Business Startup Week 7: Use your own software

It's hard to believe that nearly two months have passed since I formed Plymouth Software. A lot has happened in what has seemed a very short period of time! Here's a rundown of what went on in week seven.


Amberleaf has seen several minor updates released this week, including development on the public landing pages, and an important update to the sign up process.

Amberleaf Front Page

Amberleaf's updated front page.

Legacy Decisions

The problem arose because I'd used a paid Spreedly plan for the free trial, delaying the first payment by 30-days. Users could cancel the account at any time before this, but they were asked to enter their payment card details before they'd even signed into the app. Understandably, this was a little off-putting.

I created a new Spreedly "Free-Plan" for trial sign ups. People logging into Amberleaf for the first time are now automatically subscribed to the free plan. When the trial expires, they are prompted to subscribe to the paid plan.

As well as removing the need for new subscribers to enter their payment card details upfront, the new approach also paves the way for the limited free account plan.

Invite Friends to Amberleaf

A new addition to the Amberleaf dashboard is an Invitation panel. This lets existing customers invite friends and coworkers to try out Amberleaf. In order to reduce interruption, the invitation requires only an email address; the app will create and send an invitation email. If you have an account, log in now to start inviting your friends, coworkers or customers to try out Amberleaf!

MailChimp Integration

As part of the new sign up process, and in an effort to improve communication with Amberleaf customers, I switched to MailChimp to manage my mailing lists. Integrating MailChimp with Amberleaf's registration form was a painless process thanks to the Hominid gem.

Use your own software

On Friday evening, I got a few reports that the SSL certificate had expired. This came as a shock, not only because I couldn't believe a year had already passed, but also that I hadn't added the SSL certificate into my own Amberleaf account!

Within a couple of hours, a new SSL certificate had been issued and installed on Amberleaf's server; the panic was over. Thanks to the support staff for their extremely quick replies and getting the SSL certificate generated.

Needless to say, I've since updated Amberleaf to remind me when the certificates are due again!

Outlime Lite

A couple of weeks ago I released Outlime for Android. Whilst the app is paid, I wanted to offer a demo version for people to try it out.

Android's market offers a 24 hour cooling-off period before charging for app downloads (just uninstall it within 24 hours of first installing), but this doesn't seem a well advertised or known feature. So with a little Twitter fanfare, on Thursday I launched Outlime Lite. Outlime Lite lets you sketch draft ideas and designs just as Outlime does, but stops short of saving and sharing.

Outlime Lite lets you see if the paid app would be useful to your own design process. You can check it out for free right now on Android Market!

What's Next

In the coming week, I should receive Plymouth Software business cards from Moo complete with the final branding. I'll continue tuning Amberleaf's marketing to attract web designers and businesses looking to simplify their domain and hosting management.

I hope to spend some more time working with Rails 3 and the process of migrating Amberleaf. With Rails 3 released, tutorials are appearing across the web. Some of the best I've found so far are Ryan Bates' railscasts and Simone Carletti's blog.

Changes to the site

I've been looking at Sinatra for building fast, light apps such as this blog and Jekyll (the static site generator that builds these sites) has served me well, but the sites are missing some benefits given by server-side apps.

I'm thinking of trying Marley, a Sinatra-based blog engine that offers the best of Jekyll and server-side software.