Educated, objective and constructive feedback is a very powerful and valuable thing. It’s why people pay shrinks and consultants hundreds of dollars an hour. It’s why people need teachers and mentors.
For engineers and designers, your online consultant has arrived. A new website, DomainPolish takes the guesswork out of building websites. DomainPolish is a way to get reliable, on-demand feedback on your website from the average end-user. To use it, enter in your site’s URL or a screenshot of a potential page and the site sends it out to reviewers on Amazon Mechanical Turk. They then view the site, answer questions about it, and DomainPolish sends the results back to you, the site owner. DomainPolish is similar to sites like Feedback Army and UserTesting, but with different feature-sets and differing amounts of feedback.
“Anybody who has ever built a site can tell you that most of the time you’re shooting in the dark. Experience helps with this, but web designers, and entrepreneurs make a ton of arbitrary decisions every day about the look, feel and branding of a site that they have no way to test before launch. DomainPolish let’s you know before you release a project that your site is awesome, or that it needs work. That way when you launch there are fewer surprises and you’re poised to take advantage of any attention that you get,” says DomainPolish’s creator Dan Shipper.
Iain McQueen, the founder of yet-to-launch Swiperoo, tested out DomainPolish and wrote about it on his Posterous. McQueen writes that the feedback was even more in depth than he expected with comments like:
- Aesthetically our landing page is very well received
- We’re too vague about what we’re trying to accomplish.
- If we want people to tell their friends about our product, they need to be able to try it first.
UPenn sophomore Dan Shipper, who’s been programming since he was 10 years old, built the project in about two days and released it earlier this month. Since then it’s made over $1,300 in revenue. Previously, Shipper built popular web apps such as Where My Friends Be, an animated map of all your Facebook friends and Read My Stream, which is a fully featured, socially curated stream of all the links brought to you by your Twitter timeline. Currently, Shipper is interning at Artsicle, a NYC based startup that brings emerging artists to the world with a Netflix like rental model. We caught up with Shipper for a brief interview on his new site.
CBM: Do you remember the first day you started programming?
Dan Shipper: It’s funny because I remember that day very clearly. It was about 10 years ago and I was in 5th grade. I was in the Barnes and Noble’s near my house and I went into the computer section. I found this gigantic, expensive book on BASIC and decided I wanted to buy it. My interest in programming would have ended then and there if my parents hadn’t been totally supportive of it from the beginning. My dad said, “I’ll only buy it for you if you promise that you’re going to actually finish it.” I promised I would and I’ve been programming ever since.
I think programming always appealed to me because the ability to program is such a powerful tool. The only way as a 10 year old that you can have a big impact, and build a scalable business, virtually for free is to know how to program.
CBM: How did you first think of building DP?
DS: I had been using Amazon Mechanical Turk to review my own websites after one of my friends introduced it to me and was really intrigued by the power of the service. You have this gigantic, on-demand, scalable workforce of people willing to do any type of work over the Internet. The problem is that it’s kind of a pain to set up, and it requires a lot of tweaking to get good results. So I decided if the feedback was useful for me, maybe it would be useful for other people.
I built the first version in a couple of days and all it consisted of was a few pages with some payment code slapped on to it. I didn’t want to build an entire automated system before I knew if people would want to buy it. To my surprise the project took off on Hacker News and via word of mouth. About a week and a half in I had processed about 70 orders worth over $1,000 entirely by hand (no small task.)
Now I’ve completely redone the backend of the site so everything is automated, added a web dashboard so that users can view the reviews coming in for their site in realtime, and added a feature that allows you to send the same survey that our reviewers look at to your friends family and coworkers. This gives you the ability to take a more systematic approach to getting feedback from the people you know and allows you to keep track of all of it in a way that’s standardized and actionable.
CBM: $1K in revenue for a week is pretty fantastic! Where do you see the future of DomainPolish?
DS: Yes, I was really shocked and humbled by the great response to the project. I think DomainPolish is really promising as a good way to get on-demand feedback on your website. But more than that, as the service matures I can see it becoming a more generalized service for instant focus groups. The idea is that anyone will be able to get feedback about any product, idea or website from a particular demographic that they select, all online and all in realtime at a fraction of the cost of a traditional focus group.
CBM: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done this summer?
DS: Definitely the coolest thing was interviewing at Y Combinator and making it to the Wildcard Round of TechStars NYC. I was able to meet so many amazingly talented and successful people that were more than willing to share insight and advice – it was an incredibly valuable and just plain stunning experience that not many people get a chance to go through. I still can’t believe my team and I got lucky enough to get as far we did.
CBM: What is a new trend or technology that you’re most excited about?
DS: Tough one. I’m really intrigued by the growth of NodeJS, the adoption of CoffeeScript, and the movement towards single-page web apps. I’m curious to see whether it’s a short-lived fad or makes a lasting impact on how websites are designed and built. Although I haven’t used NodeJS in a production project yet, I’ve been looking for an excuse to do it and I think I’ll find one sooner rather than later.
For now, DomainPolish is a continual requirement that has Shipper working ’round the clock. He says the idea is that he’s putting in a ton of work at the beginning to develop customer relationships, develop a brand, and add more features like automation, so that the amount of effort he will have output after that will be very minimal. “It’s like working for minimum wage for a few weeks with the expectation of making way more for the next year after that,” he writes on HN.
Pricing for DomainPolish starts at $20 for results from 7 reviewers in under an hour up to $75 for results from 50 reviewers along with phone support. Check it out here.