Knack Blog

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

 

Super Speeds and Better Job Processing

01/31/2015 Posted by Brandon

In the past year we’ve more than tripled the number of Knack customers! This is obviously fantastic but there was a downside: our infrastructure was starting to feel the strain of this increased traffic and activity.

The past few months we’ve focused on improving this infrastructure and some of the job processing that requires intensive resources.

We launched these upgrades last week and we’ve been thrilled with the results! We’re seeing increased speeds across the board and improved job processing.

We’ve detailed these updates below.

Infrastructure

We’ve completely upgraded every aspect of our cloud-based infrastructure:

  • Speed – we’ve beefed up our servers, streamlined code, and optimized our databases to speed up how quickly your apps and records load.
  • Capacity – we’ve doubled our capacity by utilizing multiple cores on each cloud server. We’ve re-wired our job processing so we can now add unlimited capacity with a click of a button.
  • Compression – we’re now compressing all data delivery through our API before delivering it. For some pages and views this means up to an 80% smaller data payload.

Job Processing

An online database needs to be able to run big jobs to insert, update, or delete many records at once. In the past we’ve handled these without communicating much about how the job was going or how fast it was processing.

Along with increased speeds from the infrastructure improvements above, we’ve added some nice features for processing imports, batch updates, and batch deletes:

  • Real-time Progress: you can now see how fast your job is processing and how much is left to run.
  • Cancel Jobs: you can cancel your job at anytime. Any records processed before the cancel will be saved.
  • Delay Alerts: if our job queue is too busy we’ll let you know if there’s a delay.

What’s next?

Although most of these improvements are behind the scenes these changes set us up to grow well into the future.

It also allows us to get back to focusing on on adding great features and improvements.

Continue reading...

Case Study: DNAeX

01/14/2015 Posted by Brandon


Running a desert marathon!

In 2016 Scott Longden plans to run in the Marathon Des Sables, a 250km self supported run across the Sahara Desert where you carry everything you need on your back in temperatures approaching 50C/122F.

Not my idea of fun.

For Scott a jog across the Sahara seems like the logical next step — he’s participated in numerous triathlons and marathons and is ready for the next challenge.

At that level you can’t simply trust your training or body to know if you are “competition-ready”. What is on the surface may not reveal the potential, or lack of potential, for competitive success.

Science has come along way in helping athletes like Scott. DNA science can now measure athlete-to-sport compatibility and tailor programs for specific genetic make-ups.

So how does this relate to Knack?

Continue reading...

Featured Industry: Beer, Wine, & Beverages

01/09/2015 Posted by Brandon

Here at Knack we have the unique opportunity to see all of the web apps and online databases that are built for specific industries.

A great example is the beverage industry, where we”ve seen a particularly strong fit amongst the craft beer and wine sectors.

This attention may or may not be heightened by the near and dear place wine and craft beer holds in our hearts 🙂 Eric makes his own wine, Steve ran a wine blog, and craft beer is always on Brandon”s Christmas list.

Why Knack?

Many of the breweries and wineries we”ve worked with are big enough to have significant I.T. needs, but don”t have the technology budgets to pay for bloated software or full-time technology staff.

Many of these individuals not only manage “the books” but they wear several hats like purchasing agent, production supervisor or even brewmaster.

This is why Knack is so appealing: it”s quick, easy to use, and perhaps most crucially can immediately provide major benefits. Customized apps can quickly be built to help manage sales, inventory, and distribution without a huge investment in time or money.

Ninkasi Beer Industry Database

This combination of simplicity and customization were exactly what appealed to Jessica Jones of Ninkasi Brewery:

“We needed a platform for group project management and collaboration. Other options were either not customizable enough or too complex to teach all of our staff at varying levels to use.”

