Selling Simplicity

We’re pretty excited today as our latest product has gone into Beta with a small group of users. Perch Runway is essentially a superset of Perch functionality, a product designed to take the cool things that are part of Perch but with a focus on larger and more complex sites. Before we started to work fulltime on Perch, we built content management systems for sites that were more specialized or complex then off the shelf systems were designed for. I struggle to think of any site we built that would not be capably handled by Perch Runway. That’s exactly where we wanted to take it.

With the new product almost out of the door however I have to grab my marketing hat from the box of many hats that I wear and figure out how we explain to people what Perch Runway is.

The problem we have with marketing regular Perch is that at the core of Perch is simplicity. However if we sell a message of simplicity people assume the product isn’t “big enough” for requirements they believe are complex. We get bundled in with things that are static site generators, and flat file things that will struggle to scale due to the technological choices made. We want to sell simplicity, because we believe it is important. It turns out however that simplicity is really hard to explain.

Simplicity does not equal small, or incapable. Simplicity is a deliberate act, one which takes work to maintain and defend in the face of an ever-growing number of feature requests.

We don’t just add feature requests as we get them. We take them on board, group them, collect use cases and then try and find a solution that will not clutter and complicate the site development or admin experience. We wait until we find a solution that will be of benefit to the most people, and that can be hidden away if that feature is not needed.

You can still use Perch in exactly the same way as you could use version one, despite the fact that the feature set is many times larger than that version. Have some content you want to make editable in the CMS? Drop in a Perch Region, reload the page and off you go. The UI has been refined but if you upgraded a client site from Perch 1 to Perch 2.6.6 it wouldn’t be a horrible shock. These things are important. People building sites for clients don’t want to do an upgrade and then need to retrain a client in how to use their site. How do you bill for that?

Perch Runway is a capable and powerful CMS. It assumes a little more of the developer creating the site. However we’re still aiming for simplicity for clients and content editors. Just because a site is large and has many features, that doesn’t mean that the content editors should be forced to put up with a fiddly and complex UI. They shouldn’t be forced to understand how the site is technically put together in order to edit the content on it. We can make more assumptions about the person building the site with Runway, but not those editing content on it.

Knowing what we know about marketing Perch however, it’s tempting to dive into selling the features and the potential for complexity, just to cut through the noise of a million products that look similar on the surface.

We’re holding off doing anything big to the marketing site as we prepare to launch Perch Runway, despite the fact it really needs work. Our first customers are likely to be the people who already know and love Perch, but who have projects that will benefit from breaking out of the page-based paradigm of regular Perch. We’ll take our lead from the things they say about Perch Runway. I find that we tend not to go too far wrong when we really listen to the people who love our product.

I think Perch Runway helps us to differentiate, it certainly means we can honestly say to customers that their sites are unlikely to outgrow the capabilities of Perch. I hope I manage to step up to the challenge that marketing it will bring.

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