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Posts from the ‘Web Apps’ Category

How to Design Web Dashboards That Communicate Actionable Insights

As a web app developer or designer, you have probably played around with the idea of building a web dashboard. Dashboards on modern websites can be helpful tools allowing anyone to take away insights at a glance. Companies that get the right data, ask the right questions and display data in the right way stand out from other web apps.

But sometimes dashboards are only designed as charts for the sake of charts. Recently, Twitter announced they were planning on introducing an analytics platform to help uncover insights in social media campaigns. The tool’s design looks outstanding; overlapping line graphs showing clicks against bar charts showing tweets, plotted out by hour.

Just don’t let the aesthetics fool you. A social media marketer would not be able to glance at the charts and determine how to improve their campaigns with any amount of certainty. This analytics dashboard leans closer to eye candy.

When building a dashboard, remember one thing: All dashboards should communicate information that users will be able to act upon.

The intent behind this post is not to put a spotlight on Twitter. There’s a lot of potential for a Twitter-owned analytics platform.  Instead, put the spotlight on your own web apps.

Take this same perspective we used with Twitter’s dashboard and use it on your own. What kind of implications would users be able to learn from your dashboards? If a chart is strictly showing data points, it’s likely not valuable to a user. Kill those charts. Show your users something they would be able to react to.

For those seeking inspiration, here are a few examples of sites using charts and dashboards well.

Mint.com

Instead of just charting your total assets against your total debt, Mint.com shows how your net worth changes over time.

 

Adobe Business Catalyst

Business Catalyst gives users a snapshot of their businesses’ health, beyond the latest metrics or sales.

 

Facebook Ads

Facebook estimates your campaigns’ reach, which uses marketers own words to indicate campaign performance.

 

Google Analytics

The mother of all web dashboards does not disappoint. Google Analytics works fine when web owners install a tracking code, but the real power is unlocked once businesses begin tracking revenue and conversion data. Suddenly, web design decisions can be motivated by previous sales.

 

Crowdbooster

We wrote about Crowdbooster last year because of the value their dashboards bring to people on Twitter. Crowdbooster helps marketers understand what’s working with their social media campaigns or, more importantly, what’s not working.

Legal Guidance for Small Business Owners That Won’t Break the Bank

Rocket Lawyer Web App

Anytime a startup bootstraps a new business idea, they cut a few corners. And how can you blame them? After all, it’s pretty easy to build and promote a web app over the course of the weekend. Failing fast may be better than pouring resources into a project that could fail later down the line.

It’s no surprise many of the startups we hear from launched without consulting a lawyer. They haven’t filed for IP protection, and they’re not exactly thinking how they will file their taxes in the upcoming year. The number one barrier for a startup to reaching out for legal support is the cost of a retainer. That’s why business owners will be thrilled to learn about Rocket Lawyer On Call.

For less than $40 per month, customers can have a lawyer review documents like business filings, minutes or contracts. Additionally, they add a free phone or in-person consultation for each new legal matter. There are restrictions in place, such as the number of documents qualifying for review during a quarter (five at the time of this blog post) and the length of the document is also has a limit. If you find your business needs assistance beyond the subscription plan, Rocket Lawyer offers a hefty 40% discount off standard hourly attorney fees.

Rocket Lawyer On Call is accepting new customers. Consider them an option if you do not have any type of legal protection for your business.

How to Use Pricing Tables to Grow Sales

Mini Sprout Web Apps Pricing Table How To
You’ll find plenty of blogs that give examples of CSS and table-based pricing tables. But if the pricing table doesn’t convert, it won’t matter how you built it.

The purpose of a pricing table is to upsell potential customers. It’s set up for customers to pick the most appropriate plan for them, but web app entrepreneurs should design it so it leads to more revenue.

By the time your visitors reach the pricing table, they likely understand the value of your product and are considering making a purchase. From here, you have the opportunity to grow that final transaction cost as high as possible. It’s called “upselling,” and many established web apps do it well. Let’s take a look at some examples.

1: Pricing tables should upsell interested customers

37signals pricing table
37signals offers five plan options for Basecamp, but it pushes for the second most expensive plan, even if the cheapest paid option will work best for most customers. In this case, they’re upselling a customer that is already interested in purchasing.

