Fresh off the release of our first app, let’s get back down to the business of testing. This is the continuation of our real-time experiment, Testing the Muse in Practice (Part 8).
If you can’t tell, I’m eager to get moving on this. Admittedly (and purposefully), I’ve drawn out this process for the sake of the blog, so that I can document and share with you the various steps and phases as I move through testing.
But “real-time” could’ve just as easily been one month to realistically move from idea to testing. This is evidenced by my work on the Dogs of the Dow App that took place from late August to September. True, development took several months, but to come up with the idea and prove it on the market was swift.
This is not a race – against yourself or anyone else – but consider this: the faster you can create and validate products, the quicker you can either eliminate poor ideas to focus on better opportunities, and/or the quicker you can get good ideas on the market (earning you income).
As the saying goes:
“Money loves Speed”
I’ve read this several times over the years and didn’t fully grasp or understand what that phrase meant – until only recently, when putting it in the context of Testing the Muse and validating your business ideas.
Mock-up Screenshots are Ready
Over the past few weeks, we’ve had some mock-up screenshots made using fantastic freelancers on Fiverr. 99designs is a great option as well, particularly if you’re looking to present a higher quality first impression.
First, you need to understand what your product does and the various functions and results a user might gain from using it – this was covered pretty extensively in Part 7 of our series here. With screenshots, or any product mock-up, this is your opportunity to SHOW these features and how it works. It needs to make sense, there has to be a progression, and it never hurts if it looks good too.
My approach is to put forward a Minimum Viable Product – not at the expense of aesthetics, but in this instance, I’m more interested in determining if others have this Problem, and if what I’m presenting is a viable Solution to them.
Although the marketing (e.g. website and advertising) should describe the customer benefits, the screenshots layout the user experience – outlining the product functionality and process of using the tool.
How did I decide what I wanted my app to look like (if it doesn’t exist yet)? I didn’t. I simply researched existing apps that were related, popular and somewhat attractive (based on personal opinion), and looked for screenshots that could be tweaked, to mimic our product’s functionality.
As a result, here are a couple examples (before/originals & after/mock-ups):
If /when it comes time to build-out this app, it wouldn’t look exactly like these mock-ups. Even the freelance graphic designer noted “The current design is not so attractive, first of all I want to improve the design then proceed, should I?” – which made me laugh, but I also loved, because it was proactive and showed initiative. But, for all intents and purposes, they’ll do the trick.
These screenshots will be front and center when building our product’s website.
Building a Simple Website and Sales Page
Often you’ll hear people speak of creating a “Sales Page” or “Squeeze Page”, which years ago I would find confusing. In my own words, I would describe the term as an oversimplification of (a) building a minimal website, (b) that’s primary purpose is to “funnel” the user into taking an action – i.e. either buying a product (the sale) or providing an email address (an opt-in or lead capture).
Although technically all you may need is a one-pager site to muse test, I prefer to build it out, to tell a story, to give the appearance that there is more to the product/company than simply a request for an email address.
I’m not likely to buy from a website clearly designed to make the visitor do one thing; I’d want to option of knowing more – give me the story, the details of the product, the team behind it, or a way to contact the site owner.
A general rule of thumb: don’t create something you wouldn’t personally support, enjoy, or use yourself.
Now, DO NOT be put-off or intimidated by the idea of building your own website.
I don’t have any experience with programming or coding. I know minimal HTML, primarily as it relates to inserting links and I’ve come to learn a little bit of CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) simply by trial and error when trying to customize the design look of existing templates.
But honestly – these days – it’s both cheap and easy, if you have the right tools. I personally use Weebly to build my simple websites, because it’s a super easy drag-and-drop WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. It provides over 100 templates, and all you have to do is drop in where you want pictures, text, titles, etc.
Once you build one site, you’ve got the hang of it. It can actually become quite addictive! I have over 9 websites published through Weebly, so I’ve opted for their paid hosting package.
Now, if you’re really averse to trying it on your own, you can always outsource it using a recommended resource like Elance.
