For Christmas this year, my wife got me a Chemex coffee maker. It’s an amazing gift. This simple tool, when used right makes the best coffee I’ve ever made. Getting the ratios, water temperature — she also got me an infrared thermometer — and pour technique correct is tricky. I’m still getting the hang of it, but when I do it right:)
It’s a new skill to learn. It will take time to get consistency with it. It’s always going to take more time and effort to make coffee with the Chemex then with my FrenchPress. But, I enjoy the end results, and the process is fun. I don’t have a lot of hobbies, making coffee and doing it right is one of them.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about optimization, Josh optimization, coffee making optimization and conversion rate optimization.
As many of you know, I’ve been working on a new conversion rate optimization plugin called Ingot. If you don’t know that, don’t worry, I’ll fix that:) By the way, we got a new logo, thanks to Michelle Schulp and a new website thanks to Jason Lemieux.
It’s A Moonage Daydream
I wrote last week about what I learned as a developer working on Ingot. I wanted this piece to be purely about business. Nothing about development. The first time I tried to write this it turned into something about David Bowie, which is fine. The send time it didn’t work.
That’s awesome failure, because it is leading me to understand that I can not separate the two. I am not a business person and a developer. I am a developer entrepreneur.
Being a developer entrepreneur is awesome because I can code up my own ideas. It’s terrible because I can code up my own ideas.
There was a time, let’s call it the last few years of my life, when I rushed from “great idea” to prototype. I’ve spent a lot of time coding an idea before even considering the business’ unique value proposition, or whether such a thing exists.
Whether or not that business idea was any good is sort of irrelevant. Having stumbled through Angular once before I had to learn it for Ingot, was valuable. Getting my head around three way bindings with Firebase plus Angular helped me understand how live-updating applications should work, and what’s wrong with how we try and fake them in most WordPress-based apps and plugins.
Not to say that I’m done learning. But I’ve gotten pretty good at what I do and I’ve created a situation where the things I need to do are sufficiently challenging, that choosing what to do and not to do, can not alone be about trying fun new shit. I’ve programmed myself to assume I can do anything, because with sufficient googling, I probably can.
It Works If You Work It
Being a developer doesn’t exactly mean that you can do whatever you want. It just encourages you to think that anything is possible with the right amount of looking stuff up online and experimentation.
This is what is so exciting and fun about what I do. I get to constantly find new and exciting puzzles to solve.
Ingot does two types of testing: content testing, testing any type of change in content and measuring clicks to a destination, and price testing, which tests changes in pricing and measures changes in sales and revenue.
Right now, content testing works, and is in the plugin and price testing is still “coming soon.”
Recently, while waist deep in working on implementing Ingot price testing, I asked one of my Ingot business partners to do some testing on Ingot content testing. He found some issues. I told him I’d get to them when I finished price testing.
Then I heard from a few people about how the UI flow could be improved for content testing. I told them I’d get to it when I finished price testing.
Then I heard from a friend about a new type of content testing we should do. You can guess what I told them…
I knew content testing wasn’t perfect. I put it out there so I could feedback. Ship fast, iterate and repeat is a smart way to work.
But it doesn’t work if you don’t iterate based on feedback. It’s not a magic system. As we alcoholics say, the system works if you work it.
Josh Version 12,146
Startup entrepreneurship is, by definition — IE according to Paul Graham — about businesses with the potential for exponential growth. But, I’ve always felt that nothing big is worth doing if it doesn’t make me a better person. It’s a constant struggle, but I try.
Startups convert pain points into products that alleviate pain points. If the pain point is sufficiently painful and widespread then the business has potential for exponential growth. That is, if the solution, sales process, customer experience, and customer retention can be sufficiently optimized.
I think a lot about this stuff. I built Ingot because I didn’t have a good way of integrating A/B testing into my sites. The existing solutions underwhelmed me and none of them were powered by WordPress. Having the basis of Ingot in place will empower me to using a data driven approach to improving my businesses in 2016.
There is a ton of cool stuff that I intend to do with Ingot that should be useful to others. That’s awesome. But staying focused on improving what we have so far, and building the right features, not just the fun features. That’s going to be the difference, from a developer stand-point between having a product that could be successful and can not be successful.
Notice that I didn’t say adding the right features would make Ingot successful. I said it would make it possible for it to be successful.
It’s so tempting to think you just need one more featured and then you’re product will be killing it. If only my plugin could do X, then everyone will want it. This is a kind of magical thinking that my ability to add features, and really enjoy doing so, has led me to.
That’s the lesson I’ve learned about business, by thinking as a developer about Ingot, as a business.