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Show HN: Agora – A Chrome Extension To Enhance Your Online Shopping (agora.sh)
22 points by finkin1 on May 29, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Good concept, some nice UI ideas, bad presentation.

Animation is too herky-jerky and gets in the way of understanding. Not enough supplementary text for the animations. Does it only work on Amazon? It looks that way but I can't tell. It's OK if that's all it does right now and you expect to expand later, but you should address this up front.

Also, looking at the example belt, you are firmly pitching this at guys (men's clothes, stereotypically male interest items like construction tools). I have heard that women are also quite interested in shopping.

I do like the basic concept, a lot. I'm all in favor of things that let the user optimize/customize things instead of being stuck with the website publishers frequently-awful UI. I found this immediately more visually attractive and intuitive than amazon's own offering.

Also, I hate to say it, but you should consider filing a patent on 'the belt', or else expect to see that idea copied left and right.

(After installing)

OK, you aim to work with a whole lot of sites. You should sell that, even though it's a 'work in progress'.

No privacy statement/policy. This deterred me somewhat from crating an account, especially since the extension already required pretty generous permissions. Again, you could use an extra stage on the landing page to tell me how up front that stuff works - IMHO it's worth the extra time in these days of mass retail data breaches. If I know you're going to ask to account link via G+, FB, or Twitter then it doesn't come as a surprise. Surprises are bad where PID is concerned.

Good manual. You should have had that accessible from the landing page, don't hide the menu under the logo. I do love the UI.

Possible Bug:

After installing (but before signing up), I sent a comment from the Agora page. This came back to a blank page. Now clicking on the Agora button does nothing, right clicking on it and selecting 'Agora' takes me back to the Chrome web store.

Version 35.0.1916.114 m. The belt works fine after I created an account, but I have to navigate back to Agora.sh by hand, and can't find a way to access the tutorial again.

Feel free to email, you have my address in your comment inbox. I like this product and want to help you improve it.

Looking into this. Thank you for reporting it!

You can access the tutorial here: http://agora.sh/tutorial/

We're working on a privacy statement. They can get pretty complicated and we're just about to get some more funding, which we'll use hire a lawyer to complete it.

We plan to let users sign up via email instead of social networks, we just decided not to do that for our beta launch. We're a small team of 4 people, so we have to be very picky about what we spend out time on.

I'm glad you liked our manual! Honestly, we didn't think anyone would take the time to read it. If you hover over the A logo on the top left you can access the manual, supported sites page, and contact page. You're probably right that we shouldn't hide them.

Thanks for your feedback! Here is our list of supported sites: http://agora.sh/supportedSites.html. We plan to increase the number of supported sites by a lot in the next month.

Our target market is definitely predominantly women. I don't know why we decided to use shoes for our tutorial...

Keep in mind this is our beta. There will certainly be lots of bugs and the service is very far from where we envision it even in just the next 6 months.

Ugh. We're not filing a patent. I appreciate the suggestion, but I've already wasted too much time and money researching it. We almost gave away equity to a patent attorney to do it for us, but the deal fell through.

I'm a man, but I am very much a clothes horse, so I feel like I am part of the demographic you want to reach.

Here is a roughly sorted wishlist for a shopping app: - Track prices on arbitrary sites with something akin to Web Slices where I select the price (this is pretty much a prerequisite for me using it since most items I want are on relatively niche sites) - Can identify the same item across multiple sites - Has some crowd-sourced component for sales. (It souldn't be hard to manually monitor the sales thread on styleforum.net and build a system that can incorporate prices changes from coupon codes). - Can track historical sales trends for sites and tell me whether a sale is coming up - Can show me similar online/offline stores to ones I already know (unrelated, but having user tastes and connecting that to stores in an area would be interesting for people who travel)

Our target market is definitely predominantly women. I don't know why we decided to use shoes for our tutorial...

Mrs Browl asks: Do you have any women on your team?

No. But only because of our financial inability to hire anyone. If it's any consolation, Mrs. Cook is a frequently performs the role of consultant.

Choices of items to include in bar and in video are the result of me juggling a need to resonate with an audience and a possibly over romantic desire to attempt to let some personality of we who have made the service to peek through.

I admit that the microscope made me feel more afgfectionate towards the product ;)

They do flat out say "top retail sites", not just amazon.

This looks awesome, great job! Really nice UI, much nicer than anything these websites make themselves.

I definitely agree that you should consider A/B testing a landing page + example page tailored to women.

I'd definitely consider a mobile strategy really fast. [Removed this section, plan to check out your app soon]

The tutorial wasn't completely clear for me. It might help if your example store shown the inspect button at all times instead of only on mouse over for example. I think the tutorial skipped step 2 for me and there's no way of going back. I'd have preferred no sound by default but that's not a big deal. Also when you do support more stores I'd definitely use that in the tutorial.

The extension is broken for me, can I email somebody? Nothing happens when I visit a page (Amazon) (not sure if it should, it'd be nice if dragging opened the belt), clicking extension at the top of Chrome shows the belt. Dragging something there just causes an error.