Trey Bowden of Dogfish Head Brewery was pleased with the ease of use when creating a production management database:

“When I was recently tasked to build an internal database-driven app for “beer product holds & dispositions”, I knew Knack was the right tool to get the job done in a timely manner…You can”t beat the simple user interface, built-in reporting, and cloud-connected capabilities with it”s Zapier interface (as opposed to using something like MS Access).

“We just launched our first app in early 2015 and our production team couldn”t be happier!”

Here”s a look at some of the apps we”re seeing for beer and wine users:

Continue reading...

New Feature: Shared Builders

12/17/2014 Posted by Brandon

We recently released a new feature where you can share your apps with other builders.

This means that you can now collaborate on creating and managing your apps with other builders.

These shared builders won’t be able to delete your app or add new apps, and won’t have access to your account details like billing. They will be able to fully edit the app you share with them, including adding, editing, and deleting elements from both the database and interface.

You can share your apps by clicking on the “settings” icon for any app in your dashboard:

You then enter the email of the builder you want to share that app with and they’ll be emailed a link notifying them of this shared access. If they don’t already have a Knack account they’ll have one created for them automatically.

You can view any apps that have been shared with you in the Shared Apps link in your dashboard.

Shared builders are available on our new plans which you can view here:

https://knack.com/pricing

Continue reading...

Case Study: Svelte Brands

12/11/2014 Posted by Brandon

Max Hauer is the founder of Svelte Brands – an operator of multiple E-commerce brands focused on fashion and beauty.

The trick for any modern E-Commerce company is managing product data, and lot’s of it.

It’s not as simple as maintaining a spreadsheet of your products — each product can be sold through various channels that may require a different set of data for the same product, including unique item numbers and SKUs.

Max was struggling to find the right platform to manage Svelte’s product data:

“We faced an existential challenge. How can we store, manage and update large numbers of products? How can we manage workflows of creating, copywriting, building product data for each product?”

Max turned to Knack to create a custom solution that simplified the entire process.

Continue reading...

New Example App: Donations Manager

12/08/2014 Posted by Brandon

When we launched our AppsGiving campaign we decided to include a new example app specifically for non-profits: a donations manager.

Knack has a heart for non-profits so a targeted example app was long overdue!

We hear from many of our non-profit customers that they struggle to find simple solutions that are focused and easy-to-use amidst the glut of software options out there.

Knack is such a great choice because it meets those exact needs. You can focus the features on exactly what you need your software to accomplish.

We designed the donations manager to be a great foundation for simple and focused donor management.

It comes included with these features:

  • Track donations by assigning each donation to the donor and campaign.
  • Calculates total donations, average donation, as well as minimum and maximum donations for each donor and campaign.
  • Easily search and filter to find your donors and donation data.
  • Run reports to view percentage of donations by campaign, donations per month, and much more.

As with every Knack example app you can install the donor manager straight from your dashboard and customize it to fit your exact needs.

Get in touch if you need any assistance building a fantastic donor management app for your non-profit!

Continue reading...

Dynamic PDFs and Documents with WebMerge

12/02/2014 Posted by Brandon

When it comes to using your Knack database to generate formatted PDF, Word, and other documents, WebMerge is a great tool that we often recommend.

Although Knack lets you print any page in your interface to a PDF, sometimes you need more custom formatting or other document types.

WebMerge makes it easy to set up your documents and then use Zapier or our API to populate those documents with records from your Knack database.

The following is a guest post by Webmerge’s very own Jeremy Clarke on how to to do some custom integration with Knack and Webmerge.

Continue reading...

AppsGiving

11/20/2014 Posted by Brandon

This holiday season Knack is running our first ever non-profit campaign. We’re calling it AppsGiving (yes, really) and you can see all the details here:

https://knack.com/appsgiving.

AppsGiving is our modest attempt to give back to the non-profit community.

Non-profits have been a huge supporter of Knack from the beginning. Knack’s affordability, ease of use, and powerful features is a great combination for non-profits looking to help run their organization with an online database while managing expenses.

