Through the Eyes of a Customer
I am my own customer. Here at PaperThin, we're in the midst of rolling out a new site. No, not a new PaperThin.com. This will be the fourth generation of a website that has never, and will never, be pressed into production...yet all customers and prospects will want to use it, making it of critical importance. It's our Demo site. We're pouring as much energy into this as we would for a customer implementation.
A new version of CommonSpot will be rolling off the presses shortly with a bunch of new and very useful features. As always, the challenge of the sales and services teams is determining the best way to show off our functionality.
Traditionally, we've had demonstration sites that attempt to incorporate all the features and functionality a customer might need. That's a tall order for a website, especially one that needs to remain intuitive and easy to use. Consider the fact that there are always multiple ways to do things in CommonSpot. Although we're very proud of this fact, it does offer several challenges for a site where first impressions are so important. Of those multiple ways of doing things, many of them can be considered "best practices". What you choose is highly dependent on your particular needs. All customers are different, so they need to see the variations in order to select the proper techniques. Our sales and services teams have the challenge of showing multiple techniques, and illustrating the pros and cons of each.
That's why the Demo site has changed and evolved over time. This will be the fourth major iteration, and to get it right, we have to treat it like a real implementation. That all started the moment we started selecting a design and building wireframes, and it will continue right up to the moment we launch.
We have several great partners who can deliver sites from start to finish, including design and implementation. To name a few, Figleaf, Monaco Lange, and Raincastle, have repeatedly churned out incredible work blending their branding and design expertise with CommonSpot's robust features. Choosing one of them would have been fun and rewarding for all involved. But it didn't seem practical for me to let this project, which was using a pre-released version of CommonSpot, stray far from my desk. Doing it all in house also allowed us to be on the front lines of the QA and development teams. Whether we liked it or not, our project was on the cutting edge of CommonSpot innovations, so we've been tapping into new functionality even as it was being tweaked and perfected.
I've been using CommonSpot myself for over five years. My audience has either been our own site, PaperThin.com, our prospective customers in the pre-sales process, or an audience of eager students in a CommonSpot training class. I know what CommonSpot can do and how I wanted my new Demo site to work.
So I became the customer. I sat down with our services team and began to hammer out a plan for implementing this new site. We started with a site map, a new information architecture, new look and feel, and several wire-frames.
I have seen it play out hundreds of times before. But this time, being the customer, I have a front row seat. I have been able to watch our services team do their thing. I have to tell you, I am impressed with the approach. From the Discovery and Analysis through the implementation, a CommonSpot implementation involves a thorough study of the needs of the customer. And as a result, a fully spec'd out plan emerges, giving all team players a complete picture of what needs to be done.
So here I am, in the midst of a project in which I am both the vendor and the customer. I'm happy to be using a product as flexible and powerful as CommonSpot. And, speaking as the customer, I'm thrilled to be in such capable hands.