December 2, 2019

I'm stuck and would love some ideas...

I've sort of hit a wall trying to figure out how to get a sustainable momentum going with my product Explain My Product (https://explainmyproduct.com). Quick context: this is a way for founders, marketers, website owners to get anonymous feedback on their websites in exchange for giving another website owner feedback first.

This give-and-take model worked really well when I launched my product on Product Hunt and I have since gotten about 150 website owners to sign up and post their sites--many from Indie Hackers. Feedback was flowing at that time, but ever since, traffic has come to a screeching halt and as a result the feedback being given to website owners has really slowed down.

My ultimate goal for this product is to make it a self-sustaining and organically growing site with a virtuous cycle--maintain a steady stream of feedback for websites on the site, while continuing to steadily grow the community of site owners who list their websites. The feedback that has been submitted is pretty good in general (with the exception of a few) so I think this model is resonating and providing value--which is why I think it's worth growing it.

I have a couple ideas for how to do it but would love some input and your opinions.

1.) A karma points model where your site is more likely to show up for review if you get others to sign up through a referral link or you submit more feedback for other website owners.

2.) After you receive 3 pieces of feedback, you have to provide another website owner with feedback to keep your website active on the site for another 3 pieces of feedback.

Do you have any thoughts on the two options above or have any other ideas for how this could work? I'd love to hear your input and thanks in advance!

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    A lot of people have tried this idea. In fact, I remember thinking, "Lots of people have tried this," almost 10 years ago. If lots of people have been trying something for years, yet nobody has succeeded, imo that's strong evidence that there's something fundamentally bad or at least difficult with the idea.

    For example, as @hatkyinc suggested, it's possible that requesting feedback is just too infrequent of a concern, which prevents you from ever reaching critical mass for this to be self-sustaining.

    I have some hypotheses as well:

    For example, perhaps you need to decouple giving and receiving feedback. Bartering/trading systems have a certain appeal that really resonates with people, but in theory, they're a step backwards. Human societies moved from trading to currency because money is fungible, and thus allows for more fluidity. Perhaps instead of trading feedback for feedback, people should be allowed to pay money to receive feedback and make money to give feedback. In fact, I believe that's how the biggest player in this space works (UserTesting.com).

    Another thought: What you have is a marketplace connecting feedback givers and receivers, and the canonical strategy for growing a marketplace is to prop up one side of it yourself. In your shoes, I'd prop up the feedback-giving side. Perhaps hire some professional feedback givers to always be present with high-quality feedback. That would make your site much faster and more reliable for people requesting feedback.

    Another hypothesis is that you might be focusing on the wrong set of customers. Again, look at UserTesting.com. Who are their customers? Are they serving indie hackers or more mature businesses? It's not necessarily the case that indie hackers have a better use-case for this type of service than more mature businesses do.

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      Thanks for the replies @csallen and @kayz0r!

      I definitely have to go through the list of prior examples you posted and better understand why they didn't end up working out. I think your assessment of the behavioral science behind the barter/trading system is accurate and something that I overlooked. I remember you mentioned UserTesting.com in an email too, and I agree that they have found a model that resonates, but I was hoping to take a more community-based approach with this idea. That said, I built and launched this quickly to test these hypotheses so I'm glad to be getting feedback like this. But I'll have to dive deeper into the user that this would really benefit and resonate with.

      Thanks for the food for thought!

    2. 1

      I second this.

      Actually below are the some platforms that tried this concept and stopped with the reasons why:

      http://www.criticue.com/ — often people seem to post the same generic one-liner to everyone. Seems it's gone now, has been offline for fairly long.

      http://feedbackroulette.com/ — has been shut down. One was supposed to get more feedback, if one gave more feedback. Didn't seem to work well though — for example, you get back useless one-liner after having spent 15 minutes reviewing for someone else and written a few paragraphs.

      http://www.conceptfeedback.com/ — has been shut down. People didn't help each other. Many posted spam.

      http://feedbackexchange.org/ — despite the name, doesn't work as a feedback exchange (as far as I can tell). Instead, people ask for help, without helping others back. The website staff sometimes reviews and give feedback though. — Seems it's gone now.

      Another evidence that the business model isn't great is https://usabilityhub.com (originally https://fivesecondtest.com). When they started, they used to allow users to give/receive feedback however they changed that later to pay per feedback similar to usertesting.com .

      The main problem I think is that 80% or more of businesses or event startups seems not to care about getting feedback in the first place.

      I think the only way this concept can work, if you make the feedback dead simple like A/B testing icons, logos or images. This way your platform might be engaging and dont require too much effort from testers to leave a written feedback for each website.

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        Just went through each of these and checked out the sites that are still in operation. This is really good info and I appreciate you sharing the links--I didn't even know about these prior to this, so it's helpful to see where they fell down. I think you're spot on.

        I also really like the idea for A/B testing icons/images/etc. But you might be more onto something that feedback may not be a huge priority for businesses of a certain size (although I think I fundamentally think that's bad for the businesses and not good practice...but that said, it's probably not worth spending the time to educate that part of the market).

        Thanks again for the feedback.

  2. 2

    Hi Yash,

    I think that, in theory, your idea is a cool one. Practically, I think it's a flawed one.

