UML Sequence Diagrams Made Easy

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

uml sequence diagram

Here at Lucid Software, we are all about simplifying processes. Our goal is to discover new ways to make your life easier, which is why we’re excited to introduce our UML Sequence Markup feature—aka your one stop for beautiful sequence diagrams created faster with less hassle.

Gone are the days of dragging and dropping each shape to piece together a diagram. This premium tool allows you to generate a UML sequence diagram simply by typing your markup directly into Lucidchart:

  1. Create a new Lucidchart document.
  2. Click “More Shapes”.
  3. Open the UML shapes library.
  4. Select the “Use Markup” button in the UML Sequence category.
  5. Enter your markup in the pop-up dialog that appears. As soon as you click “OK,” the magic happens, generating a sequence diagram that follows industry standards for UML markup.

uml sequence markup

It’s intuitive, it’s easy, and it’s fast. You’re able to spend less time trying to create your diagram and more time actually using it.

uml sequence diagram

“When I use Lucidchart, I’m trying to get a job done as quickly as possible. Our new UML sequence markup tool gets me to a great diagram faster, and I’m thrilled to share this time-saving feature with our users. It frees up resources to improve efficiency overall,” said Ben Dilts, our co-founder and chief technology officer here at Lucid Software.

While other tools may perform a similar function, Lucidchart stands out in more ways than one—we’ve managed to narrow it down to our top three.

  1. Lucidchart allows you to re-edit the markup to update a diagram that is on the page. Your diagrams are living documents allowing you to continually refine your creations. Simply click the “Use Markup” button again to add to or edit your markup. When you do so, the spacing is automatically adjusted for a clean and professional feel.
  2. Once your sequence diagram is created, it can be customized with just a few clicks. With complete access to all Lucidchart’s easy-to-use formatting capabilities, you can make your diagram fit your every specification. Pick your theme. Style your lines. Choose your text.
  3. Lucidchart lets you pick and choose your diagramming style. If you’re designing a larger UML sequence diagram that will require constant updating, use markup. If you’re building a simple diagram, feel free to drag and drop shapes from our complete UML library. Or make it a combo deal—get your diagram started with markup and then edit by dragging and dropping. It’s diagramming done your way to fit your needs.

“Lucidchart’s UML Sequence Markup allows users to rapidly create the sequence diagram they need using a simple markup language,” said Brian Pugh, vice president of engineering at Lucid Software. “Then they can take advantage of the full power of Lucidchart’s editing tools to customize the diagram as needed. In short, it allows users to efficiently create visually stunning diagrams.”

Chances are you’re not the only one who’ll be using this diagram, and one of the keys to effective diagramming is collaboration. Once you’ve got your diagram just the way you want it, share it with your colleagues. You’ll be able to choose whether they can view, edit, comment or share the document. Use Lucidchart’s chat feature to collaborate in real time or even start a Google Hangout—all from within your document. Don’t worry about compatibility, as the UML Sequence Markup tool works on every major Internet browser and Internet-enabled device.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out this comment from one of our users, “I LOVE the new UML Sequence Markup feature! The ability to create/edit diagrams using simple markup is one of the most important features for me. I’d love to see more markup-based diagrams!”

Learn more about our UML Sequence Markup editor and explore Lucidchart’s UML tool.

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How many words is a diagram worth?

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

flowchart

This is a guest post by Brad Hanks, VP of marketing at ZipBooks.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a diagram worth?

A lot.

If you’ve ever read a user manual, you probably wished that there were more pictures and fewer words (unless it was from IKEA). The same is probably true of most communication, which is what makes visuals like diagrams so important. Diagrams can save a lot of hassle (i.e., time and money). Here are three reasons why we love using diagrams as we continue to develop our accounting software, ZipBooks:

1) Diagrams cross the language barrier

Globalization isn’t just a buzzword: it’s the way business works today. Large software projects typically span multiple nationalities and languages.

