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Ask HN: Page99Test.com - Would you submit to YC?
42 points by LanceJones on Oct 26, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments
After 10 weeks of very hard work for 3 co-founders and after reading literally hundreds of posts on HN about launching a new idea (and how to do it right), our site Page99Test.com is [hopefully] ready for prime time. It launches in earnest today, October 26th, and I am very excited to first present it to this community.

It's a very simple (and we hear eye-catching) website that lets new and established writers get immediate, unbiased feedback from readers on their published books and unpublished manuscripts -- all based on a single page (99!).

Other websites you already know about or have likely used that offer a similar 'rate your first impression' experience in different industries include Dribbble.com for graphic design, FiveSecondTest.com for home pages, and HotOrNot.com for photos of people (not so much anymore, but you get the idea).

We've been debating whether or not to submit a YC application, mainly because we're not sure about whether the idea is truly 'big enough' -- and what our eventual revenue model will be. We're hoping to get some feedback here to settle our little internal debate.

Thanks in advance for checking out our labor of love. And thanks for sharing all your tips on how to make it as an entrepreneur.

Lance




I also agree with a few others. The fact that I clicked 'start reading' and then got a login / sign up window appear - I instantly just shut the page down. It really needs some form of demo for me to see what I will experience before signing up.

An even better model would be to allow anyone to read, but limit only registered users to be able to comment or rate. Allowing any visitor to browse and read pages.

Although ultimately to get initial traction / users perhaps remove the need to login at all unless you are submitting your work.

You speak of monetization and I would imagine the obvious routes would be through affiliate schemes with the eventual book publishers or 'premium' services for book publishers that want their book to get 'tested' by the most people / essentially top of the list.

With both of those options there is no requirement for a typical 'visitor' who is reading / ranking books to have to register or login at all.


Yeah, the landing page sold me on clicking "start reading", but was sorely disappointed after I clicked. Too much friction just to read a page. To your point about limiting anonymous access in order to create a community like HN. HN doesn't require an account for reading. You are more likely to convert users if you allow some kind of anonymous access.


good work, lance & co.

a couple initial thoughts:

-fivesecondtest was the first thing that came to mind when i checked it out (before reading your blurb) so glad to see you guys aware of the market.

-as opposed to "rating" initial impressions, i'd focus on the oft-used phrase, "initial impressions mean everything" as a part of the pitch.

-is there any way to delay the signup proces for after an initial look? i think a number of people who would otherwise be willing to check it out are turned off by having to sign up for another site off the bat (and i imagine a number of the HN community would agree with the sentiment)

-i think goodreads & lulu would provide great opportunities to leverage their existing communities...maybe future partnership with the latter?

hope that helps!

-adam


Great ideas and feedback! Thank you so much.

Regarding the sign-in... because we're building a community of readers and writers who are really only interested in giving or getting feedback, we want to ensure that users are committed to having an identity on the site -- which at a minimum requires a display name and an email address.

Same goes for almost any popular blog -- and HN and Twitter... you cannot post or submit comments without providing a few key personal details. We do like the common suggestion here that perhaps we can implement a 'gradual engagement' model, whereby people can read a few pages without rating them.

Thanks again.


I really love the idea (and the execution!), but I'm afraid I have to agree with the GP on this one small point.

Your product isn't your website, although at the moment you may feel it is. Your product is the people who are going to spend their time to do these tests. The harder you make it for them to achieve that, the less "product" you have to sell.

Your website is going to need the network effect of many viewers to make it worth people signing up to submit their work. I don't think you can achieve that with a signup for people just wanting to check it out. You're going to get a lot of traffic from twitter, facebook and other social networks, and those people aren't going to sign up just to "check it out".

To put that in perspective, our two biggest regular referrers for Fivesecondtest.com (other than the occasional article write up) are Facebook and Twitter (around 25-30% of traffic). Yet both combined account for less than 6% of our signups. That's a lot of traffic that participate but have no intention of signing up. Of course, we may be missing an opportunity there :)

The worst thing you can have is a situation where you have more tests than you have testers. We've been keeping an eye on ClueApp (a direct copy of Fivesecondtest.com) and they suck at this. Unless you tweet your test, you can except to get zero results (and most people won't do this). The biggest challenge you face is ensuring you have enough people doing tests to cover the expected results. The first time a writer gets "zero" feedback after 24 hours, they're gone never to return.

Aside from that, my main issue is that you have this big green call to action that says, "start reading", and I have this expectation that I'm going to jump right in. So I'm excited and ready to go; instead I'm shown that this is an exclusive club that I need to be a member of. I'm not that committed. Ctrl+w.

