Doing facelift for a website, the Pingdom way

It’s been a while since my last update on this blog and many things have changed. This post is not about those changes but something else. I’ve been using Pingdom for monitoring uptime and response time for quite a while in various websites. Pingdom is an uptime monitoring service pinging your website from different locations around the world. They are redesigning their control panel interface in an innovative and lean way, which I think is the way to go for an already existing product. I don’t think it would work with completely new services but for doing a facelift for an existing service it looks like an exciting idea.

Instead of finishing the facelift before letting people in they are already letting people try the new control panel with minimum required features set. In Pingdom’s case this minimum required feature set is reports of uptime / downtime. Before implementing all the pages in the service they launched reports page and their top bar navigation. Top bar navigation gives idea of key services that the site will offer after the facelift and Reports page shows how those key services are laid on the screen. While Reports is already accessable other pages in the navigation remain in the “coming soon” -state. Below is a picture of their new top bar navigation system. The Reports page is active and others are “coming soon” as you can see from the Dashboard link.

This is a nice way to get users involved in early stages of the product update. Pingdom is using Uservoice to collect feedback and all comments are open. I don’t know what kind of statistics Pingdom is collecting from the test site but with Google analytics you can get interesting data about how many times inactive menu items were pressed and how many people came back to test after the first use.

I don’t think this would be a good approach when developing completely new products because you have to plan more than needed and you also show direction to pilot customers. Planning far ahead does not provide value when creating a new product, because most of the hypotheses are wrong anyway. One has to iterate and learn between iterations to keep on the right track..

With existing products some of the hypotheses are already proven and Pingdom’s approach is viable. Also, when iterating and trying to learn more about the customer needs, guidance might mislead the customer need analysis. Expression “build what customers needs, not what they want” is brilliant. When customers get too much information about upcoming features or services they start developing requirements that they don’t really need or that only few customers need.

What do you think?


September 29, 2011. product development, Technology.

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