Makers Inc. // Feedback & First Product Iteration

After launching the first version of Makers Inc. and gathering feedback, I've planned my product iterations. In the video below, I walk through the feedback and my approach to address it.

The Makers List


The Makers List


January 28, 2022

Makers Inc. // Feedback & First Product Iteration

Top Makers List

See the year's best no-code agencies who build websites, mobile apps, web apps, and more. Thoroughly researched by our experts.
See the List
Top Makers 2022

Video Transcript

All right. Hey everyone. Uh, last time we checked in specifically on Makers Inc. We did a sort of intro explanation of what, what the project was all about. You can check that out in the playlist, or on the site and walk through the Why, How and the What, and actually we did a quick tour of the product experience, as a quick refresher.
So Makers Inc., The Why of the project. What is it all about? Why do I think it's important to be spending time working on this? Because I think learning creative problem solving and entrepreneurial skills is the best path that I know to self-sufficiency and economic freedom.

So How am I going about teaching those skills? So Makers Inc. teaches the skills of entrepreneurship and product design through step-by-step instructions and sample in progress projects.

And what ultimately is Makers Inc.? It's a digital self-serve startup incubator available to everyone. And this video is going to be about the first sort of batch of feedback that I've gotten from the V1 that I launched and got in front of some potential users.

And how I'm thinking about the next batch of product work that I'm going to do. I'm going to incorporate that feedback and try to push it forward, provide more value and actually meet the needs of my potential customers.


So like I said, I launched the first version. There's a famous Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn who has a famous quote where he says, “if you're not a little embarrassed of the first version of your product before you launch, then you launched too late.” And I felt that a little bit about the first version of the Makers Inc. product experience.
It wasn't great. There are a number of things that I sort of knew weren't ideal. And I had a bunch of hypotheses about ways to make it better or things that I thought that people would want, but rather than spending a bunch more time building out things, I wasn't really confident in. Ultimately what I decided to do was sort of stopped where I was. It was at a point where it was suitable to get some feedback. And so I launched it and shared it with a few people that I, um know and trust to get their opinion on things.

And I also ran a small batch paid ad test to get a sense of you know, how would I communicate this?
How would I market what I've built so far? What language would I use and will it resonate with people? How much would I have to pay to get someone to click on an ad for Makers Inc.? And once they do, how many of those people land on the homepage that I've created and would be willing to sign up, sort of exchange their email address for the value that I've communicated on that homepage?

So I spent about $50 to $75, ran some ads, had a number of people sign up and got to watch how they interacted with the experience with a tool called FullStory, which is, a really powerful tool for getting qualitative and quantitative feedback about how people engage with your digital products and also was able to get some, some candid, qualitative feedback from the group of people that I asked to check it out.

And then also talk to a couple of the customers who signed up and what we're going to talk through today is sort of where I was, what the feedback was that I got and how I'm thinking about what the next version of Makers Inc. will be.

So let's scroll down by the way, I'm in a tool I use called whimsical. If you haven't used it, it's pretty great.
There's a free version. So if you're early on, you can just sign up and start using it. It does a really great job of managing the early stages of creative solutioning. So you can do a lot of wireframing, which is you know, how something is going to look without getting it pixel perfect.

You don't have to get into the weeds and know a bunch of complex software programs to start mocking up what a design will look like.It also, you know, helps with sort of crafting user journeys and how different sequences of pages and experiences will fit together. You'll see, in a minute of mock some stuff up that we're going to walk through together but it's worth checking it out.

It's pretty intuitive to use. And it's a helpful tool for sort of organizing your thoughts. So I scroll down here.
Yeah. So the first version of the product that I've rolled out, that there's sort of two things that I heard one was, okay, this seems helpful I'm into it, but it's not super clear to me what's next.

You know, people would sign up, they'd start poking around, they'd answer some questions that maybe build out a persona and then kind of hit a roadblock where it was like without sort of an internal understanding of what the process is and what I should be doing.

It's unclear to me how to engage with this software product to push my project forward. So that was sort of one theme of feedback that I heard.

And then the second theme which is related, but it's slightly different is that I don't understand all the language being used.

So this is something that's important for me to, to, to hear and to remember when I'm marketing and in the product experience, making sure that I'm communicating ideas, talking about product and design concepts in a way that people who are new to these things can understand them.

And so I've been in digital product design for 10 years. I've been doing startups for a long time and I can fall just like everyone else into the patterns of forgetting that, just because I know it doesn't mean that the other people will know it and especially a potential customer won't know it.

