Office Live Dog and pony time

za101996991033.gifI’m off today to an all day presentation at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Outpost on Office Live. Why is this worth an entire day of my life? I think because there’s a whole bunch of nice business infrastructure stuff now available in OL and having seen last month some of these functionalities, I want to know more. Also, this is one of the few times I’ve seen a Microsoft event targetted specifically at microISVs

More about what’s in Office Live for microISVs tomorrow.

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Bob WalshOffice Live Dog and pony time

It’s a business, not a hobby

By Bob Walsh

A post this morning at Business of Software reminded me of an important point: microISVs are businesses with all of the advantages and disadvantages of that particular kind of activity. If you thought the number of scams, spams and ripoff artists you have to fend off as an individual are a pain in the ass, wait until you’ve been in business a few years!

Today’s case in point: the veritable firm of Dun and Bradstreet which for decades before the internet provided businesses with a useful credit report on other businesses. This allowed companies not even in the same state to do business with some degree of confidence that that shipment of iron flanges would actually get paid for.

Today, we have the net, we have Google and the first thing anyone does when starting a business relationship (and most personal relationships!) is check the net, just to be sure.

The Internet has not been kind to Dun and Bradstreet – they are returning the favor. Personally, I get a call a quarter these guys re why my company absolutely cannot exist another day without its very own D&B number. Like offers of being in yellow pages, leasing financing, account receivable financing, and remanufactured printer cartridges, I need this like fish need shoes. My business resides in zip code 00000 – the Net.

Reading today’s post makes me so glad I never bought into their line of bull.

I have no way of verifying this post independently, but it jibs with my personal experience with D&B:

“Because they have no data on me and can’t give me a good credit rating, they are ‘forced’ to issue a “Risk of Late Payment Indicator” alert on my business. Naturally I can fix all of that for the small fee of $549 USD. And, I can’t remove my company from their database.”

How’s that for nasty?

As a microISV, you’re a small business person. And that means just because you push bytes out the door not dry cleaned laundry you simply can’t afford to not put on your Small Business Person Hat on a regular basis and do that work. That means, at the very least, plugging into some of the really good general small business sites out there.

Three of the very best sites?

  • Startup Nation at This site goes on and on and on and while you may have the urge to snicker at forum questions like, “Should you have a web site”, these guys are really good at getting the general business stuff down.
  • The Small Business Administration at This is one of the best resources you can tap into for general business information, but most of the really good stuff resides in the heads of the people who work in the U.S. for and with the SBA. There are times when it’s worth it to pass up the convenience of doing everything online: Where else can you get free or low cost classes followed up with free unlimited business consulting and mentoring services?
  • My friend, Pamela Slim’s blog at Pam is one of the very best general startup business consultants out there; reading her posts is like getting a targeted MBA in how to make your business succeed.

Takeaway for today: You are a small business owner, and small business owners get scammed at least three times more than individuals because they have more money to steal either via dodgy business practices or outright fraud and extortion. Do yourself a favor and put on the Small Business Person hat on a regular basis.

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Bob WalshIt’s a business, not a hobby

Copywriting for Developers

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Unless I’m either missing something or getting older and less tolerant, standards of written English are sliding. One of the many (many) issues that irritate me is the way that people often hear a word, latch onto it, and start using it excessively without having any idea what it means.

People just seem to sometimes like the sound of phrases like “focus group” and “end user”. Why? I have no idea. “Metrics” is another good example. Languages develop with time, and words sometimes grow into new roles, but I keep hearing this particular word used as a substitute for maths, calculations, measurements, figures, data, conclusions, common sense, decisions, directions, strategy and more. I’ve heard the phrase “Do the metrics!” three times in one week, and only today (at the time of starting to write this article) had an email asking if my company handles metrics.

How do I answer that? Only if A>0? 42?

Another word that is often thrown around with little concern for accuracy is copywriting. Aside from the people who seem to think that it has something to do with copyright, many assume that copywriting is just a funky way of saying writing.

Not so.

Wikipedia defines the word as the process of writing the words that promote a person, business, opinion or idea, which I think is spot on. Their definition also notes that the main purpose of writing such marketing copy is to persuade the reader to act – to buy a product for instance.

