Writing for Intercom, a selection

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Making things people want

July 11th 2018, in Product & Design

The problems people encounter in their lives rarely change from generation to generation. The products they hire to solve these problems change all the time.

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Using cohort analysis to improve retention

June 15th 2018, in Growth

There are few issues more important than customer retention when running software-as-a-service businesses. It’s no good acquiring customers for $10, if they only stick around for a month or two.

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How to make product improvements

June 8th 2018, in Product & Design

Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement. Web businesses searching for product market fit think they can follow this philosophy just by shipping code.

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Startup marketing: strategies for year one

June 1st 2018, in Marketing

The most important tasks for any early stage startup are to write code and talk to users. When we started Intercom the latter was my job.

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Understanding direct and indirect competition

March 16th 2018, in Marketing

Sometimes your customers really want to use your feature or product, but they also want something else that simply isn’t compatible with it. People really want to be slim and healthy, but they also really want soft drinks and fast food.

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Trajectory matters more than state

January 12th 2018, in Growth

When you analyze your company it’s easy to look at everything in its current state.

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How Intercom got our first customers

December 12th 2017, in Marketing

There are two harsh truths for startups. 1: Until you have users, you don’t have a product. 2: Until they’re paying you, you don’t have a business.

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Ingredients to build a product first company

November 29th 2017, in Product & Design

Sales first, marketing first, technology first. There’s lots of ways to build a company. Today we’re in an era of product first companies, and because of this lots has changed.

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Harvesting the low hanging fruit of user onboarding

August 10th 2017, in Product & Design

Startups are knee deep in customer acquisition metrics. Click through rates, cost per click, cost per lead, conversion rate, cost per acquisition, and more.

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New book: Intercom on Starting Up

April 19th 2017, in Growth

We’ve just released a new book, Intercom on Starting Up.

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Picking a pricing strategy for your product

April 13rd 2017, in Growth

Choosing the correct pricing for your product is a daunting task—particularly if you’ve never priced anything before.

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A simple improvement to product announcements

March 24th 2017, in Product & Design

Sending product announcements without considering your audience is like writing a love letter and then addressing it “to whom it may concern”.

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What voice UI is good for (and what it isn’t)

March 22nd 2017, in Product & Design

Voice is either a genius technology whose time has finally come, or the most overhyped waste of time we’ve seen since bots, blockchain, or winding back the clock, gamification.

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4 ways to improve user engagement

March 3rd 2017, in Growth

The definition of an “engaged user” varies from product to product.

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How your support team improves your product

February 10th 2017, in Support

Blaming your customer support team for unhappy customers is like blaming weathermen for the rain. Sure they’re involved, but only on the receiving end.

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Q&A: How to get better at public speaking

January 4th 2017, in Marketing

This week, one of our readers emailed us to ask: “What advice would you give someone who’s just getting started with public speaking?”

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Reduce churn by re-engaging your customers

November 30th 2016, in Marketing

Churn is one of the most important metrics tracked by today’s startups. But also one of the most misunderstood.

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Your product is already obsolete

November 21st 2016, in Product & Design

The relentless march of technological improvement means that by their very nature technology businesses fail.

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Q&A: What books would you recommend to new entrepreneurs?

November 18th 2016, in Growth

This week, our question comes from Gabriele:

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Why your product is already obsolete

October 26th 2016, in Growth and Product & Design

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5 simple messages to engage your customers

October 18th 2016, in Marketing

At Intercom, we’ve worked with hundreds of our customers, helping them target messages to their customers and improve their messaging schedules.

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How to send good email – opens, clicks, conversions

October 12th 2016, in Marketing

A badly-written email is about as effective as a love letter addressed “To whom it may concern.” Don’t waste your time writing them.

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New book: Intercom on Onboarding

September 13rd 2016, in News & Updates

The shift away from one-time transactions toward recurring revenue has made user onboarding the critical step in scaling a product company. Hence our latest book is all about onboarding.

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Not all good products make good businesses

August 15th 2016, in Product & Design

We like to believe that if you solve a real problem with a good product, a successful software business is magically created. That’s never guaranteed.

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How people buy your product

July 18th 2016, in Sales

Marketing works best when it connects your customer’s description of their problem with your product.

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The first rule of prioritization: No snacking

June 6th 2016, in Product & Design

The best lessons in business come in plain English and speak uncomfortable truths. One such example is something we learned from Hunter Walk.

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New book: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done

May 4th 2016, in Product & Design

Today we launched our fourth book, Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done.

