Open Startup: New Features at Askablogr

One of the best things about Askablogr’s recent publicity was a fresh influx of member feedback and feature suggestions. Craig and I sat down and prioritized these early last week, and (amazingly) he found a way to squeeze a bunch of them in around a nasty cold and a crushing consulting load (kudos again, Craig).

Here are some of the comments we received, and what we’ve done to try to address them:

Kill the registration requirement for asking questions. This is a no brainer. Your users (bloggers) want to get questions and you’re making it hard. Sure, you want registered users– but serve the user FIRST… You’ll get more adoption.

  • Here’s what we did: As of this morning, the default mode for any new question is unregistered. If you’re not logged in, you can submit a question just like a blog comment, by entering a name, email address and they typing your question. Craig has added some crafty spam protection to prevent bot exploits on this feature so it can’t (easily) be turned into a spam cannon. The downside to this approach is that fewer questioner profiles will be available for display in the widget, but we agree with Tony that removing friction from the ask process is a higher priority.

  • From Andrew Chen (two of several great ideas from this Askablogr early adopter, widely-read blogger and serial entrepreneur currently in stealth mode on his new startup):

“I think you should make the ‘ask X’ link more obviously clickable – maybe turn the entire thing into a submit button looking thing… otherwise, I think people are much more likely to click on other stuff. Might be worth A/B testing to see what draws the most attention on the page.

“Also, I would like to customize a “Prepend” or “Post-pend” block of text that automatically shows up in the post – would like to remind users to “click here to ask me a question,” since a lot of my feed readers don’t see the link on my blog (it’s in my layout, not in the RSS)”

  • Here’s what we did: On the first, Craig didn’t have cycles to come up with an entirely new widget button design, but we’ve jacked up the font size and bolded the ask statement as an interim nod in this direction (it’s a start…). On the second, we had the same concern and – while we haven’t yet made it user-customizable – have added a small footer link to each post insert that reads: “Ask [membername] a question.”

We squeezed in a few small bug fixes to go with the upgrades above, but the blessing/curse of running Askablogr as a project and not a company is that our scope is always constrained by the “spare” cycles we can find around our other commitments. I’m proud of Craig for responding as nimbly as he did under the circumstances (especially because the anonymous ask feature turned out to be non-trivial).