Product Updates from a Busy October

Intro Maker Updates

Monsters on parade! This October was one of the busiest months I can remember.

Product Updates from a Busy October

There are some months where I feel like I don't get much done, but October was not one of them. Looking back at my changes, I was able to ship a ton of small improvements to the site over the last month.

Updated Pricing and the Producer Pack

It's possible I pulled the plug too early on the "every video has one price" experiment, but I did let it go for about 3 months. The plan was to start pricing videos individually instead of having every video at the same price, but that led to some messaging/UX problems that I was never really able to tackle in a way that made me happy. Before the pricing changes, sales were pretty evenly split between the $5 and $10 options—maybe slightly more weighted towards $10. With a pre-update average price of around $8, the pricing change raised that average price to (as you would expect) $10. That's a 25% increase! Up and to the right!

Unfortunately, overall sales dropped by 40%.

So, 60% of the sales volume multiplied by 125% of the sell-price is... a drop of about 25%. Total disaster. Although I was trying to simplify things, there were probably some good psychological effects going on that I didn't fully think through. Having a $5 "low cost" option on the page can definitely help cement the value of the $10 option in peoples' minds. So... UNDO.

A screenshot of the new pricing page.

In bringing back the $5 option, I also added a 3rd option for $100. I'm calling it the Producer Pack.

I've actually sold a few of these over the years through email. Working in a corporate or agency (or e-sports team) environment where you need multiple videos at random times, it can be a pain to charge/expense something every time. For these types of customers, bulk deals are just easier on all sides. The idea with this plan is to offer 2-3 renders per month over the course of a year, but without heavy limits in place if you go over or under in a particular month. It's still a one-time purchase that runs through my existing coupon system, but if this goes well I might do the legwork of adding proper subscription plans. If you need a lot of videos and that's made you hold off ordering videos at $10/apiece, let me know! This is my first stab at pricing and I'll probably iterate over time.

Audio Improvements

IntroCave has always offered three options for music in the intro maker: default template music, upload your own, or choose from my small library of royalty-free tracks. Because of the way this was implemented, I've actually never had any idea how many people use the upload feature versus selecting from the library. In either case, the music would get uploaded to my asset server, then downloaded on my render server, then added to the template.

This is wasteful. There's no need to transfer the same bytes over and over again, so I went in and added the library audio to the render servers and now just pass the name of the files that are already there. This lets me skip the asset server entirely. In the 6000 or so previews that have been made since I pushed this change, roughly 17% customize the audio. About 700 of those (over 10%) use library audio. Extrapolating, that knocks a couple of seconds off 10% of all previews on the site. Not bad!

Uploading your own audio is a nice-to-have feature, but the synchronization is... lucky at best. If you've got your own audio track and you're going to be doing your own editing, a better option is to just remove the music in the template and let you do your own synchronization. I've had quite a few people request templates without audio in the past, and I usually send them a blank mp3 to upload in place of a real audio track. I went ahead and added that as a real option along with library/upload audio, and it seems to be a hit! About half of all "library audio" renders are using that blank mp3 now.

I wish all features had such an immediately measurable impact!

Improving the Text-to-Image UX and Rendering

When I added the text-to-image feature a few months back, I just kind of threw the form onto the page without much thought. In giving it equal weighting to the actual image upload button, it made it seem like something you were supposed to do... even if you already had a logo! Looking at my event logs in Google Analytics, the number of images created each day with this feature was VERY close to the number of previews made each day. That means every user, whether they needed the feature or not, was actually creating an image (and possibly overriding a logo they'd already uploaded).

That's... not great. I tweaked the messaging on this and hid the form fields by default so it didn't seem like something you're supposed to do on every customization. Now only about 1-in-5 or 1-in-6 people use the text-to-intro feature while making a preview, which seems much more in line with what I was expecting.

I also had someone reach out about descenders—the parts of lowercase letters like "y" and "g" and "j" that stick out below the baseline in a font. I went back to my font rendering code and added some better measurement code to add a little more padding and account for those dangling bits, with the result that lowercase text works a lot better now!

Improved Search Results

The search box at the top right actually sees a fair bit of use, but the search results tended to not be great. This probably impacted me personally more than any users, as I'm the only one who knows what templates are named well enough to search for them by name. In previous search results, all fields were weighted evenly between the template name, the keywords, and the description. That led to some funny results with searches like "news"—my most popular intro in this category has "Breaking News" in the title but wasn't even showing up on the first page. It's a little bit slower, but I'm not prioritizing search by title first, then keywords, then descriptions. There are not so many templates right now that I expect this to slow things down much, and if it ever does get too slow I can implement a more high-tech search plugin.

Updated Request Video and Feedback Forms

There are a couple of spots on the site that have historically used embedded Google forms to collect feedback. This is technically very easy, but I'm terrible at remembering to go and check those forms for new submissions and they're pretty hard to use on mobile devices. I killed the form on the request video page and replaced it with a proper contact box that just hits my inbox instead. I've gotten some submissions through this form already, which tells me this will be a much better system moving forward. I actually liked getting this new email format so much that I went ahead and added a similar for to the bottom of every blog post! If you've got any feedback, you can now just submit comments directly to me from the article page.

Behind the Scenes and Other Minor Stuff

  • Blog Improvements: I added a small byline to the bottom of each blog post.
  • 4K and 60 fps rendering: not ready to ship yet, but more people have been asking for this.
  • New Render Pipeline: I'm about 50% of the way through the old templates. I retired a few more low-performing videos.

  • Newsletter Workflow: some behind the scenes stuff to better segment/target mailing lists.
  • Social Media Tools: continuing to refine my Twitter tools, starting to think about posting schedules.
  • Ads: I've been testing Ezoic's ads against Adsense. I figured out how to run A/B tests through Google Optimize (and got retweeted by the 1m+ follower Google Analytics account!)

Next Up

I'm hoping (fingers super crossed) that I finally have the email newsletter stuff sorted. I made good progress on template updates in October. If I can knock the rest of those out by the end of the year, it's reasonable that I could start testing the new render servers by January or February. This should lead to improved render times and finally get me to a place where I can start adding new templates to the site. We're into the home stretch of 2019!

it me

IntroCave is a one-person-show operated by Will Hankinson, but it's not 100% accurate to say every word is written by me. Some articles were live on the site when I took over. I hire writers from time to time to work on specific articles. People keep asking me to do guest posts, but I haven't actually seen any relevant submissions yet. "Intro Maker staff" might make a better by-line, but currently that's just me. I've been building digital things for 10+ years now, and some of my favorite projects are posted over at my personal website if you want to take a look!

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