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Manage Comics has been around for a little over a year now, and we’re really happy with where it is. We’ve had a year of heavy usage, we’ve monitored trends, and we’ve seen places we can improve.  Plus we actually talked to our users, which gave us an entirely different point of view.

The first thing we did was actually speak with the first beta user of the site. Peter runs All New Comics, and he’s been integral to getting Manage Comics working (including being our first customer). He’s had a few requests, and we’ve tried to accomodate him with little things here and there.

I also talked to a few other store owners and discussed how they were currently managing subscriptions, and what they’d need to manage them through Manage Comics.  What we found out assured us that we were on the right track, and while we’ll probably never have full Diamond integration, there are things we can do which will make major improvements.

In August of this year we sent out a survey to the people currently using Manage Comics.  A little over 50% of them responded, and while the responses were largely positive, there were a number of feature requests that were made.

We took all of those ideas and applied some logic to the individual tasks. For each task we assigned a relative “Value”, what we thought this would add to the overall experience of Manage Comics.

Our scale uses a modified fibonacci sequence with 1, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 50, and 100 as possible values.  We randomly assigned one task a unit of 8 for value, and then ranked everything as higher or lower than an 8.  Once we had value, I sat down with a developer from my favourite development shop, Code Elves, and we figured out what we figured the effort would be.  With that done, we did a little bit of math (Value divided by Effort) to figure out Return on Investment.  The thinking is that something that is high value and low effort would give the biggest bang for your buck.

Once all of that was figured out, we simply sorted everything by ROI to figure out what we would work on first. We then looked at some of the tasks and moved them around if they needed to be re-prioritized (sometimes it just makes more sense to do one thing before another).

Then we looked at everything that had an ROI of 1 or less, and threw it out. That’s actually my favourite part of this exercise beause you have to defend anything you keep. If there’s something you’re about to throw out that you think is valuable, you have to defend the value of it, and perhaps re-prioritize it.

That didn’t happen this time, and 12 tasks were thrown out.  We ended up with 36 prioritized tasks that we’ll be working on over the next six weeks.  Some of these we will release as soon as they’re done (newly added in the last 30 days, most subscribed, and recommendations for example), others we’ll do a ton of testing on before letting them out into the wild (like importing).

So what are we going to do?  There’s a lot of good stuff in here.

For store owners, we’re going to track emails better so we know what emails are going to people.  We’re also going to automatically send out an email 7 days after an invoice goes out reminding people they haven’t paid.

If you’re a brand new subscriber, we’re going to make suggestions initially while we bring you on board, we’re going to show you the 20 most subscribed to comics at your store, and the newest things added to the catalogue in the last 30 days.

We’ve got some really cool customer features like “Top 20 Most Subscribed Comics”, “New Comics in the last 30 Days”. Not only that, but we’re going to pepper the site with suggestions, related to items that you’re looking at, and we’re going to build phase 1 of our recommendation engine, which will guess at a few things you might like to add to your list.  Additionally, we’ll be sending out regular emails with suggestions for subscribers.

We’ve found that people who have less than 10 subscriptions tend to fade away over time, so we’re doing some cool stuff to help them.

  • Whenever their list drops below 10, we’ll be sending them an email suggesting they sign up for some more stuff.
  • If they drop to below 10 titles (because things get cancelled) they will be set to monthly shipping and they’ll get an email telling them they are down to monthly shipping because they are subscribed to less than 10 titles. This is because we get a lot of complaints that shipping is more expensive than the comics they are getting, so reducing the number of shipments will help with that.

Here’s the full list of what we’re doing

  1. As a store owner, payments for subscriptions should show up with the correct status in Stripe V: 100, E: 1, ROI: 100
  2. As a store owner, payments in PayPal should show up with the correct status. V: 100, E: 3, ROI: 33
  3. As a store owner I want to be able to send out newsletters V: 100, E: 1, ROI: 100
  4. As a customer, I would like my orders to be in reverse chronological order V: 20, E: 1, ROI: 20
  5. As a store owner I want to be able to easily add subscriptions to a customer V: 100, E: 3, ROI: 33
  6. As a store owner, I need to be able to set the status of a customer to “Cancelled” V: 100, E: 3, ROI: 33
  7. As a customer, I want a “NEW” page that shows all products added in the last 30 days V: 100, E: 3, ROI: 33
  8. As a customer I want a “Most Subscribed” page that shows the top xxx most subscribed to comics. V: 100, E: 3, ROI: 33
  9. As a store owner I would like to be able to easily find a customer’s orders by searching for a customer V: 20, E: 1, ROI: 20
  10. As a store owner, I would like to change all currency decimal places to 2. V: 20, E: 1, ROI: 20
  11. As a store owner I would like to be able to sort by title or sort by customer name for pulls. V: 20, E: 1, ROI: 20
  12. As a store owner I would like a better navigation experience for settings V: 100, E: 5, ROI: 20
  13. As a store owner I would like a report: Active Customers with Subscriptions V: 50, E: 3, ROI: 16.7
  14. As a store owner, I don’t want customers with less than 10 subscriptions to be allowed to choose weekly or bi-weekly shipping. V: 50, E: 3, ROI: 16.7
  15. As a store owner, I want to automatically send out a reminder email 7 days after the first invoice has gone out V: 50, E: 3, ROI: 16.5
  16. As a store owner, I want to send an email to a customer when their subscriptions drop below 10 V: 50, E: 3, ROI: 16.7
  17. As a store owner, I want to have specific store pages that I can put on my Manage Comics site V: 20, E: 3, ROI: 16.7
  18. As a store owner, I want better email tracking V: 50, E: 5, ROI: 10
  19. As a super admin, I want deletion handled more elegantly V: 50, E: 5, ROI: 10
  20. As a customer user, I want to be able to log in to AllNewComics.com easier V: 50, E: 8, ROI: 6.25
  21. As a customer, I would like to see all issue numbers V: 13, E: 3, ROI: 4.3
  22. As a super admin, I want to automatically attach images. V: 13, E: 3, ROI: 4.3
  23. As a store owner I want to set the # of most subscribed on the site. V: 3, E: 1, ROI: 3
  24. As a store owner I would like to be able to refund a customer their subscription Deposit V: 13, E: 5, ROI: 2.6
  25. As a store owner, I would like there to be alternatives for users without email addresses V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  26. As a customer, I want to be able to place a custom order and track it (Communication Log) V: 13, E: 5, ROI: 2.6
  27. As a super admin, I want new 404, 422, and 500 pages. V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  28. As super admin, I want better email templates in Rails V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  29. As NorthIQ I want to generate invoices in Xero V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  30. As a customer I want to have a page I can share publicly with my list of subscriptions. V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  31. As a store owner I want a report that shows me the titles that have been removed from the store for the last x days V: 8, E: 3, ROI: 2.6
  32. As a customer, I would like the option to get a message when my comics have been pulled V: 5, E: 3, ROI: 1.6
  33. As a store owner I want to send an email Email – After 5 zero subscription nags, offer a refund V: 5, E: 3, ROI: 1.6
  34. As a store owner I want to send an email to new customers with 0 subscriptions (5 times) V: 5, E: 3, ROI: 1.6
  35. As a Super Admin, I want to make imports easier V: 13, E: 8, ROI: 1.63
  36. As a store owner, I want to be able to customize any automatic emails V: 8, E: 5, ROI: 1.6 Assign

Brian Garside has been building websites for two decades and has worked on some of the largest websites in Canadian media. He focuses on creating good user experiences and building websites that make their owners money. Brian is certified in blogging and content marketing from Shaw Academy.