Archive for August, 2007

7 ways not to end up saying “I should have thought of that”

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

About the only thing worse than finding out your app has been cracked is when you have one of those “I should have thought of that” moments. Last week when poking around the Sites for Sale forums on Sitepoint I came across another website/application for sale where the software helps people recover their content if their blog has been deleted. In his sales copy he says:

A Google search for “deleted my blog” returns 12,100 results.

After reading this line my first thought was “I wonder if that domain name is taken.” It wasn’t, so now I’m the proud owner of

I’m no SEO expert, but my experience with the term microISV has taught me that a domain name that matches a common search term will consistently rank high in the search results if it has enough valid content. By not registering the domain, the owner of the site missed a great opportunity to build a site that could provide a lot of information and eventually push the person over to the other site to sell them the software. Or, skip that altogether and make that the site for the software.

At some point, missing the obvious happens to everyone and it usually happens often. Just ask Eric Sink, he has a post devoted to this very blog about it. [waves]Hi Eric![/waves]

If your goal is to launch a successful microISV product, there’s no doubt you have your hands full and your mind cluttered. You may be Getting Things Done but you’re not going to think of everything. So how do you avoid missing the obvious?

  1. Ask for help - 10 points if you ask for opinions on your product from a non-programmer, 25 points if it is someone in your target market. I hear Bob Walsh has set up shop as a microISV consultant, he could probably help you find something you’re missing.
  2. Set up a content site related to your niche - This will take time to implement and get indexed so you’ll have to start early, but the benefit is that you can track keywords that drive people to your site.
  3. Set up RSS feeds for terms related to your product niche - You’ll stay up to date on news that could affect you and possibly get ideas for things you might be missing
  4. Hang out in niche related forums in newsgroups - You’ll learn more about your target market and you will probably end up with more credibility in your niche
  5. Purchase and/or research your competitors and document the differences between your offerings - This should be obvious in and of itself but some people still just build what they think people want, not what they really need. Identifying your competitors shortcomings is a huge selling point.
  6. Test niche-related terms with Google Adwords - Similar to #2 above. If you use the broad match option to show your ads, you can see the terms being searched, drive traffic to your site quickly, and gauge response early in the development process.
  7. Look at every major feature in your product and ask yourself “What is a completely different way to solve the same problem?” - You may come up with a completely innovative way of solving your customer’s pain.

Chances are I’ve missed something obvious in the list above. If you have any more suggestions, please share it in a comment.

Tim Ferriss interviews Wordpress creator Matt Mullenweg

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, has posted an interview he did with Matt Mullenweg, the creator of Wordpress. I won’t rehash the entire interview here but there are several good points that you can take from Matt’s experiences in creating one of the most popular software apps in existence today.

What are the top 3-5 principles you focused on that made WP successful as a product?

Besides timing and luck, I’d say:

1. Minimizing startup costs…

2. Being adaptive to user-led changes in product direction

What are the top 3-5 principles you focused on that made you successful as a developer?


2. At the same time, I’m happy to ship a crude version 1.0 and iterate. I find my time is more effective post-launch than pre-launch.

One simple thing

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

In my year and a half hiatus from posting here, I continued to lurk and follow the goings-on in the microISV community. One thing I noticed is that not much changed. The same topics continue to be asked in a slightly different way, people come and people go….some people come back. I think this will always be the case because the microISV community is such a small niche and the very nature is that people work alone.

The one issue that still sticks out is that there aren’t more people getting ahead. The two causes seem to be a lack of motivation and lack of results. A lot of times, these two things create a never-ending circle where lack of one begets lack of the other. This is essentially what happened here at the site, life took over and the rewards hadn’t previously been big enough to create the motivation to return to the site once my time was freed up. Here’s how the post a few days ago came about and it is a good testament to how one simple thing can get the ball rolling again.

Two years ago I modified a VBScript that was posted to and sent my update to the Editor, Gina Trapani. She posted the updated version of the script and even included it in her book. Fast forward to late last week when I made some updates to the script for my personal use and decided to once again send the update to Gina where she in turn posted it to Lifehacker. When she linked to microISV, the number of visitors went way up and seeing this inspired me to post again.

If you’re suffering from a lack of motivation or stuck in a rut, find one simple thing that will help jump start your microISV. Pick something small in your app that has been nagging you or can be improved with just a small change, preferably something you can complete in one day. Do NOT implement a completely new feature.  That may provide a big bang but could also make the mountain seem that much higher to hike. Below are five ideas to help you get going again.

  1. Document your code - This will allow you to quickly go over the code in your app and see things that you may not have seen in months or even years
  2. Set up Google Analytics - You’ll be motivated to see the counter in the Goals section increase
  3. Remove a seldom used feature - Sometimes taking things away can be just as beneficial as adding something new
  4. Improve your error handling - Get rid of the generic error handlers and replace them with something that could help your user help themselves.
  5. Refactor redundant sections of code - The more succinct your code, the less room for errors to creep in

The microISV Voyeur

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

One of the first questions everyone asks about when starting a microISV is “How much can I make?”. While most people are understandably secretive about how much money they are making, there is a place to go to get a good answer to this question.

While primarily used for people selling websites that generate revenue from advertising, the Sites for Sale forums at Sitepoint will often have people selling applications they have created. The sellers are required to post the url for the site and will show screenshots of revenues to prospective buyers.  By viewing the forums regularly, you can get a feel for what the public is willing to pay and, even better, what is big in the market at the moment.

This current auction shows a good example of the depth of information that is available on the forums.

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