Typically, I too would seek to leverage someone else’s talents, in order to save time on something I’m not thrilled about doing myself. But with building your own website(s), this is a valuable skill to learn and would recommend you attempt on your own first before seeking outside help. For me, Weebly made that learning process easy.
A tutorial could be created for any one of the following steps (and likely already has been by someone else), so to save time and space, I have outlined them here as high-level steps, in chronological order. If any reader would like additional information on any one of these steps in the process, comment on this post or contact me directly.
Steps to Set-up Your Website
- Register the domain with a hosting service, such as 1and1 Internet – discussed here;
- Start with a free website at Weebly – choose one of their templates and begin entering your sales content, such as features, benefits, and calls-to-action – discussed here. Drag-and-drop the necessary elements to build your site – titles, images, text boxes, contact forms, etc. See my Dogs of the Dow App website for a sample of how this could look, or visit some of your favorite websites and mimic their layout.
- Input your logo, icons, buttons, and any mock-ups or product pictures to add visual interest to your site;
- Under “Settings”, enter your targeted keywords – discussed here, and enter a description for your website – this is the text that appears on the search engine results.
- Add a Contact Us page, and ensure it directs messages to your personal email account – easily done by adding your email under the Contact Form settings. Don’t worry, website visitors don’t see where these messages get sent, so they don’t see your personal email address. There’s no need to set up a dedicated email address for your domain at this time.
- Ensure your calls-to-action, buy now, download buttons, etc. lead to the appropriate sales pages for dry testing (see below).
- Before you publish your site live, set up an account with Google Analytics (free). Google Analytics will allow you track all aspects of visitors to your site – from country of origin, to device used, to which pages they visited and for how long. The wealth of data is astounding.
The key data we want to track at this point is “conversions” – defined here as visitors to the website who click through to a final “sales page”. Since we’re not just testing market interest, but also testing the number of interested Apple users compared to Android users, it’s ideal to set up two separate conversion goals – to compare and contrast both rates of conversion.
Dry Testing Using Your Sales Page
When building your website, this step is the most important element of the entire Testing the Muse process. So much so that I already wrote a detailed eBook on this topic – which will be released later this year.
In the meantime, here’s the Coles Notes for this project:
- Link all of your “Buy Now”, “Download Here” or other calls-to-action to your mock sales page(s).
- If a user clicks to “Buy Now”, and arrives at your mock sales page, this tests whether or not a customer will spend money on your product or service – because they actually tried to do so. This process essentially takes the potential customers through the process of purchasing your product or service – which actually doesn’t yet exist.
- Your mock sales page is simply a page which says “This [product or service] is currently unavailable” or that it’s “on back-order” or something to that effect. Apologize for the inconvenience, and allow them to leave their email so they can be contacted when it’s ready for purchase.
- These potential customers do not input their financial details and will not have to do so – they will simply (hopefully) wait patiently until the product or service they want is available.
Remember, you’re not charging anyone money, or asking for anyone’s personal or payment details, for something that doesn’t exist. That would be illegal. Don’t even think of doing it.
If you have a project or cause that requires upfront financing and/or you’re convinced people would support and put their money behind it (even before it’s materialized), Kickstarter is the perfect alternative.
We are simply tracking the number of visitors who move through the purchasing process, giving the visitors an opportunity to be notified when our product is available, by allowing them to leave their email.
To be clear, people who go through the process to the end are interested prospects, but those who leave their email address are very interested in buying your product. Do not betray that trust by selling, spamming or otherwise misusing their email address. It was entrusted to you for the expressed purpose of notifying them specifically for this product (if/when it ever materializes).
These are your potential first customers – treat them as if they just walked in to your brand new store during the Grand Opening.
For many of you, this may be the first time you’ve ever had a “customer” or someone who wants to pay you for what you’re offering. This is a transformational moment, where things get real.
The next steps forward for this project are: finalize website, initiate testing phase (advertise offering), tally and report on results.
Following these final steps will provide us with the information we need to either (a) begin developing the app, due to measured market interest; (b) abandon the concept, due to lack of market interest; or (c) consider tweaking the product offering and retesting, or seeking another means to capitalize on the work completed to-date.
Key Resources Mentioned: