What is your product?
Why would I use your product?
How does your product work?
What does your product cost?
("Still working on it" is fine, but say so)
What countries are you available in?
(1) Make sure people know that the page deals with a product that is sold by a company. A web page can be anything. Maybe it's a comic strip. Or a page of essays ranting about various topics. Or an open-source project. Or a demonstration of some CSS technique.
(2) Tell what kind of thing the product is. Some companies, when asked about their product, will say something like, "It helps people discover and share ... [whatever]." But given that, I don't know whether it's an iOS app or a Windows binary or web site or an e-mail list or a metal detector or a buy-some-food-and-send-half-to-my-friend shopping service.
So I think a good landing page should make it clear what the solution is. For example, Dropbox opens with "Your stuff, anywhere", with a picture of a phone and a tablet sitting on a laptop. Their product is disk space plus some free syncing software. But they have wisely focused on the solution, not the product.
Also, I generally know my problem better than you do.
It gives me a nagging feeling that I am completely out of touch with HN, too.
The way moderators edit headlines doesn't help this at all.
Edit: The downvotes are making me giggle like a small child. Do I have a problem?
At best, I infer that this is a kickstarter clone for startups, but my major questions as a potential backer, like how does this work legally don't seem to be answered at all. The signup for the email list doesn't actually explain what "curated" means here, and the signup is a 1 field form for my email.
And if I were a potential project creator, there's even less information. They mention "support", but there isn't any info about what that support is.
Clicking on the "About" just brings up pictures of the team and investors, which is pretty much worthless information. I want to know about what the company does, not just who's in it. Their "product" page is a kickstarter-style pitch page, but it's not clear that they're actually talking about the product(which they apparently are)... and it appears that they're using it to sell things to raise money for the startup.
The first text you see says "Eliminate bad
customer experiences. Get videos of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your website or mobile app."
Beside that you have buttons "how it works", "Features", and a few more. Click on "how it works" and you land on a page that explains how it works. It is trivial to understand what this service is, whether it might be something you want, and how to get the information you need.
In contrast, on Ramen we get photos of the team.
This is a good checklist.
I'm often frustrated by the poor messaging written on landing pages or even the 'About [Product]' pages. Either the page is 100% marketing fluff or 100% technical info. With marketing fluff, I can read a thousand words and still not get any substance. With just technical info, they often leave out answering the key marketing answers: what are the competitive advantages?
I guess someone good at writing and wrangling the change system could submit change requests, but it's a shame that's needed.
It's incredible how many product blogs will just bring you to the blog's main page if you click the title instead of the actual product website.
"Oh wow, these guys really care about their product. I should check it out and keep it in the back of my mind for the future"
Half the sites I see that use this I have absolutely no idea what 'yyy' is or does, so you may as well have put nothing at all.
Why not just put that (or a link directly to that section) somewhere prominent on the home page?
That's a huge assumption. The only way to know for real is to A/B test. You may be surprised by what testing will tell you. We constantly A/B test landing page designs at Ordoro, and have often found results that are counter-intuitive.
Here is a problem
This is how our product solves that problem
followed by additional features that make your product stand out.
The page shouldn't say: "Today, developing apps is cheap, and founders want to take the risk themselves. There's no need for millions of dollars. Let's cut Wall Street out, and fund them ourselves. With Ramen.is, you can:
It should say, "Crowd-funding for app developers. Let your app be funded by those who need it, $5 at a time.
If you build it, it's because they came."
What does your product look like?
No, I think those came across quite clearly. He wants to know how it works, i.e. what is required of him, and what will the process of getting funded look like. That's a difference.
We're currently working to boil all that down and bring it right out in front to fix this problem. Basically what happened here was this version of the home page was somewhere between a teaser and functional homepage. We've been working on so many other parts of the business, we let one of the most important pages slip. We're hoping to fix this with our new design coming out soon.
"Get funding for your software project from early adopters who care. Ramen lets you raise money from users who help test and develop your product."
Your homepage lacks clear instructions for either startup projects or investor/users. Have a clear look at the frontpage of ramen.is from the perspective of a user, then look at sites like YouTube, Soundcloud, BBC iPlayer, Kickstater and so on. These are all trying to seduce people in to look at things that are new and fresh.
