to fix it before we push it.

Anything else?

If I missed anything please comment below! This is one of my favorite subjects, and there’s going to be something to love for everybody. It’s absolutely been a labor of love and I can’t wait to show you all the better and more beautiful Ballpark.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

 

It’s About Time

By Calvin Morris

Last week, we formally announced the upcoming redesign of Ballpark. Since then, we’ve received some very helpful feedback, and we really want to thank you for taking the time to respond. We mean that sincerely.

Not only did we read your input, but hearing your passion for making Ballpark better makes us even more excited to deliver a product worth raving about. But to get there, we know it will take more than just a fresh coat of paint – it requires us to rethink the way that all (and we do mean all) of the current features work. As we say often, we don’t just need a different UI, we need a smarter UI.

Based on feedback from our users, our team has been working hard to think through every piece of the Ballpark experience, from the way new projects are entered, to the way final invoices are sent – and everything in between. Not only will this make Ballpark much easier to use on day one, it also sets the table for an entirely new group of features yet to come.

Today, we’re delighted to pull back the curtain on some of the improved features you can expect with the new Ballpark, starting with tracking time.

Building a Better Timer

We know that not everyone invoices based on time tracking, but lots of you do. If you’re one of those folks, you’re about to be really excited. We’ve been giving a lot of our attention right now to a quintessential part of the Ballpark experience: tracking your time. In the new Ballpark, timers are much more intuitive, and time-entry is lightning quick. We’re removing the requirement to add notes for every single timer, and are instead focusing the UI on assigning time to a Project or Category. The Notes field will still be there if you need it, but if you don’t, it’ll stay out of your way.

new-timer

Going forward, timer-only users will no longer have to see other members’ time on their dashboard. We’re introducing My Timesheet to help many users focus on why they logged into Ballpark in the first place: to track time.

my-timesheet

We’re Unbreaking Reporting

You need reporting that puts you back in control, so we’ve made time reports easier to generate, edit, and analyze. Gone are the days when you were forced to jump between screens to make simple adjustments to time entries – administrators will be able to bulk-edit the time entries for all users in the report, making reporting a much faster process.

This kind of in-line editing will be available throughout the new Ballpark. All users can edit their timers anywhere they can see their time, whether they’re inside a Project, Invoice, or Timesheet Report.

Reports will also have much more useful sorting and filtering, which is one of our most frequently requested improvements.

The My Timesheet approach also allows us to re-think mobile timing. The Timer has been completely overhauled to feel responsive and natural.

mobile

These big changes to the timer are just a taste of how intentional we are in our creation of a smarter, faster, and truly responsive Ballpark.

What’s Next

We realize that in order for the new Ballpark to be successful, we need to build a product that works for you – not the other way around. By improving the time tracking and reporting features, Ballpark helps agencies grow the business side of their business. And there’s more where that comes from.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

Beginning Again

By Patrick McNeely

It’s been a year since we bought Ballpark, and while we’ve fixed a lot of problems and made some solid improvements, we haven’t really announced anything huge. We already know Ballpark is a great tool for sending invoices and estimates, but it needs a fresh coat of paint—and some of you agree:

“Ballpark is an awesome tool, but I am still eagerly waiting for them to update their aging user interface…” – Nicolas Spehler

“I don’t know…the post-Basecamp/Web 2.0 UI is one of the things I like about the product, honestly. It’s like a snapshot of a particular design ethos at a particular point in time, that may have gone out of style but is no less effective a UI now than it was 10 years ago.”– Christopher Hawkins

It’s glossy, it’s not responsive and the fonts are all kinds of tiny. On top of that, it can be slow, and UI glitches happen more often than anyone would like.

I’m a little surprised the last redesign was all the way back in 2012, because honestly, it holds up. Kudos to MetaLab (the team that originally designed and built Ballpark) for making a product that has aged this well. Turns out the team that designed Slack has mad skills.

But Ballpark is our baby now, and we’ve been doing some very hard thinking about where we want to take Ballpark long-term.

We want it to grow, to continue being sustainable. We want to make it even more valuable to our customers and bring a new and different value to the table for growing businesses like our own.

Now, we’re finally going to make that happen.

So It Begins

I wasn’t kidding back in October when I told you we’ve got big things planned. We spent the remainder of 2015 sketching, passing feature ideas back and forth and debating theoretical questions like “Would people miss estimates?”, “What is Ballpark?” and “Does this app have anything to do with baseball?”

Then at the turn of the year, we put pixel to paper and started making real, honest-to-god designs happen. Wanna see?