2: Encourage customers to upgrade by offering free plans with few features

Wufoo pricing table
Wufoo actually calls attention to their free plan because it serves a role in their larger acquisition strategy. There’s quite a range of difference between their free and lowest-level paid plan. In fact, anyone who uses Wufoo on the free plan will quickly run out of fields or entries; they’ll have to upgrade. In this case, Wufoo uses their free plan as a teaser trial.

3: Users should see a value for every level of upgrade

The lowest level paid plan should offer the least value, and the highest level paid plan should offer the best value. Stepping up levels should not be as simple as doubling storage and doubling the price. Instead, users should feel an incentive to upgrade.

Incremental Value for pricing tables web apps
PlanHQ offers plans for $9, $24 and $49 per month. But the more expensive options are not offered simply by doubling or tripling costs and features. Users see an incremental value for sliding up to the next tier level, which encourages upsells for existing customers.

4: Less isn’t just more; it’s everything

It’s too common for new web app developers to build a pricing table that compares every feature. Keep it simple. Restrain the features for the Tour pages. And if you have multiple features that change with each level, consider simplifying the price points. You don’t need ten different components to highlight plan levels. Usually, one feature alone (like storage space, number of projects, or number of credits) will do just fine.

5: Once you build it, optimize

Your first attempt at a pricing table is really your personal opinion about what you think will convert a customer. Every hundred sales or so, make a change and see what boosts conversions. For high-performance sites, look into using Google’s free Website Optimizer tool for dynamic page changes that will tell you what combination works best.

The job of building and refining a pricing table really never ends. Customer needs change, as do your web apps’ features. Schedule time to regularly review the pricing table. It could end up being the most significant sales tool for your business.

Solo: Visually Simple Project Management


We’ve seen an awful lot of really good, comprehensive project management web apps launch over the past year. But, we can’t help from writing about them. Any time someone takes a new POV, we feel compelled to share it.

Solo is a new project management app built with freelancers in mind. The service handles both project management and invoicing, which makes it capable of tackling the more sophisticated offerings on the market.

Logging into the service brings you to your dashboard. At first glance, users realize they’re staring at a service unlike anything they’ve seen before. The creators at Solo approached their web app beginning with a blank page, and you’ll notice a few surprising design decisions. The visual hierarchy for graphical elements is a bit different from other project management apps available today. For example, the main page highlights the earnings to date with text, and charts and pushed down lower on the page. Sidebars don’t exist at all. Even the website’s terms and conditions are only viewable as a PDF, and they’re probably the most pleasing terms we’ve seen in a while.

The service is still young with a few necessary features on the way, such as QuickBooks integration, client login areas and an internal messaging system. Before jumping over entirely, try out the service and see if it’s something you’d want to integrate into your workflow. Fortunately, signing up comes with a 14-day free trial, and a paid account is available for a limited time at $10 per month.

Ifttt: A Scriptable Social Web


Ifttt, or “If This, Then That”, is a new web service that activates triggers based on specific events. The service works in conjunction with your social networks, so if someone tags you in a photo on Facebook, you could set up a service to send you an SMS. Ifttt has a seemingly unlimited amount of uses. Once you get the hang of creating tasks, you’ll find it difficult to stop creating and tweaking.

When you create a new task, you’re given the ability to specify your trigger. A trigger forms the first part of the task, like the “If this” part. Triggers can come from just about anything: receiving an email, fluctuations in the stock market, changes in weather, particular times of the day or week, or new posts on Facebook, just to name a few.

The second part of the task is the action, or the “then that” part. Ifttt likes to focus a lot of its potential on communication. As a result, the actions generally cover the ability to send a tweet, email, text message or IM. When you put them all together, you can be SMSed once your stock drops below a threshold or texted when you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook.

Ifttt is currently in private beta. Sign up for your own invitation through their sign-up form.

Crate: HTML5 Drag-And-Drop File Sharing


There’s no shortage of file sharing apps available. Box.net and Dropbox could not be easier to use, and their payment plans are great. Now there’s a new option, and Crate may be the simplest tool of all.

Visit the site and see an open create ready for you to use. In a modern web browser, just drag a file from your desktop and release it over the crate. The file uploads, and you’re given a short URL that lasts for a half hour. If you want longer term storage, sign-up for a free account.

