Specly is Here! But How?

A brief history of Specly by its creator: Theo Skye

Hello, and thanks for checking out Specly!

Specly took shape over the past several years while I’ve been Co-founder and ECD at Medialets (founded in 2008). It came into being organically; my Creative team needed better ways to document and describe the HTML5 mobile ads we were making for our clients. Medialets’ ads were like nothing else the digital advertising industry had ever seen, partly because the mobile and tablet platforms we were building them for, introduced so many new and unique use cases. The ads had to be orientation-aware, fill all the available space on varying mobile (and tablet) screen sizes, expand seamlessly across disparate environments, and they were developed in HTML5 instead of Flash. It has been—and continues to be—a bold and pioneering time for digital advertising.

We were designing and building unique, first-to-market ad experiences, but since we were doing new things in new ways, the internal and external communications about our creations were an unrelenting challenge. We often found there was no “language” that could adequately explain the modern digital products we were making. And the explanatory diagrams we would invariably have to whiteboard for each other and for clients were not exactly... portable. Inordinate amounts of time were spent just communicating (or miscommunicating!) how our ads were supposed to be designed and developed. We even held meetings to talk about how to talk more efficiently! Ultimately, it all meant we had less time for the actual design and development—the fun stuff! There simply had to be a better way...

To help explain our products to each other and to our clients, I wrote the first draft of Specly’s documentation in late 2013. Specly was born! ...at least “in the lab.” We began to use Specly as a communications tool right away, both internally and externally. The reaction from my team and from our clients and partners was unanimously and overwhelmingly positive. It was common to hear things like, “How have we not had this?” and, “What were we even doing before?” As we adopted Specly into more aspects of our day-to-day workflow, we saw extraordinary results: our meetings were shorter, great ideas flowed more freely, communications were streamlined, costly miscommunications vanished, better work was done in less time, and most importantly, my team and our clients were happier.

As my team grew, and as mobile steamrolled its way to dominance in our marketplace, I saw how the big agency creative teams we partnered with began to encounter the same types of design challenges my team had in prior years. It became obvious that the entire digital design industry needed a way to document and communicate design specifications without resorting to ad hoc diagrams and animations just to (hopefully) explain them—and not just for ads, but also for apps, websites, and anything else digital. We could all do better work more enjoyably if we had a common language that helped everyone get past the diagrams and start the “fun stuff” much earlier in the process.

This website was recently launched so that everyone can learn to use Specly in their workflows, and easily share it with others. And Specly itself was recently expanded with new techniques that empower every design and production team to use it for everything they create—websites, apps, ads, icon sets, and more. I encourage you to incorporate Specly into your design workflow; let me know what you think!

And Specly is just getting warmed up... Functional enhancements to the Specly website are already underway, including a “Specly Parser” that converts a line of Specly notation into computer-readable code. Specly could then be used for things like auto-generating a graphic preview of the design, outputting a template, or potentially even ad server decisioning. Support for 3D designs, video durations, and other extension topics are also under close consideration.

If you have any questions, ideas about how to improve Specly, or if you want to support Specly by sharing it with others, please like Specly on Facebook, follow @useSpecly on Twitter, or send an email to theo@spec.ly.