And so this is a good reminder for me in the product experience. And then also when I'm recording videos and doing podcasts to not to shy away from using language that's important or terms that people should know, but doing my best to explain them as I go.

Objectives and Key Results

To sort of orient us in terms of how I'm thinking about taking that feedback and ensuring that I have a clear sense of what I'm actually trying to accomplish with the next version leveraging something called you may hear them called OKR, so objectives and key results.
It's a helpful framework for thinking about generally what it is you're trying to accomplish. What is your objective? And then the key result is it is very important and powerful to nail down. Okay. Like specifically, what is it you're trying to imply impact? What is the measurable result you'd like to have based on your efforts?

So the objective here is going to be to make it feel like the user has a guide through a very ambiguous and new process.

That's what I'm going to try and accomplish with the next version of Makers Inc. And the key result is to increase time spent during the first session, after logging in and then ultimately increase the return visits. So typically you want your key results to be actually the specific number and change that you'd like to impact and have a time-bound nature to it.

I have those and we'll you know, maybe I'll follow up and share the impact afterwards, but maybe also linked to some resources on OKRs. So you can dig in if you're interested in learning more about how to create and craft okay. Ours that are, are really great for your startup and, and just as good to apply them to a, you know, a more traditional, large operating business as well, and then to get into the V2 approach.

Makers Inc V1 Review

So what exactly am I going to do? So what I'd like to do is transition away from what I built initially.So not completely, but make a slight adjustment. So just to, I'm gonna go into the Makers Inc.'s experience so that we can poke around a little bit and see where we are.

So there's, it's a dashboard. And so you log in, there's a dashboard experience here. I've done a decent amount of the early stage stuff, but you can see, I have sort of some next steps and things that I sort of features and updates I want to make.

I have some of the content around the Why, How and the What documented around the project in general, there's some resources around business modeling, signing up for a Google workspace for email.
If I click over into customers, you can see I've created a couple of personas. There's additional resources here around full story and doing user research and in the product experience there's a roadmap feature where you can add due dates for a roadmap across different, a couple of different epics.

So you know, an Epic has just sort of a theme of work that can be broken down into smaller chunks.
And then there's a backlog feature. So you can say, Hey, this is something I'd like to do at some point, but it's not prioritized quite yet.

Again, more resources. And then I have a section that sort of takes you into this startup starter kit and a premium kit, which I'm still in the progress of compiling.

So that's sort of where the product is today. There is a lot of value in here. The problem is one of the problems I believe is it's sort of piecemeal. It's hard to know exactly how to engage with the experience unless you know what you're looking for.

V2 Approach

And so what I'd like to do is provide more of a linear path for new users and structure the ultimate product experience a bit more like an online course.
So include intro videos to multiple different sections, make it very clear the stages of the project and entrepreneurial process that be walking the new user through having some dynamic product and progress tracking experiences to allow the person engaging with the experience to not only be learning in watching videos and hearing content about my experiences, what I've done and what I'm teaching them, really try to help people learn by doing so each section will have two dues for the person who's participating, just like an incubator will and a bunch of resources for people who want to go deep and read more about the topics.

And here, you know, more of the theory, but really base this around sort of actionable stuff that I'd recommend people do. If they're just starting a new project and want to get it off the ground, define what it is that they're doing. Start talking to customers, start building out their product, and we'll walk through a little bit about exactly what this sort of online course structure will contain.

So another thing I've I currently don't have email remarketing set up at all for the, for the project.
I don't even have a welcome email, which is obviously something I want to do, but I've been bouncing quite a few things in and sort of the name of the game or the startup is prioritization.

And, and I just, haven't gotten around to setting up email yet. That's something I'll definitely do. And with the new structure around sort of a linear sequenced course, like sort of product experience, there's a really good opportunity to layer in re-targeted emails.

So as someone makes progress and then goes stagnant for a period of time and doesn't come back to the site, I'll be able to fire off an email to encourage them to pick up where they left off. And this really touches on the key result around increasing return site visits. And then the final thing here is I'm thinking it will be really interesting for potential users to have something to work towards.

So sometimes it's a bit hard to get started on something without knowing where you're going. The nature of a startup a lot of times is you don't really know where you're going when you get started, you just have to start. but I'd like to mitigate some of that sort of anxiety or like ambiguity around, like what, what value are you going to get out of this by having a reward for the sort of completion of all of the stages of the proposed online course?

