Why techies make crap early adopters

Recently, I’ve been working on apps and business ideas like AlwaysHungry, 60Hz and Secret Hotels (for lastminute.com.au). Finding early adopters to test these products are not easy. Things are even more complicated because my friends and colleagues tend to be very tech savvy.

It seems like people associate early adopters with being able to use a phone really well, or know their way around Safari with shortcuts on a Mac. What I observed in my time observing people using things I build is that they use products in anger.

What do I mean “using in anger”?

These users deal with the app in an aggressive manner. They press anything and everything. There is no real purpose behind the usage. They experience the product in a very detached manner.

There’s nothing wrong with all of this. In fact, it is a great form of stress testing. What sucks about it though is the lousy feedback you get. Feedback that sets you down the wrong path because the content never spoke to them in the first place.

Comments like “this button looks out of place”, “I like how Tweetbot does it” is irrelevant if they had used the app with a real purpose. These forms of feedback generally point you towards whether you’ve built the product right, not so much if you built the right product.

I think this contributes to even the biggest companies in the world building things that are irrelevant. Designers and developers build things to be used in anger. They go for rounded corners and bug-free apps rather than apps that flow well and really work hard to present content well (rounded corners rarely help the cause).

Reddit is the most relevant example I can think of. That thing looks like a shit website, reminds you of a dirty alleyway in the city somewhere. But it works. It’s got such awesome, random, awesome content I keep going back to it!

Back to early adopters.

If you want these special beings, find places they hang out in like forums etc. Look for people who are already solving the problem manually and bitching about it. The most important quality you are after in a person is that they are “someone who endures bugs, lack of rounded corners and much much more for the right content or solution”.

Good Luck!

How to create a great pitch video for your idea

Creating a professional video is expensive and extremely time consuming. When done right, a video can be very effective in getting users and spreading your idea to a large audience. For a small startup, videos might end up taking their entire marketing budget! I’ve been exploring ways to pitch an idea effectively while keeping time and cash investment to a minimum. Here’s how I got a great video done in 2 days and $35 for AlwaysHungry.

 

Researching for great videos

Epipheo is a great place to start. There is no doubt they make the best pitch videos! They are fun, clear and informative. I love their focus on relaying an idea instead of showing feature X and Y of a product. Of course, these videos also cost around $20,000 to make (I asked).

Take a look at their YouTube channel for some inspiration.

 

Storytelling tools

I looked for a tool that might help me tell a story specifically. I found Adobe Voice!

Adobe Voice is an awesome app that focuses on just telling a story. It only allows you to use icons, graphics and pictures coupled with music and a voice over. If you have a wonderful voice and happy with very simple graphics, this is your stop.


A little more Jazz

I wanted something a little better for AlwaysHungry. So what is similar to Adobe Ideas but has much better animations, and gives you more control over your content? Keynote! Keynote has slides, animations, graphics and all the other bells and whistles you need for a basic video. It also has a nifty feature that allows you to export your slide deck to a movie (mp4 file).

What about the icons? I immediately noticed that Adobe Voice used TheNounProject icons. It just so happens that AlwaysHungry icons are taken from TheNounProject too!

I wrote a script. You have to write a script. It helps you organise your thoughts and keep your narrative concise. You can start storyboarding your idea as you progress the script. Here's the final version of my script: Video Script.

... 
[Subway icon comes in] 
you constantly end up eating the same old thing, because you are too hungry to make a decision! 
[tone and emotion we want to convey is that it’s a downer]
...

I used simple icons, text and graphics to come up with a set of slides on Keynote. I focused on creating slides that supported the ideas conveyed on the script, sprinkling in animations where relevant. All of this turned out to be an exercise in creativity: trying to use the most basic elements to tell a story. I believe this kept me true to what I was trying to achieve.

Additionally I added some screen recordings from my iPhone to show off the app.


Searching for a voice

The right voice helps a video convey its message really well. VoiceBunny has a large number of voice actors who posses many unique attributes. They will deliver audio recordings within a day or two. My script came to about $100 all up for a VoiceBunny job.
#protip: email their support and ask for a discount :)

Another place you can find voice actors is Fiverr. Freelance community has a lot to offer on the Internet. We found @drewthedj who offered to do the voice over for just… $35! As you might have guessed, we went with Fiverr.


Getting it right first time

If you have a small budget, you want to get this audio recording right the first time around. Here’s what I did:

  • I imported the movie produced by Keynote to iMovie.
  • I started reading the script out loud while continuously playing the iMovie file over and over. 
  • Each time, I would shorten or extend the length of a section, based on how long I took to read out the script comfortably.
  • Following these steps, I ended up with about a minute long silent movie. I went on to edit the script and iMovie project further to get it down to about 50 seconds. I found that people generally leave around 50s mark for other YouTubes I've made. 

I sent the silent movie to @drewthedj. Drew was extremely professional, sent me back files with these formats: WAV, MP3, and Video with audio + background music!!! Whoa! If you need some royalty free music premiumbeat.com is great too.

I went back to iMovie and synced the audio file with my video timeline. Exported the video at full resolution and… DONE!

 

Concluding thoughts

The AlwaysHungry pitch video only took a weekend to make and it turned out to be better than a lot of expensively made videos out there! It is really a matter of channeling your creativity through some of the basic tools available to make something awesome. Focus on what matters: conveying the idea. Don't get distracted with showing off everything you have to offer. Simple things are easier to understand.

Getting The Story Right

Products are only as good as the story they tell. Whether it is an app or an electric toothbrush, the creators have to think about how it is going to be a captivating story. If the product cannot form a relationship with another person at an emotional level, then they have no reason to buy it. If no one can find anything interesting to say about what you’ve made, chances are, word will never get around...

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