BrainBlog is the Brains4All weblog. Established 2004 in The Netherlands. Brains have been working in IT since 1983, working on the internet since 1993, and using their own agile development process for design and application development since 2003. We talk about about design and usability, the industry of software and web development, web applications and simplicity, beautiful and spectacular things.

Shhhh... A secret little brother

November 30, 2007 |

Okay, it's still top secret, but 14Dayz is about to get a little brother...

A simple on-line tool to help you with billing and invoicing.

Tell us what you think, do you have a need for this and what would be important for us to know about how you would like to use this?


14Dayz Case studies

November 29, 2007 |

We’d like to believe we’re a customer centered company. That means it is extremely important to us how YOU feel about our products. To help us better understand your needs so we can improve our service to you please consider taking part in a case-study.

A case study is a simple on-line questionnaire that you can fill out at your leisure. The most interesting case studies will be rewarded with a free upgrade or a month’s free subscription.

Yes, I’d like to participate in the 14Dayz case study

If you participate, thanks for your time and effort! You're helping to make 14Dayz a better product!


Pattern: Orientation

November 27, 2007 |

Because of our development process it is easy for us to work on the same project and even the same functionalities with the whole team together. As we explained before we use Stories to categorize and describe the necessary features for a project. Once we start on a story we split it up in tasks. Tasks are simple things comparable with todo's and can typically be accomplished by one pair of designers or programmers working together on the same computer.

Tasks that do not produce actual code, like server maintenance or registering a domain name can be carried out by individuals working solo of course.

Most tasks inside a story will however be development tasks and will be carried out by two people working together using a technique called Pair Programming. Using the orientation pattern it becomes really simple to switch pairs for developers.

For it to work correctly you need to understand about the TDD (Test Driven Development) cycle, here it is;

1. Write a test
2. Make it compile
3. Watch it fail
4. Write a little code
5. Make it pass
6. Refactor mercilessly
repeat until you cannot think of any more tests.

Now stories will typically be split up into tasks, for example:

* Write marketing text
* Design landing page
* Register domain name
* Code landing page HTML
* Submit a form and validate name and email
* Store validated name and email in database
* Submit a form and check if not already stored
* Give AJAX feedback on errors
* Give AJAX feedback on success
* Test in 3 target browsers
* Deploy database, cvs and apache
* Write a blog entry
* Add small advertisement to brains4all homepage
* Write a newsletter article

So you see this story includes a lot of different tasks, not all tasks are Design or Development tasks by a long shot. Still since those are most often carried out by a pair these are the most interesting when you're switching pairs halfway through a task. Let's look at these development tasks:

* Submit a form and validate name and email
* Store validated name and email in database
* Submit a form and check if not already stored
* Give AJAX feedback on errors
* Give AJAX feedback on success

Suppose I've finished with my registering the domain name tasks and I go and sit next to Serge. To help me orientate I can ask these simple questions:

Marko: Hi, what are you working on?
Serge: I'm working on Submit a form and check if not already stored.
Marko: So what are you doing?
Serge: I'm making this test here pass.
Marko: Okay, let's go!

By asking these simple questions I can quickly orientate myself inside the pair. I know what task we're working on in the story, I know in which part of the TDD cycle we are. For me this is enough to be able to dive in almost immediately and add value to the pair.

A funny side effect of this is that a task can be finished by completely different people that started it and almost everybody on the team may have worked on it. This helps to spread knowledge about the system throughout the team and helps you to keep code easy to change. Also by switching pairs frequently I've experienced a much higher sense of accomplishment and team effort. It also helps to keep a lot of energy in the team and if you change pair every 5-15 minutes it helps you prevent those Gung-Ho refactorings that seem to take forever.

What are your experiences with switching pairs?
How often do you switch and how do you orientate?


Improving contrast: Serving you better legibility!

November 21, 2007 |

When you started up 14dayz this morning, did the feeling occur to you someone adjusted your monitor settings?

I can imagine you're thinking this way.
But, nothing could be further from the truth.

We've been getting praise for the Design of the user interface from day one, seeing as this is what has made 14Dayz simple to use and easy to get in to.

Still, there is always room for improvement. You've requested more than anything that you'd want slightly better contrast in the user interface.

And we think you were right!

So here it is, making for an even better experience for you and your team. In case you are already getting used to the new contrast or you did not notice any improvement at all, here's a little reminder.


We'd like to know what you think of this improvement and if this makes the interface visible for those of you who are not blessed with state of the art monitors or those who have to work in poor lighting conditions.

Thank you!
On behalf the 14dayz Team


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Español por favor



We very pleased to announce the Spanish interface for 14Dayz for beta testing. Finally you can now experience 14Dayz in a fourth language; starting today the 14Dayz interface is now available in Spanish as well as English, German and Dutch. A big thanks to Marcos and Gonzalo over at Clover Studio in Madrid who've helped us out with the translation. We're still beta testing the Spanish version, so we'd love to get your feedback on it. If you'd like to help out with translation drop us a line on

Please let us know who you are and which language you'd like to assist with.


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