Decisions could be more useful - some combination of their inspect pages would be really neat. Speaking of which, can I view an inspect page for an item in the belt? If not that'd be really helpful. (Just spotted it, the image that pops up when you hover over an item in the belt has the inspect button (again on mouseover), I'll leave this comment as feedback on discoverability there)

I'm thinking about when this would have been most useful recently, and I guess it might be helpful to let you know. I used Airbnb to rent a place for a few days, and was constantly just bookmarking listings. I'd definitely like to use something like this for that. Similarly I hired a villa from a different website (OwnersDirect, part of HomeAway) and used Springpad's visual notebooks to track a few places there. Again this is much better (and Springpad's closing..) I think the real strength is overcoming choice paralysis when I really have to make 1 choice. It'd be neat if you considered adding sites like Airbnb, I noticed they're not on your supported sites as WIP or otherwise.

Expanding on that above use case, the perfect scenario would be that your service gives me a really useful decision overview that is shareable (with eg other holidayers), including the info your inspect has + my comment when I added it.

Designer weighing in...

Thanks! We're honestly really unsure of the best way to approach the marketing of this service. That's part of what we're doing right now is for.

Mobile is an inevitability, but focusing on nonmobile has been a more comfortable starting place for us to explore ideas. We're also working off the at least partially education assumption that a lot of the more thoughtful, comparative shopping still happens on desktops. That likeliness is likely decreasing every day though.

Accidentally skipping step two definitely decreases the smoothness of the tutorial. We'll need to get around to making it less skippable. Our quickest fix was to add a button that need to be clicked and have it away from the product so that people's cursors would not interact with the product prematurely. Development priorities are the only thing keeping us from implementing a more thorough fix. But if more people report that issue, we'll likely bump it up. So thanks for mentioning that detail.

We plan to have continued (non narrated) tutorial messages that will explain individual features at opportune moments. This continued tutorial would illuminate things like accessing the inspect button from the belt, or hovering over a decision to access it's associated workspace.

YES! Planes, trains and automobiles (and real estate) are all excited prospects for Agora. We just started with commerce cause it seemed like a more financially lucrative focus and affiliate commission systems are already in place for us to monetize from immediately.

Thanks again for your thoughts and feedback.

Thank you for your thoughts! Didn't expect this to make it to the front page and it's been great to get everyone's feedback so far.

We've decided to delay our mobile app for the moment. If we had the resources we would already be working on it, but we have to prioritize things with a 4-person team.

If you're experiencing a problem with the extension go ahead and email us contact at agora.sh and we'll try to get it fixed. There's also a little contact form in the extension itself you can use.

We will definitely be supporting sites like Airbnb, Autotrader, etc. in the future.

Decisions will also be shareable soon. You'll be able to set specific permissions like in Google drive. This is something we're going to be focusing on very soon.

Most immediately, sorry to hear about the brokenness of the extension. Send us an email at contact@agora.sh and we'll try to get it up and running. Reloading the extension and refreshing the page may do the trick.

I am wondering if the market is big enough for a service like this. With Google killing price comparison sites and increasing market barriers for smaller online shops, it seems like the big players are owning their niche and are the only way for their customers to get the items they sell.

On the other hand: These are arguments, why it would be a good idea to focus on tooling and CTV instead of reach through SEO. Interesting to see how it works out, best wishes!

I believe the market for this type of tool is massive. Google/Amazon, etc. want people to shop using their own site and it's hard to change people's loyalties when it comes to online shopping. By offering an extension that enhances the experience a user has while shopping on the sites they are already loyal to we believe we can reach more people.

Looks promising, congrats. Do you only support Amazon at this point?

You might want to look into Two Tap, we'd be happy to get in touch. twotap.com

Thanks! You can check out our list of supported sites here: http://agora.sh/supportedSites.html. We plan to add a lot more in the next month.

twotap looks awesome! How have I never heard of it? Please shoot me an email so we can chat. Contact info is in my profile.

Great product! i think the biggest question is how serious Google takes Chrome extensions. As google increasingly downplays the role of chrome extension but shifts focus onto apps (and possibly native app), I don't think it could sustain as a reliable distribution channel for business.

Hmm. They recently made a philosophical shift towards single function extensions, but I haven't encountered any indication that they are moving away from or downplaying extensions as a whole. If you wouldn't mind sharing info on this, that would be super great. Mobile apps, and even a packaged app are in Agora's future. This stage of a browser extension targeting technical users is primarily serving the function of building a savvy userbase that we intend to empower and co-create value with for the benefit of a larger audience. We're attempting to lay a foundation.

Sorry for the late reply. I made couple of chrome extensions and apps last year to test the effectiveness of Chrome Web Store as a distribution channel. Now two left: PayableForm (app), and News Tracker(extension). Both were build during weekend, and both were little marketed.

The result is disappointing (for extensions). The installation ratio of chrome extension is never more than 0.2%, while chrome app is constantly above 0.5%.

Google did downplay extensions. Around Nov last year, Google put Apps above the extensions in the search result list. Google also default to expand categories under "Apps", resulting extensions down to the 2nd to last of the list in the left side bar, just above themes.

On the packaged app front, maybe you can use good-old-drag-n-drop.

We have a 1-minute launch video, too. Check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjeTnfD70jM

Looks great. Does the name come from Hebrew? It means small coins, like pennies.

An agora was a public space in ancient greek cities where commerce and forum took place.

Looks very promising!

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