OhBoard 1.1 Release

Happy Sunday everyone! I just released version 1.1 of OhBoard in Chrome Web Store. The main addition to this update is the ability to save drawings into images. It was the most requested feature I’ve received so far, so I decided to add it while the product was not having a lot of users.

How it looks:

As I mentioned a bit in my preview post, this feature is extremely straightforward. You hit the export button, an overlay pops up, then you can either copy the image, save the image in your local/Dropbox folders, or drag it to an application/a folder for further actions. On both PC or Mac, If you drag the image to the desktop, it will be saved automatically. Another example, if you drag it to mail.app on a Mac, a new email with the image will be automatically created. Or if you drag it to Evernote.app, the application will recognize the image and make a note for you.

How to update:

  1. Make sure you are in the application called Chrome.
  2. Click Window -> Extensions (a new tab should be opened).
  3. Click Developer mode (the blue link with a + icon on the right hand side).
  4. Click update extensions now button (the third one from the left, the first one from the right).
  5. Nothing seems to happen, but everything is actually updated in a matter of half seconds.

I suggest you to update it now so you can enjoy the latest feature set. I know Google makes this process a little over-complicated, but that’s the only way to do so. Sorry about that.

If you decide to buy OhBoard after the image saving feature is out, now it’s the time! The app is available for $3.99 in Chrome Web Store.

Thanks everyone for the support. :)

How to Reinstall Chrome Web Apps?

As I mentioned previously on how to update Chrome Web Apps, there are very limited help documents from Google on this kind of miscellaneous things. So since my customer might need this information sometimes in the future, I’d like to make it available to everyone.

Here’s how you do it:

Open a new tab which lists all your app, click the little setting icon on the top right of the application icon you want to reinstall, and click Uninstall on the popup menu.

Then when you go to the app’s listing page on Chrome Web Store, you will be able to install the app again. If the app (like OhBoard) is paid, you don’t have to go through the checkout process again.

Let me know if you have any troubles doing that.

10 Sales in 2 Weeks

It has been 2 weeks since OhBoard’s launch on December 22nd, so I’d love to share some numbers with you guys.

Sales: 10 orders, 0 canceled
Visits to ohboard.com: 1140
Visits to Chrome Web Store listing: 343

I actually don’t consider this as a bad score. It is pretty good since Chrome Web Store is still at its super early stage, not that many people had even heard about the Web Store yet.

Lost Decade Games, the developer behind Onslaught! Arena, an arcade style game on Chrome Web Store, was generous enough to share their first week’s results. They made a total of 21 sales in the first week, it was about 4 times better than mine. But their app was launched on day 1 (when all the traffic was coming in), initially featured by the Store (gave more exposure), and more complex to make (a lot of graphic involved). In comparison, OhBoard was launched 2 weeks after the debut of Chrome Web Store, never listed on the homepage, and relatively simple to develop.

Besides, I am battling on the long-term success of OhBoard, with the future debut of Chrome OS and the continuous growth of Chrome in mainstream. I think the sales will get better and better progressively.

Another thing I want to add is I still didn’t put in full force for promotion. I launched the minimal version of OhBoard and exclusively talked about it on Twitter and Forrst, which brought me couple nice sales. Then I went back and started working on a really important feature, image export (I posted a preview last night). There aren’t so many customers right now, so it’s the best time to iterate before many new buyers complain.

In this next couple weeks, I will continue to share my sales record, as well as traffic/conversion numbers.

Image Export Sneak Peak

Howdy everyone! Hope y’all have a great new year holiday. I certainly had one, because I’ve been working hard on OhBoard, and the image export feature is very close to the finish line. So I’d love to give you a little sneak peak right now!

OhBoard will have its fifth button, which is called Export. Whenever you want to export your current canvas, just click the button and you will see a lovely overlay with the image waiting right there for you.

If you want to save the image into your local/Dropbox folder, right click and select Save Image As…, just like what you normally do to save an image in Chrome.

Besides that, there’s a neat trick I want to tell you (which saves me hours). you can simply drag the image into applications like Mail.app to create an email with the image directly, Evernote.app to make a new note containing the image. This can be extremely helpful when you want to share mockups to your teammates, or when you want to save your ideas you drop down on OhBoard as your own reference in pictures.


Boom, new Email created!

The new update will be available next week. So stay tuned and I will keep you updated.

Update: OhBoard 1.1 is released!

Why $3.99, Not Free?

Many people asked me on Twitter and via Email, “Why did I price OhBoard at $3.99, not free?”

Instead of replying to each individual repetitively with uncompleted thoughts. I decided to write a detailed post about my thought process behind this decision. So everyone will know the answer now and in the future. Enjoy!

