How we keep Skore at the cutting edge

We’ve never wanted to sit still and we’re always looking for ways to improve our company, our services and our products. Earlier this year we released the latest version of our Skore web application. This included an almost complete rebuild of the whole app from ground up.

It’s no small undertaking to start from scratch but we felt the time was right. As you develop a product there’s lots of trial and error, some things work well others, not so much. Feedback from users is essential but so is our own experience using the product. And this is something we pride ourselves on, we use our product on a daily basis.

But it’s not just user experience and usability changes that are important. As we develop the software we learn what works and what doesn’t. We realise that some choices, that seemed right at the time, have challenged us later on. This is why it’s important to take the opportunities to rebuild when they arise. To apply, from the beginning, all the lessons we’ve learnt since the last time.

For those that have followed us since 2014 they’ll know that this isn’t the first time we’ve rebuilt the product, or redesigned the user interface. Here are some of our previous user interfaces that some users will remember, some more fondly than others!

Skore Prototype

While not the very first prototype you can see one of the first uses of the what and why boxes. The product was then called Score with a C. All the main controls are there which allowed us to start testing with real users before we officially released.

Skore Version 1

Our first official release of Skore was for the desktop only. The interface was simple, there was no way to apply styles to the content. The editor tool bar was along the top of the application rather than the left bar we use now. By this time we had added the sticky note feature that allowed the user to annotate process models.

All the key features were here by this point, rapid modelling, shortcuts, multi-layers and attachments on each box. Although in version 1.0 you could only share processes by PDF or with other users of Skore desktop.

Skore Version 2

Following a business review with the Happy Startup School we underwent a rebrand, new logo and website. Then we decided to follow up with a redesign of the Skore user interface.

We worked with Mike C from Think.gg to design a new interface with darker colours contrasted with the green we had adopted in our logo and website.

We implemented a bright fun backdrop to the app which proved controversial. Some users loved the playful background and others immediately asked us to remove it. We quickly implemented a configuration item for those that weren’t fans.

By this time the app had implemented stylesheets that let users change the look and feel of the visualisations, add images or choose from the library of icons.

It was shortly after the release of this version that we started working on our first web app. To get up to speed as quickly as possible we build a separate backend web application and graphted the new Skore editor on top of it.

One of the biggest challenges for us is that we used different teams, and different designs, for the main web interface and the editor interface. These were completely different apps that had been integrated. It soon became clear that we’d need a complete rebuild to resolve the increasing technical debt that had built up.

Skore Version 3

Back in late January we released our Unity interface, or Skore version 3, which brings all parts of the application into a single design. This version of the interface has undergone the most extensive user testing to date. This led to a standardisation of common functions such as Search, New, Edit and Save across each type of content in the workspace.

The interface also came in time for our new branding which was easily implemented into the system.

This is a great step forward for us, it demonstrates our commitment to continually improving the product. It’s not just the interface but the rebuild ensures we also constantly update and improve the architecture, security and performance of the application.

If you would like to learn more about Skore why not request a demo.

Possible service interruption – June 13 2018

Some users of Skore may have experienced a temporary service interruption at approximately 2pm British Summer Time on Wednesday June 13th 2018.

This was caused when a name server, unconnected with Skore, was configured with incorrect domain resolution information. This in turn caused the domain to be redirected to a holding page that read “Hello World!”.

The issue was discovered, reported to the owner of the domain name service, and resolved within 60 minutes.

Temporary suspension of justskore.it publishing from desktop app

We would like to inform all users of the Skore desktop application that the anonymous publishing feature justskore.it has been temporarily suspended since March 20th 2018. This has been caused by a change to one of the third party services that this feature is based on.

We will be returning the service as soon as we have completed the necessary updates to the product.

What is it?

The justskore.it feature in the desktop software allows a user to quickly and anonymously publish a .skore file to the internet. Anyone with the link can view the process created in Skore online.

The advantage of this feature is that you can quickly share ideas to anyone with an internet connection and a web browser. The downside is that the information is shared publicly and cannot be changed once it has been published.

How does it work?

The features uses https://github.com/ and saves the Skore xml data as a publicly available anonymous gist on the github service. As of March 20th 2018 github have ceased support for anonymous publishing therefore blocking Skore desktop app from publishing new processes to the service.

