Spotting Opportunity

Setting out to build a SaaS product micro or not and no matter the scope and pain point being solved is still a massive undertaking for any entrepreneur. I wanted to journal the process of creating a software product for the digital age, and hopefully help other makers think through the process and possibly overcome any hurdles that may arise.

Let me give you a little background about myself so that you can get a context for my experience, however, that’s not to say that anyone reading this can do exactly what I outline below the time and/or money outlay will vary greatly depending on experience.

Having created and launched a number of digital products over the last 13 years ranging from promoting affiliate products, flipping domain names, selling digital products, building e-commerce websites, running a small SEO agency, and now building and launching SaaS products for the new economy – honestly it feels really good to be at this point in my career, but I digress.

By having such a large array of experience in the digital landscape, I’m able to rely on prior experience to spot and seize opportunities in the marketplace. One opportunity I’ve been seeing popping up over and over again is the problem of falling ad revenue for publishers due to the prevalent rise in ad blockers.

Quite frankly can you blame users for the explosion in ad blockers? It was pretty over-the-top with way too many ads in the sidebar, ads sandwiched in between the article, popups, full-page takeovers, and I could keep going but I think you get my point. So many web publishers have had no other option to monetize their web properties and have been forced to close down.

With the absence of a viable monetization method, quality digital content cannot be sustainably created and distributed without a proper revenue model in place, and as a result, small publishers go out of business, leading to more centralization of major media outlets.

Traditionally micropayments have been difficult to pull off due to a number of factors such as security, scalability, reliability, interoperability, and anonymity amongst other factors like social issues, and economic challenges. But in the past five years, the invention of the blockchain has been the missing link to micropayments, and can truly enable microtransactions in an easy and seamless process.

So with the pain point identified we set out to build a solution to the problem of enabling micropayments for the largest CMS in use today – WordPress, which powers more than 30% of the web.

Wireframing the Concept

After coming up with the idea, and giving it a good 2-3 days of thought I felt confident enough to sit down and start on mocking up some wireframes to pass along to a competent developer. On a side note, I was told by an old mentor that a good entrepreneur does basically three things – think, create, and execute. So any good idea should marinate and stew in your subconscious before putting pen to paper, at least that’s what has worked well for me.

Gateway Wireframe

Here’s where the first incarnations of the plugin began to form, from mere ideas floating in my head and logically formatted to include the most core functionality to prove the concept could even work in the first place.

Single Post Settings Wireframe

In order to accommodate most content types and plugins, deciding on implementing shortcodes to wrap any article content, image galleries, audio/video players, or download links in a micropayment wall. Also enabling the ability to set the price for the paywall was important and best suited for the most flexibility, allowing publishers to have a price point as low as $0.01 on any blog post.

Obstacle #1A user will have multiple balances across multiple websites

Once the basic concept was tested and deemed a success, we hit a slight bump in the roadmap. A user would have a credit balance on Site A, and then another different balance on Site B, C, D, etc. Which would present a user experience issue in that “who would want to have multiple balances across so many different sites” (potentially hundreds). So the next logical step was to find a way for a user to carry one balance across any website that had the paywall plugin installed.

At this point, my mind is racing and I’m trying to think through how in the world are we going to enable users to take a balance with them no matter where they are on the web. Google Chrome was the answer as it’s basically the defacto web browser amongst tech-focused individuals, we can distribute via the Chrome store, and leverage the installed base of upwards of 500+ million users, made the dicsiosn easy.

Entering Chrome Extension Land

Needing to wireframe all the ideas and concepts

Loading/Login Screen UI
  • A familiar user interface, and simple registration process
  • Introduce the user to the brand identity
Main Browser Extension UI
  • Needed to display the users balance at all times
  • Display credits in native currency
  • Show the cart total
Settings UI
  • Easily add funds for any user
  • Visual confirmation of the transaction success or failure

Now with a good portion of the browser extension wireframed out, it was time to breathe life into these monochromatic mockups. But this project needed something or rather the right designer who could easily grasp the vision laid on in the wireframes and by having a few conversations to convey the concept.

Bringing Sticks to Life

When the idea to launch this was coming to fruition I had purchased the domain because obviously, it was a great domain that was available

Having a great looking brand starts with a great looking design, however, with a modest budget, I had to decide on going with a competitive marketplace like 99designs or go with a freelancer on a platform such as Upwork.

For my budget and the level of quality, I was looking to get I could only afford a logo, and so that could have been used with a premium HTML template, that I could have tweaked with custom colors and finessed into a usable landing page. I opted against that route as it would have cheapened the overall impression of the new brand, and as we all know first impressions are everything or at the very least will set the tone for the conversation.

The next option was utilizing a freelance marketplace that would provide me with a large pool of available talent to work on the project and bring life to the wireframes created in Balsamiq. Going to Upwork and creating a job listing is rather easy and when used properly can filter out a lot of the spam proposals, by which freelancers such copy and paste a generic response without even reading the listing. A trick I like to use is placing a random weird piece of text in the listing so that I know greenbears the person has read the listing. I hope you caught that because if you did then you see it’s effective in weeding out the people who don’t read the listing essentially telling you that they don’t care enough about your project to even read the job listing being advertised.

Quite often the cream will rise to the top in that the “right” candidate will just so happen to appear who cares about what you’re doing and will want to put forth effort into your project. I found this person, well rather they found me and offered to do the entire brand identity right under my budget.

New Logo & Branding Color Scheme
Landing Page Design & Coding
Chrome Extension Design Overview

All I can say is the total design package came out beautifully. Not only was the concept given a brand identity the plugin developer also customized the setup screen for the plugin, simplifying new user onboarding.

Then directing the user to what they will need to get the plugin working properly.

Don’t copy that API key you’ll just be paying me for all your hard work.

Once the website owner has completed the previous steps they are presented with a quick demo of the plugin so they can visualize how easy the process is for setup and also their user’s experience.

Well that brings us the end of part 1 of ideating, wireframing, and building out a idea you have for something simple like a WordPress plugin, however this same process of spotting an open opportunity can be applied in any market.

hinking about how best to solve the problem, and putting those thoughts down on paper in the form of visual wireframes can get you a long way towards getting the ball rolling with building out your MVP so that at least certain assumptions can be tested.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon were I discuss marketing and launching your new concept into the market.

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