Otherwise, love it!


I agree, having a demo or some sort of sampler would be great. Even something simple like being able to click on the thumbnail to get an enlarged pic.


agree


Why are you debating about applying?

Just apply if you don't get accepted then you know that YC isn't interested, maybe someone else is.

Feedback: Why do I need to sign up to start reading? The page IS stunning, but it takes a long time to load. Instead of a feedback form, have you considered just having a next page button?


ood point. We just missed the deadline for W2010, but there is always the next round -- and we'll be that much farther along in the development of our site and business.

The site was designed primarily as a reader feedback mechanism (not simply reading -- which for one page just isn't that fun), and we want to ensure that people who provide feedback are committed to having an identity on the site -- which at a minimum requires a display name and an email address. Same goes for HN and Twitter... you cannot post without an account. Just like those communities, we want to know who is part of our community.

Thanks for taking time to respond here!


I have to give kudos to your designer. This is probably the most well-executed web design I've seen on YC in the short time I've been participating. I like all the small details. And the overall feel is the warmth of a book, something that I think it really hard to execute on a digital medium without being cheesy.

One tiny thing: On the sign up overlay, the input box margins seem tighter on the right than the rest. This is what I mean: http://i.imgur.com/iD8TL.png I wouldn't be so particular if I didn't think the rest of the wasn't already looking so good.

It'd also be nice (though not overly essential) if the logos denoting where you were mentioned were clickable so that I could read the writeups.

Otherwise, great work and I wish your team success.


Fantastic suggestions, and I am very excited to share your feedback with our outsourced designer -- Worry Free Labs (http://worryfreelabs.com/).

Best regards, Lance


I like the page: the design is cut and the idea is intresting but you have to let people read the pages 99 without registering. This is what happends to me: I read the idea and I like it so I say, ok, fun I will read, I click on read the register modal appear and I close everything. The idea is great but no so importan in anyones life to take a register, but if I had already read the page 99 and I it´s vote time, then yes, I will register, I had invested some time on your page and I like or not a page 99, I want to share that experience, that´s my motivation for registering, without reading any page 99 I don´t have any motivation, so I close.

Regards


The thing that bugs me is the "As Written About By.." bit. This is more for any site that does it and not yours in particular. But it just has a bunch of logos there, I can't read what they said about it either. You could put any logo there you want and I wouldn't be able to verify it. I checked for a testimonials sorta page but there didn't seem to be one either.

Just a personal annoyance since I've seen a lot of sites do it, just show a bunch of logos, or link to the homepage (say of the Guardian) without letting me read the review.


We agree... and we haven't linked those logos simply because we're worried about link breakage.


So link to a page on your site showing a screenshot of the article, or copy/paste it and link to the original with a caveat that the link may break, or something. Don't be held back by something as trivial as fear of link breakage.


This site is impressive, and through following your posts and progress you definitely are committed. However, I don't think there's any way to find out if you're yc-worthy without applying. I don't mean that in the sense of the truism "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take" but rather: none of us are as familiar with the application pruning process as pg et al. They look at thousands, and as legend has it, can spot an interesting team within minutes.

The founders themselves are said to be what yc invests in, primarily, and not the idea. We'd probably need to know a bit more or see a video to give you any sort of sensible answerhatTIehat being said, if I were you, I'd apply if it seemed that yc was a good fit. If anything, the application process helps you learn and internalize things about yourselves and what you have to offer.

One last thing about the "big idea" and monitization aspect. Most yc funded things tend to be quite niche, and the vast majority aren't making money when they apply. It's my personal take that determining an audience, how to best pitch to them, and how to profit, are some of the core things that yc offers, in addition to all that fund raising stuff. If your company lacks these things, it seems like a good idea to apply. And demo day couldn't hurt, either ;)

Congrats and good luck! Keep us all updated.


Beautiful site.

Unfortunately, the background took 45 seconds to download on a slowish DSL connection, and was very distracting as it progressively loaded. That's not surprising, considering that the PNG is 3MB. You can definitely improve the responsiveness here.

I like the concept quite a bit, but wonder how useful it will be if used according to the "page 99 rule." Unless you're wanting sentence or paragraph level evaluation I'm not sure that the feedback would be all that helpful. By page 99, any fuller evaluation would depend on knowing the contents of pages 1-98.