The Free Era in Tech, Not for Me

These days in the tech scene, many things are free. Free is great, mostly for customers. They do not have to pay a dime to use a piece of software, get certain amount of storage, or utilize a chunk of resources.

But ironically, they are made free. Customers were not the main force of the making-everything-free transition. The startups are. They want their products to be free. I’ve heard so many “acquire millions of users first, make money later” and “Q: How do you plan to make money? A: Let’s focus on getting tractions first, revenue isn’t our priority right now. We will worry about it a year later.”

Digging down a bit more, you will find out these companies are the ones either trying to become the next Facebook, Twitter; or trying to be acquired by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft. The founders want a giant exit. They will have to get boatloads of users first, because that’s what big companies (which are their potential parent companies) care about.

The founders of these companies are big thinkers. They are extremely enthusiastic, they are amazingly talented, and they are probably well-connected. They are just downright great people.

But that’s not what my ultimate goal is. I don’t want millions next year.

I am not saying I am not enthusiastic, or I never think big. I do. But realistically, my ability isn’t good enough to achieve that level of success yet. Time, resources, connections, money, schedules are all the things stand in the way. They can’t be changed easily. So would it be better to not think about the billion dollars exit, just build something people love using, charge for it, and offer amazing support?

Revenue from Day 1

Having money coming in from day 1 (even hour 1) is great. I am not greedy, but it proves, in truth, that my product are worth paying. Money is the best metric ever to validate ideas. For free stuff, I don’t know what metric is accurate. Pageviews? Unique visitors? I don’t think so. Because many people will still visit your site even if they hate it. But they won’t pay if they do.

Additionally, I don’t think you can get honest feedback from your free users. You will get a lot of feedback, but they will mostly be “very nice” or “it sucks”, the two extreme ends. And apparently, there is nothing you can do to improve your product unless you asked for clarification. But since they never pay for it, they will probably not answer your question.

On the other side, you can get really great feedback from paying customers. Why? Because they pay for it. They want to get the value that they pay for, and they want the app to be the best. They will provide you actionable suggestions, as well as constructive criticism. These kinds of feedback can get you start thinking in the mindset of your customers.

Let’s say you pay $10/month for hosting service, and you feel like something isn’t quite right. Will you provide a list of what’s not right and how you want it to be, or just throw out a 2-word sentence “You suck”? Obviously, the former. That’s the way they can improve the product for you.

Benefit-Pricing, Not Feature-Pricing

I strongly believe in benefit-pricing over feature-pricing. I think pricing should be based on the value customers gain, not the raw material costs. In the tech world, that can be translated into pricing should be based on how much money the product saves you, not how much work the developer puts in the product.

Let’s take a look at some products I’ve paid for: Coda and WooThemes.

Coda is a powerful text editing tool with functionality like direct FTP, terminal, source control, in-app books, etc. I happily paid $99 for it because what Coda offered had saved me more than hundreds of dollars of purchasing other FTP program, SVN app and book. The FTP also saves me a lot of time. If I can get more done in a day, the outcome (in my case, sales) will be more significant.

WooThemes is a WordPress theme development company that makes gorgeous themes target at individual niche markets. After adding your content, themes are ready-to-go. I used Inspire for OhBoard.com. It reduces the traditional landing page development from 1 week to 1 day. Those 6 days saved had allowed me to write more blog posts and have more time to plan my marketing strategy.

Less Customers, Better Support

This is a common theory that many people understand – if you have less people to support, you have more time for each one. But I want to extend it for a little bit.

Support doesn’t necessarily mean answering their emails/replying their tweets. I think support is about the communication process with customers, both directly and indirectly.

When you only have 100 people to support, you will have a great chance to reach out with every individual and find out more about your product in their perspectives. And eventually you will have a better look at your product. But when you have 100000 (not unusual for free service), talking to users is nearly possible. Sometimes, company will throw out a long survey, the numbers of responses are usually pretty low, and the results aren’t reflective.

What Does That Mean For OhBoard?

I charge $3.99 because I have no intention to let OhBoard become the next Google acquisition. I want to take OhBoard low and slow. I will make it something you love, something that can save you a little bit of time and money each day. It does not have to be 10% of everybody in the world. If OhBoard can make one thousand people’s day better and more efficient, I am satisfied.

I believe everyone who purchased OhBoard so far think it deserves $3.99, because the value they get from OhBoard is far more than that figure. It potentially replaces their next physical whiteboard, which costs anywhere from $10 to $100. And it also gets their jobs done faster. A simple example: designing a mockup is more realistic on OhBoard. Because the canvas size is exactly the same as their website, things don’t get proportionated.

