Knack Blog

The Knack team on web applications, online databases, and beautifully designed products.

 

Knack Retreat: Miami 2017

02/16/2017 Posted by Brandon

On-site playgrounds now required for all future retreats

We returned from our third official Knack retreat a few weeks ago. It was an epic 6 days in Miami where we met 8 new team members, ate way too much food, and somehow got some great work in. Some of us are still recovering.

We’re working on a full write-up, but thought we’d share a few images here in the meantime.

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Developer Docs Upgrade

01/24/2017 Posted by Brandon

One of our major goals for 2017 is to make Knack even more friendly for developers and designers.

We designed Knack from the beginning to be easy to customize and control. JavaScript, CSS, and our API can be used to do some amazing things to extend the features and design of an application.

We’ve also learned a ton along the way about how developers and designers are working with Knack, including where the struggles are and what can be improved.

We’ve taken that learning to begin a major wave of improvements, starting with our new and improved developer documentation! These dev docs are now live at http://docs.knack.com.

These docs are a massive improvement over our old articles:

  • Better navigation: we’ve separated these docs from the rest of our knowledge base to build a site optimized for navigating, searching, and viewing documentation.
  • Improved organization: documentation is now organized around the major areas of focus: API, JavaScript, and CSS. Sub-navigation makes it easy to find what you need.
  • Consistent formatting: each API request is clearly defined and labeled, with supporting examples and code when applicable.
  • More code examples: we’ve grouped all code examples together and are continuing to add to our library.

This is just the start. We have big plans for continuing to improve our documentation and add additional features and functions for developers:

  • We’ll be adding more utility functions for manipulating the Knack user interface and the application data, with better documentation and examples.
  • With our pending theme upgrades our CSS styles will be greatly simplified and much easier to manipulate. Modifier classes will be available to add standard UI and layout changes.
  • We’ll be incorporating more triggers and events to respond to.

Let us know what other improvements we can make!

Are you a developer or designer interested in getting paid to help build and customize apps for Knack customers? Sign up to be a certified Knack builder. Once approved you’ll be able to view and respond to project submissions.

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New Feature: Form URL Vars

01/18/2017 Posted by Brandon

We recently added a feature to help expand and re-use your forms: URL Vars.

URL vars enable you to add values directly to the URLs of your app that can be used to pre-populate insert forms.

URL vars can be used to make forms easier to use and track information from multiple sources:

  • Reduce the friction of registrations or lead forms by pre-populating the names and emails in the URLs you email out.
  • Reuse forms on your websites and apps by setting values based on the source of the links.
  • Track referrals and origins by giving different URLs to different referrers.

We’re currently using URL vars with demo forms on our own site. We use the same demo form but pre-populate the type of app the user wants to demo based on which page the user came from. So each page get’s a slightly different link with that value set in the URL vars.

You could even dynamically create URL vars in links that are sent in custom emails when your Knack forms are submitted.

Setting up URL Vars correctly is a somewhat technical process. We’ve put together this support article to walk you through it:

https://support.knack.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000997068-How-to-Use-URL-Variables-to-Pre-Populate-a-Form

Let us know if you find a great use case for URL vars. We’d love to learn how they are being used.

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New Feature: Page Rules

01/11/2017 Posted by Brandon

One key feature you need to effectively create an application is the ability to employ logic.

Logic is what lets you execute different actions based on criteria you define. This enables your app to do much more than simply display and update information.

Logic is at the core of any programming language, but can be trickier to execute in a low-code product like Knack. We’ve added multiple areas to help: record rules, display rules, conditional fields and more. These all present opportunities to add logic to your Knack apps.

We’re thrilled to announce a major new addition to our logic features: Page Rules.

Page Rules allow you to define criteria on the page level to execute specific actions:

  • Show a notification
  • Hide a view
  • Redirect the user to another page
  • Redirect the user to another URL

Here are a few examples of how you could use page rules:

  • Hide a form to edit a record if the page role is not an “Editor”.
  • Hide a form to register for a class if the class attendance has exceeded a specific size.
  • Redirect to a registration form if the logged-in user hasn’t registered.
  • Warn the user if they need to update their data or complete some information.

Pages now have a new tab link at the top called “Rules” where you can define these:

Notifications have additional options to indicate priority. You can designate a notification as a confirmation, warning, or alert, which will color code the message accordingly.

