From the Dev Couch: SoftFacade, Pow, Flow

Published  April 11th, 2011

I'll start doing some more tutorials, gem configurations, and code snippet posts soon, but these posts are a lot of fun and I've come across some cool websites and apps recently that I wanted to share.

Inspiring Websites

Topic: SoftFacade
Twitter: @SoftFacade

Let's kick it off with a fun one - SoftFacade. Wow. Where to even start with SoftFacade. Their work is so visually stunning that it will leave you questioning how it's possible to even compete in the same stratosphere when designing your own graphics. If you haven't seen any of their portfolio, here's a quick montage I made containing some of their work:

Crazy, right? Who wouldn't kill for a logo like that? That's not all either, as I eluded to in my post last week about SimpleGeo, SoftFacade also does front-end UI work. Rarely do you find graphic shops capable of understanding what it takes to deliver a professional web presence for a company, but they obviously have that skill in aces as well. In addition to SimpleGeo's website, they also did Project Noah and SendGrid. Very excited to see what this top-notch Russian shop has in store next.

Apps to Improve your Workflow

Topic: Flow

Flow is a web application that allows you to tackle lists and projects by yourself and with others . . . . . . . you're probably thinking to yourself 'Did someone else really make another task management app?'. Yup, but it's awesome. Unlike BasecampHQ or Lighthouse, Flow has a social spin to it. Not Color social, but real social. Flow's video demonstrates it best, but they have an iPhone app that allows you to collaborate on things in real time - i.e. planning a party. They also have push notifications, so if you made a list of things to get for a party and your friend bought the beer and checked it off in the app, you'll be notified and not through email.

Did I mention it was designed by MetaLab? They are responsible for some of the best looking websites out there. MetaLab and SoftFacade's portfolios would be the equivalent of the Rumble in the Jungle if they squared off against one another. Back to flow, the design was so good that they made it fun to make lists and tasks, something I already have a perverse pleasure in. Quick tangent - if you're a list-oriented person, you'll like this book I've started reading called The Checklist Manifesto. If you want more info about the app, check their website out (which is pretty rad) to see more.

Learning About New and Old Technology

Topic: 37signals Pow

37signals released a lightweight, open-source chunk of software that let's you develop faster? Am I a sarcastic question talker? Apparently. And yes, 37signals has made another contribution to the open-source community with their release of Pow - a super simple and fast Rack server.

While it may not be at the same level of Ruby on Rails in terms of potential impact to the development community, it's still a noteworthy offering on their behalf. If you develop on apps using Rack (Rails, Sinatra, etc.) then Pow will become your buddy. When you have multiple apps you're working on, it can become a really big hassle setting up your virtual host files and configuring IPs in your webserver of choice. Pow takes care of all of that for you. All you do is run the install, set-up a symlink to the app's directory and you're off and running. If your project is located at /Sites/thredUP, then the server address becomes You can setup as many apps locally as you'd like and they are all able to talk to each other (really handy with APIs and sub domains). They also did an amazing job designing the webpage for the project:

If you're familiar with Jason Fried and the 37signals suite of product designs, you probably would have expected nothing less.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that it's really hard to turn a project you're working on into something that can be used and developed further by everyone. It takes a certain level of abstract thinking to exclude all your app's specificity when you're at the design phase of the project. For more of 37signals open-source work, check out their GitHub repository. I'm always a fan of those giving back to the open-source community and I hope someday soon I'll be able to do the same.