With that said, because you pay for it, you deserve great support. I don’t want you to feel frustrated when problems happened. I will fix any bugs you encountered with OhBoard, listen to all feedback you have, and ultimately try my best to improve OhBoard based on your need. If you are happy using OhBoard, I am happy.

PS: Thanks everyone who paid $3.99 for OhBoard so far. Maybe you should too.

How to Update Chrome Web Apps?

I’m actually quite surprised that I can’t find any related help documents from Google about this matter. So as a Chrome Web App creator, I think I should write it myself.

On a Mac:

  1. Make sure you are in the application called Chrome.
  2. Click Window -> Extensions (a new tab should be opened).
  3. Click Developer mode (the blue link with a + icon on the right hand side).
  4. Click update extensions now button (the third one from the left, the first one from the right).
  5. Nothing seems to happen, but everything is actually updated in a matter of half seconds.

On a PC:

Coming soon… (Sorry Windows users.)

Fixing Bugs For My First Customer

Yesterday before I released v1.0 of OhBoard, I already conducted a huge amount of testing. But unfortunately, my testing was not perfect. A bug was caught by my first customer Phil Fishbein (Thanks, Phil!), I fixed it immediately, released an update, and Phil was a happier OhBoard user than before. I just want to share a few lessons I learned throughout the process.

When Phil sent me the tweet, I did not freak out. I knew freaking out would make the situation worse. I apologized to Phil and tried to chase down the bug. After 15 minutes, I was be able to find and reproduce the actual problem – the app becomes disabled when the window reopens/refreshes after deleting all documents.

Oops, gotta fix it. I replied instantly to Phil, told him it would be fixed in 30 minutes. Notice I didn’t jump right into Coda and fix the bug, because I wanted to make sure Phil knew exactly what was happening and wouldn’t cancel the purchase. (I am sure he appreciated it as well.)

After half hours, solution hadn’t been found, which meant I blew my promise of fixing it in half hours. I decided to let Phil know I’m on top of it and the update will be available as soon as possible.

Another 30 minutes was passed, I finally found out where the issue was located, changed the code. Yet I didn’t decide to package the app and upload the new version immediately. I felt like more crazy testing was necessary, because Phil would become extremely unsatisfying if this update contains another annoying bug. Luckily after 40 minutes of testing (in ways that you probably never used OhBoard for), no problems found. I shipped the update and told Phil the exact instructions on how to update.

2 lessons taught here:

1. It’s really important to keep your customers in loop. Simply send them a tweet/email every hour or so explaining how the process goes. The more details you give (just tell them what the bug is!), the better they will feel. I am sure they will value your honesty more than your mistake.

2. Try to test the app as stupid as you can after the bug is fixed. Because the changes you’ve made might caused other related issues that are not existed before. You already gave your customers a bad build, they apparently won’t forgive you for one more time.

Hopefully my lessons can turn your angry customers into passionate ones too!

Secrets Behind the Manifesto

If you read my manifesto piece for OhBoard, you will notice something different than what you’ve seen before. I listed the benefits, but not the cool features. I showed the screenshot, but not the fancy technology. I pitched in 1 short sentence, not a long paragraph.

Most of the time, when you are seeing a new startup launch, or a new app announcement, you’ll mainly hear something like this:

We use some of the latest technology such as HTML5/CSS3/jQuery/Node.js/RoR/Django/MongoDB/[an open source framework] and build this very cool app called xyz in 10 months that allows you to share random pictures/upload funny videos/shorten long URLs/tell your current location/any combinations of each. You will be able to login from your computer or your mobile smartphone, and you can see in real-time what your friends are doing. We’ve integrated our app to different social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr, Tumblr, Posterous, and 25 more. The app is free and you can try it here. If you love our app, feel free to tell your friends and tweet about it! We need some serious tractions. :)

That was what I did with OneExtraLap (my strategically-failed social quizzing app). And it was proven that it should not be the way to go. Most of the time, because you are so much into what you are building yourself, you are over-familiarizing with it. You know everything about it, and you naturally tend to think other people do as well. But they actually don’t. When they see a giant piece of text of what features you have, they will be lost immediately because they don’t even know what your app is fundamentally. Right now, I feel like my points of view on things I built are still different than others (which I hope I can improve over time), so I decided to take a different approach: show visitors screenshots. I love screenshots. It is so direct that it won’t change if you build the app or if you are still not sure what it is. I think that is the best way to demonstrate your products.