    @csallen has shown that the idea seems to have a long track record of failing. As a copywriter, I want to offer one explanation for this (at least from a messaging standpoint).

    One of the things businesses hire me to do is to help make their homepages and landing pages convert at a higher rate. If I'm going to be successful at that, I need to do some in-depth research on the competitors and their best customers.

    Then, I need to write the messaging that aligns with the pains and desires of that specific audience. So, when that product/service is presented to that specific audience, the page reads like it was written JUST for them. And then it performs well.

    But if I show that same page to anyone other than that specific audience, it wouldn't be well-received at all.

    Even though I only work on the messaging aspect of these pages, I imagine the design of these pages works in a similar fashion.

    Getting feedback from users on your homepage and landing page is extremely valuable. What's even more valuable than that?

    Getting feedback from users that you intend on marketing it to.

    Don't let me discourage you, though. If you can find a way to pair the targeted audience to the owner, then this idea will be an outstanding success.

    Just because others have failed to crack this code, doesn't mean you will.

    Good luck.

    -John

  3. 1

    Hi Yash,

    I believe products like yours are very good for specific niches. Over sites in early stages can have the time and willingness to give feedback in exchange of feedback but it's a hard balance outside of that niche. What is the value for users over the long term?

    One way to get more traction would be to look at the Glassdoor.com model where employees review companies and then companies are invited to claim their "profile" to be able to respond to the feedback.

    Is that something you would be willing to try? Let users leave feedback for other sites (including new sites themselves) and allowing owners of those sites to claim them? Just an idea of how other feedback loop sites tackle the problem

  4. 1

    Nice product idea!

    I'd go with 2:1 ratio or even 1:1. For every review I provide, I get one review from another owner.

    On a different note - I suggest you have a background job run every once in a while through all websites in the db and check for their availability. I played a little with the tool and got two sites that were down.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback on the background job and site availability! That's a good idea. I appreciate the input on the ratio for the give-and-take!

  5. 1

    Hi Yash, wow this is such a great concept and I will definitely be using https://explainmyproduct.com for future projects .

    Do you have plans to monetize your product and if so what path are you looking to take? It seems that you're catering to makers who generally submit their website for feedback and ways to iterate. This is a catch 22 if you're targeting businesses who are still in their infancy, the makers will give their input but might not have the skills of a say professional copywriter if they're just starting out.

    All the above points you mentioned seems like a good plan but it will only provide you with a slow growth rate unless you offered a direct incentive or re-assessed the intended target audience. I'm no expert but if I was to analyse your site as a user these are the questions I'm posing:

    1. Who is explaining my product? am I looking to get feedback from an industry expert or someone with the same issue as me.

    2. There are no categories, if I was to dedicate 10 minutes of my time to critique your site, I would want it to be from someone that has at least authority/experience from my industry. So my question is are the websites being critiqued by someone within that industry/field/experience? This is not to take away from the MVP of the "unbiased" opinion but to provide a maybe "best practice" solution that will get you a better result.

    1. 1

      Thanks, @Riva! The idea is that if your product can be explained by anyone without any context, then your website is doing a good job. So the people who are attempting at explaining your product are other website owners who also want feedback--which means that they may not be experts in the exact industry you are in.

      That said, I like your idea of the categories, and maybe this is something to consider. I think I need to digest all of the feedback I got above and figure out the next steps.

      I appreciate your input.

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    While there are huge difference, a module I know kinda works on this community base thing two sided, low skill, common interest... Is permablitz.

    The question is what's the minimum set of things you need in common for this to work.

    The suggestions I put are kinda based on stuff from there...

    Work before you gain.

    Work more than you gain in a partial weird way is not exactly accurate, cause when you do get you get more?..

    They have scarcity as well for contribution..

    And social phisical aspect.

    These are kinda gamification rules in a way..

    It could be that scarcity to be able to contribute+skew ration+work upfront is the formula, IDK.

    In scarcity I mean let's say a page requested can only actually be reviewed 3 times originally.

    So people wanting to activate the account need to be kina fighting over it, since there is more want to review than supply..

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    You have a problem of a really low usage product.

    Like you'd be luck if a user comes back every year for 3 iterations of their site..

    So you either need to pass a huge number chacem until you get a repeat usage pattern, or find a good supply of incoming new user that's stable/infinite...

    Or focus on a niche of higher activity users...

    I know this review my landing page from internet marketers that are way plentiful and have many high activity players... Like people that create many many pages...

    Should consider marketing to them...

    That's the bigger part I would think.

    For making it more usable and profitable I would consider ratios like tokens in arcade, like to imitate the account you first have to review 5 other sites (or pay), and maybe you only get 4 tokens? Or 2:1 or something, that needs a/b testing...

    Karma and such would promote some power users but they be few.. personally I'd delay that / lower priority, it's worth doing at some point but maybe passed say 10k users or more?

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      I think you are spot on here...I was finding, even with my paid user, that people treat feedback in sprints and good insight on the Karma points. I guess the higher user base would prevent the few power users you're talking about. Thanks for giving me some ideas to think about here and I appreciate the parallel with permablitz!