Standing Out in a Flood of Web Applications: An Open Letter to Developers



Dear Friends,

On behalf of web workers everywhere, I’d like to thank you for the wonderfully creative ideas you’ve come up with. But since it’s becoming such a crowded field, you need to do a better job telling us why we should spend the time to evaluate your product.

Let me give you some tips, illustrated with real examples from products that have recently come across my desk. I won’t name names, because I haven’t tried the applications in question.

  • Explain clearly what your application does. Will it change the way we work?
  • Good: “Create customizable contact forms and buttons”
  • Not Good: “With Product X you can create and spread groups users can choose and register themselves at.”
  • Compare your product (truthfully) with those of your competitors, and tell us why your application stands out.
  • Don’t rely on videos to demonstrate your product. We don’t have the time to view them, and we may be in environments where playing videos is disruptive.
  • Be up-front about how your application is to be paid for. Web workers don’t care much about your business plan, but we do care about the bottom line, and if we’re going to use your product, we want to know that it isn’t going away.
  • Good: “Free for a limited time.” It would be nice to know what the service is going to cost, but at least we know that you’re planning to charge fees in the future.
  • Not Good: “Is Product X for free? Yes, it is absolutely free.” OK, but we know that you aren’t creating a product for nothing. Are you planning to become advertising-supported?
  • Proofread, for heaven’s sake. Can we trust a product on which one of the major buttons reads “Embedd/Widget”?
  • Make your web site attractive, compatible with all major browsers, accessible for those with disabilities and usable on mobile devices.
  • Don’t require that we provide any personal information, except as necessary to make your product work. Make your privacy policy clear.
  • Mark your product “Beta” or “Preview” if it’s still in development. Web workers are willing to try new things, and we can be understanding when things break. Just give us a way to ask questions and send feedback.

Keep up the good work! It’s always exciting to find a new web service that helps us do our jobs.

Yours very sincerely,


What recent applications have changed the way you work?


Darrell Etherington

I’m turned off by videos. I can’t recall ever watching one to find out about a product’s features. Maybe that’s just my own personal learning style, but especially if you’re in a public place, it’s very impractical.


I agree with all of this, particularly videos. Videos are great and they’re a very cleverly deceitful marketing tool when used right, but this whole marketing minimalism by video trend has really worn itself out for me (I’m sure it still works great from a marketing angle – via emotional titillation). Still, you have Camtasia Studio and a gradient background, I get it – now where’s the feature list and the written tutorials? I don’t want to have to run back and forth between 8:09 and 8:43 five times to see how you did whatever you did.

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