And so what I'm thinking I'll do is I have limited time, but for anyone who makes it all the way through documents, the experience and completing the online course, all for a limited amount of time, I probably won't do this forever ever, but I'll offer an hour consultation.

So just like check in with the person and get to know them, see what they're trying to do, see what kind of progress they've made and give them my sort of professional opinion about what I would do next.
What sort of holes I see in their product experience, how they could think about improving their user experience pushing their project forward.

If they're, you know, they're struggling to get product market fit, maybe we can brainstorm about new ways to tackle the problem.

If they're seeing great success already have product market fit, maybe we can have a conversation about marketing and how to, how to grow, how to scale, if they want to go down the path of you know, applying to a traditional incubator or trying to finance their project and raise some angel or VC funding, we can have that conversation as well.

So it'll be totally open to the person, but for, yeah, for a limited amount of time, anyone who makes it all the way through the online course, I'm going to do an hour consultation. and I'll have a way to sign up for that. And in the product experience and just a quick overview of, of how I've been thinking about what I'll include, I won't go through all of this.

Course Content Outline

Ultimately it will be available on the site, but that sort of content that I'm considering is sort of like an introduction overview with a video explaining what we're going to cover, how it all is gonna work con uh, hopefully convincing people to sort of document their journey.
I think it's really important to get into a habit of creating content and at a minimum writing down your thoughts and, and identifying what it is you're trying to accomplish.

So getting people to do their own, Why, How, What, and sort of recording that potentially posting it on YouTube, starting their own channel potentially starting a blog or just practicing, recording and giving their elevator pitch.

If they want to ultimately fundraise, they're gonna have to explain this thing to hundreds of people.  and it's, it's worth starting when there's no pressure and seeing how to get better over time.

So then we'll dig into customers doing interviews, setting up personas, we'll go into the product. So introduction to design thinking, lean philosophy the first version of your products that, that sort of minimum viable product, the MVP it's like, what, what can, what does the least amount you can build or do to answer that question about whether this is something people are interested in, and that's sort of the first version that I launched of Makers Inc. and I'll introduce people to no code.

So basically all the stuff I build, the digital product experiences are built through a variety of different software tools that have abstracted away the need to actually write code. So basically I believe that, you know, anyone can learn these no-code tools and start building automated workflows and, you know, full digital product experiences.

You can build your own app without writing a line of code these days. And so I'll, I'll do some introduction to that and show some people and hopefully people will create their own MVP at this phase.

We'll walk through testing and iterating. So doing exactly what I've done getting your MVP out there, getting it in front of people, getting feedback from people, I'll teach some skills around how to make sure you're getting valuable feedback that is actionable and that you can then prioritize into your own iterations.

The next version of your product, you can put out in front of people we'll talk and cover marketing. So, you know, SEO search engine optimization, how do you start creating content that Google will display to other people? And they search for terms that are related to what you offer sales. I'm not a sales person myself, but it's an incredibly important skill to be able to communicate and determine what somebody needs and what they want.

And then be able to tell them a story about how the product or service or whatever it is that you're doing can help meet that need for paid ads.

So we'll, we'll do a quick paid ad test early on and, you know, walk people through how to set up ad words, which is a Google way to get in front of people who are searching for things, all those ads that show up when you search for whatever you search for on Google.

We'll set up a quick low budget ad words campaign. So you can, you can, you know, figure out whether paid ads are right for you and they're not right for everyone, but and not right for every business, but you'll at least have that as a an arrow in your quiver or something you can go to if you need quick feedback and can help with scaling if you get to that point I'll share some research, influential resources for me, people that I've read listened to and learned a lot from about marketing.

Uh, we'll touch on sort of the business side of things. So we'll talk about, you know, you will have just run an ad campaign.

So how do we evaluate that? Let's talk about what is a funnel, how do we make sense of the stages and whether something is working or not working? What does that mean? How do we evaluate the success of a campaign like this?  and we'll talk through unit economics.

So an incredibly important sort of idea when, if you're new to business and you're new to startups or running a company, if finance, isn't your thing we'll talk about. Okay, well, how do we evaluate these things? What are the important inputs into a business that we need to be tracking?

And then the sort of homework here will be to build your own business model. And so you know, I have a template for basic business models that has, you know, some variables and then projections out into the future. And then, you know, you can copy that template and then start tweaking it to fit your business.  so you don't have to start from scratch.