So website copywriting is about writing persuasive and promotional text that convinces visitors that your product can solve a problem they have. Really good copywriting will even convince them that they have a problem without having previously been aware of it.

A good copywriter is like a talented salesperson – something that has become increasingly rare nowadays. A good salesperson speaks to you in the right tone, effectively convinces you that you need what they’re selling, and if they’re really good at it, they’ll not only do so without annoying you in the slightest, but they’ll have you thanking them for it.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some real examples of text that most definitely do not qualify as copywriting. They are all genuine examples, taken from the first paragraph of various websites index pages, but have been slightly altered to protect the identity and dignity of their owners.

“Sound Power is a sound mixing software application for the sound controls that each properly installed and operating sound device should exhibit. Sound Power is also extremely ergonomic and offers extended functionality.”


If you persevere and read it a few times, chances are that you’ll be able to extract and extrapolate the meaning behind the words. But text like this doesn’t exactly encourage you to purchase the product does it? And the important point is that visitors to your website will not extract, interpret and extrapolate. They won’t work hard to understand what you’re trying to say.

“E-Z-X-tract copies CDs, converts audio files from one format to another, and burns audio, MP3, WMA, and regular CDs.”

This isn’t the worst copy I’ve ever come across, but does it inspire you? Does it ignite your interest? Grab your attention? Compel you to read more? Of course not. It’s functional, drab and utterly uninspiring. The only reason you’d reach for your wallet would be to use it as a makeshift pillow.

“This is a tool which lets you make your own screensaver. Simply drag and drop the images you want and you can make your own professional screensaver in seconds.”

Again, dull as a dishrag. I don’t understand why people want screensavers, and I certainly don’t get why they’re prepared to pay for them. But the fact is that they do. Screensavers are all about personal taste; they can be funny, impressive, cool or beautiful. But the key factor is that no-one needs screensavers; they want them. So your copy is going to have to do better than that.

Now for anyone reading this article who doesn’t know me or hasn’t met me, I should point out that I’m British. I’m therefore tempted to carry on ridiculing good examples of bad copywriting until my sarcasm finally dries up. But it isn’t going to get you anywhere, aside from bored or amused depending on your disposition.

So I’ll resist my impulses to point and sneer, and will instead focus on what you can do to improve your website’s copy.

Ultimately, most examples of website copy take the same form. Headline, body, illustration and action items.

The headline is there to fulfil one purpose only. To act as bait, and to catch the attention of the visitor to your website.

It needs to be clear, it needs to grab their attention, it needs to communicate the benefits of what you’re selling, and it needs to be instantly understood.

Common mistakes include using a headline that is too long, focusing on the wrong details, focusing on features over benefits and the most common – simply creating confusion.

On the main page of our own website, we offer two headlines right next to each other:

“ease your workload” and “increase your sales”.

There are no clever word plays, no attempts to convey details, and no padding or waffle. They are short, sharp and brutally clear. And they work. They both get a lot of clicks.

Just like their newspaper counterparts, the most important requirements for an effective headline are that they are instantly visible and clear.

Get it right, and you’ll have your visitors attention. But only briefly. From this point the body, illustrations and action items need to kick in.

One of the more common mistakes that I see is waffle. Maybe it’s the online equivalent of nervous chatter, but some web designers seem afraid to only say what they need to.

Once your visitor has decided that they may be interested in what you’re selling, they won’t initially be looking for your mission statement, your history, where you’re based, your favourite animal or music tastes. They need the bare facts. But even the barest of facts still need to be well written.

Bullet points are often quite effective, but some companies go overboard. I recently saw a website listing more than twenty bullet points at the top of the main page! The problem with too many words is that they dilute what you’re trying to say. Keep it as brief as you can.

Another common mistake is to focus on features instead of benefits. Features are for software sites, over-zealous geeky users and overly-proud developers. Users don’t care about them. They want to know what your software can do for them and why they need it.

They also need quick and easy access to all the information they may be looking for. The product’s price, testimonials, ordering information, contact information and so on. Whatever they need shouldn’t be squeezed into the main page, but there should be clearly visible links to these pages; wherever they are on your website.

And last but not least, a little bit of reassurance goes a long way. Irrespective of who you think you may be selling to, there are always customers who need a little hand-holding when it comes to parting with their cash. Talking to them in a language they understand can not only be reassuring, but can mean the difference between a visitor and a customer.

