Paul May co-founded BuzzStream, a CRM for link building and PR/social media that allows online marketers to manage relationships and be more effective in getting results, be they links or press. He gave me the following two-part interview about the software creation and startup process.
I’d already interviewed Ann Smarty before about her creation of MyBlogGuest and her insights on iteration, usability and the startup process.
Have you used usability testing along the way? If so, what role has it played (share examples)?
I talk to at least two customers every day, so I’m always getting feedback…we conduct formal usability testing any time we launch a major feature. Our testing approach is based on Steve Krug’s usability testing methodology – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QckIzHC99Xc.
Here’s how we did it when we launched the new prospecting tool:
- We had ten people test the product. Four of these were people at agencies dedicated to link building, two were at large SEO agencies, and four were in-house link builders.
- We break testing up into two phases.
In our first phase we have the testers walk through a series of linked balsamiq mockups. The thing I love about using balsamiq mockups is that it’s great for identifying features you can cut before you get into code…when you see all the things that people stumble over and when they tell you which things they really care about, it makes it much easier to figure out the minimum viable feature-set.
The downside to balsamiq mockups is that they force the user through a specific workflow, so your visibility into the true user experience is limited. Given this, we use mockups with three or four testers and then move to working code.
- When we’re testing, we give the tester control over our screen and ask them to complete specific tasks to see how easily they can accomplish them. For the prospecting tool, our scenarios were:
1) Find prospects,
2) Evaluate prospects,
3) Add prospects to your account.
As they go through each step, we have them say everything that they’re thinking. This helps us identify spots where our language is confusing, our workflow is cumbersome, etc.
Two of the big takeaways from the usability testing for the prospecting tool:
1. Using language like “keywords” confused people and led to poor selection of prospecting phrases (people thought they should just enter the same keywords they’re trying to rank on).
Just changing the language to “prospecting searches” significantly changed the way people used the product.
[sidebar]More reading on usability you might like:
2. For the first release, people didn’t want or need a tool that automatically creates the prospecting phrases for them…
They just wanted to enter prospecting queries on their own and then let BuzzStream de-duplicate results and collect the data. This cut out a ton of development that we thought we needed in order to deliver a v1 product.
What lead you guys to integrate Twitter so tightly?
Initially because it scratched an itch that we had…we were engaging with people on twitter and people were talking about us there, but we had no way to leverage this. All these great things were happening there and if we had a history of it at our fingertips, we could build better outreach lists and engage more effectively…but it was as though the second after you tweeted someone or they tweeted about your company, the information would just scatter to the wind.
Do you have plans to integrate other social websites in the future? Digg? StumbleUpon? Facebook?
We’ve built a prototype for automatic discovery of blog comments, but we haven’t integrated it into the product yet….the truism with software is that you have to support anything you deliver and it’s much easier to add a feature than kill it, so we’re being careful here.
The next few months will be heavily weighted towards usability and UI features, and we’ll use that time to conduct some market research on social discovery features like this. I would love to hear thoughts from you and your readers about this. [Ed: I think this is valuable for the same reason as the Twitter integration, but also because it allows you to know who to work with when you need to promote something on those sites.]
Do you have grandfathered pricing?
Yes. We haven’t raised our prices, but we did change our pricing model.
In the past, each plan included a large number of users and a relatively small number of contacts and links. The overwhelming feedback we’ve gotten is that people needed more contacts and links. To meet the need we raised the number of contacts and links in each plan, but we also reduced the number of users in each plan.
For the vast majority of our current customers, this meant they got more links for the same price, but there were some customers that would have had to move to a more expensive plan to keep the same number of users. For them, we’ve grandfathered them into their current plan, but if they want to move to the new model, they’re able to do this at a significant discount.
Liked it? Check out Buzzstream today!