Then look at it from the perspective of the startup entrepreneur. Business users want to see both clear instructions on how to use the site and what they'll get out of it, as well as seeing activity of existing projects, case studies of companies that have used it before.
You aren't doing that good at providing either.
Just some constructive criticism, I hope. Interesting project.
What would you do first?
Is it clear what the site does for you?
What do you think will happen if you click X
Why would you come to this site?
Iterate and keep going! Good luck.
Then they write a blog post about it. Submit it to HN, get to the front page, get lots of potential customers...
And there is still no information on their site about who they are and how it works...
This random user is a prick.
1. Why didn’t he scroll to the bottom of the page? I noticed an “about us” link in the footer.
2. When I’m curious about companies, I look at their blogs. Sometimes they use a blog CMS system. Why didn’t this guy check the links in the header, like the link to your blog?
3. This guy has a baby babbling in the background. Maybe he was distracted?
"Ehhh I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a “prick”. Yeah he certainly could have gone through our blog and read up on Ramen. He could have clicked on our project page and watched our video. I think the point of Peek, though, is that you can’t tell a visitor that their first impression (and/or their first confusion) is _wrong_. I think he brings up a lot of completely valid points about our homepage. We haven’t put enough energy into making our homepage something that succinctly describes what we do. He called us out on it. I give him kudos."
Why isn't "Fundraising Platform" in the left column clickable? That should lead to expository text, but it isn't even a link.
Although that's a healthy attitude, it gets tricky when the company grows and the customer is criticizing work done by your employees. Your instinct is still that the customer is automatically right, and that's still true, but you have to be less blunt with employees than you'd be with yourself. You need to acknowledge their work was good, we just need to try something different. Regardless, they need to hear and act on it. And there is no way you call a customer a "prick", for offering polite feedback like in that video. You thank them.
Sometimes I'd remind folks that it wasn't me, it was our customers who were paying for our salaries, the office around us, the chairs we're sitting on. Ultimately the customers are the boss, not me.
Edit: If you have investors, now you have two bosses.
Look at it this way: if you're trying to get a user to use your site, what difference does it make whether the problem is due to bad design on your part or him supposedly being a bit dense? Your goal is to get him to use the site, so you take the usability failure and figure out how to make it harder for him to fail.
DO USABILITY TESTING
Because if those problems were obvious to the OP - they would have fixed them. By definition. I guarantee that everybody here has there own blind spots with there own application or service.
I've been doing usability tests for nearly twenty years now - and the number of times we've found nothing that can be improved can be counted on approximately no hands.
Use online services like peek (there are many, many others too). Do them yourselves. Do them regularly. If I could pick only one thing to help folk improve their product - usability testing would be it. Even above customer interviewing. Nothing beats watching your customers try and fail to use your product.
Here's three books to get you started:
* Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-it-yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems, Steve Krug - Does exactly what it says on the tin. Short sharp guide to getting you started.
* Handbook of Usability Testing: Howto Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests, Jeffrey Rubin & Dana Chisnell - The last book but in much more depth. The first edition of this was my bible when I started doing usability testing.
* Remote Research, Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte - A great guide to how to approach getting the most out of remote usability testing services like peek. The tools are a few years out of date now. The advice isn't.
Seriously. If you're not already doing usability tests go spend an hour or two reading 'Rocket Surgery Made Easy' and then go test your product with some actual human beings. You'll thank me.
A few bits I've noticed over 25+ years in the industry:
• Tell me what your product is. What it does, where it works, how it does it, what it requires. Is it a physical product (or is it shipped in one), an interactive application, a Web service, a programming language / tool?
• Tell me what the fuck it is EVERY GODDAMNED TIME YOU COMMUNICATE ABOUT THE PRODUCT. It doesn't have to be long or detailed, you can link to your detailed description in the communication. But your press releases, emails, Tweets, blog posts, marketing collateral, etc., are going to get passed around, word-of-mouthed, and/or pulled out of drawers (or browser history / searches) for weeks, months, and years to come. Make them work for you.