I also want to talk about the excessive use on specific technology in a pitch. For normal people, they don’t care what technology the app is using. It does not matter if it is built on jQuery or normal JavaScript, as long as it works, and both works great! For geeks, you think it’s cooler to use jQuery because it’s simpler and faster. But ultimately, you won’t stop using it just because they don’t use jQuery anymore. Recently, headlines like HTML5-based xyz popped up a lot and received a good amount of attention. It’s really great that people do care about the innovation, but I think it should not be the attention-grabber. As Jason Fried said, focus on things that won’t change in 10 years. HTML10 will probably come out in the year of 2020, and HTML5 will be massively outdated at that time. But the goal you are trying to reach (e.g. save 1 hour of your customer’s time each day by doing xyz) will still remain the same. Yes, OhBoard is written based on HTML5/CSS3/jQuery, but I don’t want it to be on the headline.

To conclude that off, I personally think simplicity when explaining things is very important. Just tell them the information they needed to take your designated action. When you buy a physical whiteboard, you want to know what does it look/feel like and how much is it. You certainly don’t want to know what the raw materials are, since you either don’t care or you don’t even know what they are after you hear them. And that’s what I do with OhBoard, hopefully it will be successful, and I’ll share with you guys soon on how the results turn out.

OhBoard Manifesto

Hello everyone. I am Stephen Ou, the creator behind OhBoard. For those who don’t know me, I am known for developing several other (somehow-got-popular) web applications, including iTunes Instant, TwtRoulette and OneExtraLap. For those who do know me, you will hear a lot more from me, because I will be blogging very frequently here about what I learn.

So I’m sure you have this question in mind: What exactly is OhBoard?

OhBoard is a simple, zero-distraction whiteboard app for Google Chrome. It comes with 4 buttons and a blank canvas. And it costs $3.99.

I am going to show you 5 screenshots of what it looks like and what it can do:

Some simple use-cases:

  • Fire up OhBoard to drop down a cool idea.
  • Mockup a website in exactly the size you want.
  • Solve a complicated math equation (no more scratch paper!).
  • Make pretty graph/drawing for presentations.
  • Write down important reminders in CAPS.
  • Doodle when you are bored at home.
  • Let me know if you use it in other ways!

Now you probably wonder and say, “I already had a whiteboard at home, I don’t need one in my computer.” I think you do need one, you just haven’t realized why yet.

I broke it down and list 10 characteristics physical whiteboard has:

  • It has limit. There’s only one possible surface to write on. Old drawing has to be physically disappeared in order for new drawing to be created.
  • Sometimes it doesn’t fit the size you want it to be. If you are sketching a website mockup on a whiteboard, everything becomes proportionated.
  • It requires a special-made writing utensil, called marker, to utilize the whiteboard. The marker is not physically attached to the whiteboard, which means it can be lost (or worse, stolen).
  • Marker smells. Barely anyone likes it.
  • Marker runs out. You have to purchase a new one when it does.
  • There’s also a thing called cap in each marker. If it is not correctly positioned, the marker can become useless quickly.
  • It requires an eraser (sometimes I use tissues), which most of the time can’t clean the surface entirely – little marks are left on the board.
  • When writing/drawing, you need to pay close attention to prevent your hands from erasing previous work unnoticeably.
  • The material includes paper, plastic, and melamine. They aren’t so environmental-friendly.
  • Staples sells it for $15.99. Office Depot sells it for $29.27. Walmart sells it for $8.55.

These are all the problems I, you, and probably everybody, have encountered. They are real problems, but they never get your attention. The reason being is they are way too common. You think they will never be solved, so let’s not worry about them. Wrong, OhBoard will be solving them. And here are some benefits of OhBoard vs. physical whiteboard:

  • It has no limit. And everything is saved automatically.
  • The canvas covers up the whole content section. You can make your website mockup exactly the way you want it to look like.
  • It requires a mouse, or a trackpad. But you will have one if you are using a computer. And you are using a computer if you are on OhBoard.
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t smell.
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t run out. (Well, a wireless one does, but the price vs. usage ratio is extremely low.)
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t need a cap/cover/protection mask/security guard.
  • An eraser is not required. An undo button is already included in OhBoard.
  • Your hand will never smear the computer screen. If you do, your drawing won’t be erased either.
  • The material only includes code and pixels, which will not harm the environment.
  • I sell it for $3.99.

You’ve know all the great things about OhBoard, and hopefully think it’s perfect and flawless. But I am completely honest and I want to tell you a little bit on how a physical whiteboard is better than OhBoard.

  • You can touch it, hold it, move it, throw it, catch it, bend it, and even kiss it.
  • Writing/Drawing with a marker can produce more organized things, sinced you are trained to do so for your entire life.
  • You can see what’s on the board by turning your head, not opening the app. (Not sure if that would cause neck pain though.)

If you think these are more important, OhBoard is probably not for you, although it would be great to give it a try and see if your opinion changes.

Otherwise, if you are ready, the OhBoard app is available on Chrome Web Store for $3.99.

Grab it while it’s not too late! :-)

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