Although most software developers can read and speak English to some degree of competency, the level of comfort varies from person to person. You can assume that written English instructions without any additional context will fall flat with an international audience. Text-based descriptions aren’t even enough in most cases when everyone speaks English as their first language. There’s always a little in-office back-and-forth that you can’t get when someone is located remotely.

Diagrams and flowcharts use symbols to communicate meaning. These symbols are based on an international standard for software development notation called Unified Modeling Language (UML). With UML, you don’t have to speak the same language to understand perfectly what the other person is trying to communicate.

2) Diagrams are built for effective communication

cavepainting

Think back to the earliest days of communication. Before written alphabets, people communicated with images. In using pictures, they found something uniquely compelling, whether for art or instruction, or both.

Even though we communicate largely in text today, we are still hardwired to comprehend images more quickly and clearly than text. In fact, our brains process visuals up to 60,000 times faster than text. Meanwhile, 65% of people learn primarily by seeing, rather than by hearing or doing.

That’s what makes diagrams so powerful at communicating difficult technical concepts. They combine the best of visual and verbal communication to create something truly foolproof, especially when you use a library of shapes with commonly understood interpretations.

3) Diagrams can stand on their own

When done right, a diagram can tell a better story with less followup questions than written instructions. Here’s one example from my experience at ZipBooks.

Our goal is to be a viable alternative to Quickbooks, and we needed a ZipBooks iPhone app sooner rather than later. We ended up hiring a talented iOS developer living in one of most remote places on earth—the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Not only could we not meet with the developer in person, we were working and sleeping on different schedules. Whenever I felt that communication was breaking down on a certain feature request, the first thing I did was reach for my Lucidchart diagramming app.

One particular goal was to minimize the number of clicks a brand new user had to take in order to create a new time-tracking entry in our iPhone app. After trying for a few hours to explain the flow verbally to our developer, we built a diagram that resolved the problem right away:

diagram visual communication flowchart

It may not look like much, but you don’t judge a diagram on how it looks, you judge it on how it works. By that standard, this diagram is a champ.

When should you use a diagram?

You don’t have to wait for communication to break down before you resort to diagramming. Instead, creating diagrams should become something of a habit. At first team members might view diagramming as burdensome and be resistant to the idea, but as your projects start to go more smoothly, your coworkers will be converted.

In the world of software development, I can’t think of a situation where it wouldn’t help to use diagramming on a regular basis. It’s funny how much more I use flowcharting when I make a point of opening my Lucidchart account in a browser tab throughout the day. I never spend more than 15 minutes in Lucidchart at a time because it’s so quick and easy, but I’m convinced those 15 minutes save me a lot of time and frustration down the road by visually communicating my ideas and preventing projects from coming back differently than what I requested.

In my opinion, there is too much typing and not enough diagramming going on in most corners of business. I suggest we start drawing more pictures in order to get better results.

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Your Ticket to Easier PCI Compliance

Posted on by Lauren McNeely

PCI Compliance

Beware the breach

Over seven hundred million data records were lost or stolen in 2015—1,346 every minute and 22 every second. Data breaches are becoming more common, with companies such as Sony, JP Morgan Chase, Target and Home Depot among the list of well-known corporate victims.

Data breaches are a serious threat companies can’t afford to take lightly. They can cost organizations in lawsuits, insurance claims, cancelled accounts, payment card issuer fines, government fines and more, with the average corporate data breach reaching $3.79 million. A breach may even shut down a business entirely—60 percent of small businesses close within six months of experiencing a data breach.

Stay secure with PCI DSS

In order to protect consumer credit and debit card information, credit card companies adopted a set of standards that apply to any business dealing with cardholder data. Meeting these Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) qualifies a business to accept those credit cards online.

According to Rodolphe Simonetti of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, “Compliance needs to be actively maintained. It’s a year-round activity. It should be embedded in the normal business process.”