• The Economist's practice of briefly introducing any individual, no matter how famous or obscure, is a wonderful practice of microcontent contextualization. "Using the Economist house style offers an elegant alternative, wherein virtually all people and organizations are identified explicitly, no matter how prominent. For example, you might see 'Google, a search giant', 'GE, an American conglomerate', or 'Tim Cook, boss of Apple'." http://redd.it/1x8yky
• Tell me how to try it out. Preferably for 60-90 days (a 30 day cycle can go far too fast. I've been very, very impressed with New Relic's "use it for free, convert upmarket for additional features" model, and it's apparently worked well for them. For small accounts, their cost of sales is effectively nil (and for large accounts, COS is always a PITA). But for those large accounts, you've got a proven track record with the prospect, and they really know what they're getting.
• Put your tech docs front and center. As a technical lead / director, my questions are "how the fuck do I make this thing work", and if you can't tell me
• It's been observed many times that those who have the best appreciation for how a product works are those who use it directly, and secondly, those who either service it or support those using it. John Sealy Brown's The Social Life of Information addresses this with both Xerox copier repairmen and support staff. Use this to your advantage two ways: let these people share and collaborate, even if informally For the repairmen, this was a morning coffee break turned out to be a hugely valuable cross-training and troubleshooting feature. For phone support, after an "expert system" and changes in technology separating phone reps from technicians, researchers noted two reps who consistently provided good advice: one was a veteran from the earlier stage, the other a recent hire who sat across from the other and learned from her. Similarly, user support groups (mailing lists, Web forums, Usenet groups), in which users interact and share knowledge with one another directly (Hacker News would be an instance) are often (though not always) far more useful than direct tech support.
• Provide clear pricing information. This has been noted from Jacob Nielsen on forward as the information people are most interested in.
• Make damned sure that whatever process or workflow you've created online works, and for as many possible end-user environments as possible. Keeping interfaces as simple and legible as possible is a huge bonus.
• Remove distractions from your transactional webpages. Once someone's homed in on a product, focus on that, though you may mention alternatives or (truly useful) related products. Every additional piece of information on the screen is an opportunity to confuse and lose the sale. I've been restyling many websites simply for my own use (1000+), and simply removing distracting elements produces a far more productive environment.
• Ensure your pages are legible. Backgrounds should be light, foregrounds light (and where, with extreme reluctance, you invert these, separation should be clear). DO NOT SCALE FONTS IN PX. On far, far too many devices this renders as unreadable, particularly from older (e.g., more senior w/in the organization) readers. Grey-on-grey is just cause to fire whomever suggested or required it. See ContrastRebellion: http://www.contrastrebellion.com/
• Don't organize your website according to internal corporate structures. Your website is an outward facing tool, and should address the needs of users, not of internal departments. Lenovo's laptop site organization would be highly typical of this: I want a Linux-capable, large-display, full-keyboard, trackpoint device. The rest I generally don't give a shit about, and its product line confuses me every fucking goddamned time I try to buy something there (usually every 2-3 years). I'm not a sufficiently frequent customer that I keep up with every last change, but I've spent thousands of dollars on IBM/Lenovo products, as an individual (hundreds of thousands to millions as an enterprise customer).
And of course: test all of this, don't simply take my word for it. But yes, I've walked from far, far, far too many product pages, from free software projects to Fortune 10 companies to edgy app devs.
Life's too fucking short for that shit.
I'm glad you led with that one, because I'm constantly asking that very question. Note to website designers: DON'T MAKE ME USE WIKIPEDIA TO FIGURE OUT WTF THE COMPANY DOES!
Unfortunately, quite a few companies aren't even in Wikipedia (of course they should get themselves added). That's the point when I simply give up. Life is too short.
It's not as simple as that. You have to meet notability requirements or your page is just going to get deleted.
And if you are unable to do so without using the word Solutions you probably aren't sure yourself.
Seriously, so much this. I cannot even count the number of emails I receive along the lines of “We’re happy to let you know that we have launched macaroni.io" or some other crazy name that tells you nothing about what the product or service is.
Just take ONE sentence at the beginning of these emails to remind people what you do. Especially if they are not already users of your site and your goal is to get them to become users / customers.
More specifically: a good practice for those who interact with the media frequently is to have bios of varying lengths. Usually one sentence, a brief paragraph, a longer paragraph, and a full-length bio. Another alternative is to write a multi-paragraph description in traditional newspaper "inverted tree" format (most general to most specific), with increasing detail in subsequent paragraphs.