You can pick these things up pretty quickly. Well then move on to product strategy. So, all right, you've got an, you've got a product out in the wild. How do you now think about pushing it forward?  how do you continue to make sure that you're talking to customers, you're doing user research and learning from what's working, what's not working.

How do you think about prioritizing the things that you could do? How do you develop and build out a backlog of ideas and more specifically a roadmap of things you're committing to actually trying and building and problems you're going to try and solve? We'll touch on this really important idea of outcomes over output.

So I believe her name is Melissa Perry. She wrote a book called the Build Trap where she goes into a bunch of detail about this idea, but the sort of core philosophy here is make sure that you're focused on the impact of your work rather than just doing the work.

So with outcomes over output is an important idea. Okay, ours, we've touched on a little, a little bit and we'll have people create their own backlog and roadmap.

We'll talk about product market fit much has been said, and written about product market fit.  we'll talk a bit about it.

We talk about one strategy for measuring, whether or not you have it, and depending on the results of your own project, you'll either move to the next section or you go back to the next one to the first one. So they're you, there's this sort of binary like, Hey, have we created something that people really, really enjoy and that they're using.

And our next problem is how do we get more people to use it, then you move on to the scale and growth content. And if you're, and if people aren't using it and the feedback you're getting is like, Oh, I'm not really sure what this is all about. It's not flying off the shelf, then you need to go back and, and focus more on your product strategy, do more research, identify, you know, what is working, what's not working.

How can you tweak things and change things to make sure that what you're building is really solving a problem for people so that you can ultimately get that product market fit and move on to the scale growth phase.

So the last sort of three sections here I have is my, my initial plan at this point is basically to make everything free up until this point.

And then ultimately for companies that make it to a point where they've created something that's super valuable and they're really transitioning into the scale and growth phase, having content that is premium content it's, it's the costs, I haven't settled on exactly how much to charge, but these are people who are moving into, Hey, they're going to be running a business here.

They're either scaling and growing their offering, or they're potentially going to be fundraising trying to take on funds from angel or venture capital investors to, to really supercharge their, their project. and hopefully at this point I will have provided enough value that people will be excited about, you know, paying some amount to unlock access to additional hopefully really valuable resources around my experiences with some of the challenges that come up as you grow in scale.

And then fundraising sort of final idea here is potentially at some point in the future as more and more people engage with this sort of next version of Makers Incubator, like an online incubator experience, we'll coordinate a what's called a demo day.

So a lot of incubators like Angelpad, the one that I've participated in or Y Combinator is another really popular one. What they do is they have their, uh their classes, their sessions sort of culminate in this demo day where they're pitching to a set of investors, their projects, what have they been up to?

How much progress have they been able to make? What is the problem they're trying to solve? Who is their customer hall?

The things that we've up to this point, been walking through, defining, documenting, and improving over time. You're sort of sharing those things out to people who you can convince, Hey, there's a really big business here.

You, if you give me money, I'll give you a, a percentage ownership, stake in the business. And then the business will scale from there. We'll grow and we'll become super rich and successful apparently is the idea. And so obviously there's a ton more there and it's an, it's an important decision for entrepreneurs to make. Do they want to fundraise? Is it right for their business? Is it right for them? Uh, have a lot more to say about that.

I think that there are certain businesses where it's fundamentally, it's almost required to get the business off the ground. There's certain business strategically. It just makes so much sense if you're going to do it based on competitive pressures and network effects, you really want to raise as much money as you can and try to take the market.

There are certain businesses that should not fundraise. They should not take on venture capital. It's not the only path.  And really the only person that can tell you whether it's right is you, you have to you have to figure it out yourself.

I'm going to create some more resources, helping people sort of think through the pros and cons.  but for companies that would like to head down that path ultimately would like to sit as sort of a middleman and introduce people to some investors and, and coordinate a demo day.

I know I said, right when I kicked off that I was not going to go through all that, God, I just went through everything for the most part.

But that's what I'm thinking about creating in terms of the content of the course that I'm thinking about, obviously there's, there's a lot of work to be done to bring this to life. The sort of two pieces to it, as I see it now, there's, there's like the actual content. So there's as you can see a number of videos that I'm gonna need to record figuring out, like, what is my syllabus, basically?

What is it like content that I'll be sharing throughout each of these different stages? The nice thing is that a lot of the resources and a lot of the content I've actually already created, if I quickly go back over as you're, if you remember, I was quickly sort of running through this, they're basically in each of the side tabs here, there's a sort of a resources section where I've, I've already created a lot of content that is structured somewhat similar to what I'm doing here.

