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