Launching a new product – from self-hosted to SaaS

Today our first product Perch will be nine years old, and perhaps rather neatly – although it wasn’t planned this way – we declared our new product out of beta this week. May just appears to be shipping month around here.

Notist is the slide-sharing, presenter portfolio application that I needed, however as we come out of beta it has already started to become the application that other people want. We’ve had an almost overwhelming number of feature requests and enhancement ideas as people have started to use the application, these are all very much welcome, and many have been added already.

Our first SaaS

With a product that is nine years old, we are no strangers to running a product business, but Notist is different. Perch and Perch Runway are self hosted, one-off purchases. People buy a license and off they go. Notist is our first Software as a Service (SaaS) application. While this does bring with it the challenge of hosting your data, it does remove many of the frustrations of a product which you don’t host. The majority of our support with Perch has absolutely nothing to do with our product. Instead we deal with terrible server configurations, on PHP hosts who do not care that they are broken. We can’t use the latest PHP versions, because those hosts won’t update. We increasingly deal with vanishing web designers who leave their clients in the lurch without the access details of their own site and hosting. Those clients end up coming to us, and we have very little that we can do to help them.

I’m sure that in the land of the SaaS there will be different challenges and frustrations, but that is part of the fun. We know what it is to sell and support a one-off licensed, downloadable product, it’s interesting to do something else as well. I’m sure that we’ll learn things running Notist that transfer back to Perch too.

Our priorities for Notist

There are many things we’d love to be doing with Notist, we’re bootstrapping however, and also have Perch to support so we need to be savvy with our time. Bootstrapping means we have little to no money to throw around, but as we already know, it brings great advantages in that the only people we need to consider are our customers aligned with our values as a company. No-one is pressing for fast growth and a quick return here.

We will focus on the things that we think most important. That’s why, with all the feedback we’ve received in the past few weeks, making improvements to accessibility has been a focus. We’d rather get our existing features to work well for more people before we add new ones. We also know that existing slide sharing solutions often perform poorly in terms of accessibility, both in terms of allowing users to add slides, and for those wanting to view them. We’d like to be different, and I think we’ve made in the last couple of weeks great strides towards that. It will be an ongoing process, and we are very grateful to those of you who have shared your expertise with us.

You can read about some of the things we have planned in our blog post. You can also take a look at some of my presentations on Notist. I’m especially pleased with the video page, which I’m slowly backfilling with data from years gone by!

If you speak at conferences and haven’t tried out Notist yet, I would love for you to give it a go. We do have a free tier for those of you who perhaps present at a meet up or two a year and can’t justify paying for a tool to create a portfolio. If you are part of any groups for public speaking, or know people who speak then please do spread the word. We have lots of interesting and useful ideas planned, in addition to looking into the features already requested. As bootstrappers, how much time we get to work on those really does come down to how many people are using the product.

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