The language that you use on your website is the online equivalent of your manner and tone. If you come across as pushy, sleazy or inept, your visitors will be gone before you’ve even started to convince them about your product. Come across as professional, trustworthy and informed and they’ll be far more receptive to your sales pitch.

Be seen, be sold.


Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

[tags] Dave Collins, microISV, marketing[/tags]

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Bob WalshCopywriting for Developers

How not to run your microISV: Crazybusy

If there’s one occupational disease microISVs fall prey to it’s that frenzic state of mental overload known as being crazybusy. Between 150 emails, skype, a cell phone, a landline, new customers asking old questions, IM, twitter, more email, trying to get a bug patch done, and maybe, just maybe actually doing some development, most (me too) microISVs spend their days in and on a psychological state of total Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Their are crazybusy, and they (we!) need help.

This week on Channel Nine’s The MicroISV Show, Michael Lehman and I talk with Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of the book “CrazyBusy – Overstretched, Overbooked and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD”. Dr. Hallowell has some very, very good advice for developers on how to stop being overwhelmed, overstressed, overclocked and how to get productive again.


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Bob WalshHow not to run your microISV: Crazybusy


By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

In the initial Measuring For Success post we looked at the baffling phenomena of developers who don’t do metrics. We went through my personal Top Eight Reasons for getting to grips with metrics, the tools I think you need for doing so, and why you shouldn’t rely on your “free” website stats.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the issues that you need to be aware of when trying to separate the gold from the sand in your server logs.

(1) Robots.

I assume that everyone reading this will understand what a search engine robot is, but do you also know how active they can be when visiting, scanning and indexing your website?

Assuming that your website has a lot of solid content and is regularly updated, then the search engine spiders will be paying a lot more attention to your website than you may realise.

Looking at the logs for our main website (, I can see that all of the main pages (around thirty or so) have been hit by Google’s spiders within the last three days.

And depending on your choice of analysis software, the search engine spiders may show up as regular hits. Be aware.

(2) Browser cache.

Most web browsers by default use some sort of system of caching the web pages they have viewed. The problem is that if a person comes to your website and their browser displays the cached version instead, they won’t see any new content, and they may not even show up in your logs.

On top of this, many ISPs use their own caches to prevent having to download and display massive numbers of the identical pages to many users.

There are various solutions out there, but the most important thing is to be aware of the impact this may have on your logs.

(3) Shared IP addresses.

This particular issue is more or less self-explanatory. Large numbers of people may share the same IP addresses, and depending on the log analysis application you’re using, this may distort the data.

Ten people all sharing the same IP address may show up as one person. And if your log analysis software is clumsy, they may also display one person visiting your site twice as two different visitors.

(4) Blocked referrals.

Irrespective of which software you use, the most common referrer will almost certainly be identified as no referrer/unknown, or will simply be left out of the report altogether. So chances are that you won’t know where most of your visitors came from.

There are five main possible reasons for this:

i) The visitor came to your website from their bookmarks or favorites.

ii) The visitor clicked on an email link. Perhaps your signature, someone else’s email or the many thousands of spam you’ve been sending, Shame on you.

iii) A new window was generated by the website displaying your link.

iv) The URL was entered manually.

v) The visitor is using a browser setting, add-on or plugin to protect their privacy. Privacy sucks.

Whatever the reason, there’s little you can do about it. But forewarned is forearmed.

(5) Download managers.

These have the potential to make a horrible mess of your data. Most work by simultaneously hitting the same file several times. So even though one single person is downloading the file, the fact that their download manager is set to create five active download sessions means that the logs will display five hits. Not good.

The more astute readers of this article will by now have noticed two things.

Firstly that I’m pointing out problems without offering solutions. Why? Partly because not all problems have solutions, partly because I’m trying to stop this article from being too long, but mainly because my aim is to simply bring these issues to your attention.

If at some point you wonder why the website you’re advertising on isn’t showing up as a referrer, then you’ll thank me. Maybe.

The second thing noticed by the more discerning reader is that I have made repeated mention of the way that your log analysis software functions.

The fact is that no two log analysis applications behave in the same way. And the astonishing fact is that if you run (for example) a month’s data through five different log analyzers, you probably won’t find a single item that any two will agree on. For that matter you may be pushing it to find two applications that even come close to each other.

