Thursday, January 30, 2014

Product Management 101: 5 Ways to Creating an Awesome Website

Creating a product for non-technical co-founders is no simple task. It's something I've been struggling with over the past several weeks. On the private beta launch of our newest website, Passionly, we're in the midst of working on making an awesome product. That's why I'm breaking down the foundation for entrepreneurs and startups alike. Let's get straightforward with what tasks to do first.

I've chatted with others and this seems to be the mythical task. A mix of figuring out what UI to cover up your useful website. As an entrepreneur focused on a technical, product-focused project, I've been considering how I'm going to create a product our (Passionly closed beta) subscribers will like. So with transparency, I'm writing up recommendations here!

So let's get started. There are two parts. Strategy and implementation.


1. Understand your objectives

Just as any campaign--from business development to marketing--make sure you understand your goals. This is harder than you'd think. I've seen entire campaigns go awry without iterating the most important objectives. It can't be just re-tweets, Facebook shares or website clicks. What do you really want to do? How do you specifically want to help your customers? If you don't want to help your customers live easier/better lives, you should just step away from your computer right now. The internet of things is big enough. Don't waste our time.

How? Think back to your business model canvas value propositions. Ensure you're measuring how your customers are gaining from using your website.


2.  Eat your own dog food

Understanding the pressure points of your customer is best done when you use and abuse your own product. When you have a QA team in place, this isn't such a big deal. When you are your own best tester, get familiar with your objectives (see number 4 below). Does your site not meet those specific needs of your customers? Is it "difficult" to do the specific task your website was created for? You need to re-think your usability.

3. Build analytics into your product

There's no way to manage what you can't measure. Understanding bounce rates is one thing, but there's a whole world of analytics outside bounce rates. Considering the lean startup model (like I am), it's not necessary to measure every single action customers take on your site. However, for the most important tasks/actions you want them to take, make sure you're measuring those. And, of course, demographics of your most enthusiastic audience. Refining them will ensure you can advertise for that audience specifically.

How? This is easily assessed on the newest version of Google Analytics. If there are elements (which there always will be) use a mix of measurement and analytics tools to find the data you need to measure your (above) objectives.

4. When analytics fail, survey

Surveys are easy to create on tools like Surveymonkey. As my recommendation for beta launches, make sure you're measuring with surveys (in addition to other forms of tools). Surveymonkey is a great recommendation, and feedback to 100 respondents is completely free (the one down side: your branding won't be visible on your surveys).

5. Understand design & usability best practices

Websites are getting better and better. They're responding to the responsive nature of the web market place. This means for entrepreneurs and startups, it can be difficult to keep up. You don't need to use Ajax and fancy flash tools when you're first establishing your beta launch. But if you want to excel in your industry, finding the right mix of usability and good design will go far.

How? Smash Magazine has some great web design best practices and Mashable has been talking frequently about excellent design for responsive web design. What could be more important though, even more than a good looking website, is one that actually works. For this, consider usability best practices.


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