All previously posted processes will remain available. You can read more about the update from github here: https://blog.github.com/2018-03-20-removing-anonymous-gist-creation/

Solution

We are currently working on a new version of the Skore desktop software. This will include a new version of this feature which will allow publishing and sharing of the processes to our own servers. This will have the advantage of providing us more control over the data inline with data protection guidelines.

We are working to release this new version of the software over the next few months.

In the meantime users may consider saving your process as a .html file and uploading it to a service such as Sharepoint, OneDrive or WordPress.

Alternatively users should consider our web service. The Skore web service offers the ability to create and publish processes anonymous with the added advantage of being able to edit and update the process once published. This essentially means you can maintain a single URL link for any users to accesses the content. Examples of this feature include sharing processes embedded in a website or training material.

Our new freedom pricing model maybe suitable for users of the desktop software. Check out our pricing page for more information.

If you have previously purchased the desktop software we would be happy to talk about a discount to your first year.

For further information please contact info@getskore.com

Skore service interruption – March 22nd 2018

The main Skore service (https://app.justskore.it) suffered a short interruption at 15.07 GMT today and lasted up to 20 minutes for some users.

Those editing or viewing processes would have seen several error messages including; Server Unavailable, Proxy Error and 503 error.

The outage was caused during a routine reboot of servers in order to apply security patches to protect against the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

Rebooting the servers took longer than anticipated which led to longer outage of the core Skore services. The knock on effect was that some services became temporarily unavailable.

We are reviewing our risk analysis for maintenance to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions for future maintenance so that we can better inform customers during such updates.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Skore service interruption – March 7th 2018

Skore web service suffered a limited interruption shortly after 1.30pm GMT today. The interruption lasted approximately 10 minutes and affected around half of all active workspaces.

Users viewing and editing content would have been unaffected although they may have seen a warning message saying the server was unreachable. Users browsing the workspace and moving between content would have experienced 404 warning messages and may have been logged out of the system.

The issue was caused when one of our load balancers failed to redirect traffic away from one of our servers undergoing routine maintenance. We are continuing to investigate the load balancer failure.

Skore service interruption – September 6th 2017

Page last updated: September 11th 2017 08.44 GMT

At 10.30am GMT on Wednesday September 6th 2017 the Skore web service was interrupted during normal operation for approximately 40 minutes.

Our investigation identified an issue on one of our servers containing the backend database. The error caused data on that server to be lost requiring the previous day’s backup to be restored. This resulted in a small number of users losing data from the previous day.

During the investigation we have identified an improvement to how we manage certain types of data we store. The improvements will allow us to recover from an outage much quicker while preserving more data during such an event.

This improvement was implemented on Friday 8th September along with more frequent database backups.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by the interruption. For more information please contact info@getskore.com

Drive ownership, accountability and collaboration with Skore web app

Our latest updates to Skore web app are designed to help businesses drive ownership and accountability through better understanding and collaborating around core processes.

Built on top of our simple, yet powerful, process approach these new features help teams keep cross functional processes up-to-date and front of mind.

Drive ownership and accountability with process approvals

Mapping and sharing processes is a great way to get people aligned and to agree on how things work. But once you’ve got agreement how do you ensure the process gets done the way it’s described.

Ownership of a process can be driven by having owners put their name against it and declaring that this is the official version. The approved, and most up-to-date, version of the process for all users.

Editors can ask any user in the system to approve a process before it is published for viewing.

Share published processes while you continue to work on the next version

Once a process has been approved it needs to be shared with users so that they have the most up-to-date version of the process available. In the meantime editors may need to start working on the next version of the process.

Once a process has been published viewers will automatically be taken to the published version ensuring they always see the latest ‘official’ version.

Processes can be published directly or they can be sent for approval before publishing.

 

Engage users and gather feedback with comments

Should you need to gather feedback following a workshop, or at anytime, you can switch on the commenting feature for an individual process in the workspace. This means that any viewer can leave comments while viewing a process.

Comments are visible to all users of the process and users can have conversations about ideas and issues raised.

Each comment has a checkbox so editors can check off items as they are implemented and changed in the process.

Comments can be switched on for users to leave feedback at anytime or they can be switched on for a specific period.

 

Highlight key processes in the workspace by pinning them to the top

Processes in the workspace can be ordered in different ways such as last modified or first created. this means that processes tend to be ordered chronologically and not always show key processes at the top of the list.