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Lessons learned in growing a product

April 13rd 2016, in Product & Design

From the moment your beta app lands on Product Hunt you’ll ask yourself what way it should grow.

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The when and where of product feedback

March 22nd 2016, in Product & Design

Most product feedback is categorized by what was said, and occasionally who said it.

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Word of mouth

March 14th 2016, in Marketing

Word of mouth is the first traffic source. You can’t put a price on its value, and it sure as hell isn’t free. You’ll only get word of mouth when the same words come out of lots of different mouths.

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Our new book: Intercom on Customer Support

November 3rd 2015, in News & Updates and Support

Today we released our third book, Intercom on Customer Support. It explains how we think about customer support, and the principles we applied as we scaled our team to support over 8,000 customers in 85 countries.

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Two product principles often forgotten

October 9th 2015, in Product & Design

In the 7th century, Archilochus wrote ”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” A simple quote with a deceptively deep meaning.

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The only competitor that matters

August 11th 2015, in Product & Design

A clichéd piece of advice is to ignore your competitors. It’s universally agreed on, yet ask any founder how their competitors are doing and you’ll see it’s almost universally ignored. They’ll fly through a list of players providing commentary quicker than a sports announcer.

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Book 2: Intercom On Customer Engagement

June 3rd 2015, in News & Updates and Support

In the world of recurring revenue, SaaS companies realize they need engaged customers if they are to grow a healthy, sustainable business. This is where having a solid customer engagement strategy comes in.

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How to sunset a feature

April 23rd 2015, in Product & Design

If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not making anything. Some features will be a win from day one, some need a few tweaks, some need a few weeks, but some just Don’t Work Out As Planned.

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How to show customers the value of free

April 18th 2015, in Support

The way technology is sold to businesses has changed fundamentally in the last decade and as a result so has the role of customer support/success teams in helping to close sales.

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Our new book: Intercom on Product Management

February 12th 2015, in Product & Design

We’ve published a lot of articles on product management over the past two years. Rather than leave them in our archives, we’ve updated them, expanded upon them, and consolidated them into our first book. We think you’ll like it.

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Meaningful growth vs metric manipulation

January 7th 2015, in Product & Design

What gets measured gets done, no matter the cost. But there is a genuine danger in reducing product onboarding and design to an exercise in metric manipulation.

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Designing our new blog

December 1st 2014, in Product & Design

Earlier this year we began investing in our blog, by hiring a full time editor and deliberately increasing our publishing frequency. Today marks another step with the launch of a brand new design for Inside Intercom.

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5 mistakes we all make with product feedback

November 11th 2014, in Product & Design

It rarely makes sense to take product feedback from all users and it never makes sense to get it all at once.

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This is not a map

October 16th 2014, in Product & Design

Customers will always surprise you with the creative ways they use your product. It’s not deliberate on their behalf though. They’re just adapting your product to their needs.

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The thickness of napkins

October 7th 2014, in Product & Design

What does a napkin tell you about a restaurant? Quite a lot, surprisingly.

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Before you plan your product roadmap

October 2nd 2014, in Product & Design

Are all your users using all the features in your product? Of course they’re not. Let’s talk about that.

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Rarely say yes to feature requests

August 27th 2014, in Product & Design

Here’s a simple set of Yes/No questions that you can quickly answer before you add another item to your product roadmap.

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Design principles: a shared inbox for your team

July 31st 2014, in News & Updates and Support

We recently released a completely redesigned team inbox for Intercom to make it even easier for companies to talk with their customers.

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Start with a cupcake

July 24th 2014, in Product & Design

The quicker you can get feedback on what you’re thinking the better your idea will be. Usage is oxygen for ideas.

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On magical software…

July 2nd 2014, in Product & Design

Software is most impressive when it gives you things for free. When just a simple few taps or clicks delivers instant value you’re in awe. It’s magical. And then you come to expect it.

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Where does your product suck? Where does it matter?

May 14th 2014, in Product & Design

A product roadmap is built out of hard decisions. The bugs you must fix will fight with the features you must finish, the features your customers want will compete with the ones they need.

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Four Things I Wish Every Chart Did

March 31st 2014, in Product & Design

Analytics tools are great for collecting data that’s easy to measure, and visualising it in beautiful charts. Sadly, this usually leaves you with more questions than answers.

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Some things can’t be wireframed

February 26th 2014, in Product & Design

Research and analysis help show you the workflows, usability principles ensure it’s clear and intuitive, but how do you get to delightful? You’re on your own there.

