Sunday, 14 January 2018

Tools to help your start-up in starting up

Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash
Getting the correct tools in place for any initiative is important. For any product concentrating the core functionality is also key. Anything that isn't a core function should come off the shelf. Very few circumstances are that specialised to need to roll your own. 

The number one example of this for me are passwords. Not only do you not want to spend the time writing authentication code. You also won't want to spend the time doing so securely. Most people already have a Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, GitHub, or whatever log-in. Just use that. 

I have already shared about infrastructure that we chose for Bashfully. Had the project been different we may have made different choices. For example, Python and R have brilliant support for statistics and machine learning. Java is great support for build, CI and distributed system tooling. In this post I am going to take a look at a couple of feedback tools, as this is important wherever you are in the product life-cycle.

Survey feedback

One easy and popular way of creating surveys is Google Forms. I find this works best in closed networks to get quick feedback. It's a bit clunky to setup and shows limited data, for example average completion times. But it does have good integration with google docs, getting your results straight into a spreadsheet. Of the survey tools I have used, Typeform is my favourite. I found this to be better for sharing. I have also used the data about the people completing the survey, how long it took, and what kind of device was used. It has plenty of integrations through Zapier, as well as direct integrations with Mail Chimp and Google Docs.

Product feedback

Looking at more general feedback about your product, you want it to be as quick and simple as possible. I have been trialling the ProdPad customer feedback portal as it links to ideas on your road map and it is easy to combine with other sources of feedback. ProdPad again has lots of integrations through Zapier, as well as JIRA and Salesforce. This is a great tool that also allows you to expose ideas from the road-map and get feedback directly linked.

For something a bit more feature rich in analysing the feedback I have been looking at WIYM. This has a great dashboard, for fast feedback. The reason this is important as we still have a short road map in discovery mode. We don't have a clearly defined market and customer base, so we are still experimenting to meet our initial vision.

Road map feedback

We don't have a tool that shares this directly at the moment. But we use Headway for release notes, which then publishes to Twitter. I found out about this tool from seeing it used on another start-up's site. So remember, always keep an eye out for who provides functionality you like! They also have a simple road map tool in development, which could be interesting.

Example release note combining Headway and WIYM!


There are a lot of tools out there for exchanging information with your users. Most of them have a free plan if you are starting out. One thing I hadn't quite expected, for example with FullStory, was how Slack would become the nexus for many tools. Tag some interesting behaviour or bug occurring in FullStory, instantly share it. Get feedback from either of the tools we use, instantly ping in Slack. During my day job we use HipChat, which is similar on the surface, but doesn't have the same level of integration support or usability. Make use of trial periods and find the tools that work best for you. But don't get too bogged down, it helps if you see one that you like or read reviews on a site like ProductHunt or BetaList.

Other tools we use:

  • MailerLite - mail automation, including our welcome and on-boarding emails 
  • Zoho - incoming mail hosting, including mail lists 
  • Cloudflare - DNS and CDN 
  • UptimeRobot - monitors our site availability and provides our status page 
  • Trevor - read only tool for querying DB, see what skill tags are being added and build data sources for analysis in R 
  • MockFlow - great design tool, part of a really handy suite 

Further reading

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