Bernie Thompson -- Saturday, June 30, 2007
On one Saturday in May (the 19th), we were in the car talking about kids baths or something, and my wife said “you know that widget you talked about writing — the one that tracks how many days since we did something? I want it. You should write it.” Well, when any of my kooky ideas get even a little bit of validation, it’s great. And a command from the wife is certainly over the top.
So the widget was roughly done by the next evening. On Monday night, I emailed lifehacker, not really expecting much. Here are some charts with the usage patterns over the first 30 days since then.
This is a chart of pageviews for the widget. You can see the huge jump on Tuesday May 22nd, when I was luckly enough to have lifehacker post an article about the widget that morning. It basically set the level of use moving forward.
This adds up to a lot of pageviews in a month. If these were hitting one of my servers, it would be enough load that I’d be worrying a bit about spikes of traffic and slowness. Fortunately, one of the design goals these widgets have is to use no server resources of my own: all code runs in the browser, and all data is stored in the settings of the widget itself — Google’s servers. So these could grow to 10 or 100 times the traffic, and I wouldn’t loose sleep at night. You can also see that for these iGoogle widgets, unique views tend to run about half the pageview rate.
This is a good rate of usage, but still not yet quite enough to qualify for Google’s new Gadget Ventures program, which offers seed funding for selected widgets with over 250,000 page views per week. With a little more press or an increase in organic growth, it’s possible it could hit that level.
One of the requests that came in early was “how about the same kind of thing for counting down the days until a future event?”. There were already many countdown timers, but not one that tracked several, with easy UI for add/remove and annual recurrence. Starting from the Days Since code, two weeks later the Days Until widget was written. But what would the conversion rate be, if this widget didn’t get the same level of press on a site like Lifehacker? Here is a 30-day graph over the same timeperiod as the one above.
Around June 10th, I added a mini-message to Days Since, advertising the Days Until widget. I didn’t know what kind of conversion ratio would happen — but these are clearly related and complementary things, so it turned out to be surprisingly high — today, it appears that approx 25% of Days Since users became users of the Days Until widget.
Between Days Since and Days Until, there has been about 13,000 unique users of the two widgets so far in this first month. Some startups would kill for that level of unique users, but it’s just getting interesting here for the widget world.
So where does this go from here? The level of usage so far makes me feel good that the relatively small investment of time is delivering value to the world — a few thousand people are finding it useful, and there’s been some really kind comments on the blog and in email.
From a business model perspective, there isn’t a direct one yet. By showing what’s possible, and what Leancode is capable of, it could generate some leads (particularly from companies which want to create a closer connection with customers by providing widgets that tie into their products or services). And you could imagine creating a portfolio of time management widgets, some of which are higher-value and could have premium versions.
But, for now, this is just a fun and interesting experiment.