Scribee bee logo with hexagon shaping and bee highlighting path
The Scribee brand

A journey to find a better way to work.

Designed, built and pitched by Jay, Jason, Jennifer, Wermen and Myself.

You can visit the product site here.

The Rationale and goal

Born from a collaboration between RSE and Accenture via the STEM Leaders Program, Scribee is the solution to a problem that is eminent throughout the world or at least for anyone who does work on the web that is;

How can you take notes better, and not have them slow down your workflow?

This was the problem that the engineers at Accenture gave us to solve. We had to find a way to build a product that

  • Allowed people to research and take down notes better
  • Increase the efficiency of how people save notes
  • Enabled users to congregate notes together in one place and to reference them that way

The official specifications were to create something using AWS Lambda, DynamoDB and Amplify as the backend, and ReactJS in the frontend. This specification also mentioned the requirement to create a chrome extension to pair with a web app to allow for the congregation of the user's notes.

Essentially, we were told in full to design, develop and pitch a note-taking app all in the matter of two weeks 😨 a task that sounded impossible at that time (remember we're all students here).

The first few days

Straight after the initial meeting where our fates for the next two weeks was decided, we immediately got to work designing both the identity of our brand and the architecture of the entire ecosystem. Having been reluctantly positioned as the leader, I sought out to begin immediate development of the backend to enable our team to learn to use React as fast as possible and begin development immediately. In the meantime, alongside learning React, the team was tasked with designing all aspects of the app including the chrome extension.

Scribee architecture diagram
Scribee's final software Architecture

Within 24 hours after the completion of our first meeting, I had successfully implemented the first iteration of our backend and released the development version of said API to the world affectionately called the 'Highlight API', a nod to the name of the task (also because we didn't have a name for our app yet).

You can find the final docs for the API here.

Alongside this development, the rest of the team was busy working on developing the face of the brand, as well as learning React (an absolutely monumental task considering we only had 2 weeks to learn and develop).

The brand itself went through many iterations with us finally stumbling on the final version of our brand. We decided to go down the path of the Bee, and the idea of "bringing pollen back to the hive" a metaphoric nod to the ability of our app to allow people to bring notes back to the web app 'hive' using the extension as their 'wings'. It is also during this time that we decided on the first (but not final) name of our app Bee-It (If you can find any remnants of this branding, please let me know so I can fix it right away). Though this name was later changed to the name you know now as Scribee because the awesome domain name was available!

Various different Logos for the Scribee branding all themed around the bee
The various iterations of the Scribee Logo

It was also during this early period that we created our first early (but rough) prototypes for the Scribee landing page, as well as the app. Though these prototypes continued to be developed as the days went by, and we approached the days before we had to pitch our solution back to those who gave us the problem.

Scribee early design figma prototype
An early Figma prototype of the Scribee web app

At the end of this early point, we were getting into our groove, staying up late into the night, neglecting our studies and grinding for the completion of this application. We had high hopes and such hopes were going to be realised no matter what.

We had to get our product out there and function.

We had to get a beta completed, no matter how crazy it sounded.

The Grind

Though so much had already been completed in the early phase of the project, there was still much to go. Many a-odd times whenever I'm completing a project, there is always this phase where all of the foundations have been laid, and development begins steaming along towards completion.

This is where we were at now. The train of software development is leaving the station! 🚂

For what felt like a quick start, became a quick end though. Remember this was a task that was planned for two weeks and to have a beta product by the end of all of this, leads to something akin to an impossible task. But somehow, we pulled through the grind. Over 4000 lines of code were written, constant re-designs of the smallest icons, staying up until 5 AM deciding on the font (we chose Oxygen after creating a tier list of fonts) all combined to allow us to finish the first beta iteration (for the most part anyway).

Figma multiple designs for Scribee Web application with varying colors for schema
Theme redesigns for Scribee

Though we had a working product to pitch, the damage to our professionalist approach had been done. The code was a spaghetti mess with very little error checking, the Figma had devolved to a cluster of images splattered together with little care, all of us were sleep-deprived with sleep schedules all over the place, you get it.

A messy Figma workspace with many squares hastily put together to design a website
The mess that is our Figma after the grind

But it had been completed, at least the theoretical beta product anyway. Cheers to the team for contributing what they could and learning how software development should work in a very limited amount of time. We pulled through the mud whilst our Accenture mentors gleaned at our struggle smugly, but what mattered was with the limited knowledge we had, we got the job done. Now came for the not-so-fun bit.

Pitching and the Expo

Now to be fair, we're developers, not salespeople, this isn't our cup of tea. But I think we got through it well. Spread across two days, the pitches comprised of two different events

  1. The company pitch (Accenture Staff)
  2. General public pitch (Expo)

These two high-pressure pitches were the main reason behind why we wanted to build a beta product so badly (avoid embarrassing ourselves), not to mention that a Managing Director of Accenture (Luke Higgins) was going to be there at the pitch to watch.

We put it on ourselves to it's time to pull through.

For the Accenture pitch, we formulated a much more extended dive into our software and the potential that the said product could bring to the market. We discovered that many of the competitors that were in a similar space were charging what seemed like arbitrary prices (some we charging 100+USD for the simple highlight and save feature!?!?!?!) and just rode that wave the entire time.

You can find the presentation slides here (ignore the template slides).

It was a 15-minute presentation that was delivered and included a live demo of the final product and its capability. Once the presentation was completed, we were asked a few questions about what we thought about the project, as well as what things we could do to increase the potential for our product.

I still have nightmares about the AWS SQS question that Luke Higgins gave me 👻.

That being said though, it went quite well and we persevered through the hardships to complete something we were proud of and wanted to show off.

Scribee pitch final slide thank you
Scribee pitch final slide thank you

Then came the expo.

This was possibly the most fun I had throughout the program. Being able to see what other groups had done and what they delivered as well as show off our own product!

Jason though had plans to WOW the entire audience and formulated something I can only describe as absolutely flabergasting.

A 2-minute pitch was set forward for us to deliver to an audience of almost 100 and Jason absolutely pulled through and delivered something of magnificent quality.

You can watch the entire here. It is absolutely magnificent.

You can also find the slides here.

It was absolutely enthralling to watch and the following hosting of our virtual showcase was awesome too! We had people from all over the industry visit and check out what it took to create something like Scribee. Individuals from companies like Capgemini, Deloitte, Suncorp, Canva and so many more visited our stand and tried out our product!

We even created a collaboration with the other group working with Accenture to present our products simultaneously!

Collaboration with both Accenture teams
Collaboration with both Accenture teams

The night ended with a poll on what booth was the most favored and although we didn't win, we came damn close to doing so. Though the ending was bittersweet as it named the end to a program that I both learned a lot in, and enjoyed being a part of. It is an event that I still remember clearly now, almost 4 weeks after the end of the program (as of writing).

A concluding note

The project still lives on and is somewhat frequently updated. Since the time of the program's ending, the project has been converted into Typescript and now uses redux for its state management, making it blazingly fast. It has also been made fully responsive so you can use the web app on your phone, anywhere, anytime (so long as you've got internet).

This entire project has been extremely fun and has opened the door to many new skills, connections, and opportunities that lie ahead. There has been rarely a case where I've been able to fully exercise my skill set and work within a team to complete something under such a time crunch and I'll always be able to reflect upon this time as a good place in my career.

The Scribee web app now
The Scribee web app now

Thanks for coming all this way to read all that I had to say about the entire Scribee journey. If you're still interested you can try out the web app and extension all located here on the landing page.

I hope that you all have a merry day!