However, Verizon’s 2015 PCI Compliance Report found that 80 percent of businesses fail their interim PCI compliance assessment, meaning they are left vulnerable to cyberattacks. The same report revealed that of all the companies investigated following a breach over the last ten years, not a single one was found to be fully PCI compliant.

Why everyone hates PCI compliance

Clearly PCI compliance needs to be part of an organization’s overall security. So why is there such disconnect in so many companies? PCI compliance can be a complicated process that also runs the risk of becoming quickly outdated, especially for small to medium-size businesses who have just crossed the threshold requiring them to meet PCI compliance.

One of the time-consuming compliance requirements involves diagramming all the infrastructure that takes payments. Creating a network diagram that makes sense of all those different nodes and connections can be daunting, and it also needs to be continually updated.

The Lucidchart engineering team was all too familiar with how time-consuming PCI compliance can be. The task used to require two days of devoted attention every year to produce a diagram that becomes out of date almost immediately.

One member of the team spent hours digging through Amazon Web Services (AWS) trying to pick out components within the scope of PCI, manually copying data about the systems and determining how they all connect in order to piece together a diagram from scratch. Doing so required finding the information and security rules for each machine, identifying every other machine with which it interacted and then finding that same information for those machines. The alternative to the AWS mining ordeal was to work by memory, but doing so risked serious human error.

How we make PCI compliance easier

Meanwhile, our product development team set out to create an AWS import tool for Lucidchart. The goal: simplify, simplify, simplify. As part of the process, the product and engineering teams outlined how they would like to use such an integration for mapping out PCI compliance.

The result is the Lucidchart AWS import feature—a powerful tool allowing anyone to create a network diagram within minutes, even if they know absolutely nothing about the environment. The engineering team’s two-day PCI nightmare suddenly became a simple task involving only a few minutes and far less manual effort.

Instead of wasting precious time going back and forth between AWS and their own diagram, the engineering team now imports their AWS architecture directly into Lucidchart. A shape library populates, and they can drag-and-drop any piece from the imported list. Each piece dropped onto the Lucidchart canvas includes its name and its relationship to other components. By simply clicking a node, the team can view all of its connections. The tool even pulls in metadata, providing valuable information in areas beyond PCI, such as IP address, port information, instance ID, availability zone and launch time. The simplicity of the process reduces the likelihood of human error.

PCI compliance with AWS import

The rules of PCI apply to a particular subset of users and machines—only those potentially affecting the security of credit card data. Most companies are unclear on how to define what is part of that subset. With the AWS import tool, the engineering team has a visual representation of all nodes, allowing them to clearly identify what is within the scope of PCI and what is not. Companies save both time and money being able to accurately determine what must be included because there are fewer nodes and users involved.

What would normally cost a company at Lucid’s compliance level up to $41,000 in assessments and $81,000 for compliance, now costs Lucid only $2,000. By using the Lucidchart AWS import feature, our engineering team made small-scale changes that avoided impacting more parts of our infrastructure and systems than absolutely necessary. They didn’t have to focus on many services within Lucid’s environment, reducing the complexity of Lucid’s compliance.

You can’t secure what you don’t understand

Without the right tools, determining what PCI compliance involves can be difficult to comprehend; however, the AWS import tool helps make sense of all the complicated information. With a visual representation of PCI, you can easily identify weak spots and determine where controls should be put in place to maintain a secure environment. Systematically created, your diagram is more accurate and not prone to human error. When a new employee joins, they can reference an up-to-date diagram. Thanks to the AWS import, our engineering team gained back precious time and saved the company money, all while staying PCI compliant.

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Crossing the CRM Rubicon: Building a Sales Organization Part II

Posted on by Dan Cook

CRM integration

We’re excited to roll out the second half of our series on the key role process plays in building a sales organization.

You’ve heard about “Crossing the Chasm,” but what about “Crossing the Rubicon”?

