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From feature to product the free-mium way

Sometimes what looks like a feature can be a product in and of itself. A new application called Bounce illustrates the point.

Bounce in action
Bounce in action Screenshot by Dave Rosenberg

One of the struggles in developing software is figuring out which features are part of a bigger product and which ones may be products in and of themselves.

A case in point is Zurb, which makes the Notable application for Web site feedback. In June, Zurb launched a simplified version of Notable called Bounce, which it viewed as a demonstration of just one of Notable's features. Little did Zurb's team know that Bounce was not just a feature, but a new product that intrigued a broad user base.

Bounce saw these results:

  • The Bounce site went from zero to more than 30,000 links pointing to it in first seven days after launch.
  • Bounce went from zero to about 150 countries using the tool in first seven days after launch.
  • In its first month, Bounce made it to the No. 4 spot in Google search results for "bounce."

While these statistics will surely change over time, they are impressive. So what made this launch successful?

Zurb marketing head Dmitry Dragilev told me that the application itself features simple, immediate engagement and requires no sign-up or payment.

According to Dragilev, there are a number of reasons why companies should consider building sites that can become hooks into their larger products:

  • Turning a feature into a new product forces a company to make the product small, simple, and focused.
  • A "new product" is often a better story than an updated release to an existing product. Fundamentally it's open to a larger audience and offers you a chance to approach your old audience again.
  • Gradual engagement to paid products helps people learn how to use them before they buy them.

Bounce is a bit of a new spin on the free-mium model in which services are offered for free and people can pay to upgrade for more features. This try-before-you-buy approach has been very successful in games and Web apps.

The key to the success of these applications is product management--providing people with enough functionality to engage, but not enough to discourage them from paying for a bigger feature set.