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Posts by Shawn Liu:

Harvest is Hiring – Spread the Word

Dear Harvest customers and fans,

This quarter, the Harvest Team has spent 3,214 hours on new features, system improvements and customer support. We launched two major features, with three more coming this month. We have also carried out several infrastructure upgrades to make Harvest even faster and more reliable.

But we want to do more. We want to make Harvest an even more useful and powerful service for your business. To do that, we need peoplesmart, talented, humble, and hard-working folks to join a small team that makes a world-class business application. More specifically, we’re looking for two Rails Developers (junior or seasoned), a Ruby Systems Dev, and an Account Manager.

We need your help to spread the word. If you know of any talented folks that fit the bill, please let them know that Harvest is hiring. You can also help by passing the word to your friends and colleagues on Twitter or Facebook. Please help us build our team, and we will make Harvest even better for your business!

Thank you,
Shawn, Harvest Co-Founder

New & Improved Email Delivery System

Update August, 2011: Since launching several new features in conjunction with a commercial email delivery partner, we found that we were able to deliver emails more reliably and with less latency by sending the emails ourselves. At this point, Harvest has returned to sending emails directly from our own email servers.

Update June 15, 2011: the new email system has been launched!

Harvest sends hundreds of thousands of emails each week on behalf of our customers and 99% of those emails are delivered successfully. The remaining 1% can run into problems – sometimes messages are quarantined, spammed, or trashed on the receivers’ end. Our customers depend on Harvest to track time, then invoice for all those billable hours – and it’s critical that the invoice emails reach the customers’ inbox.

We have worked with several customers, their email providers, and our hosting provider and we’ve completely overhauled our email delivery system, which is launching early next week. This new system should ensure a much higher email delivery rate – and there are a few changes that will impact your workflow.

Unified Sender Email Address

The most significant change is that each email you send to your client via Harvest will no longer be “from” your email address. With the new email system, each Harvest email will be from "Your Name” <notifications@harvestapp.com>. The reply-to field of each message will remain your email address – so your customer can still easily reply to the email message and get back to you as they would normally.

There is a technical reason for this change. Before the new system, Harvest would “whitelabel” the sender email address of each email (i.e. the “From” of each invoice email is from your own email address). This meant that there was simply no way for a system receiving the email from Harvest to verify Harvest as the sender of the email, since the email was “from” your own email address. Sometimes this was sufficient for receiving mail systems to discard the incoming email. With the new system, the receiving email system can look at Harvest’s DNS records (SPF DKIM for the technically minded), certain cryptographic headers in the email itself, and validate that the sender is who they claim to be, ie: Harvest. Continue reading…

New Reports Arriving Soon

In the next few weeks, we will be launching a couple of big updates in the Reports section of your Harvest account.

We’re carrying over the new look and feel of the recently updated Time Report to the rest of the Reports section, and along the way, overhauling a few bits and pieces. We are also presenting a brand new Uninvoiced Report, one of the most highly requested features from the Harvest community.

uninvoiced-report

The new Uninvoiced Report will be the place for your business to check for all of the time and expenses that have not been invoiced. The numbers are grouped by clients, broken down by projects – with a convenient button to invoice for the total unbilled amount.

The other significant update that will affect your workflow is an overhauled Detailed Time Report. We’re updating the report form with an all-new, super fast, auto-complete input filter. The new filters allow for selecting multiple items for the same category – so you can, for example, generate a report for multiple projects and tasks all at once.

harvest-detailed-time-tracking-report-2

We’re now in the final phase of testing and tweaking these new features, and we will launch the new features in the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience and continuing support, and we look forward to sharing the fruits of our labor soon!

New & Improved Reporting Coming Next Tuesday

Five years ago, we created Harvest with two goals: to take the pain (and ugly) out of time tracking, and to create a powerful report that’s easy to read by normal people like you and me. What we came up with was a deceptively simple and visual interface on top of layers of complex data. You can quickly glance at a report and find out what projects are consuming the most of your business’s time, and click one button to see distribution of billable hours.

Over the years, the reporting tool became more sophisticated with even more data: billable amount, budget, invoiced vs uninvoiced hours, etc. Frankly, the original interface structure is not holding up to the amount of data points Harvest supports today.

Late last year, we set out to improve Reports. We started with a customer survey, and thanks to your participation, we received a ton of amazing feedback. We sifted through your comments and boiled everything down to a few major goals, providing us with a solid direction as we began our overhaul of Reports. We’ve been working hard on this project since January, and have internally nicknamed the project “Reports 2.0.” Here’s a preview:

project-time-tracking-report

We’ve broken up the goals into different milestones, and the initial release of Reports 2.0 is coming Tuesday, March 8th. Here are some of the highlights that you can expect:

  1. Blazing fast report render – Our development team rebuilt the reporting engine from scratch, taking advantage of some of the cool, new things that came from Rails 3.
  2. A spanking new Staff report – This is one of the highest requested reports from the survey, and we added a few bells and whistles to make it easier to scan the report.
  3. Improved navigation and data layout – You’ll see a brief summary of important data points on top, and a clearer table structure makes it easier to digest numbers and details.

And there are many more improvements and surprises for you to uncover next week. Our design and development team have poured their hearts into this project and it’s a work of beauty. We can’t wait to share the fruits of our labor, and thank you all for your patience, support and feedback!

How We Handle Feature Requests

Harvest is nearly 5 years old and serving thousands of customers from over 100 countries. It’s great to be in this position, but with a large user base comes the responsibility of receiving many feature requests. Requests flow in via email, support requests, blog comments, Twitter, and often on our forum. How do we handle such a high volume of requests?

