Dave, Jason and I have released our new Carbonmade marketing site. You can take a look at it here. On it you'll see a Progress page that we've created for people to follow our journey creating the new version of Carbonmade. Here's how we came up with the original idea and some thoughts on it.
What is it?
Before I get into how we came up with it. Here's little brief bit about what exactly it is. The idea is that we're a team of brave explorers traveling up a mountain face (i.e. the new version of our app). During our journey to the top, we'll be documenting our trip by providing everyone following along with journal entries on the new features of Carbonmade. You can subscribe to our journey by four different means: Twitter, Facebook, RSS, and through a Progress specific newsletter. It'll be light-hearted and fun to follow along to.
How'd you come up with it?
While Jason has been working on the new version of our app with Grant during the past few months, Dave and I have been spending time working on planning and redesigning our marketing site. For those of you not familiar with that term, we use "marketing site" to refer to everything outside of our portfolio app. Meaning, the Homepage, Examples page, Progress page, Sign Up page, etc.
The main reason we wanted to spend some time redesigning our marketing site is that it's been a while since we refreshed our brand — over fifty months to be exact — and we thought a little spring-cleaning was in order. Dave and I brainstormed a bunch on what we wanted to do and Dave began designing some beautiful mockups beginning in December.
However, January went by and while a lot of progress had been made, we came to an agreement that we weren't thrilled with the idea of just refreshing our brand. It's necessary, but it's not something we felt would really excite our current Carbonmade members and we wanted to do something for them too. Yes, we now accept yearly billing — an often-requested feature — but we wanted to give them a little taste of what's to come.
About three Wednesdays ago at around 2 AM, Dave and I were on the phone talking about how to market this thing. What exactly was our new marketing site? Just a brand refresh? Ugh. Let's try and come up with something a bit better we thought. I was even struggling to write the newsletter that we were going to send out, because there just weren't any guts to it. We also concluded that if we were to get an email from a company to check out their new marketing website and all it did was look different then we'd shrug our shoulders and say "cool, but who really cares?" We didn't want this to happen with Carbonmade.
It was at this point at around 2 AM that in the midst of things I came up with the idea of creating an Advent calendar like system for Carbonmade to show off what's coming in our new version. I described something to Dave that was a cross between these holiday calendars I use to receive as a child and the popular MacHeist system. Although we'd later scrap the MacHeist elements of the Progress page, we ran with the Advent calendar idea and a twist on that is what you see today.
To my knowledge, no other web app has ever used a Progress page to trickle out upcoming features to their members as a way to promote their new app. Will it be successful and generate buzz around our new app by continually attracting people every new update? I hope so, but only time will tell. I'll certainly write a follow up post when the Progress page is complete and your explorers have reached the top of the mountain.
Do you think this'll work? Can it backfire?
It's too early to tell if our Progress page will be successful in drumming up buzz around our new version, but I have to believe that it'll do more help than harm. From the moment the idea was hatched, the one thing that we've been wary of is to not confuse new users to Carbonmade who hit the Progress page before the Sign Up page.
Dave spent a lot of time designing our new marketing site to funnel new visitors to the Sign Up page rather than the Progress page. We don't want these new people to see the Progress page and think "I'll just wait to sign up when the new Carbonmade app is out." That'd be bad. Really bad.
We're currently running Crazy Egg on our marketing site, so this should give us a sense of things as we collect more data. As long as our new marketing site brings in the same amount of new sign ups as the old site (hopefully more) then I'll deem it a success. Again, as we just released it, it's still too early to tell.
The other worry is that our competitors will now be fully aware that we're working on something new and will have a heads up on all of the new features. While this may be a small cause for concern, I've always felt that it's in the execution and not the ideas themselves.