Crate works well for one-off file transfers among friends and coworkers, but in order to survive, they’re going to want to attract regular users. The service offers something called crates, which are like folders or packages of files. Registered users can create a new crate and drag their files into place. Add your files, get a link, and you’re done.

The service is unbelievably simple to use. We caught ourselves uploading files just for fun. Crate is free to use up to 200MB storage space and six individual crates. Or you can upgrade to the $9 per month plan, which offers 10GB of storage.

LocalPinch: A Deal Site Beyond Coupons


LocalPinch is a marketplace to help small businesses recruit new customers. Owners will post a deal at a significantly discounted rate and a limited quantity. People purchase coupons, and business owners find themselves with a new buyer. Groupon and LivingSocial thrive on tangibles and food, but LocalPinch seems more focused on service businesses, like a local music teacher or tutors.

The service reaches beyond coupons. Small business owners are able to control the control on their page. LocalPinch’s organic search listings could potentially land higher in search results than a small business’ website on its own. Therefore, listing on LocalPinch would then give an owner an advantage: create a page, and attract more people through search results.

Small business owners never stop looking for efficient ways to drive more revenue. The coupon component offers an instant, measurable impact on a small business’ bottom line. With the mass appeal and overnight celebrity of sites like Groupon or LivingSocial, what kind of service company wouldn’t want to get involved? While it doesn’t yet carry the same allure of a Yelp, LocalPinch is definitely heading in the right direction.

Freedcamp: Totally Free Project Manager


Freedcamp is yet another project management Basecamp competitor. Why do we need another Basecamp competitor? Because Freedcamp is completely free.

The app is divided into a few pages. To-Dos can be added and sorted with AJAX bliss. If you have multiple users signed-up, Discussions act like a private forum. The Milestones tab lets people create to-dos with deadlines. The Time tab tracks hours for billable professions, and it comes with a web-based stopwatch to keep you focused on your work, not on the clock. There’s also a tab for files, because every Freedcamp account comes with 20MB of storage space.

So what’s missing from Freedcamp that we would see from other competitors? Things like a calendar, gigabytes of storage and API interaction that help magnify any app’s abilities were all left out of the launch. But it’s difficult for us to find fault with a free app. In fact, Freedcamp currently doesn’t even offer tiered paid plans at all. The free plan is the only plan.

Freedcamp is capable of satisfying the needs of almost all Basecamp users. Plus, the FAQ section is surprisingly well fleshed out to help you get started quickly.

Silk: Surreal Abstraction in a Browser


New web technologies give us the ability to create outstanding, beautiful artwork in our browser window without Flash. Silk is an app unlike anything we’ve seen before. We had trouble nailing down how to describe it since we couldn’t compare it. It’s not a tool or a game.

Visit Silk, and click-and-drag a line across your browser. Once you let go, an organic shape will begin to form and glide across your screen. The design looks like waving fabric, or arcs of lightning, or smoke from a cigarette, all depending on what your draw. The shape cycles through colors as it grows, giving you a piece that you’ll want to save and share with friends. Hold down your Shift-key and move your mouse to control the wind.

What surprised us about Silk is that there is a business model behind the tool. The website previews upcoming iPhone and iPad apps. After all, with an app like this one, why would you want to be limited to your browser? We don’t have any other details at this point. But, once they are released in the App Store, we’re willing to bet they will become instant classics.

Favwork: Designer Showcase Community


Forget about invite-only showcase sites or pay-to-play design directories. Favwork is a free, welcoming community for all designers to upload and showcase their best work.

Creating an account is as simple as signing in via Twitter. Once you upload your work, share it across Twitter. Other users can stop by and like your work, and the most liked uploads are featured weekly on the homepage.

The site’s layout is very similar to Dribbble, but Dribbble controls quality by requiring a referral in order to register. As a result, similar sites often lock out solo freelancers and unintentionally places greater emphasis on exclusivity. Favwork successfully shifted the focus from building enthusiasm for an exclusive community to building enthusiasm for great work. And since the community is powered by a social site like Twitter, the barrier is low enough for anyone to join. Kudos, Favwork.