How would you go about getting traction?

So I’ve put all my energy and effort into getting Swayable beta launched in October test it like crazy with users & mTurkers and make updates to the site, rinse, repeat.

This week I updated the site with a new design, and tons of new features. I’m now going through additional user testing and building out items to improve on yet again.

My favorite feature is that you can actually embed the Swayable’s themselves directly into your website or blog (well except for blogs as those don’t allow iframe embeds, and go figure this blog is on a hosted site. sheesh).

When you embed, users can vote, comment and interact with Swayables on other peoples website, without being taken off of the page.  Then the Sways network wide are calculated so you can see in real time how opinions are coming in, even if the Swayable is on 80 different sites.

So Here’s my question to the blogosphere – How would you get traffic/traction for   Probably a ridiculous question but hey, I’d love some opinions and creative ideas…

And while your at it, check out Swayable, follow @swayable on twitter or follow me @harperlindsey on Twitter.

I am a Female Sole Founder with no Dev Experience… Yeah, it’s a Tough Road!

I am a sole founder (my startup is and I don’t code. It’s not that I believe going completely solo is the way to do a startup (I have an Advisory board with some amazing, and experienced, folks). I just haven’t been around a lot of engineers in my career and haven’t found that great technical co-founder match…you know, that person you just click with, have a great working relationship, and decide to start a company together? Nope that’s not me. I have met amazing people: Marketers, PR, Project Managers, you name it…but no engineers!

I’ve been told to go to networking events, which I do, but I am not willing to give up equity, or settle on my vision with someone I met at an event for 2 days, or jump into bringing someone on board just because they can do the job, but not find out if they are a good fit. To me, finding someone I am willing to share equity with is a lot like finding a spouse – It has to be right, has to click and they have to really be a great compliment to my work style and passion.  I am not going to find that after meeting someone or chatting for 2 days.

I had 1 of 2 options, with Swayable – give up on the idea, or project manage it and outsource the work and hope that eventually I’ll meet the right people to help build a great team.  I went with option 2.

So here I am, outsourcing the bulk of my site, getting creative with crowdsourcing for the busy work and at the same time working my “day job” which is a co-owner of a marketing project management business. I am also a mom of twins and a wife.  Needless to say, it’s a bit challenging but having a startup as a “hobby” (I define hobbies as something that doesn’t pay the bills) truly is my passion, some people chill in front of the tv at night, and I am reviewing new builds, sending feedback testing and documenting future dev needs… crazy as it is. I love it!

The hardest part for me has been some of the ups and downs of development. I have a fabulous outsource company ( that truly is making my vision a reality. However, the challenges with outsourcing your development is that you have to first find a great team/company to work with, then you have to know how to write a good specification document and you have to know what you want to build up front as if you go out of scope it can often cost more, (typically you can get a little bit of flexibility, but if you start changing scope to much it costs money).

You also have to stay on top of this daily, providing feedback, testing everything to death, and being super detailed in how you provide the feedback as you are the PM on this, you have to be the one finding everything that needs to be fixed/updated. As a sole founder this is all you.

I also learned a very good lesson during some of this. Design is clearly not my forte. I hacked together a design with my rudimentary Photoshop skills.  I found that it was great for this beta version to get testing and feedback, but it was horrible at actually helping communicate visually what my site is about.  I finally brought on a great designer to help bring the site to life. That design revision will be live hopefully by end of December.  The design portion can help so much to make the difference between interesting/sticky and just plain boring.  I am excited to see this new design come to life.

I am also learning that everything takes WAY longer than you expect. I am used to working on projects that I control the outcome, or there is a set date, like an event. But with development and outsourcing, you have to tack on a bit of time.  If you are a dev and outsource you probably have a better idea of timelines for development, if your from a marketing/project management background wit no dev experience, your concept of how long things take is probably off like mine has been.

Swayable is not where I want it to be, yet, the next updates coming shortly will get it to a great place and with the iPhone application launching in a month or so, I’ll be getting closer to my initial vision. I just keep chugging along!

Most of all, I like the challenge of being a sole founder, but look forward to the day that I can hopefully have some great people on my team that can compliment my skillset, bring ideas and fresh perspectives and be strong where I am weak. I have faith that if I just keep building, testing, building that I will find the right team….

