We have certainly been overwhelmed by the supportive comments of friends in this case, but it was only our intention to start the conversation - not to collude on votes (I don't have enough friends for that :-) ).
We spent a lot of time on this article, and were particularly excited to get feedback on it from the HN community. Sorry if it has come across as anything different.
The larger issue, though, is the booster comments. Promotional votes at least don't do much visible damage, but promotional comments do, and after a few of them, the thread becomes unsalvageable. When friends or coworkers post booster comments, trying to sound like ordinary users who just happened to love the article, they mean well but are hurting both you and HN. They're hurting you because HN readers are highly sensitive to this, usually pick up on it, and then switch into attack mode. They'll make that the issue ("spamming", "manipulating", etc.) rather than your work. And it's bad for HN, obviously, because it degrades quality. Discussions here are supposed to be for intellectual curiosity, and booster comments are not interesting. And for this community to function, users need to be able to trust each other.
That said, if you genuinely want to participate in the community here, you're welcome! All of you are. This isn't the bannable spam kind of thing, it's a case of people doing interesting work but trying to plug it into HN the wrong way.
In terms of your article: (1) you should introduce yourself and your company at the beginning so readers can tell who you are and what you do. The discourse here is largely stateless, so each 'packet' has to come with identifying info. (2) We've learned over the years that the tutorial format ('step 1 do this, step 2 do that') is not a good fit for Hacker News. A good HN story gratifies the curiosity of a random smart reader; a good tutorial makes a task simple, but probably won't interest anyone who isn't trying to do that task. These are two different audiences, so the two formats work differently. A recipe is useful when you want to cook that dish, but not so good for general interest, so for HN, don't frame your material as a recipe, frame it as a story: "we needed to do X so we tried Y, had trouble because of Z, solved it with W, and oh by the way have some surprising details A, B, and C".
If you want to rework the article a bit and repost it, you'd be welcome to. It would be good to wait a week or two before doing that. You can email us at email@example.com and we might be able to give you a bit more feedback, and also make sure that the repost doesn't get flagged.
Edit: Two more thoughts for you popped into my head.
(1) You need to movitate the problem more. When I skim your article, it's about how to build a kind of widget; but what is this widget and what's its value? You hint at this with the term "interactive demo", but that's not enough to attract the reader. By jumping too quickly to how you did it, without first establishing what and why, you make the article's appeal smaller than it should be. Readers have an early warning radar system called "why should I care" and your article's success depends on registering some signal on that radar. You have perhaps two seconds to do that, i.e. two seconds after they click and before they close the tab. Don't resort to flashy design tricks or urgent language to get attention in those two seconds—readers are inured to all that and it backfires. You have to do it with something genuinely interesting.
What we tell YC startups all the time is: when addressing HN, you need to appeal to intellectual curiosity. It's easy to assume that people know what your widget or product or idea or company is, because you know what it is. But almost no one else does. That's the hugest mistake people make and the easiest to fall into. Instead, draw the reader in by talking about the problem you're solving and why that problem is important. Alternatively, you can draw them in with the 'just for fun' approach: "I wanted to do weird-thing- X. Why? Just because. And it turns out if you want to do weird-thing-X the first issue you encounter is Y." etc. But your article shouldn't take the just-for-fun approach because it targets an important problem... even though most people wouldn't notice, which is the next point:
(2) Your article buries the lead , i.e. it drops a mention of the Most Important Thing in an obscure place and never comes back to it. What you ought to do, of course, is put the Most Important Thing in first position. Here it is:
> a hugely positive impact on our conversion rate
Thousands of HN readers, the ones who are trying to increase their own conversion rates as well as others who are just interested in the question, perk up when they hear a claim like that. Of course they will also perk up their skepticism—but that's good if you can back it up. So if that's what your widget has gotten you, you can 10x your article's appeal by leading with that and working your way backward from there. Eventually you can get into the how part, and by then, readers will be drawn in enough to want those interesting technical details. But don't present them in recipe format (1, 2, 3). Frame it as a story, as explained above.
Great point about us "burying the lead" and needing to hook the user in the first 2 seconds.
After our current sprint I'll take a couple of days to see if I can rework it a little. Really appreciate your guidance on this. Will ping you an email when I have something.
Which support tool. Which analytics tool. Which AB testing tool. Which wizard tool. bla bla bla.
Back to basics. I'll get my coding hat on and actually make an effort. Nice work. Will try this one myself next time I need a wizard.
How did you measure the effectiveness of having the walkthrough on the front-page? Did you (or did you think about) hooking this up to some analytics? Perhaps see where people tend to drop-off?
As for its effectiveness, this is always a bit tricky for SaaS, not least because the consideration stage tends to be quite long and people flick between devices, which makes attribution a bit of a nightmare. We’ve done some pretty obvious stuff, like comparing our sign up rates before and after adding the demo / recording whether people who sign up have done it etc, which is useful to know - though not always accurate.
More anecdotally, we spend a lot of time speaking with users and visitors and the demo comes up surprisingly frequently (including how we made it, which is why we wrote the post!) - it’s been a pretty quick, straight forward way of showcase Trevor’s interface.
Shortly, we’ll be adding several new steps that demo features that are commonly used by our existing customers.
Any thoughts about what else we might do / how others measure success?
However, as others already wrote: Although I'm all for VanillaJS (if JS is even needed in the first place), I dig the simplicity of how it's coded. Very minimal and extremely easy to adapt and set up. Most work is probably figuring out what the optimal flow through an app is to showcase the most important features to convert users. That's why we have marketing people - they do wonders explaining our ideas to others :)
I'm currently working on a project with seven of my students and saved it as a bookmark for later (we have to present our result to lots of people at the end)
Most of all, to see the thought process played out is really important. This article would make great reading for juniors to help see how more experienced people solve problems. Particularly as it is not a patronising 'tutorial' (draw three circles, then draw an owl) but working through a clear scenario.