Death to the stock Photo

On The future of SAAS websites.

with Shaun Singh


Written Q&A︎

Why did you decide to redesign the site?

We’ve always felts it’s important to keep reinventing yourself. We’ve found in the past we underestimated just how quickly our target customers and market were changing.

I think we all still can’t get our head around just how big and fluid the internet really is, but that’s another chat :)

We became too focused on the users we have and less on those we don’t, and we saw this in our metrics. A website is not for your best customers. Its for the new and excited potential customers who are searching for you. The goal was to craft an amazing first mile of our product, and it all started with the website.

What do you wish you knew before starting this project?

I still learned many things the hard way. Hopefully, I may be able to save you some time. Understand there are no silver bullets.  Most know this in businesses, but with all the books on sites we have been lulled into knowing what to do, there is too much “Website checklist” type content floating around, ignore that noise. You have to do the hard work of understanding your customers as the founder.

Advice to myself before doing this project:

  1. Our natural human tendencies over-rule everything. (Wanting to look good, preserving our possible options, wanting to be recognized and get status, avoiding difficult decisions....) so design with this in mind. Don’t think your prospective customers are above this. Nobody is. We all need to be pulled beyond our primal tendencies first.
  2. Understand your strong bias on what you think is important. List your hypothesis on what you think is needed to build a great site, but talk to customers to establish them as fact. You will be wrong 70% of time, and that’s ok.
  3. Interview a minimum of 33 customers before designing or writing any copy. 10 recently signed up. 10 recently churned. 10 that have been with you for 1-2 years and heavy users. 3 that love you (try do this last to bring it all together) - it’s hard work and you think you can just send a survey, but nothing beats a good friendly conversation.
  4. Design for your community not for other designers. They have not seen the data or research so they will not understand. But use them for keeping your aesthetic in check.
  5. Don’t fall into the “we’ll just test that when live” trap. Do the work and interview people. Otherwise it’s lazy design. Make tough decisions, because  it’s all reversible anyways. 

Tell me about a few tools or resources that you used in your project.

Full story - Killer website analytics and user segments, but can then watch the videos of them experience your web project and even contact them if you want to follow up.

Figma - Amazing collaboration tool for everyone involved. Perfect for a remote team.  

Fomo - Let people know they are not alone on your site. No one likes feeling alone.

Intercom - Best communication tool handsdown. Do fun things with custom bots. Also great in segmenting the 33 customers based on product behaviour ie. Engagement, pricing plans etc.

What is your philosophy for building products?

Start with first principle thinking and do the hard work in talking to people. Don’t just skip to “industry standards” you may miss your magic, while you may be the director this movie, remember you also represent your audience’s taste. Don’t isolate yourself from them, and keep them in the loop. Test ideas with them. Being community focused will keep you in check and remind you real humans need find value in what you are building.

“If you can truly answer the question “What Are You Willing to Be Bad At?” you’ll move soooo much faster.”

What does the future look like if you were to rebuild this project in 3 years?

Fun question! Of course I would start with the 33 customers first to check in and see who we are serving at that time. But websites are evolving fast, especially as social becomes more action focused ex: IG offering buttons on profiles for buying Tickets, ordering food through select restaurants, booking appointments, making reservations at a restaurant, and now there solo shopping app. I think we will see further shifts to action and doing stuff. This will kill a lot of the need for website but more interestly, people's expectations when they visit a site...  

Most story-tellers know the rule SHOW>TELL.

Telling or explaining is less effective. But I see the next evolution of this as DO>SHOW>TELL. If you are leaning on TELL too much you may need to edit or research more. Having to explain your product is the least effective way to engage people. One step better than explaining is SHOWING. The advent of animations and graphics that demonstrate how something is done. But the absolute best first move for a web experience is DOING things. This is where I would like to start next time. Maybe let visitors just use our product and do cool shit from the go, get a taste then the general info comes.

no agenda. Los Angeles, Calif.  Tune in. 11 PST Friday.