There’s an important component in shaping a product that I’ve only hinted at before. It’s the product vision.
To make an exceptional product, you can’t just implement every feature that’s requested. In fact, there’s not a single feature that should be implemented without serious thought into how it fits into the big picture.
So while you have an idea of what requests are popular on UserVoice, you don’t necessarily know how I’m merging feature requests with my product vision to create a kick-ass product. For that you’d have to look at the Bidsketch roadmap. And that’s what I’ll be showing you today.
I’ll start off by saying that I was having a tough time finding the best way of presenting my roadmap for Bidsketch. To help me in this area, I sought the advice of a startup founder I have a lot of respect for: Peldi from Balsamiq. His open communication style is a great example how things should be done. I appreciate him spending the time to help me work through this.
What I’m calling version 1 of the Bidsketch roadmap is taken directly from emails I exchanged with Peldi.
I can see Bidsketch going in two different directions from where it is now: web based proposal software for designers.
Where it could be:
- Break out of the designer niche and hit the huge market of general proposal software.
- Continue to serve the designer market. Grow Bidsketch product horizontally a bit (better proposal features, light CRM, invoicing, etc.)
Initially I was siding with #1 because of the larger market and I can keep my product focused on writing proposals (which appeals to me). But now that I’ve actually launched and have started dealing with designers, I definitely want to stay in this market.
Going with the first option means my primary customers become sales people. So it’s likely larger companies with sales organizations would be who I would be dealing with.
No way. I love dealing with designers; it’s so freaking cool. It’s great when you can completely relate to your customers and speak their language.
What I see happening in three months:
I need to give users a way to design their own templates.
Right now I have some available for them, but they only get to pick from the list I provide. I need something similar to what Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor provides — you upload your own HTML/CSS file and Bidsketch uses it.
I coded Bidsketch to handle this, but I need to provide the interface for it. Sort of how in WordPress you can upload themes, but much easier than creating WordPress themes.
Then I need to add simple invoicing and hook into the Freshbooks API. These two things are pretty huge, and while I’d like to throw in a few other minor things, I think it would be a huge win if I just provided this.
One other thing — I need to lay the groundwork for reporting interesting/useful proposal statistics, so I need to start logging things like: how long someone looks at a proposal before accepting, number visits before acceptance, length of proposals (and relate that to winning percentage), etc.
Then in six months:
I’d like to offer integration options —PayPal, Highrise, and Basecamp (maybe). I’d like to offer more, but I’m just one guy working on this system, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with API changes from multiple vendors while trying to create new features and handling support.
I was interested in doing Balsamiq integration (of course), but at the proposal stage I’m not sure that’s the right time for it. I think after a proposal is accepted once the project starts, then it makes sense.
I would also like to offer some things that make the system more powerful, and give people something to talk about — export proposals to Google docs would be huge.
I really don’t know how long the integration stuff would take, so my timelines might not be realistic. Some of this might bleed to the 9 month mark.
At 12 months:
I’d like to start making use of the all the data I’ve been tracking. Within Bidsketch tell people which proposal sections are their most effective, which designs win the most, analyze their proposals and warn them if they’re doing things that aren’t shown to be very effective. Basically, this is the start of making use of the analytics info.
3 year plan:
It seems very far out but I’d like to continue to enhance what I’ve laid out in the first year. I don’t know that I want to grow Bidsketch by adding to many more features, I’d like to make those features better. For instance, maybe provide Crazy Egg type heat map overlays for proposals, better proposal analysis and warning capabilities.
I also want to better handle client management, and the first part of designers’ workflows — proposals, proofs/comps approvals, billing, etc.
One last thing: I’d ideally have more help to work on some of these things. (meaning an employee or two.)
How This is Going to Work
In the next couple of weeks you’ll see a couple of releases with some pretty neat stuff. In fact, in a day or so I’m going to release a feature that will let you add your logo to proposals — It’ll be available as soon as I write a post about it. Next up will be the start of Freshbooks and PayPal integration with a downpayment option. Then a few more templates and themes.
Once I have that in place I’m starting on what will be version 2 of Bidsetch. I should be able to wrap this stuff up in a month or two.
I do want to say that my decisions to implement features are heavily driven by user feedback so the list of features I’ve mentioned might change. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some stuff in Bidsketch that I haven’t mentioned here.
As always, feel free to suggest must have features to the Bidsketch UserVoice forums. Thanks and you’ll be hearing me announce some new features very soon!