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Bootstrapped. 10 Months. Learned Rails. Finally Launched. Feedback Please? (compversions.com)
50 points by marcamillion on April 18, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 58 comments

Stuff I like:

-The semi-transparent chameleon is clever

-The pricing section is well-designed

-Product looks simple and easy-to-use

Stuff to consider:

-Try making the chameleon 50%-75% smaller. It distracts from the content.

-I would eliminate the "Sign up with Huey" hoverstate. My first question was literally, who is Huey? I now know it's the name of a plan. If you leave it, the default plan should be Iguana, the recommended plan, and not the most expensive one.

-Currently the product comes across as too generic. Add a few more screenshots and use-cases to show off the uniqueness of your product.

-The support and sign-in buttons are too transparent. To draw attention to them, they should probably less transparent and have a solid text color.

-The product may be too barebones for the prices you are selling at. Try adding more features like voting for the best version, adding annotations, etc...

Thanks for the feedback.

Huey is actually the name of the chameleon - but I guess that doesn't quite articulate that. Will have to find another way to do that.

Huey is also the name of a plan, so I can see how that causes confusion.

In terms of the price, I am not really selling on features - yet - but more on the benefit. I used to have this problem - i.e. managing multiple designers, with stakeholders all over the world - and I would have paid those prices to solve that problem.

That being said, I do intend to possibly add cheaper plans in the future - but I need to get the core problem solve and get some real customer feedback from paying customers.

Also, given that it is just me right now, I can't realistically support a ton of users - so we will see how it goes.

Btw, re: the design of the marketing site. Was done by: http://fairheadcreative.com/ and the UI design was done by: http://www.andreeblixt.com/ Both awesome designers.

Huey was obvious to me, and I thought it was clever.

The pricing looks like it's based on the idea that, since designers and agencies are earning boatloads of money anyway, taking just a tiny slice of that money shouldn't faze them, even if that tiny slice amounts to $100/month. I think you'll run into a lot of potential users who will question the fairness of paying that amount of money for what is in essence an image viewer, and refuse to buy even if they could easily afford it and clearly see its usefulness.

That criticism is very valid, and if I do find that happening - then I will definitely have to re-evaluate my value proposition.

The main issue was that I know in my mind, what my revenue targets are - and I figure it might be easier/better to reach those with fewer users (mainly because it is just me right now, and I can't support TOO many users) and be better able to support those, than to try and get more users and everybody's support suffers.

I also thought what would be fair for me to pay - in my previous jobs, for this service and that is reflected in the price. Had I been doing what I used to do, I would pay these rates.

However, if the feedback is overwhelming that the price is too high, then I will definitely re-evaluate it.


I appreciate your candor about pricing. I am going through a similar problem and came to the same conclusions that you did. It would be interesting to see statistics regarding the prices that you charge and if you increase/decrease them. Also, when you do get paying customers, what percentage of customers are in each pricing plan.

Just an idea, why not also have a free 1 client, 100mb account?

I would think that this should get you some good user feed-back (past a 7 day usage pattern), and also eventually force users to pay up as they get more comfortable with your app.

I fought with this, to be honest. I know it can get more people into the funnel. I guess the issue I was afraid of - and decided to try and mitigate - is having to support a ton of free users, when I really need to get revenue coming in through the door.

Once things settle down and I have a nice core set of paid users, then I might consider doing that.

Who knows...this is just the first step, so expect lots of iterations from here on out :)

My professor once said something to the effect of "You sell something for free when you're combating the anxiety of loss. You don't go free to compete on price." I guess one thing you have to ask yourself is if your customers aren't coming because they're afraid of losing something, even with the 7 day free trial. I don't necessarily think you need a free version. Also, it's easy to decrease prices but difficult to go up.

I agree with some of the other posts that suggest you should add some more illustrations of what the product does. Sitting in my armchair I don't see the difference between this and a flickr album besides being able to post 4 pictures side by side. I'm not your target audience though so I don't know what problems your customer segment has.

I agree with the sentiments of your professor :)

I think I will definitely be adding some more illustrations and such.

The difference between this and a flickr album is that this is made specifically to get feedback from clients - whereas flickr is made to display images.

Sure, they both display images - but both have different purposes.