A workspace owner can now pin one or more processes to the top of the workspace so that they are always visible. This is particularly useful if you have a landing page or top level process you want to use as a catalogue or starting point.

To pin a process click the More menu on the process card and select Pin Process.

Skore Web app – Security

Since we started inviting customers on to web application earlier this year we’ve been keen to ensure we can provide the right level of security. We know that this is a key concern for many customers and so we have created this post for information.

Secure Socket Layer

Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, has become widely adopted across the web, especially since Google announced it would prioritise websites using SSL in its search results. SSL works by encrypting the data sent between a user’s web browser and the server, in this case between your browser and the Skore web app server.

Secure Web Hosting

Our hosting partners Site Ground provide a number of security features to give piece of mind. They continuously invest in the latest hardware and ensure that key services on this hardware, such as web servers, operating systems, firewalls are regularly updated. In fact Site Ground often develop their own patches to resolve newly identified vulnerabilities as well as defining their own firewall rules.

This means they can close down potential security holes much more quickly than waiting for general patches to become publicly available.

Site Ground also use their own account isolation tool that prevents hackers gaining access to multiple servers through a single compromised account.

Alongside this they run H1 Hawk Intrusion Prevention System which monitors and alerts for common hacking practices as well as real time server load monitoring that can instantly identify a potential attack.

Software Development Best Practices

On top of our hosting sits the Skore web application itself and ensuring security is about employing software development best practices. The best practices we employ ensure we avoid attacks such as:

  • SQL Injections
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Cross-site request forgery
  • File exposure

Should you want to learn more about our efforts to secure Skore web application please do not hesitate to contact us info@getskore.com

May 2016 updates to Skore app

This is the first announcement on updates to Skore app since February 2016 and we’ve packed in a few improvements since then. The main areas we’ve looked at this year are:

  • More updates more often
  • Improvements that make your life as an analyst easier
  • Improvements that make the experience for your audience better

More updates more often

While this is the first announcement since we released version 3 of Skore app you have probably noticed there have been a number of updates since then. With version 3 we implemented a new system of release that allows us to deploy updates and bug fixes more quickly.

That means some releases specifically fix bugs while others may include other improvements too. This post covers all updates since February 2016.

Improvements to make your life easier as an analyst

Printing – as well as bug fixes we have added more page size options such as better support for Letter as well as A3. You will also find it’s now possible to print multiple diagrams at once. For example you can print the currently visible diagram as well as all the detailed views beneath it.

More zen like experience – a handful of users commented that they enjoyed the new ‘fun’ background image a little too much. Some said they were often asked to move the canvas so others could see the background in its full glory. To avoid this distraction we’ve added an option in settings to hide the background for when you want 100% focus on process mapping.

You can now also hide the left bar which is especially useful when working on older projectors where screen resolution is an issue.

Spell Checker – is now available for US English in the desktop app.

Improvements that make the experience for your audience better

Bring all step related information into one place – as a user following a process I would like all related information to be instantly available and in the same place. To achieve this we have improved the attachment panel in a number of ways.

  • The Whatbox text is automatically added at the top of the panel so that you can easily see which step in the process it belongs to
  • The panel is always full height so that it doesn’t disappear when there is only a small amount of information in there
  • It is now possible to move the canvas to see whatboxes previously hidden by the attachment panel
  • The panel is resizable which makes it easier to view content such as embedded videos or larger images

 

Make processes easier to read – we continue to make the processes created in Skore app easier to read, often with feedback from customers and through our own tests. Here are some recent improvements that will help:

  • More icons are available to use in diagrams from the collection linearicons.com
  • Items can be ordered back-to-front or front-to-back. If you are using images over which you want to place notes, or other items, you can add them to the diagram in any order, then re-order them to get the image under the note
  • Images will now default to fit inside the object they have been placed in. So an image in a note will resize with the note. If you want to always display the full image size simple add ‘noresize’ to the image tag
  • Make the difference between what and who clearer by adding a line between them (see how>>)
  • Use custom colors for the background of notes

 

Improved support for Internet Explorer (and Edge) – previously the html view would open in compatibility mode meaning not all features were available. We now tell Internet Explorer to use the latest settings for the best experience.

If you would like to know more about Skore app and our latest improvements please email us info@getskore.com