There are two main reasons for the lack of agreement. One is that some of the applications are simply badly written and clumsy, and seem to lean more towards speed than accuracy.

The second reason is that each application has its own way of dealing with the grey areas as identified above.

Whether it’s down to different people using the same PCs and/or internet connection, browsers that block referral information or people walking away from their machines leaving the browser open, there are a massive number of facts that are open to interpretation.

The more accurate applications often try to interpret anomalies and recognise patterns, but this sometimes means that log analysis is less exact a science than many users might expect.

So once you know what the issues are and how much (or little) to trust your log analysis app of choice, the next obvious question is what to look for.

Many of the better applications try to only pick out the pertinent facts, yet there’s also a lot to be said for having access to all the information, so as to be able to filter out what you’re looking for.

The importance and relevance of the data available really depends on what you’re looking for. Here are some of the standard items that I usually look for.


The visitors to your website come in three flavours; and it’s not the good, the bad and the ugly. Total visitors, unique visitors and return visitors.

If your log analysis software only lets you see the total number, then you should probably be looking at patterns and trends. Almost all websites follow some sort of weekly pattern, and many will also demonstrate other regular trends, in terms of days or times of the year with more/less traffic and downloads.

It’s also important not to let your own software’s habits confuse you here. For example, I’ve seen applications that hit a page on the developer’s website when they start up. If you’re doing the same sort of thing, you should (a) be aware of this and (b) hit a page, image or file that isn’t linked in from your website.

Long term analysis should also let you see which are your website’s busy and quiet times of the year. Do these patterns conform to your sales trends too? If not then why not? Opportunities abound.


Knowing which of your pages are popular entry points is vital, as visitors arriving here will receive their first impressions of your website, product/s and company.

Are your most common entry pages set up to do so? Can they be improved? Are there clear links to the rest of your site? And should so many people be arriving at these pages?


Often overlooked, the pages that most of your visitors leave from is also of extreme importance. Many websites with a healthy level of incoming links and search engine prominence will have a fairly high number of visitors who simply aren’t interested in what you’re selling.

Many companies will therefore see the main index page as the most popular entry page, and may see a surprisingly high number of people leave from the page without going further.

This is more or less to be expected, but when you look through which of your other pages have high exit rates, you may be quite surprised. Pages that you may have thought were very effective may actually prove to be black holes – swallowing up visitors who disappear without a trace.


Another often overlooked vital statistic.

A basic example.

Let’s say you’re running a Google AdWords campaign that sends you 500 visitors a day for $0.02 each. $10 for 500 visitors might seem like quite good value.

But what if you looked through your logs and saw that of those 500 visitors, the average time spent was 0.5 seconds?

Something would be very wrong, obviously.

How long visitors should spend on your pages depends on who they are, where they come from, how much information is on the page and how you’re presenting it. But if you take all these factors into account you should be able to identify which pages are working well, and which could do with some improvement.


The links clicked from each page tell you a lot, but don’t forget to look at the page and see where these links are physically located.

Chances are that links towards the top of the page will get more clicks than those at the bottom.

I’ve seen web pages for software with only one download link, right at the very bottom of a long page. And this is a good idea? (Hint: No.)

Where the links are placed, how they stand out and the text and/or images used can massively affect how many clicks they receive. Experiment and reap the benefits.


Most log analysis applications have some sort of path function, that lets you see the most common routes that visitors take when travelling through your website. Most are very inaccurate but will still probably open your eyes to behavioural patterns that you could never have predicted. Watch, recognise, learn and respond.


Some of the pages on your website are more important than others. Obviously you want visitors to buy and try your software, but you probably have other pages that you feel do a good job of convincing them along the way.

How popular are these pages? And more importantly, how much more can you do to increase the percentage of visitors who go to these pages? Another hint: the answer is a lot.

The bottom line is that log analysis isn’t just about number crunching. It’s about understanding why your visitors do what they do, realising what can be done to improve the figures and patterns, and getting a better return on the traffic that you’re already receiving.

Thorough log analysis is no more about number crunching than dentistry is about brute force with a drill. The software performs all the numerical analysis for you. Now you need to apply what you know, understand what you see and join the dots. It’s somewhere between in-depth detective work and a jigsaw puzzle with many fiendishly small pieces.