You understood what I was getting at. I would have offered the free plan to get the app polished (post 7 day usage pattern I described) but if your not exactly ready to field support issues that flood in, it could hurt a tiny bit.

Can't wait to see how this thing grows though!

Thanks. So do I :)

P.S. Any twitter love or anything you can do to assist, would be of great benefit :)

My original tweet is here: http://twitter.com/#!/marcgayle/status/60074007638179841 but a more descriptive version is here: http://twitter.com/#!/layerphase/status/60114383874965504


Good idea, and look well-executed.

I would add more images and examples of the application in use.

Also, choose more relevant examples... the only one I see is a comparison between the same image with color changes. Show something like a whole website project from early stage (sketched mockups) to later stages (details in coloring and font choices, or whatever).

Also, IMHO, the copy should focus more on the benefits for the designer (get better feedback faster, more often) than on the benefits for the client ("Save your clients the hassle of resizing browser windows, or printing...")

This is a great looking app and site, especially if you were learning as you went.

Good luck! Adriano

Thanks very much. It's been a whirlwind trying to get this out the door. Now that I have done that, I can take a step back and focus on the finer things, like copy, etc.

I really appreciate the feedback and that makes total sense. I was trying to get that with the headline: "Designers: Get feedback. Simply."

Is that what you got from it ?

Sir Marc, Great to see compV is launched. Congrats on that feat. Love the design. I'm also feeling Huey.

My 2 cents: A video demo would do wonders. You can show persons exactly what Compversions does.

I agree with charging for it, up front. But if that's the case, show people what they are paying for(video).

The index/imdex seemed a tad bit confusing, im sure there's a better way to handle it.

Edit: Spelling

Thanks for the feedback Rory.

Fully agree about a video demo. This is an MVP, if you will...so lots of good stuff in the months ahead.

Re the imdex issue, addressed it another comment - see here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2460771

Congrats Marc. Really glad to see to see compversions launched. Beautiful design. Played with the app, really great; Especially the UX (it's terribly simple and straightforward)

Thanks Emil.

Really nice design.

Not that it matters but your index is an imdex.html :)

joakin....ahh you noticed :)

That was by design. A little hack to get the behavior I wanted out of Rails. Rather than doing something else like 'marketing.html' or whatever, I tried to stay as close to the default as possible :)

I'll bite with a few guesses. What are you getting around with this routing hack?

Assuming you are using Devise with the conventional HomeController, and 'root :to => "home#index"' you shouldn't have to bother with faking a resource in the url. From your /login page, your logo links to /home/index anyways. All the hashtags/anchor tags should work. I've not had a problem with it myself.

The headers for /index.html return the same 404 resource as /adjhasdkj123123, so I'm rather curious. Teach me something. :)

The main issue was that I didn't want the user to just see compversions.com/home/index when they are logged in.

I wanted them to see compversions.com.

If I have index.html - as far as I found anyway - in my public directory, all requests to compversions.com (logged in or not) will either redirect to compversions/home/index or compversions.com/index.html.

So, as far as my research told me at the time (remember I am just learning Rails still, so I could be wrong anyway) was that if I wanted logged in users to see compversions.com when they are logged in and on the root_path, there couldn't be a index.html, otherwise Rails routing would default to index.html.

Take a look at high voltage -


This looks interesting, but not sure it will do what I need - which is having Rails re-route requests to index.html or root_path based on if they are logged in or not...or am I missing something ?

Doesn't solve your problem directly, but it's a nice way to have static pages in your app in a manageable way.

You'd want to do something along the lines of what they show in the override section and test for your authenticated session within the controller, branching appropriately.

I forgot to ask, did you design it? if not, what method did you use to get that good result?

I didn't design it - from a graphics perspective. I worked with two awesome designers who worked with me to craft it....i.e. they put up with my overbearing demands :)

The design of the marketing site. Was done by: http://fairheadcreative.com/ and the UI design was done by: http://www.andreeblixt.com/ Both awesome designers.

The Chameleon, both the graphic and the CSS was done by Adam @ Fairhead Creative. Blixt is insane with the UI stuff.

Great work Marc. The site looks GOOD. I love the color scheme, the design and everything inbetween. Its even cooler that you bootstrapped it.

Best of luck, Matthew M

Thanks Matthew.

