Making Your Own Blueprints
John Borden | June 10, 2019
The original pitch for Business Toybox used to be much simpler. I found this thing called the Business Model Canvas, and I wanted to make it more engaging, more “sticky”. So, here comes Business Toybox, an online tool that “gamifies” the Business Model Canvas experience (I actually hate the word gamification, but that was the easiest way to talk about it).
But there was a problem.
Namely, people who already knew about the Business Model Canvas also already knew that it was kind of old news. It was created under a creative commons license with permission to remix as you saw fit, and so people started changing it up and making their own canvases. Meanwhile, Business Toybox only supported the original.
The answer was obvious. Business Toybox needs to support multiple canvases. Easier said than done.
I’ll spare you the technical details and tell you about the results. What happened was that a special drawing tool was created to create these things called Blueprints. Blueprints were basically a sort of construct that existed to define what a particular type of canvas should look like. What colors should the panels be? Where should they be located? What names should they be given? That sort of stuff.This drawing tool made it possible to create an infinite combination of different canvas types without having to write any code at all, and even create Blueprints that could represent something other than a Business Model Canvas lookalike. Unfortunately it was very confusing to use, so confusing that it would remain hidden away until the day came that it would be just easy enough to make it an actual feature of Business Toybox rather than a behind-the-scenes tool for creating.
That day has finally arrived
Disclaimer: this is all pretty experimental. A lot of this will be improved and modified over the next few weeks.
The Blueprint Editor
The Blueprint Editor, or editor for short, can be accessed by any Canvas by clicking on the pencil button on the sidebar to the left. Doing so will temporarily hide the Tokens from view and let you focus on the Panels, which as you can see have a bit more going on around them.
So what exactly can you do here?
Well, for starters, you can move panels around. You can also resize them, making them grow and shrink as you see fit. The Customers panel in this canvas looks pretty important, so I’m going to make it bigger and move some panels out of the way until I decide what to do with them later.
Shuffling things around is nice and all, but that alone wouldn’t be much. So, naturally, you can also create new panels if you want to. You can do that by clicking on the square button in the sidebar to the left. For future reference, it’s called the Panel Tool. You know, because it makes new panels. You can also click on the button with the grid inside it to turn on Grid Mode, which will lock in the size and position of the Panels to a grid with 10 pixels between each space. I’m a bit of a neat freak when it comes to Blueprints, so I always turn this on, but you can leave it off if you’d prefer a more freehand approach.
What else can you do besides drawing? Well, you can change the color of the panels, their names, you can even given them Stories in a way that’s very similar to how you’d create a Story for a Token. You can also delete panels if you think they’re in the way. If you have a change of heart then just click that green button inside the panel to undo the change.
Now, keep in mind, none of the changes you make will actually stick around unless you save your changes with the yellow button in the bottom right. That’s the save button. Changes aren’t saved automatically, which can be a bit of a pain, but I also want to make sure that you have some “extra room” to walk back a change that you didn’t want to make or are unsure of.
The thing about the save button is that it only becomes yellow if you actually have something to save. However, you can also make it turn red if you try to do something that you’re now allowed to do. At the moment the only way this could happen is if you try to place a panel on top of another panel. Technically, placing one panel on top of another doesn’t hurt anything, but it does look really weird and can affect how Tokens interact with the panel, so “panel stacking” isn’t allowed. More rules will probably follow in the future, but for now this is the only one to worry about.
You’re probably wondering by now what the deal is with the arrow buttons on the edge of the screen, what the bars are doing, or why there are buttons with plus and minus symbols inside them. Those are used for moving around your canvas as well as zooming in and out.
In the past, everything had to fit into a rectangle that was 1600 pixels wide by 1000 pixels high. This was done so that canvases would look good on a landscape-oriented screen, but besides that the numbers were pretty arbitrary. At the time it was an easy enough rule to follow, but I figured that this was a rule I wanted removed once the Blueprint Editor was widely available. The imagination doesn’t easily fit into a 1600 x 1000 pixel box.
I won’t go over in detail what each button does. Instead, I’ll leave it up to you to play with them for the most part. The one that looks like a target does deserve some explanation though. It’s used to re-center the canvas back to it’s original position and set the zoom to the original level. It makes it a lot easier to snap everything back to their default values.
One more thing. Right now there are limits to how far you can zoom in/out as well as how far you can move around. These are put in place mostly to prevent you from getting too lost. In the future, some of these rules will probably be loosened, and some may remain in place.
What Comes Next
There is another update to share this week. It isn’t as big as this one, and to be completely honest with you it won’t seem immediately useful, but it’s still pretty cool. Besides that, there’s also a lot more work to sand down some of the rougher edges on the new Blueprint Editor update and make it overall easier to use. It’s still in a very early stage of development, but I didn’t want to keep it hidden away any longer. Go nuts with it, and tell me what you think.
More importantly, next week there will be another round of updates coming out, with announcements scattered throughout the week. I won’t go into too much detail on what they’re about, all I’ll say for now is that they let you write your own rules. Rule-making sounds pretty boring, but I assure you, this will be anything but.