But the effort will pay off. Set aside time for regular analysis of your web logs and you can only gain. Visitors to your website are hard to come by, so the more of them you can convert to downloads and sales the better.

Be seen, be sold.


Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

[tags] Dave Collins, microISV, marketing[/tags]

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Bill and Steve – the Desktop Duo

skybox_gates_jobs.jpgThere’s a great joint appearance of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the D Conference you can watch at the D5 Site. The short version is the highlights reel, but don’t neglect the Prologue video. Me? I’m going to try and get through all seven parts of the full session.

Steve and Bill have a lot to talk about these days – their mutual adversary, Google. Both have been and are in the desktop PC industry, both are looking for ways to come to grips with a world transformed by the Internet.

[tags]D5, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs[/tags]

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Bob WalshBill and Steve – the Desktop Duo

The gloves are off.

By Bob Walsh

With Google’s announcement this afternoon of Google Gears – a set of libraries designed to give developers the ability to store server resources and data locally – the polite fist fight between Adobe and Microsoft just turned into an all out three way war.

On one side you have Adobe, who wants to push it’s ubiquitous Flash technology down to the desktop. On the other was Microsoft, seeking to redefine what we think an online application is via Silverlight. Now Google has entered this friendly fisticuffs and the stakes have just gone shot skyward.

Here’s a quick roundup on Google Gears:

What it is – CNET, Techcrunch,

What the implications and roadmap for Google Gears is: Scoble here and here and David Berlind with this post and podcast.

If Google can convince the developer world that it’s open source Gears are the wave of the future, what exactly do we need desktop software manufacturers for? If Adobe can break out of the ActionScript programming ghetto, it not the other Big Guys will redefine what people expect from what we so quaintly used to call “personal computing”. Finally, if the Microsoft juggernaut can turn the millions of .NET and .ASP developers from girly men who routinely get sand kicked in their face by those undisciplined .php and RonR brats into supermen able to run rings around the cutesy Web 2.0 world, it will will play the music that the billion person Internet dances to.

For years Google has been nosing around Microsoft’s core turf, nibbling a little Writely here, a little Google Spreadsheet there. With Google Gears, if it is as capable as Google engineers claim and if Google puts the resources behind delivering it first in Google Reader and if it can ignite enough online app companies to use it this will be the biggest challenge Microsoft has faced since it nearly didn’t get the Net in the mid-nineties.

Can Google pull it off? Can Microsoft rise to the challenge? I don’t know but make no mistake – all of the chips are now on the table. And you as a microISV need to pay attention to this war if you don’t want to end up collateral damage.


[tags]Google Gears, microISVs[/tags]

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Bob WalshThe gloves are off.

Lower Literacy Website Visitors

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Let’s start with an obvious statement: if you’re reading this article, you know how to read. The question is: how well? The scale between reading fluently and being completely illiterate is wide and fluctuating, and much more complicated than you might have thought. For example, did you know that 48% of the US adult population are classed as being low literacy readers? Figures in other advanced countries are fairly similar.

Traditionally, literacy is defined as being able to read and write on a level that enables you to communicate with other literate readers. If that’s the average, who qualifies as a lower literacy reader? Basically, anyone who can read but struggles with it. If you have trouble scanning text for information because you need to go through it word by word, or if you often find yourself re-reading long, unfamiliar words, you may well belong to the low literacy category. (Struggling with pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis doesn’t count, you’ll be pleased to hear.)

If you have a website, this affects you. As one lower-literacy researcher puts it, nearly 50% of US adults read at an eighth-grade level or below, whereas the vast majority of websites are written at a twelfth grade level or above. Obviously, this presents a problem – and how much you need to worry about it depends on the nature of your business and the product you’re trying to sell. If you’re selling business software to other businesses, or if you’re selling very expensive, scientific or intellectual products, chances are your customers are highly literate. On the other hand, if your product has a broader appeal you definitely want to keep those 48% in mind.

At this point, it’s probably worth taking a step back and making one thing extremely clear: lower literacy does not equal low intelligence! People struggle with reading for all sorts of reasons, and if you think that taking lower literacy users into account is a waste of time, you may well be the one with an IQ in the lower figures. Neglecting half the population is never clever!

