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Build an Insanely Great Web Service - NYT 6/26/09

From: Catherine B.
Sent on: Friday, June 26, 2009 9:18 AM
Good Mornning WebMapSocialites. I wish I could fit this entire article in one email but alas, Meetup will not allow. As such, I've included a teaser and link to the original on

Have a great weekend!

June 25, 2009
Build an Insanely Great Web Service
By BERNARD LUNN of ReadWriteWeb

This is one post/chapter in a serialized book called Startup 101. For the introduction and table of contents, please click here.

First, the good news: building a website today is ten times cheaper and faster than it was 10 years ago. Now, the bad news: building a website today is ten times cheaper and faster than it was 10 years ago.

You are entering an incredibly crowded marketplace. You have to get and keep people's attention extremely fast, because hundreds of other services are just a click away. The bar is set very high, and knowing exactly how high does help. If you reach too low, you will only catch air and crash to the ground.

Six Milestones from 30 Seconds to 3 Years

Here is what an insanely great Web product looks like to the average user right now and through the next 3 years:

30 seconds: "I get it."
3 minutes: "I've used it and still get it, and it has not annoyed me yet."
3 days: "I find this really useful or fun."
3 weeks: "I am raving about this to other people."
3 months: "I couldn't imagine not having this, and I'm boring my friends telling them about it."
3 years: "How weird to see this on Oprah."

The 30-Second Milestone

You can moan all you like about what attention deficit disorder has done for user engagement, but it won't help you one bit. Get over it. People don't automatically care about your product and won't invest any time to find out if they should care. This rule is as old as consumer markets. This is what those guys on Madison Avenue with their jingles and insipid ad slogans have always known. Political sound bites live in this same reality.

Does this feel fake and insubstantial to you, the engineer, schooled in solving big, hard, complex problems?

So, study this like you would any other big, hard, complex problem. Making a product or service look totally simple and obvious is a big, hard, complex problem.

In 30 seconds, a user who comes to your website should be able to say:

"I get what they are offering."
"This might help or amuse me."
"I know what I have to do next."

There is a science to achieving this; it has been documented. You need to look at great examples and understand how they did it. Then you need to test and change, test and change, test and change, test and change, and then test and then change, until you go crazy!

The 3-Minute Milestone

After using your website for 3 minutes, the user should be able to say:

"I still understand what they are offering, and it does help or amuse me."
"This has not annoyed me yet."
"This could be even more fun or useful than I thought."
"I know what to do next to find out if this could be even more fun or useful."

The 3-Day Milestone

Now is the time to worry about stuff like performance and reliability. If you get to the 3-week milestone and bomb, your fanatical users will cut you some slack. But at this stage? Zero slack.

Have you been planning for this milestone since the design stage? Are you running on a cloud service with auto-scaling and recovery? No. Whoops! You had better hope your product is not insanely great, but rather just reasonably good and will grow steadily. Hint: build on a cloud service (like Amazon AWS) from the start.

The Three Remaining Milestones

3-week milestone
You'll know you have hit this when VCs return your calls and VCs you have never heard of call you out of the blue. Close fast to leverage your hotness. Don't get all arrogant and believe you can do it alone. With this kind of traction, you can raise capital cheaply (and thus have less dilution), so do it.
3-month milestone
If you reach this stage, you can skip ahead to the chapter on "How to Scale Without Losing Your Shirt."
3-year milestone
If you reach this stage, skip ahead to the chapter on "Planning Your Exit."

Concept vs. Execution

To see the rest go here:

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