24 things to do, and 100 things *not* to do (yet) for building a MicroISV
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24 things to do, and 100 things *not* to do (yet) for building a MicroISV

I've been building another microIsv lately, and as such I've had to produce a new 'to-do' list to keep me focused. It steals a lot from the previous list but matches my current predicament more closely.

I've got 24 things to do, but 100 things I'm *not* going to do just yet. In TimeSnapper (a moderately successful Micro-ISV shared with my colleague Atli) we go well past the first 24 items, and far into the next 100.

Consider also the fractal nature of this work... each item can contain its own sublist of critical and non-critical action items... and so on. A length essay (or at least a series of links) could be provided for every item on the list.

(The worst thing is... even though I know that only the first 24 are needed for now... I so badly want to do the rest before I finished the first ones. It's killing me!)

mandatory (1-24)

i intend to complete items 1-24 before 'launch'. (Things already completed are shown in a lighter shade)

micro isv application:

Update: these are some pre-steps that come before everything else

  1. Come up with ideas
  2. Minimal market research
  3. Choose purchase model (e.g. trialware/feature limited)

And here's the list itself...

  1. build the simplest product imaginable
  2. fill it with particles of delight
  3. mark some features as 'paid'
  4. make it a standalone exe
  5. have an eula shown on first run
  6. have a form for registering the application
  7. call the registration webservice, store the result
  8. on startup, check if registered
  9. if registered, unlock the paid features & hide registration hooks
  10. naming, branding, logo to match url

micro isv website:

  1. get a url (technically, this step comes before step 10)
  2. choose your server-side technology stack
  3. purchase hosting
  4. choose website template
  5. index page (landing page)
  6. choose a price
  7. register with payment gateway
  8. purchase page
  9. handle payment notification from payment gateway
  10. send "registration code" email
  11. thank you page (show registration code)
  12. webservice to confirm registration code from client
  13. download link
  14. screenshots of app

for extra credit (25-71)

i'll probably do these.

tax and legal protection

  1. incorporate

continual improvement:

  1. beta testing from friends/critics
  2. ask at business of software for feedback
  3. bugtracking/support system (e.g. fogbugz for startups)
  4. "uservoice" for feedback
  5. web analytics
  6. drive support costs down

advertising/promotions:

  1. update your email signature so you're always representin
  2. shout out on twitter
  3. blog about it at your day blog
  4. sidebar and footer links from your day blog
  5. ask for links from your friends' blogs
  6. pad file
  7. register at download sites
  8. twitter account for announcements
  9. build a community
  10. build a movement

website enhancements:

  1. about page
  2. help page
  3. faq page
  4. privacy policy
  5. articles on your niche topic
  6. refund policy
  7. usage policy
  8. various pricing levels
  9. release notes page
  10. automated backup
  11. bug reporting link
  12. privacy policy
  13. 'try it online' for free
  14. an article targeted at each potential user group/demographic
  15. amazing screen shots
  16. testimonials

app enhancements:

  1. implement most desirable features
  2. release often
  3. check online for current version #
  4. background download of updates
  5. link to release notes inside application
  6. feedback link inside app
  7. suggestion link inside app
  8. bug reporting link inside app
  9. an offline way to register
  10. have a commandline way to register

application development:

  1. source code repository (actually this is item 0.)
  2. extra backup
  3. obfuscation (eazfuscator?)
  4. unit testing

for even more extra credit (72-124)

