Textabl was developed for Cerealhack, a Sacramento hackathon in the summer of 2012. There, teams of up to five were given a chance to create new, original products in the mobile or web space in 24 hours of fun, creativity, and programming madness. Team Hedgehog, composed of myself, Chris Cacciatore, Salem Hilal, Mary Kuris, and Justin Osterholt, took third place.
Textabl is a small-scale event-planning platform that allows users to create events that they can then coordinate through text message. It makes a Facebook event and creates a group texting group for invitees to discuss. It uses the Twilio API to implement group texting even for non-smartphones.
Design and Process:
Salem had come up with the idea in a pre-hackathon brainstorming session, but we spent the first section of the night defining and reevaluating our user experience. We decided on a simple three-page layout: a landing page with prompt for Facebook login, followed by two form pages to fill in event information and invitee phone numbers. Mary and I prototyped in paper and conducted a series of user tests, slightly refining our dialogue and layout each time.
We built the application on a Ruby on Rails/Sinatra backend, using mysql to do the database. The frontend was based on Twitter bootstrap, with some CSS by myself and Mary Kuris to customize styles and to float the top bar at the bottom of the page.
Originally, we wanted to use GroupMe to build the texting interface, but we were unable to get an API key, so Chris re-implemented the functionality of group-texting using the Twilio API. Thus, when a new event was created, we provision a phone number from Twilio, then that number texts each invitee. Any texts sent to the number are then forwarded to the rest of the group, allowing even regular phones the ability to do large group texting.
Also, check out a brief mention in this Sacramento Business Journal Article.