Hiding views allow you to hide one or more views on the page:

We've added some articles to our Knowledge Base with more information on page rules:

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The Knack Roadmap

11/30/2016 Posted by Brandon

In case you weren’t aware, software development is hard.

When you combine overly optimistic expectations, backwards compatibility, scope creep, conflicting user needs, changing requirements, engineering allocation, quality control, and technology trade-offs, you have a recipe for things to go very wrong very quickly.

Trying to predict timelines and deliverables on top of all of this is even harder. It’s why we’ve been hesitant to do it. The last thing we want to do is create false expectations, miss deadlines, or disappoint anyone depending on a crucial feature at a crucial time.

In addition, our internal roadmap is a living document. It changes weekly. We pride ourselves on the ability to move quickly and change directions to respond to demand, capture opportunities, and optimize resources.

All that being said, we understand that we owe it to our customers to make some attempt at this. Many of you are making long term investments in the Knack platform. Some of you are even making your living from developing Knack apps. We understand how important it can be to have insight into where Knack is going and what features will be included in the near future.

Our first stab at this will be a very high-level roadmap you can access here:
https://roadmap.knack.com

This roadmap will be subject to change. We still won’t be able to provide exact estimates or timelines on feature releases, but we do hope it helps to provide some insight into where Knack is going.

As always, our roadmap is completely defined by building the best product we can for our users. We need your feedback and insight to help define what that product will be. You can continue to add suggestions to our forum or contact us at any time.

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What’s next?

11/22/2016 Posted by Brandon

This year has seen a focus on major projects.

Knack has continued to grow into a mature company managing billions of database records for customers all over the world. To keep up with that pace, we’ve undertaken major projects to address virtually every aspect of our product and infrastructure.

With all these major projects flying around we thought now would be a great time to review everything we’re working on and where Knack is going.

What got completed?

The first major project was completely revamping our infrastructure to better leverage a cloud-based architecture that can grow dynamically and be isolated to different geographic areas.

We then completely redesigned our Builder, making it easier to use and adding features like view previews, and/or filters, and batch deleting.

After the builder we moved our Knowledge Base to a new provider, improving our articles and videos as well as giving us more insight into how we can offer better support.

So what’s next?

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Helping our help desk

11/01/2016 Posted by Brandon

Along with the launch of our new builder we took the opportunity to completely revamp our help desk!

Along with a clean and simple new design we're looking forward to new tools and data that will help us improve the support experience.

help-desk

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Introducing the new builder

10/04/2016 Posted by Brandon

A new version of our Knack builder has been live for a few weeks now and we couldn’t be more excited!

We’ve learned a ton during the 2 years since our last release, and we’ve applied that learning to further optimize and simplify the process of building data-driven web applications.

We put together a new intro video to walk through it (we also dramatically improved our video skills).

Now that the dust has settled we wanted to provide some insight into the goals of this new builder and what changes those led to.

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Guest Blog post: How doctors can track continuing medical education credits using Knack and Zapier

07/11/2016 Posted by Brandon

Alex used Knack and Zapier to create CMElog, his own service for tracking medical credits

Knack is loaded with features right out of the box that make it simple to build powerful online database apps. What can be easy to forget is how much more power you can add by integrating other services with your Knack database.

Our API makes it easy for developers to add integrations, and Zapier is great for creating simple connections and triggers between these services.

In our first guest blog post, Alex Mohseni explains how he used Knack and Zapier to build a TripIt like clone to help manage education credits.

Alex is a practicing Emergency Medicine physician around Washington, DC. He integrated  Knack with services like DropBox and Mandrill to combine their functionality into a single powerful service that gave him the exact features he needed.

Part of what makes Knack so powerful is that it integrates easily with Zapier — but how to do that can be a bit tricky, so Alex decided to include some of his “lessons learned” with a fantastic tutorial.

Take it away, Alex!

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Upgrading Our Infrastructure

06/15/2016 Posted by Brandon

When we started Knack, our traffic was small enough that we just needed one tiny server. As we grew we started to add a few cloud servers here and there. And this worked fine for a while — we could just add more servers whenever we needed.

These last few years have seen considerably more growth, and that model started to show some cracks. We were leveraging the cloud but certainly not optimizing for it. Users from other areas were seeing delays and we weren’t able to keep data isolated to a specific region.

We were on training wheels and needed to upgrade to a ten speed.

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