Select from this to clip to length for various materials as part of your standard media / press kit.
Thanks for the book reference. Similar observations by Lave and Wenger in a more academic style
I do think you have a blog post here as others have suggested.
Question on a related subject - what about product names? Better to name your product/site/company/whatever a simple, boring name that is descriptive of what your product does, like foobarer for something that bars your foo, or something that is short, vague, and cutesy, but hopefully more memorable than the simple, descriptive name, like twitter or the article's ramen? Or rather, any thoughts on the tradeoffs involved?
I'd actually prefer to avoid either the utterly boring generic name (in the sense of something that's not readily searchable or differentiable), or something overly descriptive: "Facebook" may well prove to be a liability in another ten years (assuming the company survives), if the present "social network" mania has faded or moved on, and the company with it.
Other than that: beware of short acronyms which might be adopted by others. "SAS" is an airline, a shoe company, a special operations force, a hard drive specification (now obsolete), an environmental activist group, a homonym for an online application provisioning technology ... and the name of the largest privately held software company in the US.
The worst possible case I can think of is "R", a statistics software package, by way of command abbreviations, UNIX traditions, and free-software in-jokes. "S" was the stats package for AT&T's UNIX, a quickly typeable command a'la 'ls', 'rm', 'cc', 'vi', etc. "R" was "iterated S" as a free software project. It actually survives pretty well as a search term, though only for its popularity -- trying to break out now would likely be difficult.
Microsoft isn't a bad name (though overly descriptive), but many of its product names ("Word", "Windows", "Server", "SQL Server", "Outlook", "Exchange") are hard to differentiate. Even its most significant product offering, NT, was at the time predominantly associated with a Canadian telecoms concern, since bankrupted.
Though brief, IBM is spectacularly resilient, as is its description, "International Business Machines". SUN, the Stanford University Network, did pretty well. "Apple", despite being relatively generic, is distinctive in its space. I'm partial to companies named for people, if only indirectly: RSA was an exception in the IT space, though New Relic is an anagram of its founder and CEO's name, Lew Cerne. If nothing else it suggests a possible long-term investment by the founder, though there's some risk: Debian outlived Deborah and Ian's marriage.
"Google" as a made-up word has survived pretty well, and can even transition (assuming trust in the company does) outside search. "Cisco" for routers strikes me as good. "Salesforce.com" seems to me to be ripe for a renaming eventually, as "dot com" anything still carries (for me at least) a taint of the get-rich-quick schemes of the late 1990s. I see either "Salesforce" or "SFC" in its future. "Peoplesoft" was similarly limited. "Oracle" took its name from a government project. Most of these are robust names, though each effectively created its brand image by filling an empty vessel. On the other hand, "Computer Associates" is so generic (and tainted as "where software goes to die) as to be pejorative.
Outside heavy manufacturing or specific service industries requiring specialization (e.g., transport, airlines, hospitality), I'd tend to avoid a very strong product tie. "General Motors" has worked fairly well, "Xerox" isn't too bad. Software and services tend to be more ... fluid.
"Lenovo" doesn't mean anything to me other than "sells IBM kit I like", but I can find their website (if not anything on it once I'm there). "Apache" was an in-joke to slapdash development efforts, "vim" a one-letter extension to a two-letter command. "Chrome" seems to me to be getting overloaded with meanings (is it a browser, an OS, an "environment", whatever that is)? I suspect Android may be shed at some point as overly techy, though I could be wrong on that. "AWK" is another founder's name. "C" is another don't-do-that-but-it-worked single-letter name, and also something of a line of jokes: BCPL -> B -> C -> C++, C#, C--, D.
There's also the case of names which are meant to be hard to remember or recall: "Xe Services" (formerly Blackwater, now Academi), Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris Companies). Collections agencies often operate under extremely generic names which defy both recollection and search ("Prestige Services"). Another favorite for reasons of obscurity is "Various, Inc.", once described as a photo-oriented relationship networking organization. Bail bondsmen like to be the first name in the book -- easy to find in a time of pressing need. Pick your name to suit your goals for noteriety or not.uuuuuuuu
If you go back through history there are trends in company names: place and description (New York Times, Pennsylvania Oil, Bethlehem Steel), founder(s) (Woolworths, Westinghouse, Pullman, Johnson Wax), size or generality (IBM, GE, NCR, NBC), mythology or culture (Mazda -- both lights and motorcars, Ajax, CBS). In the 1920s, airlines were popular, though these referred to rail companies, as were radio companies (the dot-coms of the day). In the 1960s, everything was "-onic" as transistors hit the scene. TLAs blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s, as did made-up words, often based on trademark considerations. Later .com, e-whatever, i-whatever, and Whatevr in the 2000s, which all seem dated now.
