11 Ways To Build Killer Sites By Listening To Your Users

Ever notice how successful Internet entrepreneurs keep saying that you should build your site by listening to your users? But no one ever explains how to get user feedback and how to integrate their ideas into your business.

That’s why I asked UserVoice‘s co-founder, Marcus Nelson, to come to Mixergy and teach how to build a startup with user feedback. UserVoice helps companies harness their users’ feedback.

Marcus Nelson

Marcus Nelson


Marcus Nelson is the co-founder of UserVoice, they provide Product Management & Customer Support Software to help companies harness their users feedback.

Here are edited excerpts from the Mixergy program he recorded:

1. Build your team

Having a team has everything to do with having more ears to listen to your audience. My personality is that I’m a social butterfly. And I’m constantly looking for the next flower to pollinate, so to speak. Not everybody is going to do that.

2. Start with crap

Don’t be afraid to start with crap. Don’t be afraid of having it be too simple. The idea is just to get people using the product. They’re going to tell you how to make it better. At UserVoice, we started out with just a forum. We didn’t build these huge profile systems or heavy weight social media elements.

3. See the site with strangers

Your friends are going to try to make you feel good. They’re not going to say the hard things. One of the things that we did when we started is going out on Twitter. Any time we could find someone talking about customer feedback or building a product, I’d send them a message and say, “Hey, we’re putting this forum together. Maybe it’ll solve that issue for you.”

4. Offer an easy way to listen to feedback

You can’t just put a feedback button on your site and hope people will come. You have to promote it. You have to tell people you’re listening. If you get an idea on Twitter that you think is a good idea, Tweet it out to other people.

You can use UserVoice‘sĀ ideascale, suggestionbox, fevote, userfix, getsatisfaction, etc.

5. Build for speed

You start with the core that people can see and say, “Yeah, that’s good. But what would make it better is putting the layers on.” At UserVoice, we started out giving customers one feedback forum for their users. Some people saw that and said, “We need a forum, but we don’t want anyone to see it. We want to use it just within the company.” As those little requests came in, we added features.

6. Release your beta

There’s value in letting people know that it’s not a finished product that we’re stumbling through this a little bit. But you don’t want to stretch it out. One of the mistakes that UserVoice made is we had a beta that lasted from April 17 to December 7th. We now have 7,000 non-paying accounts that came to us in the beta period and we have to transition them somehow to paid accounts.

7. Have everyone on the team sell

You need to start making money. And whether you’re doing it as a bootstrapped company or you’re going after venture funding, you still need cash flow. And that cash flow doesn’t have to be huge. If you don’t, you’re going to go crazy because you can’t afford this or can’t do that. It’s business. Straight up business. You have to start making money somehow and do it as quickly as you can.

8. Be capital efficient

Keep your day job. Don’t put yourself in a pressure situation where you have to make money–not right off the bat. But while you’re doing it, find other ways to cut your costs and sack away money as quickly as you can. Maybe that means moving with mom and dad, or do what we at UserVoice did. We all moved into the same house and shared the rent.

9. Get marquee accounts

You need to be able to say XYZ is using our company. NASA started using our service because I met a guy on Twitter who is helping setup the Open NASA platform. That’s basically a bunch of employees who work at NASA who are trying to step out of the box and have a public forum where people can have discussions. We partnered with them and gave them a free version. You find people who are high profile and give your service away. We made a mistake early on and tried to monetize every opportunity. Looking back it was a big mistake. We should have gone after some of those marquee accounts and not asked for money.

10. Stay lean and hungry

We have home cooked meals as many times as we can. Instead of stopping at Startbucks, Scott Rutherford, our CTO, will stop in the house for a cup of coffee that we’ll make for him which we bought it at Costco. We do everything we can to be efficient. Even here in the office, Richard White, our CEO, will go to Trader Joe’s and buy a bunch of burritos and that’s what we’ll eat. It costs us $3.50 to feed all 4 of us. How do you beat that?

11. Sell, sell, sell

Start out selling your product low if you have to. You can always charge more later.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.