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Happy Links - Ask 37signals edition

October 26, 2007

It's been a while since we've given the attention-deprived signals some love, but their recent series of Q&As has been interesting. Here are a few I thought were pertinent to entrepreneurs.

  • How do you handle the pressure to grow?
    The answer is always the same: We are growing, but not physically. You can grow without “growing.” In fact, I think it’s a healthier path.
  • Do I need a designer to make pretty?
    Thinking of designers as someone who paints the application pretty in Photoshop is a common but unfortunate misconception.
  • Is it really the number of features that matter?
    I don’t think the number of features is what makes software better or worse. One more or one less isn’t really the issue. What matters is the editing. Software needs an editor like a writer needs an editor or a museum needs a curator.
  • How to go from clients to products?
    You can’t just goof around with science projects, open-ended explorations, and play time with new whiz-bang technology. Instead, you have to deliver real value, real soon. Otherwise the project is simply going to languish as it loses out to the “real work” of paying clients.
  • What about research?
    We do a different kind of research... We build something, then we collect feedback on what we built.... Of course, you might wonder how to start. We build products we need ourselves, so our initial research is made of our own wishes, itches, and frustrations. When it comes to client work, my best advise is to become friends. Spend time together and discuss what they do until you can see through their eyes a bit.
  • Can I build a product business if I'm just a designer?
    Yes, there is plenty of hope for a designer who wants to build a product business. Having business sense will help. Being able to spot and attract other talented people will help. Having a knack for spotting the right opportunities will help. But being curious enough to just figure things out on your own will help the most.

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Why you should seriously consider accepting PayPal and/or Google Checkout

October 25, 2007 in An article, Business Intel

Paypal_logo_2 Are you accepting PayPal as a payment option for your ecommerce offering? Some studies suggest it's a great way to boost sales.

...according to a recent survey by JupiterResearch. Among Internet users, 33% said they had a PayPal account and 23% called it their preferred way to pay.


...other benefits of accepting PayPal ...of the 153 million PayPal account holders, 36 million have used PayPal in the past 90 days, suggesting a large and loyal cadre of PayPal users.

And many of them keep balances in their PayPal accounts, often accumulated through sales on eBay. At any given time there is $2.5 billion in PayPal accounts, and that money typically turns over every two weeks. Much of that gets spent online, and 18% of U.S. online shoppers in a recent PayPal-sponsored survey said they would not have made a purchase if the retailer had not taken PayPal.

Google_checkout Are you taking advantage of the Google Checkout program which is waiving processing fees till 2008, and increasing visibility on AdWords ads by featuring a colorful button? Google Checkout will also give you $10 in free processing for every $1 spent on AdWords starting in '08.

Ritz Interactive, which operates such web sites as RitzCamera.com and BoatersWorld.com, says its click-through rate went up 23% after the Google Checkout badge was added to its ads, and that the conversion rate on those click-throughs went up 24%. Intermix, an apparel retailer, says its click-through and conversion rates went up about 20%. At sporting goods retailer Sportscloseouts.com, the Google Checkout badge boosted click-through rates from about 1.2% to 2.2%, an increase of more than 80%.

(emphases mine)

Source: the excellent Internet Retailer Magazine, October '07 article Google and PayPal collide at the checkout

See also: Adding three or more payment options at checkout has raised sales by an average of 14% according to payments processor CyberSource Corp. - Source July '07 Internet Retailer

Update: I had the Google credit, backwards.

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Happy Links: Retirement accounts for the self employed

October 19, 2007 in Expert Advice, Happy Links

(For those in the U.S.)

In addition to the faithful ROTH and Traditional IRAs, here's a nice overview of various other retirement options, by Nicole McInerney:

  • Simplified Employee Pension IRA (SEP-IRA)
    You qualify if you do a Schedule C or F or guaranteed payments from a partnership. You can set one up with the same folks who do ROTH or traditional IRAs, and you can contribute 20% of your net earnings minus self employment tax or $45,000 (for 2007), whichever is less.
  • The Solo 401K
    You qualify only if you have no employees. Finding a broker that offers it might be tricky (try Fidelity or T. Rowe Price), but you can contribute up to $15,500 plus 20% of your business income, with a maximum contribution of $45,000 in 2007.
  • The Simple IRA  - this one is for your employees too.
    You can offer it if you have less than 100 employees and you don't have another retirement plan (403(b) or SEP). You can contribute up to $21K for yourself.
  • The Keogh
    This one is a mess, good grief. But - you can put in up to $180,000 if you structure it right.

And finally - a nice matrix to help you compare, sort it all out and find your best option.

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October 16, 2007 in 4 out of 5 stars, Collaboration, Design, Free, Hosted software, Productivity, Project management

What is it?

ReviewBasics: Hosted software that allows you to submit, for review by others, a website, an image, a document (Word, PDF, Powerpoint), or a flash video. Others can add comments, drawings, emoticons, text, etc.


Who makes it?

SharpStyle Labs, Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

It's an impressive technical accomplishment. It's polished and easy to use.

Plus, it offers nice controls for the author: You can have comments visible just to the author, or to all reviewers. You can you write up a set of instructions for your reviewers. It offers a comments history. When done, you can filter all your stuff by date, by reviewer, and by files which have reviewer comments on them.

If you need to do asynchronous reviews, and/or if you have a geographically distributed team, this is a great resource.

What could be improved?

It feels a bit slow (which is probably because it's so rich, so that's forgivable).

If you want to submit a website for review, you can't do it as you are creating the workspace (like you can with everything else), you have to create the workspace, then dig around for it (they tell me this is going to be addressed soon).

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Altiris Software Virtualization Solution

October 9, 2007 in 5 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Free, Productivity, Virtualization

What is it?

Altiris Software Virtualization Solution: A software prophylactic that any PC user can easily use.

It's software that allows you to install most any piece of software on a virtualized "layer." Then at any time you can remove the layer or deactivate the layer and it's like it never existed on your system at all.


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

First of all, it's very easy to use. It sounds intimidating, but it's not, give it a try.

I have a client who needed me to rip some video off the web. It was streaming video and there was no easy way to do it, but there were several spooky looking software programs that claimed to be able to do it for me. I didn't want any of those vile characters with their spyware diseases and other incendiary cargo gumming up my system. Furthermore, after the first program didn't work, I didn't want it fighting with the second one I installed (and 3rd and 4th and 12th). It was a dirty, filthy job and when it was done my system needed a long hot shower. Enter SVS. Because I had installed each piece of software on its own layer, when I was all done, I deleted all the layers, and my machine never knew we'd visited the red light district.

This software can also be used in an enterprise setting to deliver "software packages" (or layers) out to other computers.

Additionally, you can even find pre-virtualized software packages available for download now. Install, test and play with confidence.

What could be improved?

It's PC only.

It doesn't work with some software. (Software that sinks deep hooks into the system. But this is rare.)

How much does it cost?

Free for personal use, $29-$55 for multiple node settings.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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