Two Buckets

We categorize requests into two buckets:

  1. Things we plan to work on.
  2. Things we don’t – requests we don’t hear of often, or suggestions that don’t fit our vision.

Feature requests that fall in the first bucket are tricky. We genuinely want to work on a lot of these features, but if something is not in our immediate plan, the best we can tell you is that “it’s on our list.”  Whether it’s through email or the forum, we can only say that so many times before we start to sound insincere.

Whatever the case, we ask each prospective customer to make their purchase decision based on what is available in Harvest today. We are constantly improving Harvest, but we simply cannot promise a timeline for new features. We do not make false promises.

Continue reading…

Coming Thursday: A Wider, Roomier Harvest

This Thursday, we’re releasing a significant update to the Harvest layout: the app will have a wider, borderless shell. The look and feel of Harvest largely remains the same, but you’ll notice more breathing room throughout the entire app. We’ve come to affectionately refer to this update as Harvest HD.

Over time, we’ll be using the extra space to make layout changes that increase usability. We’ve started making some of these additional improvements on the Invoice and Estimates page. Some changes you can expect on Thursday include:

  • Grouped action buttons inside a chrome.
  • Updated read-only layout that’s the same as the recently updated Web Invoice.
  • Cleaned up header, where you can quickly see the most recent action taken on the invoice or estimate.

Here’s a preview of what the invoice will look like:

Later this week, we’ll publish a separate blog post detailing the technical side of the new layout. Stay tuned!

Get Paid Faster, Part II – Accept Credit Card Payments Online From Your Web Invoice

UPDATE: As of October 16, 2014, Harvest only offers Stripe and PayPal for online payment. More details here.

According to our data, Harvest invoices with an option to pay via PayPal receive payments nearly 16 days faster (twice as fast) than invoices without an online payment option. Letting your clients pay online means that they can pay you faster – no more waiting for a check to deposit.

We’re excited to announce the second major Harvest update to help you get paid faster: payment gateway integration. With this new feature, you can accept credit cards right on the new and improved Web Invoice.

Click through for a live example!

Online Payment, the Harvest Way

Online payment is not new to the internet, but the way other websites do it is a laborious, multi-step process. The new payment process on your Harvest Web Invoice is exceptionally fast, and the entire flow happens on one page. When your client clicks the “Pay Invoice” button on the invoice, a simple and familiar payment form shows up immediately:

Your client will not be taken to a new page or have to wait for the page to load. Once they fill out the form, Harvest will take them back to the invoice with a confirmation message. The experience is seamless, simple and fast. The payment is recorded on the invoice immediately, and Harvest automatically sends your client a payment receipt customized with your logo.

Our design and development team also put in the extra effort to take care of the smallest details, such as the top left corner of the Web Invoice:

Here we want to highlight one major action: Pay Invoice. We put the invoice total next to the button, so there’s no confusion on how much is due, and there’s no need to scan the invoice for the total. We also show all the payment options with their familiar icons, so clients know that they can pay online.

Great. How Do I Set Up?

Harvest now integrates with these four major payment gateways:

If you have an account with any of the four gateways, go to Invoices > Configure, click on “Online Payment” and put in your credentials.

Here’s a brief video to show you how to take advantage of this new feature:

We believe adding payment gateways and the ability to get paid directly from the web invoice can significantly speed up invoice payments and improve cash flow for your business. Please let us know if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions!

Get Paid Faster, Part I – New & Improved Web Invoice

In the next few weeks, we will be releasing a series of new features to help your business collect payments faster. Our first step, launched today, is the new and beautiful Web Invoice (formerly, Client View):

The new Web Invoice has been widened, refreshed, tweaked, and looks gorgeous. More importantly, we updated the code so that it’s lightweight and uses better markup that will make a few new ideas we have down the road possible, laying the groundwork for a much improved and faster online payment process. You can see a live example of the new invoice layout (please do not pay the actual invoice – it will process the payment for real!).

This view can be accessed by going to any of your invoices in Harvest and clicking on More Actions > Web Invoice. This is the web invoice that your clients will see if you have the PayPal integration turned on (turn this on via Invoices > Configure > Online Payment). Our next step will be applying the new design to the invoice view within your Harvest account, and to make it available in PDF.

As usual, please let us know if you have any questions or feedback!

Coming Soon: New Web Invoice Layout

A wider, sharper-looking Web Invoice (formerly, Client View) is coming next Tuesday! Here’s a preview of how it will look:

Some highlights of the new layout:

  • Wider canvas – The invoice will feel more roomy and can accommodate more information.
  • Easier to read – We have tweaked the type, colors, spacing, and sizing – so that information is easier to read and scan.
  • Sleek and fast – There is more visual punch to the look, taking advantage of CSS3, so the invoice remains lightweight and fast to load.
  • Refreshed but familiar – We overhauled the structure and  design, but kept the look and feel familiar to minimize disruption.

The new Web Invoice comes with a new feature – integration with three popular payment gateways: Authorize.net, LinkPoint / First Data, and PayPal Website Payments Pro. With the new integration, you will be able to accept credit card payments on invoices, which means that your clients can pay much faster. There will be a separate blog post about this next week, explaining how the new feature will work.

This new invoice layout was re-envisioned and designed by Squared Eye, one of Harvest’s happy customers. Thank you, Matthew!

New Home Tab

There’s going to be a relatively small change to Harvest this coming Monday: the current Account Overview screen will be moved to a new Home tab, and we will be calling it Dashboard from here on.

Everything will still work the same, we’re just moving things around a bit to improve the organization and experience. This navigation update also allows us more flexibility for a few upcoming improvements to Harvest.