AppsgGiving is giving back in two ways:

  • We’re giving away a free Knack account to 10 non-profits in need. We’ll also work with that non-profit to help them build and customize their app. Non-profits can sign-up to win a Knack account on our AppsGiving page.
  • We’re donating $10 for each sign-up to two great non-profits. Knack was born in Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA, so we chose a non-profit from each: Schreiber Pediatric Center and Cradles to Crayons.
We’re pretty excited about AppsGiving and we’re asking for your support:

  • Share AppsGiving with any non-profits in your network that may benefit from an online database app. We really want to find non-profits who have a great need and could see a big impact from improving how they run their organization with an online database app.
  • Share AppsGiving with your social network. Here’s a convenient link to help you tweet about it. The more non-profits that sign-up for the chance at a free Knack account, the more money we can donate!
We’ll be accepting sign-ups through December 19th. We’ll keep you posted on the progress and hope to feature chosen non-profits throughout the year.

To our current non-profit customers: thank you for placing your trust in Knack and we wish you a fantastic 2015!

Continue reading...

Introducing the new Knack Help Desk

11/11/2014 Posted by Brandon

We recently decided to migrate our help desk to a new provider and it’s now ready to use! You can see it at:

http://helpdesk.knackhq.com

Some of the advantages of the new help desk include:

  • Better organization: we can group article groups into sections.
  • Ticket management: if you create an account you’ll be able to view and manage your pending tickets.
  • Chat integration: we can now convert chats to tickets and more easily track those.

The only downside with the new help desk is that you’ll have to create a separate login in order to submit tickets (we’re looking at automatically integrating with your Knack login).

Now that the new help desk is in place we’ll be working on lots of more articles, cookbook recipes, code examples and how-to’s!

Knack User Forum

The biggest addition to the help desk is a new user forum! The forum is located here:

http://helpdesk.knackhq.com/support/discussions

We’re dividing the user forum into 4 main groups (trying to keep it simple):

  • Feature Requests: replacing more the “proposed” list here. We’ll then move ideas from the forum to this Trello board that we’re “considering” before “in development”.
  • How do I…?: if you aren’t sure how to do something or if something is possible or not, ask here. Odds are, someone else in the community has already tried or implemented it.
  • Tips & Tricks: discuss design patterns, best practices, and other creative solutions that may not be obvious in the documentation. We’re really excited for this one!
  • API & Customization: post code examples, ask questions, and discuss strategies for using the API and customizing your apps.
We feel the time is right is to open up more communication between our users and we hope this becomes a tremendous resource for everyone.

We’d love to see your participation and feedback!

Continue reading...

Eating our own Dog Food

11/06/2014 Posted by Brandon

A common phrase for software companies is to eat your own dog food.

The basic idea is that if you expect someone to actually pay for your product then your own team better be able to use that product as well. If you won’t eat your own dog food you have no business selling it.

We’re big proponents of this and use Knack every day to help with our work productivity:

  • Project Management: we have a project database we us to track custom jobs, where we manage hours with our timer field and calculate budgets and payments.
  • Marketing Reports: we track all our sign-ups along with some internal information on referrals and other marketing metrics.
  • CRM: we track all our customers including plans, sign-up dates, status and more for quick access and reference.
We recently announced multiple job openings and when considering how we would manage the application process it was a no-brainer to use Knack.

We started with our existing Job Listings example app and tweaked that for our precise needs.

This allowed us to embed the app in our public-facing website so we could list our job descriptions and receive applications. We added a little custom CSS so it matched well with the Knack design:

There’s also an HR login where we can view the applications, add notes and rankings, and track the application process. After emails and interviews we can update each application with notes and comments that everyone can access.

So far the Knack app has worked great as we’ve processed through tons of applications and even made a new hire (hi Nic!).

We’ll continue to post updates on other Knack apps we’re building to help manage our business and how our dog food is tasting.

Continue reading...