The good news is that catering to lower literacy users doesn’t necessarily involve completely redoing your website. In fact, many of the recommendations are identical to general usability guidelines. In other words, if your site already qualifies as user-friendly, lower-literacy users shouldn’t find it overly problematic. If you’re unsure, here are five general guidelines to follow:Â

  1. Make sure you place the important, valuable information at the top, and avoid starting a page with long, dense paragraphs of text. Lower-literacy users will probably avoid them like the plague, and they won’t appeal to anyone else either. Prioritise information and make your main points as clear and simple as possible.
  2. Avoid unnecessary distractions. Flashing images, animations, moving text and pop-out menus are annoying at the best of times, but if you need to concentrate on reading, they’re a nightmare. Keep it nice and simple – it is not the same thing as boring and dated, and illustrations can still be very helpful.
  3. Avoid long sentences and parenthetical text (don’t start talking about flowers, hippos, the general state of the galaxy and the latest episode of Stargate SG1, the latest change to the menu in your favourite restaurant or perhaps some other vaguely related thing that seems like a good idea at the time but might not be so clever after all now that you think about it) because some readers will struggle to remember the point your were trying to make! Using an active voice and a conversational style of writing can also be helpful, but again, you need to keep your target audience in mind.
  4. Simplify navigation. If you have one navigation bar at the top, one on the left, one on the right and several additional text links throughout the content, it’s time to trim things down. Guide your visitors through the site, make it clear where you want them to go. For the textual content, try using headlines and sub-headlines in a bigger font – it’s an oldie, but it really does work.
  5. Make sure that the page structure is consistent throughout the site. This should really be self-evident, but we still see a surprising number of sites that leave out vital elements on certain pages. If you use a top menu, all pages should have it. If you include a side navigation bar, don’t leave it out on certain pages. This is confusing at the best of times, and can create an even bigger struggle for low literacy readers.


These are the main points. If you suspect that a significant proportion of your visitors fall under the lower literacy category, you’d be wise to take a good look at your site. Try to meet the needs of all your potential customers, not just a percentage. To be crass, lower literacy does not equal empty wallet. Don’t scare your visitors away, but welcome them with open arms and clear


Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

[tags] Dave Collins, microISV, marketing[/tags]


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Bob WalshLower Literacy Website Visitors

Weekly Site Review – RNSoft

After taking a few weeks break to attend to other matters, it’s time to get back into the game! This week’s microISV volunteer for my Weekly Site Review post is Ronald Northrip, founder of RNSoft.

RNSoft has two related products. The first, rssDreamFeeder, ($49 to $79 USD) integrates RSS feed creation into the site building and maintenance process for web designers whose use Adobe Dreamweaver as their design environment. The second, RSS Replay, ($29 to $59 USD) makes it a simple matter to integrate RSS feeds into your Dreamweaver-created web site.

When Ron volunteered for the Weekly Site Review, he was more than a bit worried that his microISV’s two products were too specialized – after all, only serious web developers who use Dreamweaver are going to be interested in these two products. Ron, you are right on track! The more specialized your market, the greater your opportunity to be relevant to them and the easier it is to find, define and connect to your market.

Ron is delivering is solving two real problems that cause real pain for people who need that pain to leave: that’s a great business to be in. While Ron’s product line’s fate is tied to the fate of Dreamweaver that’s a fair bargain for clarity of market it provides. The risk here for Ron – and every developer of software or services that enhance a better known product – is that one fine day the Elephant shifts a foot to the right and renders your product(s) obsolete.

Unfortunately, RNSoft’s site needs a big whooping dose of clarity before it starts working the way it should. Here’s how scored out – the higher the score the better (0 is totally missing, 5 means this is very well done indeed):



First Actionable Task



Add to site.



Rewrite – beware rhetorical questions – they bite back.



At least one product screenshot! Not an image in sight.



Buried – quote your reviewers prominently.

Credibility Markers


Very weak.

Tech Support


A good selection of information



Needs more entries and be less a product blog.

Overall Average:


This site needs major work to be effective.


(The USP – Unique Selling Proposition – is the most important part of your site. It’s your first foot forward, you first impression and the basis for all else on your microISV product’s site rolled into one.)

