In this era of the lightweight framework, fresh-launched hosted services are popping up every other day. In the small business spectrum are countless variants of time tracking, task tackling, project managing online apps aimed at increasing our productivity. It is exciting to see so many ideas being executed in this vast and wide open market.
Building a web-based application is a time consuming process, at the end of which you are rewarded with something you’ve built and can launch for the world to experience. The launch is only the first step. There are many other things that need to happen if you are going to cross over from the land of grand experiments into the worldwide hosted marketplace.
We’ve been developing and supporting Intervals long enough we know what it takes to keep a web-based application afloat; a job that requires a team of dedicated people. When launching, or evaluating, a web-based project management service it is imperative that other responsibilities be addressed.
If only they did come when you built it. The Internet is a vast cosmos of servers, switches, and routers. Your web site is a tiny star tucked way in a dim corner. If people are going to find you they need some assistance. Marketing is a crucial component in getting users to read about your offering, sign up for it, and hopefully pay you to use it. You will need to buy adwords and media, and keep talking to anyone and everyone about your application and why it’s relevant.
What happens when your service gets a thousand users? Ten thousand? One million? Will your application scale? Do you have a backup? Having a plan, and a system administrator to implement it is important. Otherwise, you’ll be hoping your users patience doesn’t wear off when things go badly (which they will at least once). Your customers will sleep better knowing your servers are in good hands, as will you.
Your users will be entrusting you with their data. What are you doing to protect it? Again, tap into your system administrators knowledge of security issues, have them audit the site, and make sure you’ve done your due diligence in locking down the application. A good starting point is the OWASP Top Ten web application vulnerabilities.
Your customers need to know you are committed to their business, that they are more than just a side project. Taking good care of your customers requires time and focus, but results in dedicated customers who will continually refer more business your way. Provide email support at the very least and commit yourself to responding to all emails within 24 hours. Even if you don’t always have the right answer, your customers just want to know they are being heard and will appreciate your quick response. Customer service in the corporate world has gone so far downhill that bad or apathetic customer service from a small company is inexcusable.
A good web-based application needs to grow alongside the evolving needs of its customers. By building and launching your application, you’ve started a conversation with a like-minded audience. Your customers will let you know where they want the application to go. It is your responsibility to distill the stream of requests into features and updates that all of your customers will benefit from, and that are aligned with the direction you are heading.