Qöstr. An experiment in binding social media and physical products.

25th Mar 2015

Read Time: 3:46

Qöstr. An experiment in binding social media and physical products.

Put your Instagram pics (or ours) on drink coasters! What a concept.

What do minimum viable products, usage monitoring, and customer feedback tell you about your great idea? The jury's still out but let's just say it's a good thing we built light.

The project's roots.

I wanted the team to step outside their normal design and development t roles and look into development of products. The ask targeted a couple of goals. The team needed to blow off some steam and bond a little. As a group we hadn't really done anything innovative in months. We'd just been buried in the minutia of client work. We were all more than a little stressed and generally not happy. I called a lunch meeting.

The ask was simple. Make a business. I'd prefer it involve a locally manufactured product, social media and eCommerce. Beyond that, the world was theirs. Honestly, I also wanted the team to get some experience with social API's and eCommerce platforms for upcoming projects as well, so I can't say I didn't have a few alterior motives. I left them to the brainstorming after peppering in a few possible concepts to get them started. I was pleased to see they took their own path. Inside an 11 day span, they had Qöstr designed, built, and running with orders coming in.

And now for the learning.

The concept is extremely simple. Put your Instagram pictures on bar-quality drink coaster for almost no money. Current initial orders are at the $10 mark. We boiled the website down to only the essentials. Additional content lightboxed into a one-page welcome with a Big Ole Button to get started. Click start, authorize instagram, pick your photo and pay. Product shows up to your house in less than a week. Easy Peasy, right? We thought so.

From day one, the team kept coming up with additional features for the product but managed to stay focused on the MVP all the way to launch. Post launch, we put our ears on and started asking questions. What would you like to see next? Do the products make sense? Did you have problems on checkout? The most frequent ask of the lot? The ability to upload pictures directly to the site which we opted to table initially for reasons I'll go over in a minute. The second most frequent request was that of multiple images per order. This was a much more feasible request. V2 came out a few weeks later with multiple image select and a new pricing structure. This feature gave us a talking point socially and proved we were listening to our customers.

Unique name spellings, SEO, and site discovery.

Here's a fun little double-edged sword, unique spellings. There are tons of benefits. First, you can probably find the domain you want, which is always a good start. Next up, if you set yourself up properly, you can own that word and hopefully your context from an SEO and social standpoint. Unique spellings also look cool on a t-shirt. Now comes the other edge. When was the last time you were looking for bar coasters and typed in "qöstr"? I mean, do you even know how to type an umlaut over an "o"? That one took me a minute (opt-u, then o if you're curious). This is where contextual indexing comes into play as referenced in my first post. You've got to make sure your content is reflecting what your ideal customer is actually searching for.

Prioritizing your progress.

Now, back to that most common user request of photo upload. There are a few issues with this request. First among them is file size, shape, and quality when uploading. Instagram was chosen because it does a great job of putting all images in a nice uniform size and aspect ratio, ideal for our automated process. If we diverge from this handy photo processor, we'd have to do that work on our end.

We decided that when a user didn't want to use Instagram or didn't have an account, it would be easier to handle them as individual custom orders. With limited resources available in a small team, larger development project have to be pushed into future versions to keep moving forward. It's all about prioritization and forward momentum. While answering the customer base is a great idea and I'd suggest it all day, sometimes you've got to put the brand/company/team first.

Incidentally, the photo upload is scheduled and in use in a few very select customer cases. Stay tuned for a public release.

Final thoughts.

I'll end here for now, only because it would take a short book to detail the happenings, thinking, and details of this little project. For now, let's just chalk all this up to great learning and part of the process in building a great product. If you haven't ordered a set of coasters to this point, check out Qöstr and order your own or one of our designs. If you have checked them out, I'd love to get your feedback (read above). Just comment here or email us from the site.

~jt

Blog by Jay Thornton