Turns out a guy named Julius Caesar once led an army across the Rubicon River into Italy in 49 B.C.  This was against the law at the time and marked the beginning of Caesar’s Civil War (and ultimately Caesar’s ascension as the Emperor of Rome). When he crossed the river, he was quoted as saying “the die is cast.”  Since then, the phrase, “Crossing the Rubicon” is often used to reference “any individual or group committing itself irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action” (thanks Wikipedia).  

Lucid Software is no stranger to its own Rubicon River crossings, particularly on the product side.  In 2012, we led the charge as the first integration partner with Google Drive.  Most recently, we launched an automated mapping feature for AWS users.  We’re betting on both of these ecosystems (among others) and aren’t turning back.

One of our Rubicon crossings was building out a sales team to handle our inbound lead volume.  We had introduced a sales process that was working; however, we were tracking all of our activity in a Google Spreadsheet CRM that would’ve been acceptable to an I-banker or consultant. As proud as I was about building this CRM in a Google Sheet, I knew it couldn’t scale.  It was time for a real CRM, which meant it was also time for another Rubicon crossing.

To be honest, we didn’t spend too much time shopping around.  We looked into the CRM formerly known as RelateIQ (acquired by Salesforce.com), SugarCRM and Salesforce.com.  Given the aniticpated amount of custom development work that would be necessary for us to use a CRM effectively, as well as having a few sales reps with Salesforce.com experience, we decided to move ahead with Salesforce.com.

Lucid did not have an in-house Salesforce admin at the time, so we decided to partner with Simplus (formerly known as Outbox Systems). Our first task was to design the backend in Salesforce. Salesforce provides a schema builder that allows technical administrators to view and modify all the objects and relationships that our Simplus partner would use to build our Salesforce instance; however, we decided to utilize our ERD shape library to build our schema in real time over a conference call with the Simplus team.

CRM integration process

A key benefit to using Lucidchart for schema building was our ability to incorporate the third-party apps that we were planning on integrating with Salesforce.  For example, in the diagram above, we mapped out how we wanted our payment processing software Recurly to integrate with Salesforce.

While the Simplus team built our Salesforce instance, we went to work designing our preferred workflow in Salesforce.  We used Lucidchart to design these workflows in order to ensure they were built according to our spec:

CRM integration process

A key focus was designing workflows in Salesforce that automated certain activities.  Below are a few examples of workflow rules that we mapped out in Lucidchart to incorporate into our Salesforce design.

  • Using a round-robin system to allocate leads equitably among the sales reps
  • Creating notifications to sales reps when (a) they received a new lead and (b) they hadn’t responded to a lead
  • Calculating commissions on deals sold

We hopped on a phone call and were able to collaborate in real time with the Simplus team via a shared Lucidchart document. They utilized Lucidchart’s comments feature to communicate questions or edits when we were offline.

The final piece of our Salesforce implementation was around the actual user experience.  We were sensitive to designing Salesforce in a way that was thoughtful and yet had a level of organization.  We utilized Lucidchart’s mock-up capabilities to actually design rough drafts of how we wanted the layout of our Salesforce objects to appear:

CRM integration process

As a result of our doing some of this design work upfront, Simplus was able to spend more time building and less time on trial-and-error.  While the end result looks very different from our rough mock-ups, our input provided Simplus with clarity and helped us beat our deadline for Salesforce deployment.

The result of using Salesforce for managing and tracking leads and opportunities has been phenomenal.  We’ve now built trainings in Lucidchart that help our new reps learn the workflow, and we’ve been able to scale our team far more quickly than would have been possible with my Google Sheets CRM.

We crossed the CRM Rubicon and haven’t looked back since.  Caesar would be proud.

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HipChat and Slack Integrations

Posted on by Ashlee Burt

hipchat-slack@2x

Over the past few months, we’ve launched successful, free integrations with messaging platforms Slack and HipChat. You might be wondering what the value is of integrating Lucidchart, a diagramming application, with these apps. It’s simple: they help us make visual collaboration and knowledge sharing easier for our users.

