Own web analytics for startups – Part II

Part II – what are the web systems helping clients which are not a product itself

Today we will start filling the table which we created in the previous post. Our main topic throughout this series of posts will be column A (web applications), so as a warm up let’s fill in the section B1:D6. These types of businesses have no relevance to our product, so we will just skim over them, because we know almost nothing about them. While doing this we will base ourselves on our experience, gained as users of these systems, not creators. To start off, let me explain what each line means in our table to avoid confusion.

1 – a web site which is a separate system from your product, 37signals call it a ‘marketing’ site. It contains information about your offer, pricing, FAQ, documentation, who you are and how to contact you. It is the starting point and link between all of your systems (blog, forum, client support), including your product.

2 – a blog is used to acquaint and connect interested users with things like: what the team is working on, how the product can be used best, how clients use it (with their approval of course). People are always interested in what happens behind the scenes, this makes everything more exciting, more human, and more connected. Here you can also share anything that doesn’t concern the product, it could be interesting and helpful for those around you to see how you set up OpenVPN, write Selenium tests or how you use Review Board. A blog has tags and categories, and if you use them correctly, people will enjoy reading about you and your accomplishments.

3 – a forum, but only if it isn’t a part of your product. A forum can be used for many things, this depends on how you organise it. The classic forum is a place for clients to interact with each other and the team of developers. For example, if our application is CRM, so in the forum, salesmen can discuss a) how to use your system, b) how to sell effectively – so your forum could become a place where all sales folks come to meet each other. Some of them will definitely be interested in your product, since you created such an interesting forum, and could potentially be your new client. Separate sub-forums could also be used for customer support (but that isn’t the best idea) and for bug tracking. With the help of plug-ins the forum becomes a Q/A portal or a feedback system (like uservoice.com). Not ideal, but it’s your own, and the main thing is; it’s all in one place, with single registration and search across all systems. Have you seen many systems like this? Neither have I.

4 – a customer support system. There is a wide variety of these, free and paid. Your client, which doesn’t know how something works, or how to do something, but he doesn’t want to ask this question publicly, creates a support request in a system like this, receives a ticket number and awaits your instant reaction. If you charge people, then you definitely need this system. We aren’t talking about a bug tracking system, but a technical support system, which is being frequently called a client support system, and that’s correct. No one is stopping you from tracking your bugs, but that shouldn’t concern your clients. I think the difference is apparent between a bug tracking system and a customer support system. In the first we store – what is not working, priority, who is responsible for fixing it and when should it be fixed. The second – how the bug is affecting client, what temporary solution has been offered and when you have promised to fix the problem (or at least contact them for an update). Let’s not forget that most of the requests to customer support are not related to bugs. We are talking not about Bugzilla, Trac or Mantis which are more about bug tracking but about OTRS, FogBugz (tracks bugs, features and customer inquiries), ZenDesk. Campaign Monitor Team uses HelpSpot.

5 – customer feedback, voting, ideas exchange. You can add to this list applications from SalesForce IdeaExchange, Jive, Spigit, BrightIdea as well as Russian site Reformal.ru. You and your users can suggest improvements and vote for ideas.

6 – Q/A portal. Here I’m primarily speaking of the Stack Exchange platform, which ceased to be a product you can buy and use very recently. We will imagine that such a product still exists, and we will discuss the risks of external services use in a later post. Another example is 37 signals’ system with some more info here.

So we’ve got the rows sorted, now let’s look at the columns.

(B) Communities, forums and social networks – interact, argue, agree, love and hate.

B1 – Social applications are marketing sites themselves. They don’t need a separate website, so let’s put a minus.

B2 – forums or more precisely, communities using an internet forum as a platform, barely ever have blogs, because there’s nothing to write about. A forum is a stable and self-sufficient form of communication on the web. Social networks are the opposite, they frequently have a blog. Here is Facebooks’ blog, and here is something resembling a blog for the developers of vkontakte.ru. We put a +/-.

B3 – as we see it, forums aren’t needed as a separate system for social networks. These systems in substance are forums. Minus.

B4 – customer support exists in the form of moderation and an ability to appeal to the sites’ administrators. We can not see a place for dedicated customer support system, but we don’t know much about this. Minus until we get other responses from you.

