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Pound Takes
Ideas on Engineering Breakthrough Applications

The Complexity of ‘Simple’

When working with designers on anything, you’re guaranteed to get lots of input and direction regarding simplicity. I continue to be surprised by how much simplicity is a sought after trait by most of our clients when discussing their website and customer experiences. But, few people I’ve worked with can quantify simplicity or describe how it applies to their business.

Therein lies the complexity of simplicity—it’s difficult to achieve, and even more difficult to maintain as you move forward.
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The advantage of 1,000 customers

In this post, I make the case for paying little attention to anything else but landing your first 1,000 customers in a new venture. It may seem limiting, but it’s the right first step.

At Pound, when we’re helping a business launch a new web app, social network or other website-type of product, you’ll see and hear a mention of the first 1,000 customers in just about every meeting. The reason is, we centralize all plans around landing the first 1,000 customers—because that’s how we define early success in our projects.
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Launch Strategy: The First 1,000 Customers

Today kicks off a new series we’ll be writing over the next several weeks on acquiring your first 1,000 customers, and why it is the most important thing to be focused on. Of course, this writing is targeted at products and businesses who have yet to reach this milestone, as businesses who are post-1,000 should be focused on scaling and optimizing your business.

Why write about landing the first 1,000 customers? Because we believe it’s the most crucial first milestone in building a breakthrough business and reaching this milestone comes with significant benefits that speed up growth.
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Find Breakthrough Success Through Optimization

This post is about making constant and focused improvements on your product or business until you reach breakthrough success. Much like the storied tipping point, any wildly successful business or product optimizes continuously - sometimes in oblivion - until they find product/market fit.

Net Flix, Amazon and Facebook all found their breakthroughs over time. Their successes weren’t obvious bets going in, and I can guarantee you that there were many mistakes and trials that ended in various levels of failure along the way. How do companies and product teams stay focused and encouraged enough to grow their ideas into breakthroughs? The answer is some variation of focused trial-and-error; though it could be referred to as the feedback loop, profile before optimization, or a million other industry-specific terms.
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Use feedback to launch without risk

Reading Don’t launch this morning on On Startups inspired me to share a strategy for launching new products. This strategy fits extremely well with products and services that employ agile development teams, as they embrace feedback and change. Re-launching your product every two months is not something many businesses or development teams can stomach.
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Ingredients for a breakthrough

Breakthroughs are one of those things that are hard to define, but easy to spot when you see them. Like love, no one can agree on a definition, but we all know it when we experience it. For our purposes, we’ll assume that breakthroughs exceed user’s expectations in terms of design, engineering, and utility. In other words, the product is beautiful, useful and “just works.” Remember the first time you used Net Flix or Gmail?

If you’re in the business of developing applications or running a web business, your seeking breakthroughs.
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Lessons from five years of Basecamp

If you are involved with developing websites or applications, you know about Basecamp. Basecamp is a web-based project management tool sold as a service that helped inspire droves of design and development shops to launch their own attempts at developing subscription products. We’ve used Basecamp to organize our client communication for the majority of those years.

Basecamp turned five last week. On that day, their storied and successful history was summarized wonderfully by the founder of the product on their company blog. A few months of development, a willingness to launch a basic - some might say incomplete - product and a plethora of domain knowledge (they primarily built the product for themselves) has led to over 3,000,000 users within five years. All that in the face of dozens of free competitive offerings.
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Review: Get Satisfaction

Get Satisfaction is a user generated content and community site that offers customer support for products and websites by providing a neutral space for companies and customers to connect. Users search for a product or company to find existing solutions and suggestions in effort to solve your problem. If you are unable to find your issue already resolved, you can ask a question, make suggestions, report a problem or offer praise. Other consumers and product representatives can respond to your questions and comment on your suggestions. Users can also vote on new features to raise their popularity and visibility to companies.

By centralizing the knowledge bases and support centers of many companies, consumers are able to more quickly find them and aren’t required to learn a new interface for each company they wish to investigate. The content and community are a great way to investigate the company behind the product when researching upcoming purchases.
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Effective one page websites

Something I’ve always noticed and appreciated is an effective one-page product website. I’ve run across oodles of deep sites that couldn’t convince me to buy anything, yet I’ve often bumped into a simple, clear page that’s caused me to part with my cash within minutes.

This got me debating on why and when to use a one-pager and interested in finding a set of guidelines when creating one.

First off, I’ll concede that one-pagers are hard. Hard to pull off and even harder to convince a client or business manager to have the guts to commit to. Designing one- pagers is scary, because everything has to be perfect. Each item steals attention from the others, so every element and every word has to be scrutinized to ensure it supports the positioning and communicates the essence of the product.
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Release New Features Early and Often: Part II

In part I, I made the case for looking at features as having many releasable levels vs. just done or not-done. In this second part of the article, we’ll actually exercise the idea against an example to illustrate the nuances and benefits of this approach:

Imagine that a customer calls you to request the addition of search functionality to their case-study catalog. They sell rich content and research to academic customers; the easier the content is to find, the more they sell. She emails you a few links to some reference sites using similar functionality and sketches out how the results might appear. The result is the same if you iterate the design with them into a mature spec. You wind up with a detailed and all-encompassing vision of the new feature.

Once the end concept is relatively clear and both sides agree that the designed functionality has business value and is feasible, it’s time to look at this feature through a different lens. This neatly divides the robust feature into self-contained release levels, each resulting in value to the user or business.
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