Hello World, this is Adminca. We are very excited to meet you! “We” means Jordan, Frank and Lukas. The past two months have been an adventurous ride. With this first blog post, we want to share some of our thoughts about the idea that ultimately became Adminca.
We have been thinking and researching the problem of admin panels this summer, and actually started working on Adminca this fall. Living up to the startup cliché, we are currently working out of our own place in Seattle (there is no garage so we picked the hallway as Adminca headquarter). At the moment all of our focus is on the product design and development so we can ship our first version as soon as possible. We did create a small marketing website that explains some of the basic Adminca concept.
The problem: Admin Panels are broken
Every mobile or web application accumulates data over time — a lot of data. It is either user generated data (e.g. login information, game scores, purchase details etc.) or provider generated data (e.g. articles, products etc.). All the app data, stored in backend databases, is hard to view and manage for the non-technical staff in a team. The currently available data management interfaces (sometimes called admin panel, CMS or dashboard) are very unsatisfying:
- End users have to work with a poorly designed application that was built on the premise of not being important since it’s not customer facing.
- Developers waste time building and maintaining something that it is not core to the actual product or business.
End users perspective
Let’s have a closer look at the end users first. It is critical to every business to ensure all the app data is up-to-date. Initially it is the development team’s job to directly manipulate entries in the database. But as the team grows, more non-technical members are brought on board who also need to view and manage data. Hence the admin panel is born. The problem is that these data interfaces are not designed with the user in mind.
“Let’s just quickly put something together and slap some bootstrap or a template on it. It’s only an internal tool after all”
This is an excellent description of the overall sentiment that we saw towards data interfaces. And we understand that. The last thing a developer wants to deal with is to design a “fancy” admin panel. Unfortunately this results in terrible(!) interfaces. They have limited functionalities, are hard to use, and definitely don’t deliver an enjoyable user experience. But why does it matter afterall? The content contributors and the support team are the ones that make sure that the data is up-to-date and new content is updated regularly. A bad data interface lowers the motivation as well as the efficiency of the team doing this. Most companies pride themselves on world class support. We believe that the people who provide this support deserve a world class tool to help them succeeding at their jobs.
No one likes to develop admin panel! Well, actually we kind of like it, but we are probably one of the few who do. Developers generally don’t enjoy it. Every hour that is spent on creating an admin panel is lost for the actual development of the product. Admin panels are also kind of boring, at least from a technical perspective. Not many developers get excited about creating basic table views and forms. It’s much more exciting to work on the challenging technical problems that the actual application has. So while it’s not too difficult from a technical perspective it’s actually pretty hard from a design perspective to create something that is intuitive and enjoyable. Sure, tables and forms are somewhat simple but there is a lot more to an excellent data interface. After spending all this time to crate a (possibly just mediocre) admin panel the work is still not over: The developer is responsible for maintaining and updating the admin panel which for him/her is just another unnecessary distraction.
Developers around the world waste their time building the same kind of admin panels over and over again while the results of their work are not even that satisfying for the end users.
The solution: Using Adminca — the interface for your data!
We ourselves built and used mediocre admin panels in our previous startups. It was annoying to build them and we hated using them. This is why we founded Adminca!
We believe that an admin panel needs to be powerful so the end users can complete all their tasks, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. It should be easy to create, connect, and maintain for the developer while also being easy to use for the end user.
Our mission is to provide a tool for your data management that is easy to set-up and enjoyable to use.
Adminca will enable developers to create complete administrative interfaces that are easy to use. At its core we offer a solution to the two problems described before:
Save Development Time
Set it up in seconds without writing any additional code.
Adminca is a plug-and-play solution. It requires zero code on the front-end and works out of the box. Just connect it to the existing system, and it will pick up the data schema and create a beautiful and intuitive data interface that the developer never has to worry about again. Focus on what’s most important in your actual app and let us take care of your data interface.
Get a great end-user experience
Adminca empowers your team to view and manage data like never before.
While it might not look like one, this is actually a user experience design problem. The really hard part is not setting up an admin panel (even though it’s time consuming); the difficulty is in the fact that you want to make something enjoyable that inherently is not super interesting. Data management consists of the four basic CRUD operations: Creating stuff, Reading stuff, Updating stuff, Deleting stuff. Everything in Adminca is centered around these actions, but we know that we can design it in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a restrictive CRUD editor.
While best practices on table and form design do exist, we have yet to find a really great and user-friendly data interface. We believe that Adminca can be this interface, because we know what it takes! Not only do we have past experiences of working as Developers, User Researcher and UX Designers; we also have an academic foundation through our master’s program in Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington. The building of Adminca follows the user-centered design approach. It is based on user research and a commitment to constant iteration informed by user testing.
Adminca will come with a rich initial feature set that includes all standard actions like sorting, filtering, searching and data validation. We are also working on unique ways of exploring data, which will allow users to view data in context. Lastly we are radically simplifying the UI in a way that puts the focus on an easy and intuitive data management. We can’t wait to show it to you, so you can see for yourself!
Grounded by our values
Over the last months we also developed and refined our company values. We now use them to evaluate each of our design decision. We call them the three S.
- Secure: Do everything you can to protect customer data and always use the highest safety mechanisms.
- Simple: Hide complexity and create solutions that makes the user’s life easier.
- Smart: Understand the circumstances so we can support and enable the user accordingly.
Getting started with an interface for Parse.com
Since backends are structured in different ways we will focus on a specific platform initially and add others over time. The platform we choose to launch Adminca with is Parse. Parse is a great Backend as a Service (BaaS) that takes care of the whole backend work needed for mobile apps. Currently over 400,000 developers are using Parse.com to power their apps worldwide.
Adminca will automatically connect to Parse (all you need is a Parse API key) and create an interface that users actually want to use. Adminca adds a lot of functionalities that goes beyond the features of Parse’s data browser. Some of the features that will make it easier for end users to view and manage data are:
- Sophisticated Search: Search on all columns regardless of the data type.
- Relationship Browsing: Explore relationships without losing context of the original object.
- Permission Management: Define what classes and which attributes are viewable and editable by your team.
We are very excited for the upcoming months. It’s only the beginning of a long journey. We would love to hear from you and stay in touch.