For instance, a reader sees page 99 full of things like "Thou art a despicable knave, wench!" Reader sends feedback saying, "The language is really awkward, even for a Tolkienesque fantasy." What the reader missed, though, is that page 99 is part of the school play written by a DnD fanatic teacher and is absolutely hilarious in context.

I'm definitely not writing off the concept, but would hope that there is a way to add more context to the page.

Also, the domain bugs me a bit. Is page99.com available? Seems more memorable and less spammy to me.


We wish that domain was available!

Your point about context is well-taken, but it seems to work well for Dribbble -- which I find very difficult (personally) to use because I desperately want to see the expanded view. :-)

We do plan to provide writers with the option to upload a full chapter, which helps address the context problem.

Asking writers to upload a synopsis is challenging because we've learned that most won't do it. So for this phase of our site, it's all about first impressions -- completely out of context -- and having some fun with what writers upload.


Heres the trick to the background: create a small portion, maybe 150px by 150px, and tile it. Simple :)


And use JPG rather than PNG--the compression is designed for stuff like this.


Agreed! And we're on it.


Looks great.

However, the login/registration does not allow the '+' symbol in email addresses.


Nor does it allow e-mail addresses from domains ending in ".name" (like mine).


> mainly because we're not sure about whether the idea is truly 'big enough' -- and what our eventual revenue model will be.

Don't worry about whether it's big enough. That's YC's job (as shitmydadsays said: Let women figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them)

As far as rev model goes. At worst affiliate links and adverts, at best a paid service; authors at all levels enjoy feedback. They'll pay for it if you can provide it.


IMHO Ycombinator seems to be very founder centric. Tell us a little bit more about yourselves to see if it makes sense to submit to YC. We applied in YC 2010 Fall. Did you look at the questions they ask? eg. how long have the founders known each other, what other projects have they worked on. Interesting stories. If I read PG correctly these seem to be more important that the idea itself. Nice site BTW!



Have you checked out the legal implications for unpublished manuscripts ? - often publishers have specific clause saying that no-part of the manuscript may have previously made available to the public. Given you're only showing one page, it probably won't matter too much, but it might be worth investigating.


We have to some extent... we're relying largely on the legal owner of the book/manuscript copyright to upload a page. We (the co-founders) have uploaded several page 99s from classic books, but only for those that are actually out of copyright.

Thanks for your feedback!


I meant in the context that if an author uploads a page to your site, they'll need to declare that they've done so to any publishers they approach.

Standard contracts in publishing often tend to say something along the lines of "the author confirms that no part of this manuscript has been previously been made available to members of the public", presumably if a page has been uploaded to your site they may not be able to make such a declaration.


Lance, the design looks great but as others mentioned before me, it takes a very long time for the background to load. Also there should be more of a demo before signup (that's something we also had to learn with our project)

BTW I tried to signup on the site and it wouldn't work (I'm using the newest Chrome on a Mac)


Thanks for mentioning the technical issue -- our database was being grumpy twice last night. Should be sorted now.

We agree with you about the background image and we'll get to work on improving that.

And as for the demo, we have that near the top of our list.

Thanks for writing!


i think its amazing, i love the name, with the quote that compliments it, the design and the idea is unique and catchy, and with 3 co-founders, i think y combinator will love you, they hate single founders, you see, definately apply.

p.s. theres a huge market for authors on the web, as to what ive seen anway


I love everything about it: concept, design, execution. The only thing that really bothers me is the domain.


I think it's the Test in the domain name that throws me off a bit. Great idea/design/site otherwise!


in a way i agree and disagree with you, i think the name kind of says what the web app deos, but at the same time its looks spammy, personally i dont like to use numbers for app names, i dont know maybe im wrong.


Tell that to the folks at 37signals.com. :-) Seriously though, we did consider your point prior to purchasing the domain name, but we liked how literal it is.

Thanks for your feedback! Lance, Co-founder Page99Test.com


Have you considered registering p99t.com and p99test.com as well as nice shortcuts? Both are available.


What about '99th page'? 99thpage.com doesn't appear to be taken.


I don't have a bias against companies with numbers in their name.

TheSixtyOne is a site I used to use a lot.

I have a lot of respect for Core77.

ONE is certainly a well known non-for-profit.

Personally, I like the name. It has an interesting rational.


Great idea and killer design, to say to least.


surprisingly great

some thoughts

-Larger fonts would be nice

-request sign up after reading say three pages

-perhaps you could monetize by partnering with self publishers/d.i.y ebook services

-I think this month is national novel writing month- go to their forums and promote

Thanks for creating a good service




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