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Show, don’t tell, with GIFs

February 11th 2014, in Support

The gif is the cockroach of file formats. Every time we think it should die it re-appears with a new use case. In Intercom we create GIFs all the time to help our customers, and they love them.

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Why New Features Usually Flop

January 13rd 2014, in Product & Design

Launching a successful feature demands the same skills as launching a successful product. The difference is that you also have to navigate around all of your legacy decisions, and appease current customers too. It’s tricky.

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How to Educate & Persuade Customers

October 23rd 2013, in Product & Design and Support

The most effective messages we see in Intercom either educate or persuade customers. Let’s talk about why they work.

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The right type of revenue

October 21st 2013, in Sales

Don’t confuse consulting revenue, one-time deals, or charity donations with actual recurring monthly product revenue. They’re very different beasts.

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Why Microsoft needs a new focus

September 3rd 2013, in Product & Design

For Microsoft to survive the gravitational pull of enterprise irrelevance, a lot of things need to change. Starting with focus.

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Make Every Word Matter

August 27th 2013, in Product & Design

The same companies who produce lengthy, hard-to-read press releases create bloated, hard-to-understand products. It’s no coincidence; it’s all connected.

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The right type of customer conversations

August 14th 2013, in Support

Conversations with customers are valuable, but they have to be the right type of conversations—not merely questions about forgotten passwords and the like. They have to add value, for you, and them.

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An Interview with Andy Budd

August 2nd 2013, in Product & Design

We talked to Andy Budd about the role of design in startups, the difference between designers and stylists, and the danger of chasing MVPs. Andy gave a fascinating interview packed with insight and experience.

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Analyzing Abandonment in Your Product

July 25th 2013, in Product & Design and Support

Conversion rates and usage patterns will cause you many a sleepless night. Your team deploys a new feature or flow, posts the announcement, then sits back and waits for glory. Instead, you get nothing.

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What Does Feature Creep Look Like?

July 11th 2013, in Product & Design

When you think about feature creep and bloated products what comes to mind? Endless tabs, toolbars, settings, and preferences, right?

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Product strategy means saying no

July 3rd 2013, in Product & Design

If you’re building a product, you have to be great at saying no. Not “maybe” or “later”. The only word is no.

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There are no small changes

June 24th 2013, in Product & Design

“We want to limit the length of a review in the product to 140 characters, because we may want to use SMS at some stage. That’s a small change, right?”

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The Danger of Dogfooding

June 7th 2013, in Support

When everyone involved in building a product are also using the product themselves, they’re said to be ‘dogfooding’. Dogfooding empowers good design decisions, but it has its downsides.

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Why being first doesn’t matter

May 31st 2013, in Product & Design

Any startup founder knows the pressure of launching first. The belief is that if your competitor beats you to market, untold riches await them… while your company is now a dead duck.

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4 pricing principles to never forget

May 21st 2013, in Growth

“Most businesses are eventually faced with the key question: How much should we charge? There’s no one true answer. There are no gurus. There’s just you, your financials, and the need to make money.”

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What everyone needs to know about disruption

April 5th 2013, in Marketing

Every start-up from every incubator claims to be disruptive nowadays, but the claim always falls apart under any close examination. Usually it’s one of these three reasons.

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Effective messaging: say the right thing at the right time

March 1st 2013, in Product & Design and Support

Communicating with a large user base is damn hard. Every product owner knows this.

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If it’s important, don’t hack it

February 11th 2013, in Product & Design

Growth hacking is a dirty world. Scraping websites and spamming activity feeds grows a business in the same way anorexia solves weight problems, swapping sustainable solutions with short term kludges.

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Are you being Clear, or Clever?

January 15th 2013, in Product & Design

Situation: You’ve built a great feature that solves a real problem that you know your users have. They’re not using it though. Usually, it’s because they haven’t seen it, or they saw it and didn’t know what it did.

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Creative advertisements

January 2nd 2013, in Marketing

Understanding the value of offline advertising is messy. Billboards, for example, are priced based on how many cars drive past them. Compared with impressions or click-throughs, that sort of metric is a joke.

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The Future of Email Products

December 20th 2012, in Product & Design

The last significant innovation in email came 8 years ago with Gmail which introduced conversation threading, gigabyte storage, speed, powerful search, and lots more. Not much arrived since, but it looks like 2013 has a lot in store.

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Deliberate Improvements

December 18th 2012, in Product & Design

It’s risky to try to improve any part of a product without understanding the job that it does for customers, and what their success criteria are.

