The hosting partner we use for HelpSpot, http://www.valianthost.com/ has just been acquired. While the partnership was informal, it was overall a very good experience and I’m a bit sad to see ValiantHost get absorbed into a larger entity. It sounds like Giorgio, the found of ValiantHost, will be moving on to other opportunities so this leaves the HelpSpot hosting service a bit up in the air. I’m currently trying to get in touch with Server Intellect about the future of that service.
If they choose not to continue it I’ll be on the search for a new partner. I’m also kicking the idea around of offering a solution ourselves. Not normal hosting, not really enough money in that for me, but rather a leased license option. Perhaps a flat $20 per user per month option that includes the hosting. I’m not sure though, even if I partner up with a big hosting provider I’m still worried about sleepless nights tracking down hackers and general badness. I don’t know if any amount of money can properly offset the added stress of offering the hosted solution.
Trials by Time of Day
I was charting some numbers and thought this was interesting because it was unremarkable. The chart shows the times of day when people sign up for trials. These numbers are all time. Seems pretty much like you’d expect. Mostly done during US business hours with a few overnight and I suspect that’s mostly non-US companies during their business hours.
Hosted Trials Come Highly Recommended
If you have a web app that’s not SaaS I have to say that I highly recommend setting up a hosted trial environment. It’s a bit of a pain and has some costs since a dedicated server is probably required, but so far it’s been well worth it for us.
I have the entire thing setup so I can convert a regular trial to a hosted trial in a click. I’ve thought of making it totally automated and I probably will at some point, but I wanted to make sure the system I put in place could handle the load before making it wide open.
It’s only been an option for a few months, but the numbers are great. The average HelpSpot sale is $721.46, but the average sale from a customer who did a hosted trial is $1,727.61. It’s a bit early to know if these numbers will hold up, but I think they will. The main reason I wanted the hosted trial option was for larger companies where dealing with IT can be a pain. They want to know the solution is for them before bothering with IT to setup a test environment, etc. So far it’s worked like a charm and we’re reaching the audience we wanted to reach with it.
So if you’re building a downloadable web app you should definitely keep this in mind for some point in your development. I think it’s also worth noting that a hosted trial is not the same as an online demo. Online demo’s are OK for less expensive applications, but in general customers can’t really get a good idea how it’s going to work for them in a demo. A hosted trial lets the customer really customize the entire system to get a feel for it. In HelpSpot’s case we even setup an email account for them so they can see the email integration without having to setup a test account.
The hosted trial option has really helped remove at least one big barrier to purchase from the process. Hopefully I can find a few more to remove which work this well!
Nice Post on the Death of an ISV
Phil has a nice wrap up article on his decision to call it quites with his app. Definitely worth a read.
Contact Break Down for HelpSpot
Scott breaks down his 4 main contact methods for his lead management app. Here’s the breakdown for HelpSpot customer support. This was ridiculously easy to pull together using HelpSpots reports.
Web form: 29%
Other is things like a forum post that was promoted to a full request, etc.
Tiny Sneak Peak at HelpSpot v2
Part of the new website design will be a HelpSpot blog where I’ll run the beta from, offer sneak peaks, tips, etc. However, I thought it would be fun to show off a version 2 feature which has always been one of our most requested.
Free Bingo Cards
If you’re looking for free bingo cards you should check out the nice app created by Patrick called Bingo Card Creator.
Patrick is trying to build up a little Google juice for some of his main keywords so I thought I’d help him out. If you have a blog you should too, Patrick is a great guy.
UserScape.com V2 Complete
A few months backed I posted on the initial sketches of the next version of the UserScape.com website. I’m happy to say that the process is now complete and we’re moving forward with HTMLizing the design and should be implementing it in the next few weeks. I’m really happy with the job MIke did as always. I think this is his best work yet. The design is modern and I really like the use of black which plays nicely with the colors. The final designs are below (note that not all text is accurate). Also the top and bottom black bars extend the full width of the screen which is not really shown in these graphics.
The big differences between this and the current site are much clearer calls to action (especially the home page which is right in the banner), a more designed interface with rounded edges, a clearer navigation scheme with primary top navigation and secondary side navigation, and the large homepage screenshot which should help leverage HelpSpots nicer appearance compared to the competition.
Don’t be Cheap, Don’t be Cheap, Don’t be Cheap
Please excuse the title, this is a note to myself as much as a post. Every time I try and go cheap on something it comes back to bite me. Even if I’m not actually trying to go cheap, but if I just don’t buy the best then I end up being sorry. My current frustration is with the dhtml menu system I use on the HelpSpot request page. I’m redoing it for version 2 and this will now be the 3rd menu system I’ve used there.
The first was my own creation, what a mistake that was. A dhtml menu requires a full time programmer just to track down every oddball bug in even just the limited browsers HelpSpot formally supports (IE/FF/Safari). At some point I switched over to the Dynarch menu. Not a bad menu for a few hundred dollars, but some serious problems in Safari which some customers run into. Especially with forcing tabs to be called to the front when using multiple tabs (you know who you are out there ;-)). I’ve also been concerned that there doesn’t appear to be much development on the menu.
So for version 2 I’ve bit the bullet and spent the $1,200 for the Milonic dhtml menu. Wow, what a difference. I’ve used Milonic before, a long time ago though not such an intensive usage as this. So far this sucker is rock solid. Even better is that there’s really active support and some nifty extension libraries for editing menus on the fly which I really need to do (they’re a bit hidden, which is a shame. You can find it here). It loads instantly and without any browser issues. Building a menu dynamically is also very easily done, which has made integrating it into HelpSpot a snap.
Yet again I’ve had to learn that being cheap is only a path to heartache and support requests.
Any openings in your fantasy baseball league?
My regular fantasy baseball league may be breaking up. If anyone out there is part of a good league and in need of another player let me know. I’d prefer it to be a money league (keeps the excitement up), but I’d also be interested in a glory league.