Tag Archives: web startups

How We Improved Our Conversion Rate by 72%

One of my favourite parts of creating web apps is being able to make subtle changes to our sales pages and see the impact it has on our signups.

With CareLogger being a side project, our time available for marketing is limited. We found conversion optimization to be a good way to spend 30 minutes once a week refining our pitch to customers. It also maximizes the number of signups so we have access to more people to conduct customer development with.

After these 3 experiments, our free signup conversion rate went from 14.5% to 25%, a 72% improvement.

1) Including a pain point in our headline

When we launched the site our headline said Keeping Tabs on Your Diabetes Just Got A Lot Easier:

While this explained in very general terms a benefit of our product it didn’t hit on the real need that people had when they decided to keep a logbook to record their diabetes. Making your life easier is what almost every product promises.

People weren’t looking for our software because it was easier than what they currently do. They wanted better insight into their illness so they can stay as healthy as possible.

So we changed our message to Maintain Your Optimal Health by Keeping Tabs on Your Diabetes. We also highlighted the most important benefit “Optimal Health” with green.

This change resulted in a 31% increase in conversion after 1000 trials (our metric was signing up). Not bad at all.

2) Changing our signup button from Green to Red

Earlier this week I came across an article by Performable that explained how changing their call-to-action from green to red increased conversion by 21%.

I had to try it out so that day I set up an A/B test on our homepage call-to-action.

So far we’ve had 600 participants and our conversion rate has increased by 34%.

We generally wait until 1000 trials but so far the results have been pretty significant.

We believe that it was so effective because we used green on many other parts of the landing page and the red just stands out so much more. It’s all about contrast.

3) Changing our button text from “Signup for Free” to “Get Started Now”

We also experimented with changing the button text on the call to action to form “Signup for Free” to “Get Started Now”. This one had a smaller effect, after 1000 trials our conversion rate improved by 7%.

The difference in this one is that “Get Started Now” is an easier sounding commitment than signing up. Signing up also has connotations with paying (our app is free).

Next up we’re going to try alternating the stock photo on the homepage from a male/female couple to a doctor and patient.

7 Reasons Why My Social Music Site Never Took Off

I read posts on Hacker News about “Why my start-up failed” and found them interesting because it’s a raw start-up story, not the fairy tales that magazines like to write about. So here is my shot at it.

Last summer, I started developing a social music site, Contrastream. The problem: finding good indie music was difficult and a good reason why the 5 big labels control everything. The solution: a Digg-inspired site where you submit albums you want to share and vote up the ones you think are worth listening too, each album gets its own page with a YouTube music video, comments, etc.

7 Reasons Why it Never Took Off

  1. Design Perfection, I’ve heard its common for founders to spend too much time doing what they like or what they are good at. For me, it was spending too much time perfecting the design. Not only how it looks but all the aspects of user experience. This would have been a good thing if I was a designer on a team but there was a lot more I should have been doing. Adding content, SEO, getting press, writing blog posts, and getting to know the early community to name a few.
  2. Underestimated the “Cold Start” problem, I read this article by Bokado Social Design which talks about a big issue you face with a social site, especially when it relies on user-generated content. The value you are providing to your users should centre around the content you put on the site, so to build some base of users, you need to create a lot of content so the first users can kick off the community. In my case, it was having interesting new indie albums always on the site. But user content usually follows the 80/20/1 rule, 80% browse, 20% interact (comment), and 1% contribute (add albums). So even though I had 10,000 people visiting in the early months, I still ended up adding 75% of the content. It was very demanding and time-consuming especially being a solo founder.
  3. Market Size vs Business Model, the market I was targeting with the site, indie fans who knew a lot about music outside of the usual review sites, was small. I had planned to monetize the site with ads and in the process, I realized that you need a LOT of people using your site every day to make money off of ads, or a certain type of people who can’t tell the difference from AdSense and site links. The people I was targeting were also notorious for not clicking on ads (similar to the tech community).
  4. Bad launch, the launch of the site wasn’t planned very well at all. I decided to use the “genius” marketing ploy of having a private beta to create scarcity. I saw a bunch of other sites doing it and figured it was a good strategy. I was wrong. Private betas are good for sites that have either complex technology or something that’s hard to scale, and those two are about the only times you should do that. After the site appeared to be ready to go live, I decided to email Techcrunch about it. At the time I didn’t understand the importance these types of blogs put on exclusives. I figured they would take a day or two and send some questions. But about an hour or two after I emailed them, Techcrunch posted about Contrastream. Not only was I unprepared to have thousands of people come to my site right away, it turns out I didn’t get the chance to fully pitch my site to TC. Michael Arrington called the number I had posted in the whois and privacy policy which was my co-founders’ cell phone. I had used him because my phone was broken at the time. He called at about 11 pm and my friend was sleeping, he also had no idea who Michael Arrington, an internet celebrity to most tech founders, was. In his half-asleep state, he didn’t know what the call was about. I didn’t find out about the call until my friend had woken up a couple hours later and decided to tell me about it… so we were off to a good start.
  5. Competition, we had a lot of high-quality competitors. Our site offered information for great albums, including community voting. However, sites like Last.fm and Hype Machine were offering the actual music. That was a competitive advantage that’s hard to beat and we lacked a significant user base to convince enough people.
  6. Motivation, having to consistently find new content was probably the biggest hit to my motivation for the site. As much as I loved indie music it was draining to constantly find new albums to post up. It turned something I liked doing into a chore mainly because at the same time I was busy marketing the site, redesigning it, and attending classes. (I was in college for business for 18 hours of the week).
  7. Co-founder, I had started the site with a friend, he was smart and knew a lot about business but in the end, could not contribute much to the site. One reason why was that is not technical, so he couldn’t help much with the development of the site and knowing who Michael Arrington was might have helped. The other reason was that he wasn’t really into indie music so providing content and reaching out to the users was a barrier.
  8. Bonus: Derivative Idea, I tried to avoid just listing the common start-up mistakes written by Paul Graham, but this one was pretty accurate. The idea itself for Contrastream wasn’t too innovative or original. It was inspired by Digg.com which had applied the same model to news and articles on the web. I still believe applying this model to music is interesting and useful, but there were so many other me-too dig sites. It was simple software to develop and it could be applied to almost anything. Plus there were open source PHP versions of it available on the web.

4 Important Things I learned in the Process

  1. Ruby on Rails + Mac, I had used PHP+MySQL professionally in my last year of high school but had become rusty over the years. I decided to learn Ruby on Rails to develop Contrastream and I’m completely convinced it was the right decision. This is a language that lets you build applications quickly and stay agile. Like most rails developers I also bought a Mac which is another thing I’m completely convinced about, OSX has some of the best-designed software.
  2. How to Get Press, I learned the importance of having something interesting to say, how to leverage a product launch to get press, and the other basics like press releases and messages.
  3. Practical “Getting Real”, I’ve read this book twice and had the opportunity to apply almost everything with Contrastream. Great way to learn something.
  4. Niche Social Networks are not Businesses, they are communities. They have to be built like a community. That means spending a lot of time building relationships, knowing everything about the niche, and finding users. You can monetize a niche social network but its really important that you don’t approach it like a business.

Bottom line, I learned more from starting this site then I would ever have from college business classes or reading blogs. As a music site, it hasn’t exactly “failed” at the moment, it still pulls in around 3000 people a month mainly from search engines. I now consider it a hobby site and I’m looking forward to applying what I learned with my next start-up, Integrate.