We want Lucidchart to work where our users work. HipChat and Slack are the latest in a string of our integrations (Confluence, JIRA, Google Apps, Office 365 and Jive, just to name of few) that make Lucidchart diagrams easier to create, share and use. The value of these integrations can be seen with a large number of our team accounts quickly integrating with Slack or HipChat within the first months of the integration launches.

Teaming up with these messaging platforms increases Lucidchart’s already collaborative cloud-based functionality in important ways. First, you can easily kickoff real-time group whiteboarding and collaboration, no matter where in the world your team members are located.

 

Create new diagrams and start real-time visual collaboration from Slack or HipChat

Create new diagrams and start real-time visual collaboration from Slack or HipChat

Second, when you post a Lucidchart diagram to Slack or HipChat, team members can instantly see and comment from an app they’re already using. It makes it easy to reference visual documentation during group discussions.

Teams cans easily post visual documentation to Slack or HipChat for sharing and referencing

Teams cans easily post visual documentation to Slack or HipChat for sharing and referencing

Slack integration

With our Slack integration, Lucidchart users are able to use the integration both in private group channels and in direct messages between users. This is particularly valuable if your team is using the private group feature.

Just typing “/” in Slack opens up a list of available options that help users find the /lucidchart command to create new Lucidchart documents. It’s [title] hint also gives users a nice reminder to name their diagram.

Slack slash command

HipChat integration

Lucidchart’s integration with HipChat’s Input action (the small button near the chat bar) makes it easier to use for those that are unfamiliar with the standard “/” slash command used in both Slack and HipChat. This feature also helps discoverability for users who aren’t aware that the Lucidchart add-on has been installed.

Create menu in HipChat

Additionally, the Glance functionality allows you to pin important Lucidchart documents, like network diagrams, project documentation and support processes, in a team chat room for easy reference without leaving the chat. This can help make Lucidchart or other documents easier to reference without searching.

Glances

One small drawback at the moment is that Lucidchart is not yet available for HipChat Server. This has been an issue for some customers, particularly larger enterprises that are using the Server version. We plan to make this available as soon as it is released by HipChat.

Conclusion

Lucidchart itself works seamlessly with both HipChat and Slack, offering the core functionality as described above. While both messaging apps offer similar features to end users, they provide surprisingly different APIs to developers.

By integrating with enterprise chat tools like HipChat and Slack, Lucidchart users can increase collaboration, sharing and productivity across their teams. Try out our HipChat and Slack integrations, and let us know what you think.

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Business Model Canvas 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthening Your Strategy

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

business model canvas

Depending on who you ask, somewhere between 50% and 80% of businesses fail within their first five years. There are plenty of reasons why that happens, but they all come down to one thing: lack of profitability. Whether or not you make a profit depends on how well you design and execute all the activities and resources that make up your business—your business model.

In his book Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, business theorist Alexander Osterwalder writes, “An organization must make a conscious decision about which segments to serve and which segments to ignore.” It’s vital to prioritize your efforts because there are so many ways to serve or ignore your company’s different segments, and every dollar spent on one project takes away from another project.

One of the best ways to weigh competing priorities is to use the Business Model Canvas, a strategic management and lean startup tool based on years of research by Osterwalder. It condenses strategic planning onto a single page and covers nine areas:

  1. Key partners
  2. Key activities
  3. Key resources
  4. Value propositions
  5. Customer relationships
  6. Channels
  7. Customer segments
  8. Cost structure
  9. Revenue streams

The Business Model Canvas gives you a bird’s eye view of your business while encouraging understanding, discussion, creativity and analysis among your team members. It’s used by successful innovators around the world like Intel, Panasonic, 3M, and MasterCard, and many users recommend filling out the canvas in just 20 minutes.

Ready to fill out your own Business Model Canvas? Here’s a handy step-by-step guide, along with a free template.