<SelfPromotion> Check out my startup – and give me feedback anytime.  Follow me on Twitter </SelfPromotion>

5 Lessons Learned: User Testing with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

My first foray into AMT was with using it to validate my startup idea for Swayable. I’ve also used it for 12 or so ways while building the site (that blog post coming soon).

I just launched our beta last Friday- October 22. Already moving in to V2 development now.  I hope to have those updates done by early to mid-December.  (Feel free of course to check out Swayable and send me feedback “Lindsey (@)”).

Being a bootstrapped startup, I can’t afford massive user testing through standards services that cost anywhere from $29 and up per tester. (Side note – I will use for some tests because I do want to hear verbatim feedback as users are going through the site.)  But for bulk testing to find issues to address I needed a different solution.

So I Used MTurk to do my testing!

 I have received GREAT results, and am fast adding updates to the site daily. I did the test with 120 Turkers and here are the lessons I learned as well as the survey/results I got

Lesson #1Test price points to see where the sweet spot is for your survey/feedback.

I received the absolute BEST results at the lowest price point.. (crazy odd if you ask me!)

  • $5.00 price point (hoping I’d get amazing detailed feedback) – Seemed to be picked up insanely fast, but feedback was moderate and I did have some spammer comments.
  • $3.00 price point – Great feedback, a lot more detailed in responses and no spammy comments.
  • .90 price point – I though “what the hell I’ll give it a go” at .90 and you know what, the absolute BEST feedback I got was at this price point, go figure!

Lesson #2 – Create a Survey Monkey for your Survey, vs. trying to do this in MTurk.

Survey Monkey is built for doing surveys, and has GREAT analytics. Why try to rebuild the wheel within Mturk? I posted a basic Mturk hit, with instructions to go to my survey monkey survey.

To view my exact survey on Survey Monkey go here, (um yeah – feel free to take the survey and send me feedback. J)

Here is what I asked in Mturk, super basic, but directed the user to my Survey monkey survey. (at this time, you can’t hardcode URL’s into Mturks self-serve system (I think there is some “amazon centric “ code, for hardcoding URL’s  in HIT’s that I am not aware of .  So I have users copy/paste the URL, if you do know what this special trick is, let me know. J)


Lesson #3 Sort and prioritize the results.

I made sure any bugs and errors were addressed first. And then took feedback that affected the current version of the product to make the site as is, as great as possible (vs. randomizing my dev team on feature updates before optimizing the current site/experience).

 Feedback beyond or suggestions beyond the current version are moved into my “V2” updates that are already in the works.

Updates addressed immediately – I found several bugs/users issues on the site doing the user testing:

  • Users were getting some errors within the Create Swayable process. I would not have found these errors on my own and was able to update them in nearly real time.
  • Design feedback (yes my design was hacked together by me.. I’m bootstrapped). I was able to update some text/design components based on great feedback from users on where they were confused or had questions while reviewing site content.
  • Dead links in my registration process.
  • Removed several registration components to make it quicker/easier
  • Clarified the “share swayable page”
  • Updated the getting started page to be more descriptive
  • Issues with number of sways not showing up accurately on the public swayable page
  • View count not showing up accurately on public swayable page
  • Removed some advertising components.
  • Updates text and some descriptions.

Updates added to V2 of the site – I also received a ton of suggestions for V2 features which I quickly added to my V2 spec document.  I would say ½ of my V2 features came from user testing feedback and the other ½ from elements that I wanted to update, but knew I need to get my MVP out, and quickly iterate to the next version.

Lesson #4 Test your survey with a small group first and keep tweaking it until you get the right level of response.

What I mean by this is that you have to be incredibly clear with your questions and make each question a “step” and very simple. Test out your survey with a small batch before going ‘big’ so you can make sure your questions are clear and your getting the kind of feedback response you were expecting.

Lesson# 5 –  Yes you CAN use MTurk outside of consumer facing products

What if your site isn’t a consumer product, can you still use MTurk for testing?

YES! Just break it down into separate surveys for specific testing. You won’t get “content” feedback from Mturk if your product/service is very targeted.  But you can get website/functionality feedback. Here are some ideas for sites that may not be consumer focused:

  • Test your registration process –  Make sure to let Mturk workers know that you are testing your registration process, and provide them an area in the HIT to leave there name or email so you can delete there account if they request. It’s against Mturk TOS to require registration without a way for them to delete it.
  • Get Design feedback – Test overall UI, site description etc.
  • Test site links – you can even have turkers test site links, and let you know if the link is taking them somewhere they don’t think it should take them.
  • Navigation – get feedback on your navigation flow, does it make sense. Etc.