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Bad channels and the wrong customers

December 17th 2012, in Product & Design

Problem: You’ve launched your product, it’s getting plenty of coverage. People are signing up, but no one is actually using it.

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Designing sequences not stills

December 7th 2012, in Product & Design

Designing software based on a checklist of screens can blind designers to the overall customer experience.

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Overcoming customer inertia

December 4th 2012, in Marketing

To create an anxiety relievable only by a purchase… that is the job of advertising.

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What jobs does advertising do?

November 30th 2012, in Marketing

“Advertising on the web is easy: just calculate how much money a customer is worth, then find a way to advertise where you win customers for less than that amount. Voila! A money factory. Right?”

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Asking questions beats giving advice

November 7th 2012, in Product & Design

Advising any business is hard. I’m hesitant to do it. It’s all too easy to give bad advice, which steers companies in the wrong direction, all based on my whimsical throwaway idea shared over coffee.

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Measuring Viral Distribution

October 26th 2012, in Marketing

Explanations are explanations, promises are promises, diagrams are diagrams… but only performance is reality.

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Designing for Viral Distribution

October 25th 2012, in Product & Design

At some point every product owner ponders how to make it go viral, as a thought experiment if nothing more.

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The orange juice test

September 21st 2012, in Sales

Spending money is very easy. Spending money effectively is very hard. There are lots of dodgy people & service providers out there who will promise the world, send the invoices, and deliver mediocrity six months late. Or worse.

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TALK: From Data to Insight

September 13rd 2012, in Product & Design

Most analytics tools and applications focus on two things: tracking data that is easy to measure, and showing visualisations that look sexy. This means you end up with sexy screenshots, but no lasting value. You are presented with lots of data, but very little actionable insight.

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Product Demos That Don’t Suck

August 16th 2012, in News & Updates and Support

Product demos can be a great marketing tool when they focus on giving the attendees a fantastic experience. Customers should leave a seminar knowing how to kick ass at their job, not how to use an interface. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

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Surviving and thriving in two-sided markets

August 14th 2012, in Growth

Any product serving two distinct sets of users is addressing a two-sided market. eBay connects buyers and sellers. Google connects searching consumers with advertisers. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook are also two-sided connecting consumers with advertisers.

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Prioritising Features: Who’ll Use It & How Often?

July 30th 2012, in Product & Design

The Swiss Army knife is a remarkable product. By combining many products of low utility, it becomes a product of some utility. This is one of the rare occasions where a core product gets better by adding mediocre features.

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3 rules for customer feedback

July 16th 2012, in Product & Design

Gathering useful timely feedback from customers can be a long process. Intercom makes it faster and easier than ever before but just because it’s now easy to ask it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to waste your customers’ time. Answering a question well is always tougher than asking it.

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Understanding distribution & conversion

July 5th 2012, in Sales

The world of web analytics is full of ‘golden rules’ about dated metrics like bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit and many more. For web applications these rules are bullshit.

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Have You Tried Talking To Your Customers?

June 25th 2012, in Product & Design and Support

I remember daydreaming in the boardroom of a renowned university in Ireland while pretending to listen to a group of stakeholders argue over a label on a web form.

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Where to draw the line as a product manager

May 25th 2012, in Product & Design

The most important thing a product manager does is decide where their product stops and someone else’s product takes over.

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Wireframing for Web Apps

May 15th 2012, in Product & Design

The goal of preparing wireframes is to solve design challenges regarding layout, and priority. This is usually done in wireframes through experimenting with layouts and the application of contrast, similarity and some other principles.

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Getting Insight Into Your Userbase

May 2nd 2012, in News & Updates and Support

There are 3 types of data that every product manager or application owner should have easy access to: User Activity, Product Usage, and Revenue.

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Get To Know Your Users

April 17th 2012, in News & Updates and Support

It’s crucial for start-ups to know who uses their application and how.

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Automated E-mails & customer respect

April 3rd 2012, in News & Updates and Support

“Today we launched automated emails in Intercom. A feature that evokes the old Spider-Man quote: “With great power comes great responsibility”.”

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Running Closed Betas: Which Users, and How Long?

March 30th 2012, in Product & Design

A closed beta is an excellent feedback loop. It lets you see what works well in your application, and it helps you understand the jobs your customers are trying to do. However—like any system—if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. Your beta users and their feedback are massively influential, so picking users at random isn’t wise, as it can lead to a one-size-fits-none product.

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What’s in a Name?