Source: Strategyzer.com

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Secrets of Process-Driven Sales

Posted on by Dan Cook

sales process

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”  – William A. Foster, U.S. Medal of Honor winner

Scaling a business is no joke. Here at Lucid Software, we’ve been in full-scale mode over the past few years as our products, Lucidchart and Lucidpress, have reached the five million and one million user marks respectively.

As we’ve scaled, one thing has become abundantly clear. Scaling a business is about process.  Developing a process, training team members how to execute on that process, and making the necessary adjustments to the process…oftentimes over and over again.  This has been one of the hardest things to do, requiring discipline, executive and team member buy-in, and minimal ego (for all the times that you realize your process needs improvement!).

This blog post will highlight one of the ways that we’ve been able to develop and institute an effective sales process.

Building an inbound sales process

One of the great benefits of having the most popular application in the Google Apps Marketplace is that finding users of our product hasn’t been a problem.  In addition to our position in the Google Apps Marketplace, our award-winning marketing team has positioned Lucidchart well within the Atlassian Marketplace, iPad App Store, and Slack marketplace, among other locations.

In 2014 we started receiving  a lot of sales-related inquiries through our regular support channels. The inquiry volume increased to a point where we couldn’t respond to customers in a timely manner. We made a strategic decision to build out sales processes focused on fast response time, frequent follow-ups, and a more aggressive sales approach.

The first step was to understand our current support team members’ process when responding to sales leads.  We quickly documented this process in a Lucidchart diagram:

sales process

As you can see, we were following up with a sales “lead” once a week for three weeks before we were “solving” the ticket.  There was rarely any phone interaction, and we weren’t tracking these prospective buyers independent of our normal support ticket workflow.  We concluded that our once a week follow-up was leading to a significant loss in interest from many of our inbound lead sources.

As big fans of the InsideSales.com methodology, we knew that if we could speed up our response time and follow up more frequently (at much shorter intervals), we would see greater satisfaction with our customers and prospects and see a corresponding increase in revenue as well.

Our next step was to design a new and improved process within Lucidchart:

sales process

They key process changes we made that led to tangible results: 

  1. Responded as quickly as possible to inbound tickets/leads (with five minutes as the goal)
  2. Shortened the follow-up cycle considerably (to one day)
  3. Increased the follow-up cadence to six follow-ups instead of three

We dedicated a full-time sales resource to executing this process and saw immediate results.  Our response time on inbound sales-support tickets decreased from an average of two to three hours to ~30 minutes.  Furthermore, our response rates increased dramatically, with over half the incoming sales-related tickets resulting in a revenue generating outcome.

The successful implementation of this process led to fantastic results at Lucid Software and created new and exciting problems.  One such problem was deciding how our new sales professional would track all of the opportunities that he was chasing.  The answer to this problem?  

Read all about it in the second half of our “Lucid Software Process: Building a Sales Organization” series.

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How to catch million dollar mistakes before they cost you millions of dollars

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

Why software companies should measure the impact of every change—including back-end updates.

You probably expect UX and design changes to affect users’ behavior, but are you testing the impact of infrastructural changes as well?

Last year we began testing all major changes to Lucidchart, our diagramming web app. We had learned that if we didn’t implement careful tracking, we could potentially lose thousands of customers without fully understanding why.

Our goal was to improve app performance across our entire user base by implementing Web Graphics Library (WebGL), which would leverage users’ built-in graphics processors to render Lucidchart more quickly.

Although increasing payments was not the primary motivation for the project, we tracked payments relative to WebGL use in our analytics tool, Kissmetrics. We’ve found that measuring a test’s effect on payments provides a general indicator of success or failure.

Using Kissmetrics allowed us to not only find early signs that something was wrong but also to diagnose the problem and solve it before it caused more damage.

Reading the warning signs

For the initial rollout, we activated WebGL for just 2 percent of users, then increased activation to 10 percent of users. In each case, we saw the expected improvement in loading speed but also noticed a statistically significant drop in payments.

Our first response was to review support requests from users to see if they could reveal what was wrong. Unfortunately, WebGL-related support requests were trickling in at just one or two a week, so it was impossible to identify a trend without deeper behavioral tracking.  

