Matthew Zito is director of product management at DIY website builder Squarespace, a business whose mission is to make beautiful products to help people with creative ideas succeed. He graciously joined us at ProductTank NYC to talk about some interesting work his team had done to address the needs of a customer segment which they had not fully supported until recently – Pro users.
If you’re not familiar with Squarespace, they aim to make website creation accessible to everyone, and enable them to make a website that looks like no other website. Their customer-base is already pretty broad, ranging from Small Acre Farm, which makes handmade goat’s milk soap, all the way to graphic designers and artists.
To showcase a “classic” customer, Matthew uses the example of his friend Sarah, who runs a home organizing business. She wanted to build a website, she wasn’t technical but had a general computer knowledge. Squarespace was able to give her design inspiration by looking at examples of other websites. She had access to a vast library of professional images that she could just drag and drop into her site, and access to starter layouts, which provided her with basic content sections that she could then edit herself to fit her needs and preferences.
To help us understand the “hidden” customer segment, Matthew points to Lars, who used to be an art director. He wanted to build a web design business, and so he used Squarespace to build a website that could then help other people build their own websites. Lars has a background in website design so he didn’t need templates. He had his own photographers so he didn’t need imagery. But he needed shortcuts and ways to make his day-to-day job faster and easier. He needed flexibility, because he had anywhere from 20 to 30 different sites active on Squarespace at a time. And he needed information on site performance.
Difficulties for Pro Users
Lars is one of many people who make a living by creating Squarespace sites for other people, and Matthew found that their existing features (like starter layouts) were essentially useless to users like this. In fact, some users even claimed that they were annoying and got in their way.
So, Matthew’s team came up with a few ideas to address the pro user market without creating an entirely new platform and technology from scratch.
- First, they considered the idea of creating a community where they could interact with users, both pro and consumer alike, in more meaningful ways.
- Second, they considered the idea of changing policies, because the business models that they used didn’t always work for pro users.
- Finally, they considered changing their platform and investing in other potential pro users.
They decided to try all three ideas.
Changes to Accommodate Pro Users
Firstly Matthew’s team built a community forum called The Circle for people who earn a living, either partial or primary, by using Squarespace to build sites for other people. This forum was invite only, and to get invited, you had to have created a certain number of sites on the platform. Thanks to the fact that this community was made up exclusively on invited power-users, Matthew’s team was able to send out release notes and communicate with the users every day, and generate huge amounts of valuable feedback.
Next, they changed their policies. One example was changing the trial period. By default, users are given a 14-day free trial to try the product before paying for it. Pro users had trouble with this, because 14 days was not nearly enough time for them to build a website that a customer would be happy to sign off on. So, they implemented a six-month trial period for Circle users. Other policy changes included offering Circle members a 20% discount and giving them access to a streamlined support, given that they were an extremely powerful word-of-mouth user base.
Finally, they changed the platform. They added keyboard shortcuts to streamline the design process for pro users in a way that didn’t involve cutting out the hugely successful starter layouts. They also implemented Circle-only features that were very useful to more advanced users, but too complicated to consumer users. Finally, they also started releasing beta versions of their new platforms to Circle users to get feedback.
An Improvement in Business
All of these changes yielded very positive results. To give some examples:
- One of the betas that was released brought back 250 distinct pieces of feedback in under two weeks, identifying 10 different bugs that had been missed by quality assurance testing.
- In the last six to eight months, the number of sites built by pro users has increased by 25%, and the amount of monthly active users has increase by over 75% among their pro user base.
Not only is this an excellent reminder of the important of actively listening and responding to the needs of your users, it’s also proof positive that even if you already have a healthy user base, you may be missing another class of users who could greatly improve your business. It’s also a clear example of the fact that there are ways to connect with and support your users that don’t just involve shipping new features. Your customers engage with your product on multiple levels, and success can be found on all of them.