Friday Updates: New Homepage, Focusing on Professionals, Data Intake Form, Acquisitions Anonymous, Startup

Photo by Manuel Venturini

Hey friends, it’s been a few weeks since my last update. I’m probably not going to do these weekly right now, but hopefully can still find time for one or two a month going forward.

Preceden

New homepage

For years now Preceden’s homepage has had a sign up form above the fold:

There was a time when the sign up page was separate, but I A/B tested it back in like 2014 and putting the sign up form on the homepage almost doubled sign ups, and so that’s where it’s remained ever since.

There was an example timeline below the fold and there’s also a whole section of the site with examples, but a large % of users signed up without actually seeing the type of timelines that Preceden can create. And as a result, a lot bail immediately after signing up, I suspect because there’s some misalignment between what type of timeline they expect vs reality.

To remedy this, Milan (the front-end designer I work with) and I redesigned the homepage to ensure everyone visiting has a better idea of what Preceden is capable of:

The tradeoff is that the homepage to sign up conversion rate winds up dropping, but I’m alright with that because new sign ups are a lot higher quality now and I’m not wasting the time of people that Preceden isn’t a good fit for.

The day after this change there was a huge spike in sign ups – about double compared to the day prior. My optimistic take on it at the time was that the homepage was resonating with a lot more visitors which was leading to more sign ups than in the past. But… after digging in it turned out that a large % of the sign ups were bots. Whomp whomp. I suspect that there are bots that look for /signups paths, fill out the form with garbage content, and then look for more forms in-app to spam. Preceden’s in-app experience doesn’t lend itself well to bots so all of the bots gave up immediately after signing up, but it still wound up inflating sign ups and hurting a bunch of post-sign up conversion rates. I was able to prevent the bot sign ups by looking at a few factors like whether they had keystrokes on the sign up form (these bots did not) which dropped sign ups back down to a more realistic level.

Focusing on professionals

When people sign up for Preceden, I ask them what they plan to use it for. Historically the options were Professional Use, Personal Use, School, and Teaching. Preceden has been a general purpose timeline maker tool and these are the groups that virtually everyone falls into. But… being general purpose is tough. It’s difficult to focus the copy on one audience, it’s difficult to focus the product, etc. I’ve been hesitant to focus on one because no single group dominates revenue. For example, people who choose Professional Use have made up about 5% of sign ups but 40% of revenue. The risk of focusing on them is that you execute on it poorly and put the other 60% of revenue at risk.

But… after years of waffling on this issue, that’s the direction I’m now headed: focusing on professionals. They are great customers and there’s a lot of long term upside if I can pull it off, even though I might wind up seeing lower revenue in the short term.

Practically speaking, it means things like:

  • Removing School and Teaching from the sign up form options
  • Focusing the examples on professionals
  • Focusing the copy on project planning and whatnot
  • Reworking the plans which have historically included a low-cost Student plan

We’ll see how it all turns out, but I’m optimistic and excited to work on it.

Help Scout

Michael, the new data lead who joined in May, set up a data request intake form which has gone a long way towards organizing our day-to-day data work at Help Scout. Here’s the current version:

These get sent to an Asana board with lists that we can move the tasks around as needed: Inbox, Backlog, Blocked, In Progress, and Complete.

Should have set something up like this a long time ago.

What I’m listening to

What I’m watching

Startup on Netflix:

Take care y’all.

Friday Updates: Back from Paternity Leave

Photo by Sergey Shmidt

I took it easy for most of June to help out with Owen and generally try to make things as easy as possible for my wife. We now have 4 kids – ages 6, 5, 3, and the newborn, which means there’s rarely a dull moment in the Mazur household.

Preceden

I put some time into Preceden during the break, knocking out a few small product improvements here and there.

One of these included integrating Headway, an in-app changelog notification widget that lets me keep users informed about recent updates to the Preceden:

In addition to being able to read them directly in the app, Headway generates a public page where anyone can follow the changes. I also hooked Headway up to Preceden’s long-neglected Twitter account where it shares updates when I publish them:

Recent updates include:

And yes, I do need to resume marketing initiatives one of these days.