What is this site? What is thingumajig.io? Its a webby thingumajig? Sign up? Sign up for what? Oh it's a website for web something.
Does anyone know of anything like that, but that's _not_ random, where I could actually send volunteers from my current users to my sight, and have their clicks and voice recorded and sent to me? Is there such a business that works well at a reasonable price?
I think I can understand what your company is about fairly easily just glancing at the first page.
More than 10 years ago. Big conference of Web type people (not all developers but some) from Colleges and Universities in the UK, about 20 organisations represented, 50 people in the room. Disability Discrimination Act coming in. A talk organised by TechDis I remember (hazy memory of organisation details).
A profoundly blind Web developer using a screen reader with Windows steps up, with a colleague running the slides on a projector. She goes through some basic usability for non-sighted users (like http://diveintoaccessibility.info/ summary). Then she asks for a volunteer, and surfs to their College Web site live with the screen reader plugged through the PA.
"Red dot, red dot, red dot, [big list of navigation junk] Image image image image..."
You get the idea. She simply said: your Web site is telling me that you are not interested in blind students.
I think everyone present at that session went back and ran their sites through screen readers after that talk! No-one was feeling smug in the slightest.
UserTesting (the folks behind Peek) shot us over a promo code to get the first 100 of you to the front of the line if you want to give it a whirl: ramenreader
Have submitted my site carrotleads.com for a test though. It free anyway, so what was the promo code for???
Well, if I was looking for information on how Ramen worked, a generic link in the footer called "Project Page", under the equally generic heading "Product" is not the first thing I would click. And if I eventually got there, and saw what looked to be a page intended for backers (it has a blurb and options to back at $2.00, $10.00, etc.), I probably wouldn't notice the "How it Works" section buried three screenfuls down the page.
1) I am looking for "Contact Us"
2) I need some piece of information so badly I am willing to dig around the website for 10+ minutes, after which I will start looking at the footer, at the HTML (in case there are collapsed menus), searching Google with "site:www.thesite.com"... This level of dedication is reserved for financial institutions, and government.
I got the impression that the designers were trying to be clever by integrating the tutorial into an actual project page - and going to the Ramen project explains a lot about the process. However, that's intuition from using the web a lot, not a logical step. It's the same kind of intuition that gamers have when crawling a dungeon and you know that taking the short route will almost certainly be a Bad Idea.
This backfires in another way: I also wonder if there are only four projects on the site? Can I search for more? It makes me think that the projects there are just dummy pages to demonstrate how the site works.
PS. If you wanna submit a project: https://ramen.is/project_submissions/new :-D
What I like the most about it is that the user is genuinely interested in the service. But he acts natural and realizes he doesn't see an easy way to get more info on it.
He could try to read the blog, or search for small print, but that's not what the average user is going to do.
I'm going to try Peek soon!
Dropbox caters to a single market and the message is more simple for them.
A "How it works" with subsection for both target market would help.
multiple sided products always have trouble selling effective messages and would like to see examples if you guys know of any.
I am doing a redesign of my site http://carrotleads.com on this topic. Was targeted at companies earlier and now I will have trouble converting network'rs. I can see the problem, but solutions need more deep thought. Working on it.
Submitted site to Peek. Want to see how it turns out.
See test link below, turnaround of less than 12 hrs.
Still my site will undergo a proper redesign with 2 seperate workflow's. Well that how my thinking is for now.
However, even that's a little confusing because it is itself a project -- so a user might wonder what the heck they are looking at, site info or some other project?
Even just linking the word "Ramen" in the blog post would be a great start to get more conversions happening.
....well, I have an idea what kind of websites I will try to submit...
anyone know what I'm referring to?
It was surprisingly good! No negative feedback, and only positive feedback, though the tester wasn't our target market.