We then dug into Kissmetrics to see if we could tie the drop in payments to any certain user type. No matter how we sliced the data, we weren’t able to identify any obvious trends.

Diving into the data

At that point, we faced a difficult choice: should we give up on WebGL even though we knew it could improve most users’ experience, or should we continue testing it even though it was costing us money every day? In the end, work we had done beforehand to estimate the value of a better rendering experience led us to keep testing WebGL.

But we still needed more information, so we configured Kissmetrics to gather additional data points for each user, including WebGL renderer, WebGL vendor, browser type, browser Version, OS, and OS version.

It quickly became apparent that users in Firefox and Safari were paying at much lower rates than normal in a WebGL experience. That was the smoking gun we were looking for. From there, it was much easier for our engineers to hone in on the problem.

Since none of the computers in our office were having trouble, we needed to test older machines. We offered lunch to any employee who would contribute their time and old computer to a “laptop graveyard” for testing and soon discovered an old Macbook that didn’t support WebGL.

One intrepid developer even tested WebGL on every computer for sale at the local BestBuy, eventually finding one that didn’t support it.

Analytics pays off

It turned out that a missing extension among some users with experimental WebGL had created the confusion, causing them to appear as though they supported WebGL when they actually didn’t. Once we discovered the issue, we started checking for that extension and enabled WebGL for all our users, resulting in the expected performance improvements:

It can be tempting to skimp on analytics and instead rely on users to report problems. However, since most users just leave if the product’s not working for them, it can take much longer to diagnose any problems. Monitoring the data allowed us to zero in on the issue much more quickly.

Best of all, after implementing WebGL for all users, we saw the increase in revenue that we had been expecting all along. Thanks to the powerful analytics capabilities of Kissmetrics, we turned what could have been a million-dollar mistake into a major win both for us and our users.

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Announcing Lucidchart for Google Sheets

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

Google Sheets Lucidchart add-on

Google Sheets is by far the most popular spreadsheet app online, with good reason: free with any Google Apps account, it’s both powerful and easy to use. But even the best organized data collection can turn into a confusing eyesore. That’s why we’re pleased to announce a new Lucidchart add-on for Google Sheets.

Matching data with diagrams

Adding an explanatory diagram to a data set gives context, so viewers can grasp the situation right away and better know what to do as a result. A sitemap is a perfect companion to a data set showing the results of pages undergoing A/B tests. A flowchart explaining changes to a business model over the past year nicely complements a year-end financial report. From mockups to Venn diagrams, the possibilities for combining info with images are endless.

Lucidchart diagrams fill a different role than the Google Sheet built-in chart generator. Lucidchart diagrams supplement data sets with context and insight, and the Google Sheet chart generator converts a data set into an easy-to-digest visual. Both approaches add a necessary level of clarity and depth to your communication.

Getting started

There are two ways to install the Lucidchart add-on for Google Sheets:

  • While editing a Sheet, click “Add-ons,” then “Get Add-ons” and search for “Lucidchart.” Click “Free” to install.
  • From the Chrome Web Store listing for Lucidchart, click “Free.”

In both cases, grant permission to link Lucidchart with Google Sheets as prompted.

Using the add-on

Follow these steps to easily insert a diagram in Google Sheets:

  1. On the add-ons menu, click “Lucidchart Diagrams for Sheets,” followed by “Insert diagram.”
  2. Sign into Lucidchart in the sidebar, or sign up for a free account.
  3. Select the document you’d like to add and click “Insert.”
  4. Click and drag to reposition the image after it appears.

There are also options for setting a fixed image size or creating a new document. If you create a new document, be sure to close and reopen the sidebar to refresh the document list.

Adding diagrams to any Google Sheet gives your project the effectiveness and power of visualization.

