The dotmailer Hack Week 2015 in review

A look at what was created during dotmailer Hack Week 2015.

Just before Christmas dotmailer held its annual hackathon – a week (thereabouts) of trying out new ideas, playing with new technology and getting out of real work coming up with the next big thing.

Keen readers of the blog may remember our review of Hack Week 2014.

Just like last year, Hack Week saw all our engineers and designers come together to work on alternative marketing technology, suggested by members from all over the dotmailer family.

Collectively, we came up with over 70 new, niche, different or downright crazy-but-may-just-work ideas. Ten of those were hacked, and two were chosen as being the best idea and best execution respectively.

I had a chat with both teams – and also, using my author’s prerogative, picked my personal favourite.


Best Idea

Attack of the Clones

Hacked by: Logie Urquhart (Developer) and Pavel Vysotsky (Developer)

The big idea: A tool to clone an existing dotmailer account – creating a new account with all of the data and setup of the original.

Me: First of all – did you just work on this because it had a cool name?

Logie: Ha, no! I’m historically not a developer who works on the core dotmailer platform, so I thought this was my best bet for getting a hack done in less than a week.

Me: What was the hardest challenge you came up against?

Logie: Not knowing enough about dotmailer’s underlying data structure, and what records needed to be where in order to have the new account’s data in place. Doing this allowed me to work with areas of dotmailer that I hadn’t seen before.

Me: When you demoed this, you got cheers from the crowd. Did you realise how popular it would be?

Logie: No, the positive response was unexpected, as most of the work was done behind the scenes. All there was for the user to see was a page with a button on it! There were some good ideas that came out of the Q&A after the demo.


Best Execution

Colouramatron

Hacked by: Rikki Gullick (Front-end developer), Sani Chan (Designer) and Wayne Parker (Front-end developer)

The big idea: A tool that changes an email to match a user’s or company’s colour scheme.

Me: What interested you about this idea?

Wayne: I liked that it was a simple idea, but one that would solve a complex problem. I’d done some work a while back with contrast detection, and thought that this would tie in nicely with that.

Me: What was the hardest challenge you came up against?

Rikki: The hardest bit was figuring out which colours to use where (matching new colours against existing), and then figuring out what is considered light and dark so we could adjust the foreground text colour if needed.

Best Execution winners

Me: Sani – you’re a designer by trade. How could Colouramatron help marketers achieve better design?

Sani: Finding complementary colours and ensuring text is readable etc. can be hard – but Colouramtron does all that for you. Also, as you create a theme, rather than change a lot of colours separately, it will help speed up the design process and get the email out much more quickly. The way I see it is that you’ll get better results, quicker!

However, it also allows a design to be modified for an event really easily – enabling a re-coloured Christmas version of an existing newsletter campaign to be created, for example.

Me: Rikki – without blinding me with science, how does it work?

Rikki: It figures out all the colours used in a template, and groups them by lightness levels. It then creates a similar set of colours from the base colour set by the user, and applies those colours back to the template. Finally, it works through all text in the email and calculates the relative contrast between the text colour and its background. If the contrast level gets too low, it will change the text colour accordingly.


My pick

Watchly

Hacked by: Darran Jugdoyal (Front-end developer)

Elevator pitch: Quick, glance-able messages of dotmailer events that are always with the user, but that aren’t intrusive.

The dotmailer watch hack

Me: What drew you to a smartwatch app?

Darran: With the push by technology companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung into wearable technology, it seemed like an opportunity to see how we can get the users of dotmailer to access their information in a new way.

Me: Watches, of course, have tiny screens. How did this impact your design?

Darran: Screen sizes limit the amount of information that can be presented to the user, but that helped me focus on showing only what the user might want to see at that time. I focused the app on informing a user that their campaigns are being sent, opened by their contacts, and when new contacts subscribe.

Me: What technologies did you utilise?

Darran: The application was written with the Xamarin platform that allows mobile apps to be built on iOS, Android and Windows devices from a shared codebase.