Ideas Were Had

The design team was told right off the bat, “make Ballpark awesome; there are no rules.” As a result, things got real weird.

rate-card calendar

fullscreen-timer

And a few ideas were great.

little-timers timer-menu

invoice-lines

And that’s just a tiny bit of what we’ve been up to. The really great stuff is hidden away under lock and key because we’re going to build it and you’re going to use it. And where’s the fun in giving away all our plans?

The thing is, building out mind-blowing features takes a long time. We’ve got a roadmap now, and it’s a year long, more or less.

We know what Ballpark’s going to look like in a year, and it’s going to be super cool.

But, a Year is Too Long to Wait

In the meantime, Ballpark is looking dated, so here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to launch a UI overhaul with a brand-new visual design in…two months.

We’re completely rebuilding the front end. Feature-wise, it’s going to be very, very close to today’s Ballpark. It’s going to look beautiful, and it’s going to be fast. You’ll get the same features, but with a new look and smarter UI.

We’re making a few big changes to how information is organized, and we’ll probably go ahead and add a few new surprises we’ve been working on, too.

Most importantly however, we’ll have a framework for all of the great things on our roadmap. We’re pouring the foundation for so much cool stuff.

iOS

So, yeah, about the iPhone app. We feel sad whenever we look at it. It’s still sitting there, mostly working, but not really keeping up with our new direction. It does the job, but we don’t have the time to fix it right now (not with the webapp work we’re taking on).

We’re curious what you think about this though, so we’re going to ask you about it in a minute.

Android and Funsized

Some of you may have seen this post from our friends at Funsize about the Android workshop we did with them. Cool, right?

That was a great experience and definitely jump started some ideas, a few of which are going to make it in the redesign. But, we’ve not built the app yet (see above re: iOS).

We want to know if you’re interested in Android as well.

Help Us Out

With all of the changes we’re working on, we’re probably going to need some beta testers. Who’s in? Fill out this short survey and sign up for the beta in a couple months.

Godspeed and Stuff

Well that’s our update. It’s going to be a busy couple months for us, so be gentle with our support team. We can’t wait to show you our work.

Making Plans and Remembering the Little Things

By Patrick McNeely

A few months ago, we released Projects to the world. It was huge for us, marking our first big feature push since taking the reins at Ballpark. Our whole team thanks you for all of your kind, encouraging words and all of the ideas for how to make Projects even more useful.

Planning for the Future

We’ve got big plans for Projects–and all of Ballpark–over the next six months.

We recently laid out all of your feature requests, put marker to whiteboard and mapped out what Ballpark is going to look like next year.

Personas

We also did some very serious persona work.

 

We have a list of features, a ton of whiteboard sketches and a plan. Now, we’re off to design and build it. I can’t wait to give you a real peek at what we’re up to in a few months.

For now, I’ll just say this: Projects is going to get even more important, time tracking will receive some major love, and a big, frequently requested feature will finally have its day.

A Few Things Behind Us

In addition to all the planning and big-picture drawing, the team has been busy fixing things and making smaller updates that you may not have noticed. Here’s what’s changed:

Enhancements

  • The payments graph in Reports now maps $0 days. I know that doesn’t sound important, but the previous graph was actually fairly inaccurate.
  • We increased the number of timers shown with each click of Load More on the Time screen. This is a big time saver, particularly for teams trying to track down a timer from several days ago.
  • When a client pays an invoice in a currency other than what you’ve specified in Ballpark, or is specified by your Stripe account, Ballpark will now accurately show a converted balance on that invoice once a payment has been made.

Bug Fixes

  • Touch devices, like iPads, were having trouble selecting text inputs in some instances. Not anymore.
  • We removed Markdown from invoice line items to avoid confusion when numbering individual line items.
  • We fixed time tracking report filters to include today’s time when specified by the date filter.
  • We tracked down an issue when sometimes adding reusable items would create a new, blank line item.
  • There was a bug that would sometimes cause Ballpark to not display certain timers on the Time page based on changing timezones. This was a weird one that’s gone now.
  • In client creation, we fixed email validation when using copy+paste.

As always, let us know if you think of anything you’d like to be better about Ballpark, and we’ll see what we can do. Shoot us an email at support@getballpark.com or say “hey” on Twitter (we’re @ballparkapp) .

Login to your Ballpark Account

You can log in to your Ballpark account at the domain you chose when you first signed up, or were invited to Ballpark.

.ballparkapp.com

Please contact us if you don't know your domain.