B5 – a specialised system to collect ideas from your users, and also to check the ‘neediness’ of your ideas. You have to be careful while making decisions based on its results, but we’ll talk about that later. Can be used with social applications – plus.

B6 – users can ask and answer. In essence Q/A is an interactive FAQ. Classic FAQ is written by an unknown author, and how to ask your question is a mystery. If there’s a forum, users will go there to ask questions. If there is a ‘Contact Us’ page they can go there. Of course, you will answer but you need to publish this answer in the forum, or you will enter it into your FAQ. And usually nobody does this because there isn’t enough time, so the best option is – to have an FAQ on your web site, which is dynamically built based on the most viewed questions on your Q/A portal. Plus.

(C) Commerce – buying, selling, exchanging and auctioning.

C1 – sites that specialize in selling or are considered a marketplace, don’t require a marketing site, they are intuitively understood. As soon as you enter one of these sites, you straight away understand what you can do – exposed goods with price tags don’t leave anything to the imagination. For aliens, who haven’t yet sold or bought anything, special pages exist. Example – eBay. Let’s put a minus.

C2 – commerce and marketplace sites can have their own blog. It could be a blog for people developing on top of their API or buyers and sellers of goods. For example, eBay decided not to maintain one and Zappos does have it. As you can see eBay ideas (Feedback Forum), forums (Discussion Board) and Q/A (Answer Centre) do remain. Everything that is in our table, did you notice? Plus.

C3 – it’s hard to give a generic answer. On sites that sell, you need reviews for the goods being sold. Which is the advantage and disadvantage of this TV model? How good is this programming book for a newbie? A forum is not needed from our point of view. On sites that auction, buyers’ and sellers’ ratings are important. It is expected that you have done your ‘homework’ and already know exactly what you need. Short descriptions of the sellers’ make sure you don’t make a mistake. Trying to organise reviews on a site like this is very difficult, because each seller could be offering a different version of the iPhone, made in different provinces of The Celestial Empire, with different sets of features (joking). But on the other hand not only buyers come here, but also sellers who might have a common topics to discuss. Put a +/-.

C4 – here we have a definite plus. Bargaining, exchanging, purchase and shipment need reporting, prioritisation and effectiveness to work with. Want a laugh? Look at this add for customer service from Zappos.

C5 – a universal way to collect ideas from your users, and also a universal way of checking if your own ideas are needed. Can be used – so we’ll put a plus.

C6 – buyers almost always have questions to ask, and they must be answered. As was said for B6, the Q/A system is a convenient way (for developers) to self-organise a FAQ page. Definitely a plus.

(D) Content – reading, listening, learning, digesting.

D1 – definitely a minus. An extra marketing site is not needed for this type of business.

D2 – informational sites don’t need a blog. There’s nothing to write about. Minus.

D3 – usually, sites like these create forums for interaction between readers (if we are talking about electronic newspapers or blogs) or viewers (sites for TV channels) or listeners (internet radio stations) about their publications or programs. Some media businesses use comments in their blogs but most use a forum. Plus.

D4 – put minus. Media business is the best! It doesn’t need anything.

D5 – universal form of collecting ideas from your readers/viewers/listeners. Can be used, so +.

D6 – on media sites we consume and express our opinion which means we do not ask same questions again as their visitors. Minus goes here.

And we end up with a table like this.

Well, now we are all set with a nice, hot cup of tea and a slice of ‘Napoleon’ cake, let’s start on column A1:A6.

Own web analytics for startups – Part I
strong. We put a +/-.

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  1. webtains abzocke says:

    wow, great post and info keep posting stuff like this i really like it.webtains abzocke

  2. Kassanndra says:

    Hi, you should add HappyFox to your list of tools mentioned. It is a customer support tool and ticket management software that makes handling incoming customer support requests a cake walk. HappyFox has affordable monthly pricing plans and comes with the starter plan as low as $39 per month.

  3. Igor Kryltsov says:


    We understand your intention :)
    But it was not meant to be a full list of tech support systems but just ones we know and looked at. May be you should try to get it into http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_help_desk_issue_tracking_software list too?


  4. Kassanndra says:

    Thanks for the tip, Igor. Will do. :)