Feedback is Free… If You Ask for it

This post was guest-blogged by Mitchell Harper, cofounder of Interspire.com and author of TheStoreSuiteBlog.com

At the moment I’m working on a PHP/MySQL eCommerce and shopping cart solution called StoreSuite. I’m about 60% into development and a few weeks ago decided to launch a blog called TheStoreSuiteBlog.com to talk about the design and development of StoreSuite as we go.

As well as discussing product development, I’m also using the blog to hear feedback on what people do and do not want us to include in StoreSuite – this includes everything from feature requests to integration with payment gateways, etc.

We’re using the direct feedback from the blog to shape the development of StoreSuite – something which very few (if any) companies do. If blogs are so easy to start and so accessible to everyone then why aren’t more companies using them to get DIRECT feedback AS they build a new product, web site or service?

So why did we even start TheStoreSuiteBlog.com in the first place? Is it just to sell one million copies of StoreSuite when it’s ready for release? Nope. We started the blog because no one knows our products better than our customers and people who are looking for a decent eCommerce solution. You wouldn’t believe how many people are frustrated with the current eCommerce offerings available to those looking to sell stuff online.

Even though the blog’s only been around for 2 weeks it’s receiving a few hundred visits and a couple dozen comments each day. The comments allow us to really understand what it is people want from a shopping cart solution, and it allows me to engage in two-way conversations with hundreds of our current customers and hundreds of people who didn’t even know about our company, Interspire, before I started TheStoreSuiteBlog.com.

I think one of the problems when starting anything new is that you don’t know if it will work, so doesn’t it make sense to start a feedback loop (a blog) as early as you can in the product’s development process?

There used to be a Mexican place around here but it closed down a few months ago. Do you think they’d be closed today if they asked the locals what they thought of their menu and prices before they opened their doors? What about if they let people vote on which menu items they liked out of a list of 50 and then only sold the top 20 items?

Instead of doing this they launched a bland, overpriced menu and closed down 3 months after they started. It would’ve cost them nothing to get some feedback before they opened, but not unfortunately I’m sure they’re in a great amount of debt.

Early feedback allows you to”hedge your bets” so-to-speak, and if you can implement feature requests and change your direction early on you’re going to have a better product in the end.

You can follow along with the development of StoreSuite at TheStoreSuiteBlog.com


17 thoughts on “Feedback is Free… If You Ask for it”

  1. Dan says:

    Great post, but I think you have to exercise some amount of caution when asking people for their input. A lot of people will say they want this or that, but when it comes right down to it, they won’t be willing to pay for it. It’s a problem of people thinking they know what they want, when they really don’t. (Other people have explained this concept better than I have here…)

    At any rate, you have to figure out what people want and need, and you cannot always do that by actually listening to what they say they want and need. More research than that is often required.

    Of course, it will vary by the type of product or service you’re offering.

    Mind you, I am not saying that getting input from people isn’t important, and I certainly do wish more companies would take an active role in listening to what their customers want. But, you just have to be careful.

    1. Mitch says:

      Hi Dan. Most definitely, and I agree. 50% of the blog’s readers are existing customers and quite a few of them will become StoreSuite customers when it’s ready to be released, so we try to include as many features as we can that we feel the majority of people will benefit from.

      1. Lewis Empire says:

        Could you use the blog for testimonials as the product is in it’s final launch phase?

  2. Mybloggo says:

    Visiting StoreSuite at TheStoreSuiteBlog.com

  3. simon says:

    That’s a good idea asking bloggers’ feedback.

    1. Lewis Empire says:

      Just having a blog won’t do it for you. You need to really put on your marketing hat and make the right posts that get honest responses to specific questions.

  4. Here’s an idea… Don’t limit yourself to MySQL. I personally prefer SQLite, as it’s much easier to set up than MySQL, it’s faster in pretty much all read operations, the CLI program is nicer, and the whole database can be backed up or restored merely by copying a file. In fact, given SQLite 3’s inclusion as part of PDO in PHP 5, I can’t imagine why *anyone* would still want to use MySQL for any reason other than habit… But anyway, given PDO, it’s easy enough to support the trinity of MySQL, SQLite and PostgreSQL, so why limit yourself to MySQL like it’s still the 20th century?

  5. max says:


    i really have too hand it to you ..
    i´ve learned more from reading your site that with the faq
    from google adsense..
    i started my own blog out for fun , but i´m thinking in trying to monetize the traffic i got.
    you have some very good insigths here. keep up the good work.

    um abraço …
    this one was just a joke as i imagine you dont read portuguese..

  6. Brilliances says:

    I’m soliciting free feedback for Hottest Girl Online. It’s a celebrity rating site.

    Thanks Mitch! hehe 😛


    Jerry

  7. Marc says:

    I’ve done this on one of my websites and soliciting feedback works. Sometimes you get suggestions that just aren’t feasible, but it’s worth sifting through those to get to the good stuff.

  8. That is a nice approach towards researching what the market needs. People will be able to shape it the way they want it.

  9. Excellent guest post. I will be sure to check out your blog. It looks quite interesting…

  10. I agree with everything you said, and your interaction and answers to users and potential customers (existing customers too I assume) is not only admirable, but hopefully profitable for you in the very near future…

    💡 the only thing I could have wanted for as to know what you would have done if you didn’t have an existing customer base to draw from initially. It kind of sounded like you had existing customers going to the site providing feedback mostly…

  11. Isn’t there a concern with people taking your ideas? If you have a great, fresh idea (maybe the next “big thing” on the internet), are you willing to let people know about it when you are in the middle of production?
    The TV station FOX does it all the time. They find out what new show other networks are going to release soon, and then they come out with their own. There were those Nanny shows, dancing/ice skating with the stars, those new singing bee contests…

  12. Jaime says:

    Congratulations for the blog. It is a incredible idea!
    Jaime

  13. Using a blog to get input from your customers? Good idea!

  14. Great ideas as usual! *=)

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