Nick Kolenda Reviews Preceden

Nick Kolenda is an author, teacher, and consultant who specializes in the psychology of marketing and related topics like pricing optimization, sales psychology, and website behavior. He’s also happens to be a regular in a poker game I host each week.

A few months back he mentioned that he was starting a new business to provide psychology-focused website reviews. With his large 50k+ mailing list audience and 13k+ YouTube subscribers he frequently gets asked to do these type of reviews and so turning it into a business made a lot of sense.

And so when he graciously offered for Preceden, my timeline maker software, to be his first review, I jumped at the opportunity.

Today he’s officially launching his business and with it his review of Preceden:

I highly recommend checking out the video: it’s packed with optimization insights covering the marketing copy, the design, the presentation of the example timelines, and more, all of which will help you see your own site in a new light. Even if you don’t have a site of your own, the review is worth watching anyway just to marvel at its production quality and Nick’s unique style.

If you’re interested in having Nick performa similar review for your site and having it shared with his audience, you can read more about the various services he offers on the Submit Your Business section of his site. And if you want to see more reviews like this one, you can subscribe to his mailing list.

Timeglider Acquisition

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I’ve got some big news to share today: Preceden has acquired Timeglider, one of the other big players in the online timeline maker space.

Here’s the announcement: Preceden Acquires Timeglider.

This was my first meaningful acquisition: back in December 2017 I did buy and redirect the domain for Timerime, another timeline maker tool, but the site had shut down several months prior so it was merely a matter of buying the domain. Timeglider on the other hand is an active business with paying customers, recurring revenue, IP, etc – which made this quite a bit more complicated and required lawyers and paperwork and whatnot. I learned a lot, but am also very happy it’s behind me.

Now comes excuting on it and recouping the cost in a hopefully reasonable amount of time. I’ll probably write more about the data and analytics piece of this in the future, but for now, just wanted to share the news!

A Few Thoughts on Image Upload Usage at Preceden

One of Preceden’s most popular feature requests over the years has been the ability to upload images to Preceden and have those images appear on timelines.

A lot of competitors offer that functionality, but I procrastinated for almost 9 years for two reasons:

  1. It’s complex to implement, both in terms of actually handling the uploads and having them appear on the timelines.
  2. Most of the people that requested it were using Preceden for school timelines and that segment of users tend not to upgrade at a high rate. People using Preceden for work-related project planning timelines didn’t request it much. Therefore, it never was much of a priority because it likely wouldn’t move the needle on the business.

That said, since I’ve had more time to work on Preceden recently, I decided to finally do it. For handling uploads, I wound up using Filestack.com which simplified the implementation a lot. And updating Preceden’s rendering logic took time too, but in the end it all worked out.

I recently checked on the usage stats and – not surprisingly – it’s used most heavily by people using Preceden for education:

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For users that have signed up since this launched:

  • Teaching: 29% uploaded an image
  • School: 26%
  • Personal Use: 16%
  • Work: 12%

In other words, it’s used very heavily (which is great!) but not with the segment of users with the highest propensity to pay.

This dilemma comes up fairly often: do you build Feature A that will be used heavily by mostly-free users, or Feature B that will be used heavily by mostly-paying customers?

For better or worse, I never wound up focusing on one market or use case with Preceden: it’s a general purpose timeline maker that can be used for any type of timeline. As a result though, I often get into these situations. If I was just building Preceden for project planners, I’d never implement image uploads. If I was just building it for students creating timelines for school, I’d probably have implemented it years ago.

It also comes down to goals: if my main goal is growing revenue, I probably shouldn’t work on features like this. But if I want Preceden to be the best general purpose timeline maker then it does, but there’s an opportunity cost because I’m not building features for the folks who will actually pay.

I operate in the middle for product development: work mostly on features that will make money, but also spend some percentage of my time on features like this that will make it a better general purpose tool.

If I were to start something from scratch today, I’d probably pick a narrow niche and try to nail it. No general-purpose tools. I’d recommend that to others too.

Going broad is fun in a way too though, it just has it’s challenges :).

 

A New Adventure: I’m Taking the Leap to Focus on Preceden and Analytics Consulting

As many of you know, I’ve had a long-running side project called Preceden, a tool that helps people create professional-looking timelines:

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I launched Preceden back in early 2010 while I was a still lieutenant in the Air Force and kept it running as a nights-and-weekends side project throughout my time at Automattic and Help Scout.

Over the years its revenue has slowly grown to the point where it’s a healthy little business these days. As its revenue has grown, the amount of time I have to put into it has dwindled to an hour or two each week. Between my work at Help Scout and my family (three kids under four now!), I basically have had time to do support and not much else, despite there being so much more I want to do.

There was never going to be a perfect time to take the leap to focus on growing Preceden, but with its revenue and growth being what it is, my wife and I have decided now’s the time to do it.

For the foreseeable future I’ll be focused on growing Preceden, but also doing some analytics consulting on the side. Going all-in on Preceden was an option, but I really enjoy analytics and business intelligence work and want to continue leveling up there. I’m thrilled to have both Help Scout and Automattic as my first consulting clients.

With my hours now reduced at Help Scout, we’re looking to hire a new analytics lead. Help Scout is an incredible company and you’ll get to work with an amazing group of people who care deeply about building a business and a product that people love. As the lead analyst, your work will have a huge impact on the direction of the business. If you’re interested in this role, check out the job description here: Data Analyst at Help Scout and feel free to shoot me an email with any questions.

I have no idea how this will all play out long term, but I’m really excited to see how it goes.