Would love to know if any of you have had success using MTurk to user test your product?

And as always I have to insert – <SelfPromotion> Check out my site! , Become a Fan on Facebook.  You can also follow me @harperlindsey on Twitter</SelfPromotion>

Cheers, Lindsey

It’s official – Swayable is out of stealth mode – YIPEE!

Super short post, but after dotting all my “I’s” and crossing all my “T’s” Swayable is out of stealth mode. You can learn more about my startup at – Beta will be launching in the next couple of weeks and the iPhone application is coming in November.

<SelfPromotion> You can sign up at to be notified when I launch, or “like” the Swayable Facebook page.  You can also follow me on Twitter </SelfPromotion>

Lindsey Harper

To be Stealth or not to be Stealth with your Startup

Ok so I see both sides of the fence here on being stealth. I completely understand that by sharing your idea with as many people as possible, you can get great feedback, insight etc. You can also find out fairly quickly what your competition may be, if you weren’t aware of it in the first place.  Also, the odds of someone feeling as passionate about your idea and “stealing” it, are pretty small.  Frankly, any entrepreneur has enough of their own ideas to keep them busy for a lifetime. I struggle because I want to tell everyone about my startup, but have decided to stay in stealth mode a bit longer.

I also realized (almost embarrassingly at times) that the whole NDA thing is controversial as well. Some people have told me that “real” entrepreneurs don’t use them, some people have been fine signing them. I just keep chugging along, having people sign them that I disclose data around the secret sauce to my site. I’m ok with that, and my attorney is peachy that I have people sign and NDA, even though many in the techpreneur universe find them laughable. There’s a great post over here on “Is it better to disclose without an NDA or with an NDA”

However, the reason why I have decided to be ‘stealth’ with is because I want to make sure my company is buttoned up correctly. All my legal documentation, IP protection lined up, features for launch decided on and my messaging down, so that I’m not constantly changing what my launch product is. I have one more step in my “buttoning” up process and as soon as that is done, I’ll be blabbing to the world –  well at least blabbing on my blog and Twitter.

It’s too bad though, my first blog post on “How I used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to Validate my Startup Idea” is getting a lot of coverage. I may be kicking myself in a month, when I am out of stealth mode and missed the opportunity to talk about my startup when all this traffic is coming my way today.

<SelfPromotion> You can sign up at to be notified when I launch, or “like” the Swayable Facebook page.  You can also follow me on Twitter </SelfPromotion>

Navigating your website’s legal documentation

I’ve bumped into several elements for where I have been stumped on who to contact, and where to find the right resources.  The legal documentation/contracts piece was one of them.

When I started, I knew that I had to get the correct legal representation this site as it’s complex in regards to user generated content, user accounts etc. I knew at a minimum I’d I need to have:

  1. NDA
  2. Developer/Designer contracts to make sure that all content I outsourced was “work for hire”
  3. Privacy Policy Statement
  4. Terms of Use Documentation

I found it very challenging to find an attorney who understands Internet law and terminology.  Internet law is was not something that the average lawyer understands, (they think they do, but within 5 minutes you can tell if they “get” the web component or not).

I wanted to make sure that I’ve protected myself personally, as well as the company by having all my legal documentation buttoned up. This is not an area where you want to try to cut corners and use templates available online.

I was frustrated early on after talking to several local lawyers.  So I searched Bing for web 2.0 lawyers & Internet law and found a fabulous one in the Bay area named Darlene Dozier. Literally within 5 minutes of talking with her, I could tell she completely understood the web landscape, terminology, API integration aspects, etc.  I didn’t have to spend $300/hour explaining how all these services can integrate within my site to an attorney that doesn’t get it.  Darlene got it from our first 5 minute conversation.

My disclaimer – I’m not an attorney (clearly) but I do know that having all your legal elements for your startup correct from the get go is huge. You need to own all work for hire elements and it needs to be documented. You need a clean paper trail.

Make sure to do your research, find an attorney that truly understands internet law and the tech startup industry, or your going to spend a lot of money explaining things and getting documentation that isn’t quite right for your business.

<SelfPromotion> You can sign up at to be notified when I launch, or “like” the Swayable Facebook page.  You can also follow me on Twitter </SelfPromotion>