The Journey to Boxes 2
It was June 18th 2013, and I was ecstatic. My team had finally unveiled our first version of Boxes. We had set out to create something that had never been seen before: a tool that provided a place to organize, buy, and sell your belongings in one easy-to-use platform. It took us more than a year and half, and we were finally showing the world what we’d been working on for so long.
After several months went by, we had lots of people using Boxes, but bugs and user experience problems were stacking up making it difficult for us to move forward on newer, greater things. We gained praise from many, but looking back, we tried to get more creative than needed, spinning up designs that were different than the norm making the experience difficult to adopt for some. We spent a lot of time trying to address the problems with what we call “Band-Aids”, but handling them this way was only making Boxes less stable and harder to maintain.
A fresh start
In September of 2013, right after the release of Apple’s iOS 7, we made the decision to move in a new direction. Instead of patching up lots of problematic bugs and issues from this first version of Boxes, we decided to start from scratch. We gathered everything we learned since launch, and set out to address the issues by building a newer, better version of Boxes that would include beautiful new designs, better product communication, and a much demanded feature - a payment system.
We set out to create the world’s best tool for organizing your belongings. We believed that at times, when a person was ready, they may want to sell an item they own, or purchase a new item they found from someone. Since many people have their belongings on Boxes, we gave them the ability to list their items for sale, but if someone wanted to purchase an item from them, they would need to send a message inside the app to coordinate payment. They would then need to facilitate the transaction outside of Boxes. This posed many issues for both sellers and buyers. Sellers had to find a means for payment elsewhere without any protection from a potentially fraudulent buyer. Buyers faced issues around trust since there was no protection in case the sellers didn’t send them the items as described.
In Boxes 2, sellers can get paid right inside the app in an incredibly simple way. They can collect their funds and withdraw them right into their bank accounts. Buyers can now purchase items with just a tap, making it very easy to buy things they find interesting. Buyers also now have extensive protection with a new program we put together called the Boxes Buyer Guarantee.
Creating new designs that were beautiful, innovative, simple, and familiar to others was very important for us to have with Boxes 2. Each major section took countless hours of researching, going through our own iterations, and getting lots of feedback before deciding it was final.
In general, we followed a process for each new design we created:
- Analyzed the old design (if the feature or page existed in v1).
- Gathered feedback from v1 users to understand what they liked, what they hated, and what they expected.
- Researched the market and design trends. We tried to get a good understanding of what works well for others and what people are familiar with.
- Created concepts. Got feedback. Iterated.
- Moved into development.
This cycle would continue as the new designs were built into the product, tested by others, and new feedback was given.
In version 1 of Boxes, we used a slide out navigation that listed all the major sections. The list was too big. We had too many sections giving this navigation too many options, which overwhelmed people.
In Boxes 2 we analyzed our data from v1 of Boxes to see where people were spending the most time, where we would like them to spend more time, and decided to put the best options up front.
Under the hood
We had many engineering setbacks in v1 of Boxes both in the iOS app and on the servers, particularly around speed and maintainability. Because of our previous “Band-Aid” approach, we were dealing with messy code that was, in many cases, very hard to optimize. So our goal with Boxes 2 was to address all the major issues, make it blazing fast, efficient, and easy to maintain. We took a brand new approach to the code structure of the app and how it handles memory, making any future issues much easier to deal with.
Getting a product like ours to perform at lightning speed can be very difficult to accomplish. Without getting too technical, we took the time to build caching throughout both on the server and in the app so that response times are incredibly fast. Particularly, many parts of the app are more than 100x faster than they were in v1. For those of you who don’t know what caching is, we stored data on both the device and the server in a way that is very fast to access. There are no calculations or additional downloads that need to take place. The data is just there and ready for you when you need it making everything you do on Boxes 2 a lot faster than before.
We knew how people could use Boxes, but we weren’t sure if they would actually use it the way we were thinking. Our original tagline was “Make the most of your stuff.” It was very vague, but it got people curious enough to join and start adding their belongings. Once we watched as people from all over the world started to use Boxes, we were ready to update our communication with more direct copy that speaks exactly what Boxes is and how it can be used. After several iterations and feedback from others we decided on our new tagline “A place for your stuff. Organize. Discover. Buy. Sell.” We believe this tagline communicates to people everything that Boxes can do for them in a few short words.
We want everyone to know about Boxes 2. Knowing the power of a great video, we put together a few short films that we believe you’ll love.
I decided to title this story “The Journey to Boxes 2” because it really was a journey. I tried to fill all of you in on part of it, but in reality, it was a lot bigger than this short story. We had many ups and downs; good times and bad. Boxes 2 is finally in the wild. It’s live in Apple’s App Store and available to download! It feels incredible to say, especially after all the time and dedication the entire team and I devoted to getting us here.
Many of you, the community, were part of our journey to Boxes 2. We couldn’t be happier and more appreciative to have you as part of our community. All the help you’ve given, and feedback you provided meant a lot to us. Because of you, we were able to get to this point and bring Boxes 2 to life. We are so thankful and grateful for everything you, the community, have done for us.
We have lots of great plans and a big future ahead! We’ll be bringing new features and lots of interesting things to Boxes. We look forward to the new journey ahead and hope to see you continue along for the ride.