Designing with principles
How a file browser saved our souls (and made mother mad with joy)
Subfolio (originally called Filebrowser) was first developed in 2003 to help deliver designs and documents to our clients. When we went international in 2006, it became our cross-office document server too.
But what is it, you ask? Simply speaking, Subfolio reads your file system and instantly turns the content into a website — folders become sections, files become pages. But that’s just the beginning… (at this point, we invite you to learn more if you so desire).
Up until recently, we used Subfolio for our website (or anti-website). It was an assertion that our work — not some fancy website — was the focal-point for AREA 17. Today, we no longer use Subfolio for our website, however it is still used as our cross-office document server, and of course, our client presentation studio too.
After repeated requests from our clients, friends, family, enemies, allies and the design community — we finally broke down and decided to offer it to the public. But we didn’t want to dump our 6 year old code on your poor souls, so we decided to build it again, from the ground up.
With a clean slate, we started with a few principles:
Keep it simple — Don’t make it anymore than it is. Subfolio is an interface for a file system. It is not a powerful extranet platform nor a feature-rich content management system.
Abstract the logic — It’s all about interface, so don’t assume one interface is good for all situations. It must be easy to create unlimited interface “themes” without having to rework the logic.
Give options — Stop the debate on how things should work. Everyone has different needs and ways of doing things. Difference should be cultivated.
Make it extensible — Assume change. In our experience, Subfolio has infinite possibilities. And with each new implementation, new ideas arise.
Internationalize it — Our community is international. Period.
So with that, we set out to build Subfolio (take-two). The first version took four weeks to build, but this time around it took one year … damn principles, can’t live without them, but sure as hell wish we could.
On Wednesday, April 7 in NYC and Thursday, April 15 in Paris, we invite you to join us at our offices for Subfolio Sessions, a small gathering to present the app with the aim of exposing all of its features and how to integrate it into your daily workflow.