March 26th 2012, in Product & Design

Naming a product is difficult. Branding legend Marty Neumeier says that good product names have seven characteristics.

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Chinese Gloves and Total Addressable Markets

March 23rd 2012, in Growth

The total market for coffee in America is worth about eighteen billion dollars. That’s $18,000,000,000 if you like to see zeroes. If you’re opening up a coffee shop in SOMA, is this figure relevant to you?

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Know Your Customers and How They Decide

March 12th 2012, in Product & Design and Support

Everything you design—from slide decks to email newsletters, from marketing sites to company t-shirts—has a goal, and that goal is to get someone to decide to do something that benefits you or your company.

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Criticism and two way streets

March 6th 2012, in Product & Design

A post by Jason Fried titled “Give it 5 minutes” reminded me of a great technique I learned about from Bill Buxton.

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The fallacy of funnels

March 1st 2012, in Marketing

The funnel is a lousy metaphor for measuring conversion. In real life, funnels let everything pass through–a 100% conversion rate if you will.

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What you should know about private betas

February 29th 2012, in Product & Design

Private betas are great for controlling access to a product as you tweak it.

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Interview: Bob Moesta (Part 2 of 2)

February 15th 2012, in Product & Design

The second part of our interview with Bob Moesta discusses topics specific to start-ups. We look at how a start-up can apply these Jobs To Be Done thinking, why hypothetical feedback is useless, and why beta testing must also test for value. Part one of the interview was posted previously.

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Design and Premature Optimization

January 19th 2012, in

Grandma’s rule has a common meaning across countries & cultures. At a simple level it’s usually understood as “eat your carrots, then you can have dessert”.

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Copy the Fit, not the Features

January 16th 2012, in Product & Design

The world of start-ups is obsessed with outliers. Companies who have achieved remarkable success through a combination of their activities.

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Sustainable advantages for startups

January 12th 2012, in Product & Design

In Gimmicks and Patterns I wrote that new features either become table stakes, or are dismissed as being gimmicky. As some readers noted, this is a simplification of what happens. The Kano model shows exactly how the slide happens, and explains why any one particular feature or trait will never be a sustainable advantage.

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5 ways to improve the app store for customers

December 19th 2011, in Product & Design

As the music companies found out, distribution is about ease of use. Actions that make products harder to buy and consume ultimately hurt sales. Actions that make it easier to buy products than to steal them improve sales.

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Focus on the job, not the customer

December 14th 2011, in Product & Design

Personas are a tool for sharing a common vision of a target user with everyone on a project. When everyone knows the sort of end users being targeted it helps cut out some unnecessary debates.

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Gimmicks and patterns in interface design

December 8th 2011, in Product & Design

Launching an app with distinctive interface features can work out incredibly well. Path did this last week and has reaped the rewards of great design.

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The problem with data driven decisions

November 25th 2011, in Product & Design

The mathematician searches around the lamppost on his hands and knees. “What are you looking for?” a bystander asks.

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You Can’t Fake Culture

November 15th 2011, in Growth

Sapient released a truly awful video today, reminding us that you can’t fake culture and you can’t buy cool.

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Features & Physics Envy

November 2nd 2011, in Product & Design

I use the above graph to pick what features to add or improve based on how many customers use them, and how often. This leads to curious but clever decisions.

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To Sustain or Disrupt?

November 1st 2011, in Product & Design

“In a talk titled Reinventing IT, Prof Clay Christenson, author of The Innovators Dilemma, asks a simple question: Why do so many big businesses fail?”

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The Death and Rebirth of Customer Experience

October 20th 2011, in Product & Design and Support

Karl arrives late into work. There’s no starting time or closing time, his store is always open.

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Why startups need a strong vision

October 18th 2011, in Marketing

Meaningful companies are built upon a strong timeless vision. Let’s look at some examples.

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Beware of icebergs

October 13rd 2011, in Product & Design

When a customer asks for a new feature, it’s quite often something that makes perfect sense.

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Data Visualisation in Web Apps

October 11th 2011, in Product & Design

A dashboard is a single screen showing the status of an application. At a glance you should see what’s going well and what areas are struggling. Customer retention is down. Sales are up. Complaints are at an all time high.

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Recent new features in Intercom

October 6th 2011, in News & Updates

We’ve had a phenomenal response to the product since we began our private beta back in June. It has been amazing to get such qualified feedback from such passionate app owners. We’re incredibly thankful for this, and we’ll talk about our superb beta customers in a separate post.

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