Or: when your colleague’s inbox zero bliss results in inbox hell for you

In the startup world, when you mention that you’re working towards / or you have reached ‘inbox zero’, you’ll get some admiring nods from whoever is listening to you. Not from me though. I’ll let you in on a secret: inbox zero is a lie. Why? Because answering all your mails – preferably before 8 am so no-one will be up to write a reply – means you’ll create ‘inbox overflow’ for your co-workers. Just pushing unreads back and forth is not going to ‘fix’ email (yes, it’s broken).

Chief Email Officer

Our CEO often jokes that the ‘E’ in his job title stands for ‘Email’. Working on the same desk, I do see a constant stream of messages coming in on his screen. There’s very little you can do about the email behavior of your clients, business contacts or external email fanatics. The very least we – as a team – can do is creating filters and stop bothering each other with loads of non-descriptive emails and funsies (or maybe create a chat room for that sort of things – one that you can mute).

Asana is a shared task list for your team, keeping everyone on the same page. Asana’s mission is to empower humanity to do great things. Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, both Facebook alumni, created the project management tool to help take that step; to improve the productivity of individuals and groups. Implementing it at Facebook, the results were promising: fewer meetings, the volume of emails went down and the teams got more done with less effort.

Now we are all-in for less emails, especially the ones that come with a subject along the lines of “It does not work, FIX IT“. To help your visitors, customers and team members describe what they (don’t) see on a page you need a visual feedback tool. Working with Asana already? That’s great, then we only have to connect your Usersnap account to your Asana dashboard!

The last few weeks we’ve been working on a redesign of our website, rethinking copy and opting for a cleaner design (inspired by Andrew Chen’s recent blog post). We killed a lot of darlings in the process, but happily so. We would love to hear your feedback on our new layout, but first, let me tell you about the driving force behind our redesign mission.

 

Meet Benedikt

Benedikt Reiter is the newest addition to the Usersnap team. He’s a UI/UX-Designer / Frontend Developer with a lot of knowledge of actual programming as well as design. And he’s a Photoshop black belt. Benedikt started developing web applications when he was 13, creating a “little Facebook, but much smaller and not that feature-full”, with about 1500 active users. At 15 he had his first customer.

Always into design and user experience, Benedikt attended the HTL in Perg (Austria) and today he’s about to start the Timebased and Interactive Media track at the University for Art and Industrial Design in Linz.

UX/UI and Responsive Web Design

TYPO3 is an enterprise-class, open source content management system, used to build and manage websites of all types. One of the great things about TYPO3 is that one can add new types of content elements fairly easily. Say, for instance, a feedback button for your visitors and customers. We are working on a plugin, but in the meantime, here are the needed steps to include Usersnap – the visual bug tracker for web development – into your Typo3 site:

  1. Log into your backend
  2. Left Menu: Click on “Template”
  3. Select your start page (earth icon)
  4. Select “Info/Modify” in the Dropdown menu of the template
  5. Click on the edit button next to setup (pencil icon) – it’s the last entry in the table
  6. A editor opens, insert this code (with your Usersnap snippet) at the end:

At Usersnap, we have over 20 (summed up) years of experience in well organized web development. We figured that track record allows us to call out the good, bad and the ugly in the industry. Now, working in web development can be rewarding, challenging and overall awesome, but the programming world has its dark side too (and no, there are no cookies).

Collaboration of the kind where everyone is involved, and able to discuss projects and tasks while you as a manager still having full control over what they can see and do, can be tricky. ActiveCollab is a project collaboration hub for teams that solves that problem. And with Usersnap hooked up to activeCollab, you can easily gather feedback during your development process. Having all project data in one, centralized place is extremely valuable as everyone knows where to get the most up to date information and collaboration and notification tools are built right into the workflow.

People, Roles and Permissions

With activeCollab, there’s no limit to the number of users that you can invite.

There are hundreds of startup advice blog posts. Many of them are based on a couple of experiences the respective founders made which are sometimes being presented as universal truth applicable to every startup. What frequently is missing is the context of the writer. So here’s my context: I’m an entrepreneur, I established a single successful (aka profitable) software boutique with my brother before we started to work on Usersnap (a B2B SaaS product), and we failed with another business idea. I’m older than the average startup founders and I did not drop out of university. I’m living in Austria, and I prefer the term “starting a business” instead of “running a startup”.

Disclosing this background, I’d like to share 3 observations I made in the last months.

Thoughts about finding Advisors

Limited life experiences + Over-generalization = Advice
Paul Buchheit, Founder of FriendFeed and creator of Gmail

I’m amazed how many people show the self-confidence to call themselves startup-advisors. At some point, I even got the impression that some failed startup entrepreneurs believe they’ll be able to advise other startups with a rationale that a set of experienced mistakes empowers them to guide fellow startups.

To me, that’s a misconceived plan B. Whereas I strongly believe that sharing failure with other entrepreneurs is very valuable I don’t think this is what advising is about.

At Usersnap, we have over 20 (summed up) years of experience in well organized web development. We figured that track record allows us to call out the good, bad and the ugly in the industry. Now, we don’t like to focus on the negative, but just this once we’ll sum up the bad, as the logical follow-up on our post on best practices in web development.

1. Mails with 20 bullet points

Mails with 20 bullet points, listing bugs, feature request and what not, are as much a commodity as a problem. Often they lead to accusations and “why didn’t you fix $XY, as I pointed out five weeks ago?”-s. In case your head of development is not able to drill these monologues down to workable tickets, chances are you forget things. Instead of muttering all kinds of things your mother didn’t teach you, try and educate your clients or managers how to use a bug tracker or project management tool.* That way you both save time sending countless lengthy emails, and they’ll have a better view of what you’re currently working on.

2. CC’ing the whole team

CC’ing all means: you have no idea who can solve this task. Which is bad in itself. If you start doing this, potentially no one will answer or feel responsible. Plus: reading all those mails will kill a lot of precious time for those who are not into it. Find out who is responsible and address that person only.

As someone making a living in the startup world, one can not have missed the rise of A/B tests, greatly boosted by Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. But what is this A/B testing all about? And how do you make sure you get a data-driven approach to product development right for your website or web application?

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing requires to have two different versions of a page, one being your current version, and the other is the version you want to change the page to. Every A/B experiment starts with a little hypothesis. For instance: in order to drive more traffic towards our signup page we need a friendly green button, instead of the blue one we have currently. To research and justify your changes, you route half your visitors to the first page and half to the second. Next, you monitor how many of the visitors perform the desired action (like: sign up for your service) on each page, and you calculate the conversion rate for the old and new page. The page with the highest conversion rate is probably the one you should use.