Index / Cases / Prism

Prism: a visual bookmarking application that does what Pinterest can’t

May 2020

When you’re browsing the Internet, discovering tons of great resources that you want to keep on hand, you may find yourself in a situation where you have no efficient bookmarking tool to save links. Nowhere with an interface that allows you to reference all your saved sites quickly and easily. Bookmark lists offer vague, indecipherable links, and Pinterest doesn’t let you quickly reference a site itself. That’s where Prism comes in. It is a web application and visual bookmarks extension for Google Chrome that allows you to curate and browse all your favourite sites in one place. It takes screenshots that auto-update, so you're always looking at the latest content, but you can also make them static, to track a moment in time.

Prism is a remote, female-founded, design-led startup in the California Bay Area. Conceived by a designer, Prism focuses on making the experience of browsing the web more visual. Prism was founded by Anna Western, who is both the CEO and designer and has 10+ years of design experience working with studios, startups, and Fortune 500 companies. Previously, Anna was a product designer at Facebook, designing internal tools, and she co-founded a startup that launched at YC W19. 

Through a coordinated effort between Anna and her team and our experienced backend and frontend engineers, we developed Prism from scratch, turning Anna’s idea into a useful, working solution for users all over the world.

Prism dashboard

The challenge

Our client, Anna Western, was referred to us by her colleague David Weekly, who we already knew from working on the Medcorder medical application. She wanted to engage with the engineering team to build an MVP of the Prism visual bookmarking application and browser extension she was designing.

The client was searching for a competent technical partner for her company. The product that she was looking to build, a visual bookmarking application and plug-in to manage browser bookmarks, would serve as a way to collect and categorize websites. Anna wanted to implement the mechanism of taking a screenshot of the site itself and saving it to a board, similar to Pinterest. However, the app would have a key difference from Pinterest. On Pinterest, when you pin something, you're pinning a single image that is somewhere on the page and will reference that page. While Prism allows you to take a screenshot of the full page.

For example, you can make a list of all the websites that you want to be able to revisit. You have a screenshot of the site, and you can collect those to a board. In addition, when you go back and look at them, the screenshots are updated so that you’re always viewing the most current version of the website you saved. You can use the app via an installed browser extension and organize, view, and modify your boards in your personal Prism account.

Anna came to Evrone with a ready design concept for a visual bookmarks app and extension for browsers, along with mockups and a vision for the application’s functionality. Our job was to carry out thorough research, do a round of consulting, come up with the technical solution, and suggest a way to design the architecture of the project.

Prism create a board

The solution

Evrone became the engineering partner for the Prism team, to assist them with building a bookmark manager. We estimated the project, evaluated the risks, provided the timeframe for building it, and offered consultations on all the issues that Anna was concerned about.

Our engineers developed a web-based app that’s available as a browser extension for Chrome. The Chrome extension allows users to bookmark web pages. Following the designs provided by Anna, the product saves screenshots of the bookmarked page to a visual board for the user’s reference, allowing them to organize these screenshots into categories. This way, they have a visual reference for bookmarked pages they want to track. Users are also able to import their existing Chrome bookmarks. A user can invite another user or non-user to their board, and the invited user becomes a member.

We kicked off the project in May 2019 and launched the product in September 2019. Through efficient cooperation with Anna and the Prism team, we released the MVP in just three and a half months, with some additional time for fixing bugs and improving load time. React was used on the frontend, where we executed the screens and followed each detail of the design spec, helping create a frontend design that fully satisfied the client’s expectations. The scaling of all grid pages is flexible, meaning the grid scales responsively to the page, just like Pinterest.

We used Python on the backend, and employed Chrome headless in order to take screenshots of the websites. It renders the website itself, and we export the image of the site and save it in DigitalOcean Spaces. Also, Redis was used to distribute rendering tasks. The project stack includes Kubernetes, GraphQL, and CircleCI for continuous integration and continuous delivery. Rollbar and Sentry were used for real-time error tracking and debugging, and we suggested using Mailgun cloud-based email service for the email campaigns. The project team consisted of a project manager, a frontend engineer, and a backend engineer. Our project manager handled all of the communication between the client and the engineering team, which simplified things for the Prism team.

Prism chrome extension

The conclusion

We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Prism team and taking on the challenge of building a Pinterest-like web app and creating a custom browser extension that offers increased customizability and flexibility to better meet its users needs. We’re always looking for innovative new projects to be a part of, whether it’s building a brand new application from scratch or developing a cross-browser plugin or extension. If you have an idea for a product and need assistance with the development, just let us know how we can contact you, and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your project and how we can help.

They have a really good design sense and appreciate its importance. Not every engineering team can deliver the design that’s provided to them. Their design team helps them become a really well-rounded engineering product studio.
Anna Western
CEO, — Visual bookmarking tool
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