The big change is that rather than making it sort of super self-serve and you kind of have to explore and find it yourself in the first version of the product and the second version, it's going to be way more as I mentioned, sort of linear and, and guided, hopefully.

V2 Mockups

So I have some quick mock-ups of how I'm thinking about it. So this is sort of a set of wireframes of the product experience and how I'm thinking about it's not super detailed, but that's the point of a wire frame.
You're really just trying to communicate an idea. You're not trying to get into the nitty-gritty.  So as you can see, I have two screens that we'll have a look at. The one on the left is how I'm thinking about that overview dashboard view that we've looked at in the V1 experience.

And then the second one is, is sort of a zoomed in detailed view for a particular section. So maybe one way to think about it is the one on the left is the course summary itself. And the, on the right it's a chapter. It's like if you're actually in the experience going through learning the material, how do you engage?

And so sort of a quick overview when I zoom in here, you'll see we walked through, there's a bunch of sort of chapters or stages of the experience. And I'm thinking that basically you'll have to engage with it. Sequentially. I can imagine a world where people will want to skip around, but I think it will be nice to maybe loosely require people to traverse it sequentially anyways.

So there'll be an expanded version and sort of a more compact version where people can explore and see what is the content in each phase. And then when they click to get started, it'll take them into a sort of you know, the, the actual workspace for that particular portion of the course.

And so you'll see that, you know, within the intro and overview, maybe there are multiple different steps that you can walk through there's space for a video or the quick overview of what's being covered and the ability to sort of navigate back and forth to the next stage and next step and not everything will be a video.

Some will be product experiences where the person can engage, type certain things in and get feedback about you know, unit economics, for instance, or maybe they're typing on their own. Why, how, and what to define their project. I'm going to try and sort of inter connect the sort of learning material and the sort of hallmark or that to dues right in the product experience.

So people can sort of at their own pace, make their way through. And hopefully this will be less about documenting things that you've already done.

And, and my hope is that for someone who's, you know, got no experience with entrepreneurship or product design or business, they could, they could follow this sequence, this sort of journey. And if they listened to all the content, watch all the videos, read all the suggested resources and do the homework that by the time they make it to the bottom, they will have learned a bunch of skills, launched a product, learn how to market it to some extent and you know, be in the thick of it.

And they'll be an entrepreneur. And the reality is of course, each of these different sections, you know, we're talking about a lot of things to cover in any, any typical business, you know, has entire teams dedicated to maybe each of these chapters so that you have dedicated user research and product design teams.

You've got an executive team working on strategy. You've got product managers and engineers and designers building out things, and you got marketing and a whole suite of people doing marketing. And there's, there's, you know, maybe infinite ways you can drill into each of these and go super deep and become a specialist in any area.

And we're not going to go that deep obviously, but hopefully this will get enough context and valuable actionable advice on how to, to have it at least make a little bit of progress. So you can identify your weaknesses and dig in where you need to.  but that you at least start to get the lay of the land, have a map for how you're moving forward. And hopefully by structuring it in a more guided way, people will feel like there's clarity on what they're supposed to be doing in the product experience, but also more clarity on like, what are the next steps for their project?

So that's the idea. One final thing I'll say is that the reality is that there are no guarantees in entrepreneurship. There are no guarantees and product design.  following these steps, do not ensure that you will create a successful business or that you'll create a product that people love.

You know, this whole journey is, you know, there's structure. There is, there are guard rails, there are things that you can do to increase your likelihood of success. But it's, you know, it's part art, part science and a lot of the magic happens in the art. It's like, what is your idea? What is the creative execution of your solution? That's completely unique? What is your marketing strategy?

How are you communicating with people? And so you know, hopefully maybe I can share some of the science too, to make it much less daunting and ambiguous if like how to, how this thing works.
but ultimately it will be up to you to create your own project and find where there, you know, a big opportunity, how can you connect with people? How can you solve problems and how can you create something right. People love, and yeah, hopefully this will help with that.

So that's where I am.  I haven't started working on this. I just pulled together this overview to give a sense of sort of directionally heading, but I will keep everyone updated as I make progress. And once it's ready, we'll obviously share it out and do another review of where I ended up.

And that's it. Thanks for watching.

Want more like this?

Receive updates as new posts about design, entrepreneurship, and low-code development are published.

Related Posts