Setting up website and mailing list

This week I will take a little time to describe some of the thoughts and work I put into setting the web site and initial communication channels up. There is a lot of advice for building businesses and products out there. In this post I'll touch on two of the main advises I have considered. 

Building and engaging an audience 

A lot of micropreneur advise is about building an audience and engaging with it. One part of this advice is about reaching out to potential customers and another is about getting valuable feedback to shape the product. Creating this website and writing this blog while building the calendar application is heavily inspired by that advice.

A potential audience will not stumble upon the website or blog randomly. To allow an audience to find the website and blog, I'll submit it to search engines like Google and Bing. I will also try to reach out to relevant associations and news fora to spread the word to people that may have an interest. Finally, I may also purchase advertisements to reach further, although I'm not considering that at the moment. In all these cases, it may be relevant to determine what effects different initiatives have. For instance, how many visitors does the website or blog get after writing to some forum or after doing some search engine optimization. This may help shape future initiatives to be more effective in building and engaging an audience. To this end I want to analyze web traffic.

Building and engaging an audience is about getting followers that come back regularly and hopefully participate through comments and other means. To facilitate this I'd like users to be able to subscribe to news, so they will know when there are new blog posts or updates on the site. I have decided to allow such subscription by email at first and have worked on automating the process of mailing blog posts to subscribers once a week if there are any new posts.

Evaluating the market

Another popular product advise is to test if there is actually a market for the product early on. One approach is to create a "fake sales window". That is, to present the product and a sales page for it and only disclose to the user that the product is not done yet after the user has tried to purchase it. This allows one to record a somewhat realistic demand and also to collect contact information from users that may be interested in being contacted when the product is available. It may seem a bit deceiving and it may also disappoint the user. However, the idea is that if the product actually adds some value and helps the user, the user will probably still be interested and willing to wait for it. At the same time if no-one sees any value and shows any interest in the product it may be best to save the effort and not build it. If the product does get build, the early sign-ups may also be compensated by being invited to participate in beta testing or by getting some initial discount. 

Determining demand with a fake sales window requires that one can drive enough traffic to the sales window to be able to get enough data. However, it may be difficult and expensive to drive this type of traffic up-front. For instance, I might need to advertise to a larger segment like all genealogist to find out that only a tiny segment of these are interested in a historical calendar service. I have chosen to pursue building an audience first and then wait and hope I will get enough data to evaluate later. I'm motivated to try to build an audience and to build an initial version of the calendar service. Later down the line, I will evaluate the audience and "fake sales" and determine whether there is already enough demand, or I should try to burst the traffic with advertisement - or if I should just give up due to lacking demand and spend my energy on something else. 

General data protection regulation

When dealing with personal data for web traffic analysis or for sending emails, one may need to consider GDPR. GDPR is EU's general data protection regulation. I'm far from an expert, but here is my condensed understanding:

  • You need to inform your users about what data you collect about them - or at least make it available in a privacy policy, terms and conditions or similar.

  • If you collect data that is not essential for your service or you share it with a third-party you need consent from the user.

  • You need to provide means for a user to control the data - potentially just by emailing you.

To address the first bullet, I have added privacy and cookie policy pages. I searched the web for examples. There is a whole industry that wants to sell template solutions. In the end I chose to write my own and hope I covered everything. Please feel free to let me know in the comments or by mail to feedback@estorical.com, if you miss some information.

To address the second bullet, I've added a cookie banner that allows you to opt-in to have your usage of the website tracked and analyzed. I chose to apply the same tactics as many other sites to persuade the user to opt-in, i.e. making it easy to opt-in, annoying to do nothing and a bit difficult to actively opt-out. Also, when signing up to receive news from Estorical by mail, I've set it up to require double opt-in. That means that you will receive an email when signing up and will need to click a confirm link in the email.  

Finally, to address the third bullet, I've added a few different means. It is possible to opt-out of the website tracking from the cookie policy page and we only keep the website analytics data the shortest period Google Analytics allow. See the privacy policy page for further information.

Stay tuned

This week I finished up some parts of the web site and blog as described here. GDPR does put in a barrier that makes it a bit more difficult to get quickly set up and out there, but I hope I'm through most of it it now. I also did a little work on trying to reach out to interested parties. Perhaps that is why you are here. As it takes up a bit of time I have left out setting up social pages like Facebook and similar for now. Instead I've done some initial exploratory work on the calendar application. I hope to be able to do further work next week and get back with an update on the progress.