Appreciate you stopping by :)

Wish I were using this rather than ELance for my current outsourced design project. Price point might be just a tad high, but looks great.

Elance ? How would you use Elance vs. this ? I am really curious to see the correlation to see if I have missed something.

I dont have a need for this day to day, but I was going to sign up to get updates, check out the tool etc.

Since I dont hvae a use for it today, I figured i wouldnt really use the 14 day trial.. What I really wanted was a free version so I could come back and use the tool when I had a need for it in my daily life.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I fought with this, to be honest. Many people have requested a free account, but the issue I was afraid of - and decided to try and mitigate - is having to support a ton of free users, when I really need to get revenue coming in through the door.

Once things settle down and I have a nice core set of paid users, then I might consider doing that.

Who knows...this is just the first step, so expect lots of iterations from here on out :)

Great name, look looking site and more importantly a valuable service designers need. Should be a win.

I hope so cjus.

Btw, thanks :)

I find the pricing structure a bit odd. The "Chameleon" pricing plan seems to have no incentive to buy. For the same exact thing you cant get 3 "Gecko" plans and save $50 ... or get more by buying two "Iguana" plans?

Good point. I am still playing with the pricing, and will likely adjust as time passes and I get more feedback.

One tip for pricing, make bigger plans cheaper per unit.. so let's say a unit is a project, your base 1 unit price is $4.90 (with a minimum of 10 units) so your 20 unit price should let you pay less per unit than $4.90, ie. it should be less than $98. Whatever you set it to (say $80) means your new per unit price is $80/20units = $4. so for your 30 unit price, it should be less than 30 * $4 = 120..

You need to provide an incentive to move to the next pricing level, and the best way to do that is to make the higher levels have more relative value than the lower ones. You work out the "value" by working out your per unit price.

Dude....this is brilliant on SOOOO many levels. Thank you for this.

I have been trying to wrap my head around this, but with everything else I had to do never got a chance to really figure it out.

This comment is a major +1 from me.

Thanks again.

I'm glad I could help :) Can't wait to see it when you've updated the pricing.

Just did. Take a look and lemme know what you think.


iguana and gecko look good, but chameleon and huey are a bit off..

chameleon gives you 50% more storage and clients than iguana, but costs way more.. $132 would give it about the same relative value, but it's $158..

I'm ignoring the number of clients cause I don't believe $26 is a good price for 5 extra clients. maybe it is, but it's a lot less clear to the end user.

Also, another similar service that might be worth checking out (a lot more complicated for designers but quite cool and cheaper): https://github.com/blog/817-behold-image-view-modes

and here is a demo https://github.com/cameronmcefee/Image-Diff-View-Modes/commi...

I like how you did the color changes with the Chameleon... looks great.

I didn't even notice that at first.

Thanks Max :)

I am not a designer so I have zero use for your application, so take what I say as coming from a non-customer.

1. Congrats on charging up front. 2. Your price barrier feels high, you attempted to make it easy with a 7 day trial, you can try a 1 project 1 client, 20 file free account that you can try to up-sell if you have trouble demonstrating your value (I'm a non-customer, so hard for me to judge). 7 days feels short specially with design projects. 3. Move the blood sweat and tears comment in the footer to an "about us" type of page. 4. Move support from an e-mail to you to a FAQ page with a "didn't answer your question, contact us form" to avoid getting too many repeat e-mails.

Thanks for the feedback max.

I didn't want to make the price too low, because I am not sure how many users I can realistically support right now (given that it is me alone). That's also why I didn't do a free account.

great site, 10months to get that, was totally worth it and to know it is a bootstrapped even cooler, good luck the site is great

Thanks :)

Make your "free trial" text 5 times bigger.

Absolutely agree. I didn't even see it till it was mentioned here.

Agreed. Sec...will change now :)

Edit: Done. Refresh.

Apples to Oranges.

A more appropriate comparison is their 'Notable App' - http://www.notableapp.com/plans

They seem to be pretty awesome by the way. Zurb that is. They look like an agency that 'gets it'.

I like it a lot!

Can you give details on how you boot-strapped and learned rails. What did you use to learn rails, what did you find best/worst, what was your development background prior. What confused the hell out of you / helped you most, etc....

Will do a series of blog posts that detail the process. It's been a hell of a ride, and still is.

Btw, here is the first part of that series I promised:


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