Learning from a soft launch.

Wow, it has been a busy week here at Voluminary! After launching the initial prototype last Monday, we received almost 1,000 unique visitors, around 15 user signups, and a good deal of incredibly helpful feedback. Let me first offer my sincere thanks to everyone who visited, and especially to those who took the time to provide feedback, both positive and negative. It has certainly been a learning experience — and that’s what it is really about after all.

What we’ve learned rather quickly is:

  1. We initially have focused too much on books
  2. The user recommendation and contribution systems need some work

“That’s a lot of books”

Initially we launched with around 215 resources over 60 subjects (9 “tracks”) — with a heavy emphasis on books (around 96% heavy). This was for several reasons:

  1. Books were easier to research and verify
  2. They are a common medium (there are books on all subjects)
  3. Full disclosure, our initial monetization strategy revolves around our Amazon affiliate link (a get-rich scheme that has paid off handsomely to the tune of $2.08).

A lot of what we heard from our first wave of users involved adding more free resources and mediums other than books. We agree 100% — and planned to do that from the start (“Explore alternative avenues of learning” as the homepage says). This will certainly be the focus of our resource adding activities in the future.

“I didn’t realize I could contribute”

One of the questions from a feedback survey we sent out was “Is there any particular barrier that kept you from contributing?” With ~1,000 visitors, we hadn’t received many resource or subject suggestions, hence the question. Some people felt they didn’t have much they could contribute, but overwhelmingly the response was: “I didn’t realize I could contribute.”

This is exactly the benefit of a soft launch and feedback surveys: discovering which fundamental piece of your system is completely broken. And hey, we found it. Victory!

We have fixed some of the more immediate (glaring) bugs, which will hopefully improve the functionality. Next on the list is improving the user interface, and really clarifying for the user that this collection of learning resources really is community driven.

A learning success

In retrospect, I would deem our first soft launch a success. It was really exciting to get our first dose of validation (both qualitative and quantitative). Our goal was to learn about you, dearest blog post reader, our valuable user. And that we have certainly done. So it is full steam ahead from here, as we take all of your awesome feedback and continue building with the hopes that we can, in turn, help you achieve your own learning goals.