Building what Startups need with JotForm
Whether you're building the next software unicorn or a more humble (and realistic) self-funded startup, building that startup requires information from others. You're going to need a reliable way to gather those various bits of information. It needs to be branded with your brand and identity. It should be attractive, very easy to maintain and deploy. So here's how JotForm and its new take on surveys, JotForm Cards, can take a lot of the pain out the process of gathering information for your startup. Along the way, I'll point out features that I'm impressed with that especially make JotForm stand out from the other survey companies. And, if you like any of the forms I cover, you can clone a copy from the JotForms Template Library in about 3 clicks. Let's start your startup journey at the beginning with the Minimum Viable Product Test Form.
The MVP Test Form
When you decide you’re going to build a startup, you're going to have a lot of feature ideas and variations floating around in your brain. There will be dozens of directions your app could scamper off in - but your job as founder is to find the very most important feature your prospective customers will pay money for. All these ideas and functionalities are stepping stones to the place you want to be: the minimum viable product that gets product/market fit. Until you have a product that fits your market, you are not going to have a successful startup. Testing words is a lot cheaper than testing code. Running a few simple tests can help your zero in on the key features your market wants before you spend hundreds of hours or thousands of dollars building things they don't want. Let's pretend you've been kicking around building a SaaS product for independent pet sitters, PetSitApp.com. (Full disclosure - I’ve been considering actually building this app for quite some time. I found a great URL for it, and built out a landing page for it in WordPress that went nowhere.) There are all sorts of features I’ve dreamed up for the app, but what do pet sitters actually want? Here's a quick JotForm Card survey to judge which of four major features pet sitters actually want. Knowing what they want most and building that out first as my Minimum Viable Product improves the chances I'll start having customers for my service. (More info to help me find my market.) (Finding my one true Minimum Viable Feature.) By the way, if you want to get a feel for this MVP form, here's the URL. And here’s the JotForm template.
The Good News: you need Beta Testers
Forms don't have to take a lot of time to build. The MVP form took from start to finish about 30 minutes, 15 of which was trying out various free stock photos from LibreStock, my go-to source of free images. Now I've got a theme, which I can save in JotForm and reuse as I build other forms. Let's move ahead in our startup's timeline. You did the MVP form and found the #1 problem for pet sitters was invoicing clients. You've been coding away, building out PetSitApp so sitters can from their phones invoice their clients. Now you need Beta Testers, therefore you need a Beta Tester Survey. Finding, managing and rewarding beta testers is a worthy of a post or two, but for this post, let's say:
- You've done what you should so you have a fairly sizable social media following you can draw beta testers from,
- You're prepared to give testers who actually test a free license to PetSitApp for one year.
How do you build out a survey that get the right testers, sets their expectations, and makes sure they understand how they will actually get a free year of PetSitApp? First, you want only people interested in the features you actually built out in PetSitApp - invoicing for pet sits. But if they are interested in other features you plan to shortly add to the app, you want them to stay interested in the app and be readily available when you add new features and need new testers. Second, since you decided to charge $9.99/month for PetSitApp, you’re going to be giving qualified testers the equivalent of $119.88. You want them to agree and understand they have to actively test the application or they get nothing. The simplest way of doing that is making them agree to the same Terms and Conditions paying customers agree to. So the key things you want your Beta Test Survey to do is only get people who will test the MVP feature you want and that agree to actually test in order to get the software. JotForm has two specific features that get the job done: conditional logic and a Terms and Conditions widget. With conditional logic, you define under settings for your form so that if the beta application picks invoicing customers (the feature that's in your beta) they will see one flow of Cards. If they don't pick that, you want to let they know they are not qualified to beta test now, but you'd like to contact them in the future when you add that feature. (Start my conditional logic with what I need testers for now: invoicing.)
If they pick invoicing, get that email.
(Be clear with them.)
(And if they don’t, ask them if I can contract them later) And since you're going to entice them to test your beta by giving them a free license, they need to agree to the same terms and conditions a regular customer will see. (Reward your beta testers. Take them seriously.) So to build out this application form, I cloned my first form, defined the Cards I wanted, set up the conditional logic and added the terms and conditions required widget. It only took a few minutes. And as people fill in this form, JotForm gives me a CSV file for each survey I can feed to my app's database. I can feed by feature potential beta testers for other features into whatever system I want to use to invite them as each feature is added in the future. You can try out my a Beta Tester Survey or if you’d like to use it as place to start, just jump to the JotForm template.
A Startup Landing Page
At some point in the startup process, you're going to want a landing page. "These action-oriented, standalone web pages, are being used by businesses of all sizes to move people through every stage of the buyer’s journey." Translated from marketing-speak, a landing page is a single page that tries to get the visitor to do one thing. It can be sign up for your demo. Or it could be sign up for your mailing list. Or it could be trial your software. One page - one call to action. In this example, your app is not yet ready, but you want to start building your mailing list. For now, you want to put up a landing page that is actually a JotForm form, with a CTA of getting on your mailing list. So here are the steps:
- Go to "100 Landing Page Examples to Model Your Next Page After" to get some inspiration for your landing page.
- Build out the form, with a call to action of getting on your mailing list.
- [optional step] Go into the DNS records of whoever you registered your domain with and create a subdomain pointing to you new JotForm landing page.
- Start promoting your landing page.