i may not get to these. i haven't bothered categorising them

  1. locate relevant user groups/communities and give them free licenses
  2. locate niche bloggers and solicit feedback from them
  3. a form for adding testimonials
  4. survey the competition
  5. talk at user groups
  6. talk at conferences
  7. revision control
  8. self service for lost serial numbers
  9. a/b testing framework
  10. crash reporting from the field
  11. bug/suggestion reporting from application
  12. branding/logo at the payment page
  13. continuous integration
  14. automated releases
  15. adwords campaigns
  16. advertise in non-google networks
  17. box shot 3d
  18. web casts
  19. disk shipping (aka on-demand fulfillment)
  20. companion products
  21. upselling
  22. email campaigns
  23. be cool
  24. sign up/email harvesting
  25. follow up email tutorial series to non-paying (and paying) users
  26. product roadmap
  27. spam control
  28. a low-impact installer
  29. uninstall reason collection
  30. competitions
  31. discounts, e.g. student, charity, startup
  32. product blog
  33. thriving plug-in community
  34. vm test bed
  35. multi-browser testing
  36. customer satisfaction surveys
  37. internationalisation and localisation of product
  38. internationalisation and localisation of website
  39. campaign websites/websites named after keywords
  40. professionally designed website
  41. app analytics
  42. companion urls, e.g. .net, .org, nation-specific
  43. ci monitor
  44. status panel
  45. usability testing
  46. give licenses to MVP's list
  47. give out promotional gifts
  48. sponsor something
  49. Run an affiliate service
  50. check compiled binary with virus total
  51. virus free logo on website
  52. sign your binaries, e.g. authenticode signed.
  53. stop reading/writing this list and implement something

Stay tuned of course.





'Nick Hodges' on Sat, 22 May 2010 03:56:40 GMT, sez:

For #4, Delphi is the way to go.



'Leon' on Sat, 22 May 2010 04:34:33 GMT, sez:

@Nick -
Yep, Delphi certainly excels at making standalone executables.

The 'standalone' exe I aim for is a bit less free-standing. I still require the .net framework, but i require no dll's, no config files, no other supporting files, just the vanilla framework (at the lowest version i can tolerate), plus the executable itself.

Where someone has skills in delphi, i would think it an excellent choice for a standalone win32 app.



'Alan' on Sat, 22 May 2010 09:22:34 GMT, sez:

Nice list, though with some repetition.

You left out the "make a profit" bit ;o)



AC



'Leon' on Sun, 23 May 2010 13:09:52 GMT, sez:

Extra items/notes harvested from Business of Software forum:

-3. Come up with ideas
-2. Basic market research
-1. Choose product model (e.g. trialware/feature limited)

From hacker news (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1372087) I learnt that:

Mac-based Micro-ISVs call themselves 'indie developers.' I'd heard the term before but never realised the mac vs ms nature of the two terms. I might need to use both terms to widen my readership ;-)

I also know for sure that no-one likes end user license agreements. I'm still gonna use one.



'delphi' on Sun, 23 May 2010 14:36:12 GMT, sez:

fuck delphi.



'Mr Grieves' on Sun, 23 May 2010 17:04:57 GMT, sez:

Awesome, I'd never heard the term microISV before despite being one. I guess I've had a very similar list to the initial steps in my head as I've been progressing but never actually formalized it. I'll be referring to this as I go, especially the latter ones as they are not all obvious.



'David H' on Sun, 23 May 2010 23:25:42 GMT, sez:

Yeah, #94 might count as an Epic.

You could break it down into:
#94.1 - Get funky hat
#94.2 - Learn hip colloquial phrase
#94.3 - Walk as if you've got one wooden leg (Note - Funky hat is prerequisite)
#94.4 - Find a restrained, yet 'unique', font to use.
#94.5 - Act evasive and disinterested when it comes to details about yourself
#94.6 - Ensure complete absence of any revenue model



'Micah' on Tue, 25 May 2010 13:48:18 GMT, sez:

Let me guess, World's Simplest List Builder?



'Scott' on Tue, 01 Jun 2010 21:21:21 GMT, sez:

You should use this to flush out and finish your articles "25 Steps for Building a Micro ISV" at: http://secretgeek.net/25steps.asp



'Leon' on Mon, 07 Jun 2010 01:53:31 GMT, sez:

@Scott re: 'flush out and finish your articles "25 Steps...'

I could do that, but it would just be procrastination about building the new business.

I'm going to write as much as I can about the decisions i'm making on this one, but I'm not going to over-promise on the meta-documentation front as I did in the past.

Writing the 25 steps articles would've been a lot of fun, but actually building the business was more important and a better source of material.

I really only get a couple of hours a week to do this stuff so i have to be very picky.



'Stephen' on Thu, 26 Aug 2010 22:40:59 GMT, sez:

How is software license keys managed and generated!



'Adrian' on Sun, 28 Nov 2010 23:06:42 GMT, sez:

Great list. There are many things to do and having a list like this will certainly focus the mind!

Thanks,

Adrian



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