RNSoft’s home page is a collection of rounded corner boxes – in fact the entire site is a collection of rounded corner boxes. Now I like RCB’s as much as the next Web 2.0 guy, but this is a case of adopting the form and missing the function.

What’s the first thing you saw when you looked at RNSoft’s home page above? The yellow RCB cart. Because it’s yellow and everything else it white and we’re hardwired to react to differences first. What a wasted opportunity! There’s plenty of time later for your customers to purchase – your first job is to give them a clear, compelling reason to not hit the Back button – and that’s what a USP is for.

Here’s a quick hack of RNSoft’s home page I hope illustrates this point:


Rhetorical questions are an awful way of introducing features, let alone benefits. Look at it from the prospective customer’s point of view. You find this RNSoft you’ve never seen before. The first thing it does is hit you up for money. The next thing it does is ask you a bunch of questions – questions you have no intention of answering, because halfway through that list you are looking for the exit and finding it.

RSSDreamFeeder is actually a very cool product – among other things, it has a built in search engine that build the feed for you (which you can easily edit) based on the changes you make in the site. Now that’s a very nice feature, and the basis of a great benefit (get the job done fast), but it’s buried on the jump page for the product.

Here’s what you want to see happen on your home page – Your USP immediately is relevant to the person who just got there – or it’s not and no harm done. Your benefits back up the USP and your features back up your benefits.

You say: “RSSDreamFeeder makes it fast and easy to build an RSS feed for your site.” They think: Oh yeah, right, prove it! You say: “It uses a custom search engine to build the feed based on what’s changed and then you can edit it before it goes live.” They think, “that sounds credible: tell me more.” And so on as you build your case that your product is relevant to their pain.


Zip. Nothing there. Not a screen shot, not a print out of RSS, nothing. Worse, since when has the RSS logo turned St. Patrick’s Day Green? A sceenshot is a must have – it’s not “eye candy”.

In fact, I would strongly suggest a web site makeover is in order. Given that RNSoft is selling to web designers, a visually appealing site is a must have.


None to be found, at least that’s what I initially thought. The “Articles” page is actually a lost gold mine of testimonial ore – but who is going to find it?

Credibility Markers

The money back guarantee is nice – but needs to be reworded. The Articles page suggests you’ve gotten some very good reviews – but they’re buried.

Unfortunately, two things detract from this site’s minimal supply of credibility. “Deals” are all over it – the first item on the menu, featured product of the week, deal of the week, etc. I’m all for deals – but first you have to establish the worth to me of what you’re selling, otherwise it’s just noise.

Speaking of noise, there’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance right smack in the middle of the home page: rssdreamfeeder vs. RSSDreamFeeder. Which is right? Either one – but only one – everywhere.

Tech Support

This section of RNSoft is actually very good. RNSoft displays top issues with solutions, a couple of pages of solutions in general, a list of reported bugs and you can browse though all issues. I’d like to see some of the items from the tutorial page here, but don’t worry about that for now.


Ron has started a blog which is a good thing, but it needs more than two entries and to lay off talking about his products. Product blogs are boring! Instead, Ron can talk about – and cite instances of – the advantages, value and challenges of RSS, particularly retrofitting RSS to static web sites. That’s what will get the attention of his market.


RNSoft has a good story to tell, a well-defined market, solutions to real pain. But what it doesn’t have is a web site with a clear USP, information (text and graphics) that backs up that USP in the form of clear benefits, comprehensible features and credible supporters.


The Weekly Site Review is a regular feature of Please add your comments, rebuttals and opinions. If you’d like to volunteer your microISV’s web site for a free public review, email me at MicroISV’s only need apply!

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Bob WalshWeekly Site Review – RNSoft

You should escape from cubicle nation

Michael just posted one of the best interviews we’ve done: Pamela Slim, famous for her Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, podcast and now radio show.

Pamela fired her corporate life several years back and now helps others break the golden handcuffs both professionally and on the web. Pam has an incredible knack for bringing to the surface all the emotional and internal fears and concerns we all face when we start organizing ourselves and knocking them down with practical, actionable advice, insight and (sure to embarrass her) wisdom.

Give our latest interview at Microsoft’s Channel Nine The MicroISV Show a listen – you’ll be glad you did.

[tags]The MicroISV Show, Pamela Slim[/tags]

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Bob WalshYou should escape from cubicle nation