So when prospects land on your landing page and fill in their emails, three things happen:
- I’ll take the opportunity to ask them the same MVP questions we did in the MVP form - the more we know about our market the better.
- Through an integration with MailChimp, the information you collect can be fed directly into a MailChimp list, ready to user.
- They'll get what's called a double opt in message - to make sure it's really them and not some joker submitting their email to our landing page - emailed from MailChimp with a link to confirm their sign up.
Setting up the landing page
I started again by cloning our MVP form, just because the royalty-free image I found through librestock.com makes a perfect landing page background for my app. I then deleted the Welcome page from the form, and added an email Card above the question Card of what one feature did they most want. Then it was time for a little bit of fun. I rummaged around my Apple Photos for a Live Photo of a dog I sometimes walk, Sophie, then pulled it into ImgPlay on my iPhone and two clicks later, I had a nice little gif:
I then swapped out the stock checkmark icon JotForm shows when you complete a form for my new gif.
(Sophie in my JotForm)
Next, I went into the integrations available under the form's settings. I counted 50 possible integrations; from Basecamp to Trello, from Stripe to Zapier. The JotForm Zapier integration is actually just there so you know the two services work together; you create the integration from within Zapier, by first selecting JotForm as the From app and MailChimp as the To app. Then working your way through the Zapier process for connecting your online form to your mailchimp list, and requiring MailChimp to confirm each email it gets. Since I was adding respondents to my landing page to the PetSitApp announcement Mailchimp list, I decided to let Mailchimp handle the double-opt in part of things: I could have done this within JotForm and would have if I were using some other email marketing platform. Finally, I wanted set up this form, and my other PetSitApp-related forms, in a subdomain, forms.petsitapp.com. I found this tech note very helpful. Now my landing page lives at https://forms.petsitapp.com/form/80514662122145 in addition to https://form.jotform.com/80514662122145. You can also build from the JotForm template for this landing page.
How's your onboarding working?
Let's move ahead in the life of our semi-fictitious startup. For the next form I need, I want to easily gauge how a new user of PetSitApp is doing. Onboarding a new user correctly is a make-or-break task for any startup; done right, and you have a paid user. Done wrong, and that user is out the door, never to return. Thinking about what I wanted to ask my new users lead to all sorts of questions: did I want to measure their product knowledge, find out what part of the app they liked the most, what part they hated, what? Actually, after reading several posts on onboarding, I realized there really were only two questions I'd like to ask my new users:
- Are they happy with PetSitApp?
- Why did they sign up with PetSitApp?
The first question gets at whether they're going to become a paying customer after the one week trial or are they going to churn out. When it comes to people's buying decisions, emotions rule. JotForms has a cool emoji slider from hate to love that let's people show their emotional response by moving a slider and changing the emoticon accordingly. The second question is a little more complicated. Since this form is going to be the Call To Action in the first email they get from me two days after they start using PetSitApp, knowing why they signed up tells me whether I have anything like product/market fit. If they signed up for what PetSitApp does, that great. And if PetSitApp doesn't do what they were expecting, I've got a problem. Now that I knew what I was going to ask and why, creating the form was trivial: clone the MVP form again for that great background, add an emoji slider and an short open ended card, delete the questions I did not want, and the form is done. (Want to use this form? Here’s the JotForm template.
(The one question that matters.)
Hiring square and round pegs
Finally, I'm going to solve a problem I hope to have soon. As people all over the world become happy PetSitApp real live paying customers, I know I desperately needed to find a contract designer to make the app look better and a contract developer to fix all my dumb mistakes add new features. Unfortunately, I've seen firsthand job postings on craigslist get over six hundred responses, many from design and development shops offshore, and many auto-generated. I want to find actual people I could meet with and collaborate in person. I definitely did not want hundreds of email replies to my ad choking my inbox again. By having people reply via my form and not craigslist email, I could channel their responses into a CSV file and then a spreadsheet I could rationally work with. And if I could prevent reply bots from hitting my form, and force only local designers and developers to apply, that would further cut the field down to something manageable. This time I started from scratch a JotForm Card form, picked my theme, and added:
- A captcha to screen out bot scripts,
- An address Card to make sure applicants were local to me,
- Make it easy for people to upload their resumes to me, and make it easy for me to work with those documents by having JotForm automatically save them to my DropBox account,
- Use conditional logic to ask either a designer or developer appropriate question.
(Captcha means never hearing from bots) Again, it was pretty easy to build out my contractor application form that is designer/developer specific, prevents submissions from the bots that haunt craigslist, and organizes the process of reviewing applicants by giving me data in a spreadsheet and resumes in a single DropBox folder. If you like, you can use this JotForm template for your startup.
So a couple of closing thoughts regarding building a set of forms for you startup:
- You are going to want to get information from people all along the customer journey in your startup.
- You want to brand the surveys you create, and create those surveys in an app that lets you have one overarching look.
- Since the longer the form, the less likely people are to complete it, spend some time asking yourself if what is really the key essential information you want.
- And, spend some time on thinking about how you're going to ask your questions: forming the right question makes all the difference.
I found as I was creating various forms my startup - MVP test form, beta tester application, landing page, onboarding survey and contractor application - JotForm rose to the challenge of letting a graphically-challenged developer like me create attractive, effective, highly-functional forms. I recommend having a look at JotForm** when you start down the road to building your startup**.