- Posted by Tengku Zahasman on September 30th, 2007 filed in Marketing, Advertising
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One of the most costly part of a web app deployment will usually be on the marketing stage. Web startups spend tenth of thousands of dollars in advertising to get a bunch of audience to use their app. They send hundreds of emails to the many Web 2.0 medias out there such as TechCrunch and Read/Write Web to get some coverage and generate the buzz. They hire expensive PR firms to do the harsh marketing works on their behalf, and they also spent numerous amount of time/money doing offline marketings by participating/sponsoring in seminars, opening up booths and so on.
Nothing’s wrong with any of them. Afterall, a marketing is a marketing. But if you can code your application to do 90% of the effective marketing for you, you can save a huge amount of time and money and focus more on delivering high quality service to your users. Here are some of the ways to do that:
5 ways to let your web app market itself
1. Emphasize on SEO
Search engine is one of the best marketing tool out there on the net. If you can tackle search engine, there’s a high chance that you’ll receive a consistent flow of new users stumbling onto your app each day. Simply focus on the content of your app (allow UGC), use friendly URLs all the way, craft relevant page titles, use tagging folksonomy… and you’re on your way to the top of the search results for a lot of keywords. And remember, meta keywords and meta descriptions DO have its place in SEO, so don’t forget to utilize them as well.
2. Create useful/interesting widgets
People love widgets… especially bloggers. Widgets are small embeddable programs which can be included into any webpages by just pasting in some small chunk of codes into the site. This widget can make use of the information you have in your app to do interesting things. Take an example of Kiva.org, the microloan application which provides a widget that shows the loan status of a person you’d like to help (see example here). Or simply take a look at Flickr which allows users to create a widget of their own photo album and publish it in their websites. Meebo becomes more successful after launching their Meebo Me and Meebo Room widgets. YouTube, SlideShare and many other famous web apps out there also becomes famous because of the availability of embeddable widgets. If your widget is creative enough, everybody will start to use it and it will spread like virus. That’s massive ‘free’ marketing for your app without you having to lift a finger.
3. Allow members to send invites to their friends
Provide a simple page in your app which contains some hassle-free HTML forms to allow your users to invite their friends through e-mail. Call it a “Tell Others” or “Invite Others” page. They can simply key in a few of their friends’ email addresses into the form with a template invite message automatically inserted for them, and hit submit. This method of marketing makes use of the proven “word of mouth” marketing. Believe it, a simple function like this can do wonders. So make sure you have a function like this before launching your app.
4. Provide buttons/badges for members to help spread the word
Happy users will happily volunteer to promote your app — as long as you provide them the tools. Design some nice and cute buttons or badges and place it in a page called “Help us promote” (be sincere) along with the HTML codes of the imagelinks so that your die hard fans can easily help you promote your app without costing you a dime. The cuter your buttons are, the more likely that people will voluntarily place it into their sites. Not only will this help you reach more audience, it will also create the brand for you. Meebo used this method with their GoMeebo and they worked perfectly. You’ll be surprised to see how many people will voluntarily place your buttons into their sites.
5. Leverage RSS
If your web app allows user-generated content, there’s a high chance that you can convert their contents into RSS. As long as the content has a title and a timestamp (and possibly a category), you can definitely ‘RSS’ them. A huge amount of Internet users today rely on RSS on a daily basis. If you don’t provide RSS subscriptions for your app, you’ll lose that amount of potential users. The good thing about RSS is apart from allowing your users to stay updated, they can also be submitted into many relevant websites that accepts RSS feeds. What happens next is when your RSS is updated, it will also be updated to the thousands of readers on those sites, thus reaching more potential users.
Of course there are more ways that you can do to make your web app do the marketing by itself. But I think the list up there are some of the most basic and yet most effective method for passive marketing. It’s a good idea to have all these functions ready before launching your Web 2.0 app.Tags: marketing SEO strategy web 2.0 web app development
I’m not saying that you need to develop creatively stunning design for your web app. I mean hey, look at MySpace… it was once regarded as the ugliest web app ever. But the amount of users they have scrolling over their ugly, full of ads website every single day is overwhelming. What I actually mean when I say “first impression” has nothing to do with beauty, but more towards the strategy that you use for your site’s look-and-feel. It’s the type of layout that you want to use, the fonts, where you place your login form, the logo, the theme colour, where to use Ajax or Flash, ads placement, user-friendliness, etc. Different types of web apps will have different style of interface and user-experience, because how your app should look and behave is largely dependent on what it is used for and the target users. ImageShack, an image hosting application have a minimalist design to impose the “easy & no hassle” look, while Netvibes has a more defined design to give the impression of “we have many features for your favorite feeds!”. Invest your time more on defining what’s the most effective design for your web app. For what is worth, simplicity and cleanliness always work in most apps so you can start off with that mindset. Even after you have launched your application, you can continually tweak your placements here and there to analyze the differences that it makes.
Talking about look-and-feel, I have just finished sketching the mock up design of one of my current web app project using Fireworks - my favorite graphics tool. I am not going to show you guys yet how it looks like but I will when I think its time to have them uploaded. Anyway, you can also adopt this practice when designing your app. Sketch your whole website in a graphics tool first because it is faster and it gives you an idea of how you your site will look like in the end. Only after you have satisfied with the mock up will you start coding the layout and placement on Dreamweaver (or any other softwares that you use).Tags: strategy web design
- Posted by Tengku Zahasman on May 16th, 2007 filed in Web Programming, Web App Development
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Few years back when I was still in University, one of my lecturer who taught us Software Engineering said, “Don’t be a programmer, be a developer.” I was a bit confused back then. In my head I asked, “What’s the difference? Don’t developers also write codes?”. I’m pretty sure the other students in the lecture hall were as confused as I was at that time. But now I know for sure that programmers and developers are from different planets.
In software development, there is a term called “Cowboy coding” which implies the method of writing softwares where the programmer start coding the application without doing any sort of proper “planning”. They just picture in their head how the application will look like in the end and start coding straight away…. do whatever they think is right. They hate planning. They think planning is boring and a waste of time. The idea of writing codes straight out from the head may sound cool, but in reality, applications that are written by cowboy coders are typically sluggish, full of bugs and very troublesome to maintain. I know this because I used to be one of them (in certain cases I still am, but well that’s a different story ).
An experienced developer will plan his project out before he even writes a single line of code. Knowing the basics of UML (Unified Modelling Language) is an advantage. Now you don’t have to plan out too detail until you had to prove the cowboy-coder’s point - wasting time. No. The best thing is to balance your planning phase so that you have a firm base to start writing the code. For me, I like to use UMLPad to plan for my project. It is a very lightweight program, free, easy to use, very straight forward, and eliminates the complexities of other more sophisticated UML tools like Rational Rose or maybe, ArgoUML. Since PHP is not really a pure Object-Oriented programming language, all you need before you start writing an application are:
1. a simple Class diagram - to define your classes/objects and the relationships between them,
2. an activity diagram - to define your application’s flow, and
3. a state diagram - to define your application’s behavior.
UMLPad provides exactly that. Alternatively, planning the traditional way (ie: sketching on papers or white boards) is also very recommended because many finds it to be more comfortable and allows us to think out of the box. What about the rest of the diagrams in UML? No need to worry about them for now. Is UML hard? Trust me, UML is just common sense. Do you need to plan in detail about everything? If you can do that very quickly, go ahead, but you probably don’t need to. Remember, we don’t want to waste too much time on planning, but we also understand that no planning is planning to fail. So if you respect yourself as a person, be a developer who plans, not just a programmer who cares about nothing but codes.Tags: strategy web app development