Originally posted by Russ
First of all, it seems to me that creating and maintaining this site must be a labor of love. Many thanks to you and your team.
Also, I will be leaving on vacation, so I may not have an opportunity to follow up soon. I wanted to get this thread going though in the hope that the community here can use its resources to help you.
I have my own fledgling software business, and so, naturally, I am curious about how you are able to run this one.
Let me share my first experiences of this site, and why I joined:
After arriving at the site, I poked around a while, trying to determine how useful it is, how large the community is, how established it is, and generally whether it is a legitimate site.
After playing a few games, I was put off by the 6 game limit, but appreciative that you allow people to "try before buying." This is also a very nice way to support those who can't afford to pay for a subscription. I doubt I would have joined had I not been able to try it first.
A major reason that I chose to join is that people are much more civil in a paid forum (from which they may be removed if they are abusive). People here behave much better than in the totally anonymous Yahoo chess sites. When I subscribed, I did not appreciate the forums. But now understand that they help create and maintain a community here, which I think makes this site much more valuable. I also like that this is an international community.
One issue that gave me concern is slow response time (most often 5-10 seconds per screen change). I decided to accept this though, given the quality of your site.
Marketing is very expensive ...
Yes. I have no experience with marketting on the internet, but I do have several friends in marketing. I will ask them for their ideas (after I return from vacation). My guess is that the "viral" methods are among the most effective.
One idea that might work is targeting marketing to chess clubs and schools, if you can find out how to reach them.
... good ideas raised in the forums ... changes are very time consuming
I appreciate how much time this must take. I am very impressed with how much there is on this site, especially given a small team size.
But, I am very curious about your comment "This site is missing many features that many other (non-chess) sites have which would help make it easier and more interesting to use."
I think there are a few main places for improvement:
- Community organization.
I am used to threads being moderated and organized by topic. I find this most helpful. As an example, I am going on vacation, and I have been worried about people timing out games I have every intention of finishing. The forums have had relevant information, but it is work to find, and there are many threads on this topic. Many people seem to be annoyed with yet another vacation question. Perhaps you could find volunteers to moderate and organize threads and forums for you. This way, the forums will serve multiple purposes: archives, help assistance with recurring topics, etc.
I have found it frustrating to find information in the forums. Topics are often vague, threads go off topic, etc. I think that moderated forums would help with this too.
Content search functions are very nice.
Also, I mentioned in another thread, the issue of notification of activity in threads you subscribe to. See http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/showthread.php?id=12144
I have cable access, and still have speed issues.
- consistency and orthogonality of the user interface
I think you have done a very good job with this. But I find myself confused at times. Some of this is me, I must learn the screens. But some of it may be that I expect functionality in certain screens that is not available. I realize that this is very subjective and difficult.
- Help and Tutorial
I would appreciate more help pages. I generally try to do things on my own using existing documentation before I bother others. Especially more user's guide and reference material.
I think some profiles of typical users would help people decide how they might best use the site. For example, occasional player who likes to concentrate on a few games, someone who prefers more games and uses the forums. etc. This might not be useful for people already on the site, but would make the value of the site clearer to potential subscribers.
I think that with all the work you have done, this site should be able to do very well.