This article and video reprinted with permission from Rackspace’s Building43.
Before starting Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg created FaceMash, which allowed Harvard students to rate the photos of other students. FaceMash was preceded by sites such as RateMyFace, AmIHot.com and perhaps most famously, Hot or Not. Today, Swayable is taking this side-by-side ratings concept and expanding it well beyond its origins to allow you to express an opinion on virtually anything.
“About 50% of my visitors are return [visitors],” explains Lindsey Harper, Founder of Swayable, “and the site’s pretty sticky so they’re spending time now creating things like ‘how should I wear my hair’, ‘what should I use for a profile picture’, ‘which shoes should I get at the store’. I’m seeing a lot of people play around with the app. They’re having fun creating different types of content, and I’m getting a lot of, so far, pretty good feedback.”
Swayable is currently available for the iPhone and on the web and will soon be available for Android devices. “With Swayable, you can be out and about with the iPhone app and maybe you see something funny you thought might be fun to share with your friends,” says Harper. “Traditionally, you’d take and picture and share it or maybe post it to Facebook. With Swayable, you can actually take a picture of two items and share that in what’s a Swayable Voting Unit. I have one-click share on the app so it’s literally take a picture, take a picture, [write a] quick description and you just share it out immediately to Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email. You can choose to share it to one person if it’s more personal, or you can choose to share it with everybody including the Swayable.com audience, and those votes come back real-time.”
Harper is a sole founder whose background is in marketing and project management rather than technology, so she took a somewhat unconventional path to getting her app developed and tested. After building a spec document, she posted a series of questions on Mechanical Turk to test the viability of the concept. “What I found from that,” says Harper, “was where my minimum viable product was. I found from that feedback what people would use it for…so it helped in validating the concept.”
Next, she put the development work up for bid on oDesk but soon realized that might not be the best fit for her project. She switched to beyondsoft.com to complete the work. Then Harper went back to Mechanical Turk to hire approximately 250 testers to complete registration, use the site and provide feedback.
She constantly monitors user patterns on the site to optimize the experience, and it seems to be working. The number of visitors and page views doubled and tripled respectively the first two months the site was operational, and average page views per visit is increasing 1 to 2 pages per month. “Forth to fifty percent [of users] are bringing their friends,” says Harper, “so that growth is just naturally happening because [users] are coming back.”
Swayable web site: http://www.swayable.com/
Swayable profile on CrunchBase: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/swayable
Swayable on Twitter: http://twitter.com/swayable
Lindsey Harper on Twitter: http://twitter.com/harperlindsey