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Email for startups: email automation without customer detonation

Posted on by Jacob Shumway

email automation for startups

Startups often have a very limited marketing budget (if it exists at all) but still need to have killer marketing. Inbound marketing (bringing customers closer to your brand through blogs, videos, email, social-media, etc.) is a fantastic way to generate new business without breaking the bank. Done right, inbound marketing can be very good for your startup’s bottom line and your brand.

For any company email is a very successful cost-effective inbound marketing solution to reach customers and generate a significant amount of revenue. This is especially true for start-ups trying to hit the $10 million ARR mark. According to one survey, marketing executives believe that email alone drives the same amount of revenue as their social media, website and display ad efforts combined.

Executing Successful Marketing Emails for Your Startup

According to Tracy Vides from Tech.co, customized components such as segmenting your audience, personalizing the message and testing subject lines are all part of successful email marketing campaigns.

Customizing email automation can be challenging. With 5 million customers (and 5 million inboxes), email is a customer loyalty program teams need to get right the first time, everytime. Email workflows are an excellent way to organize your efforts. The marketing team at Lucid uses our own online diagramming software Lucidchart to map out multiple email workflows for customer acquisition, training and re-engagement.

With Lucidchart, our marketing team can look at any point in the email workflow and even link from the flowchart directly to a specific email in our automation tool, HubSpot. We can coordinate with every team member, no matter where in the world they are at the moment, allowing everyone to be literally on the same page.

email automation tool

Through Lucidchart we manage customer emails: we track what we’re sending, when we’re sending it and who we’re sending it to. Using Lucidchart allows us to communicate effectively not only with our customers but also with other internal teams—such as engineering or customer success—by flowcharting first and then creating emails and groups in HubSpot. Our sales team builds out custom workflows for enterprise customers, and we can easily show sales team members exactly what emails are being sent, without having to search through mountains of data or needing to know specific names.

Charting out email workflows also helps when on-ramping team members. Lucid is a rapidly growing startup, and we are constantly bringing new talent onboard. By diagramming out the process, a new team member can easily see and comprehend complicated processes like our email workflows.

As a growing startup, it’s important to connect quickly with new clients. Mapping out new subscriber email workflows in Lucidchart allows us to ensure new customers aren’t falling through the cracks. When we first charted out our email workflows, we found gaps that we didn’t know existed, like a particular group wasn’t receiving the all-important “Day 1” email. By diagramming out our email automation process, we can quickly remedy any hiccups and not miss out on nurturing important relationships.

We can also simultaneously track multiple “if/then” scenarios for new customers as well (e.g., subscribers who opened but didn’t click your call to action (CTA); opened multiple times but didn’t click your CTA; opened, clicked the CTA but didn’t convert, etc.). We also track our A/B testing—a process key to the success of any email marketing campaign—by using Hubspot groups to send different email versions to different customers based on our Lucidchart workflow.

email automation startups

Choosing the Right Email Automation Tool for Your Startup

Finding the right tools for scaling your business is essential. One of the simultaneous signs of success and growing pains for a startup is when it needs to find an outside marketing tool to augment its homegrown customer email system, but picking the right email processing system can be daunting.

Neal Davey, editor at MyCustomer.com says, “Before you go external you really need to map out your own customer journey – how long is your sales process; how many products are you selling; what is the ROI of each product,” he explains. “You’d be surprised how many companies don’t do this and there’s often a very limited knowledge about how long it takes them from awareness to acquisition. But this really does determine the platform or vendor that you should be selecting.”

Building email workflows in Lucidchart gave us the ability to scope out exactly what we needed from an email processing system, so we could quickly narrow down our choices and spend time comparing what really mattered, leading us to ultimately select HubSpot.

HubSpot provides us with an easy and intuitive email editor, list builder, event creator and template builder. We wanted a marketing automation tool that worked quickly and correctly, and HubSpot offered the best value for our needs.

Crafting and understanding the right email workflows to achieve effective email campaigns can be challenging for any company. When email workflows are visualized in a flowchart, it can help ensure that the your messages are getting to the right people at the right time.

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