Help Scout

I took June completely off from Help Scout. As a contractor, it’s not paid time off, but I put in extra hours in May in preparation for the time off in June so thankfully didn’t have to forgo any income to take the time off.

With the hire of Michael, the new Data Lead, in May, my work at Help Scout is changing: I have more bandwidth to tackle bigger data projects because Michael has taken on a lot of the other day to day responsibilities.

The big project I’m starting is building out a Likelihood to Close Score that uses machine learning to help us estimate the probability that a trial will go onto become a customer. It’s requiring picking up some new skills because it’s one thing to build a scikit-learn model locally in a Jupyter Notebook, another thing to get a model in production and have the score available in our data warehouse to use in Looker and other analyses. I’ll write a post down the road sharing how it all works, assuming I can figure it out.

What I’m listening to

Lots of podcasts thanks to some long car rides during my break + listening in the morning during yoga:

  • My First Million with Sam Parr and Shaan Puri
  • Lex Fridman, a polymath who interviews lots of brilliant folks in technology, science, and entrepreneurship. I’ve listened to his interviews with Vitalik Buterin about Ethereum 2.0, Bryan Johnson about building brain-computer interfaces at Kernel, Sam Harris about consciousness, Silvio Micali about Algorand, Jason Calacanis about angel investing, and Clara Sousa-Silva about her work detecting phosphene on Venus which might be a sign of life there.
  • Indie Hackers with Courtland Allen
  • Art of Product with Ben Orenstein and Derrick Reimer

What I’m reading

Hope all is well with you all πŸ‘‹.

Friday Updates: Say hello to Owen Mazur

Last Friday my wife and I welcomed this amazing little guy to the world:

Fortunately Owen’s birth was the easiest of our 4 kids and both he and my wife are doing well.

I’m taking it easy most of June so probably won’t resume regular Friday updates until July.

Hope everyone is doing well πŸ‘‹.

Friday Updates: Search & Filter, Jupiter’s Legacy, William Green, Gratitude Journaling

Preceden

Big update from the last two weeks was shipping a search & filter feature on Preceden:

Hat-tip to Milan for the excellent UI work on the search field.

Also did some more performance work that has had noticeable improvements:

Including realizing that jQuery has been loading unminified for years (damn):

I’ve been going pretty hard on product work the last two months and probably should start putting more marketing work (or at least hiring a contractor who can help there), but for now I’m still excited about the product roadmap and will be focusing on it for a while.

Help Scout

This month we hired a new data lead and I’ve been busy bringing him up to speed on all things data at Help Scout. The training is all somewhat rushed because my wife and I have a baby due at the end of May (in 8 days!) and I’m going to take about a month off and want to make sure the new lead is set up for success before I head out.

Watching

Jupiter’s Legacy on Netflix – not bad.

Reading

Richer, Wiser, Happier by William Green:

The author is a journalist who has interviewed dozens of incredibly successful investors over his career. He compiled a lot of their key investing and life advice into this fantastic book.

I’m more of an index fund kind of guy myself, but I’ve really enjoyed reading about how these folks think about investing, bubbles, long term thinking, volatility, quality, and a lot more.

Experimenting

Gratitude Journal – every night before bed for the last few weeks I write 3 things I’m grateful for in a small moleskin notebook that I keep on my bedside table. I’ve experimented with gratitude journaling in the past using the 5 Minute Journal but I didn’t like the format of the 5 Minute Journal and wound up abandoning it (daily affirmations, ugh). Now I’m just doing the gratitude journaling and have seen a noticeable improvement in my baseline happiness level. My entries are not super deep or anything, but do serve as a good reminder that I have a lot to be grateful for.

Some samples:

  • Grateful that Mason (my oldest) is curious about everything
  • Grateful for the chirping birds outside every morning
  • Grateful for the time spent reading to the kids every night
  • Grateful for a warm bed
  • Grateful for lazy Sundays at home
  • Grateful for working with Eli at Help Scout

Writing a few of these each each day will start training your mind to start noticing them during the day which is an easy way to improve your mood and be more grateful for what you have.