My Photo

Subscribe to this Blog

  • Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Search this Site


  • Redirect

« Stories from Inner Mongolia: An introduction to rural life | Main | A Story Engine? A Diary? A News Source? »

November 25, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bhalchander Vishwanath

Hi Casey,
I am on Larry's side. At the end of the day, your goal is to help the poor in China better their lives. And the more you work on cosmetic refinements, the more you are delaying big changes to these people's lives. I am sure most of Wokai's contributors would understand and appreciate the difference between a ' cosmetic changes' on your website and a ' big difference to people's lives'. So my 2 cents - Go for increasing your contributor base. The cosmetic changes can follow over time.


Jake de Grazia

Load up with potential borrowers. Feature them front and center. Make sure you articulate the big Wokai vision over and over again on the site and in constant contact with as many contributors as you can handle. And challenge your users now to round people up to make all those loans.

On which side of the argument does that fall? More on Larry's I guess.

Keep the site simple. It can be ugly if the goal is clear and that core function (reading about borrowers and contributing) is easy. If you have lots of technical work to create ease and clarity, then take the time to do that, but remember that it's only once a startup nonprofit's website is complicated that people start insisting that it's also beautiful.

Michael Shepanski

I agree that working on making a solid platform is what it takes in the long run. However, at the same time I think there are a lot of quick wins that can be done to help improve the user experience at the same time making things a little more simple. Simple doesn't have the be ugly, it just has to hide all the incomplete parts of the site. :)

For example, it might be a good idea fill in the total contributors and loans with an alternate image until there is time to properly fill it with the correct content. In fact, little things like continuing the black background across the front, and making the contributors numbers a little bigger would make it look complete right now.

Buttons to unfinished parts of the site can be hidden or made to not be links. This increases user experience because people are happy with what they have, but as soon as they see something that could be, but isn't, its not as fun.

Lastly, I personally feel that finding the core information about what Wokai is about a little more difficult to soak in on the new site compare to the old. I feel a bit overwhelmed by social contributing and featured borrowers that the main message seems almost the second priority. The old site was was almost like a walk through of the organizations missions and accomplishments, but I need to actively search for it on the new site.

Jay Liew

This is a common dilemma in product development, especially in the tech industry.

Basically, I think you should think of the progression of Wokai users like in this graph:

Reading the graph from left to right, initially, you will have the innovators, early adopters. Then as your product matures along the way, you'll be going after the majority and laggards.

Startup entrepreneurs must be delusional and absolutely believe you will get there, so while we're not exactly there yet, just believe we'll get there. So you'll get all of these people, from the innovators all the way through to the laggards. A one size fits all approach is guaranteed to fail, so what you want to do is segment the "market" of your users.

To not overcomplicate things for now, just divide them all into two, right where that gap is on the chart. First group on the left are the early adopters. Second group on the right are your main mass market.

These two groups have very different requirements. What you need to do is first satisfy the needs of your early adopters, because you will then need their help to cross into the mainstream segment. As tempting at it may look, you really should not attempt to bypass the early adopters and jump straight for the mainstream (there's a million reasons why, but this blog comment is already getting too long).

To briefly describe, early adopters are passionate people (passionate about the product, or passionate about the cause, etc.), will champion your product to others (there's your viral marketing), and they will put up with a crappy "alpha" and "beta" product (because that's how passionate they are) - but you *must* listen and satisfy their core needs. Perhaps you can use Lisa Martin as your early adopter test case - I know she's absolutely passionate about the cause ;)

Bear in mind that early adopter needs are not the same as the mainstream market, so you listen closely, but sometimes not too closely. Once their core needs has been satisfied, then you worry about crossing the "chasm" into the real mass market. Plenty of companies fail at crossing the chasm, a popular b-school case study.

Mainstream users are very different. They may hang around simply because the site looks cool. And while they are at it, they'll pour some of their money in, simply because the site looks cool, and because it's so easy to (e.g. a real frictionless payment system). In other words, they're not putting down money because they're die-hard fans of helping people, changing the world by ridding it of poverty like your early adopters might be. And that certainly shouldn't be a problem for Wokai (you wouldn't turn away money from people who are not die-hard fans, why would you?)

Here's a good read:

In determining the Casey & Leslie vs. Larry type questions, you could ask yourself this, "do I need this to satisfy my early adopter's core needs, or is this really a mainstream market nicer to have?"

- Enhancing public features, the aesthetics is not an early adopter core need (Remember that early adopters will put up with an ugly product. They are not turned off by that; if you find beta testers turned off by that - then you already know, these are really the "mainstream". Earmark them for later - you'll need to invite them back when you're ready for them).

- "Behind the scenes" admin features? Sounds like it's a core need. Without these features, can you satisfy your early adopters? If no, then you need it. If you can, then maybe you can delay that.

This is can be a pretty deep subject, you know how to reach me if you have any questions. But hopefully, I've managed to describe the high level point.

Courtney & Casey

Hey Guys,

Thanks so much for all your feedback. It sounds like the overall things that we should focus on is making the core systems work and bringing the borrowers to the forefront. Michael, I like your feedback about extending the photo up top. We're hoping to have a flash that explains the contribution process and where contributors' money goes. Hopefully we'll have that up within the next 2-3 weeks. I agree that we need to find a way for the About Wokai information to be more at the forefont, but we haven't figured out a way to make it flow in with the other homepage info yet.

Michael, Jay, Bala, Jake, thank you again for all of the time and thought that you put into your responses.


The comments to this entry are closed.