How & Why of ‘fachak.com’

As a relatively new web entrepreneur, one question that i get asked a lot – Why Fachak.com … or how fachak.com … and/or many variations of same question.

Thought would walk through the thought process we had at time of our choosing (good or bad) …

A .com

We were very clear right at the outstart that whatever domain name we choose, it has to be a .com … i always use ctrl + enter and i am sure many more people do so … hence i always ended up typing  slideshare.com instead of slideshare.net before I reached the actual site.

Moreover, I have seen a lot of friends assuming by default that the site they are viewing is a .com … so while they would remember ‘your-domain-name’ out of ‘your-domain-name.xyz’ they would in all probability type in your-domain-name.com … instead of whatever it was.

10 dollars or less

If you are rich and have tonnes of money, you may as well spend much more … there is a sprawling domain market where can get you great domain names for millions.

But this was never even a consideration for us … not even a single thought was spared on spending anything more than 10 dollars on domain name … we had limited resources and we would be better off spending them elsewhere.

Easy to pronounce

Ever wondered what makes google or yahoo or ebay sound so good …  may be its because they are  both bisyllables … amazon, orkut are tri syllables but still great domain names … facebook, myspace have four syllables each … add anything more and it becomes almost unpronounceable … try bruceclay.com … does that give your tongue some curls …

So our domain had to be limited to two or max three syllables. Fachak.com depending upon which side you stand on …  is either a bi or at max a tri syllable. And whatever is the no of syllables, its easy to pronounce.

Difficult to mistype

Ever noticed how you almost never misspell while typing google or facebook … now try wakoopa … how many times do you mistype that out of 100 times … is it a significant no … most probably yes … why … because its easier to type ‘g’ than it is to type ‘w’ … its easier to type ‘o’ than it is to type ‘p’ … All the letters in google – g,o,l,e or in facebook – f,a,c,e,b,o,k are at relatively easier words to type in a qwerty keyboard. Similarly, all the letters in fachak – f,a,c,h,k are at relatively easy fingertips.

Hard to misspell

If you are a startup, a significant lot of marketing would happen by word of mouth … probably on those water cooler conversations … so try misspell that domain name thats lingering in your mind since last night … is it possible to misspell it … if the answer is yes, be sure a lot of people would do it.

In fact, thats a problem for us too … some users have reported that they  typed in facha.com the first time they tried to reach fachak.com … so thats one thing we need to work on in our communcation …

A positive or no meaning…

If you were lucky, you were yahoo … but that was 1995 … and for rest of us are mere mortals … words with positive association that would still satisfy other guidelines are not so easily available … so go the sony way … coin a word that carries no meaning .. and do a lot of marketing to give it a meaning …

That was the route we followed with Fachak. Although, fachak signifies sound of splash in  native Hindi …. in most other languages its an unknown word.

& finally ‘The Rule’ – No other rule is indispensable

The most important guideline – none of above guidelines is indispensable … if you find a name  that’s great in some areas but lacks in one or two, you may as well go ahead with it … ultimately its your baby … if you feel its right choice, go ahead right away.

In fact, Fachak was not a result of following these guidelines strictly but more a result of  a creative streak inspired by an advertisement in a comic book. We had tried about 500 keywords while searching for available domain names – all the while trying permutations on words with positive meanings – cool, trendy, hip … et al … when I finally found something that was available. When we crosschecked fachak against the guidelines we had formed, it fitted the bill perfectly … or almost perfectly 🙂

Finally, do give your domain name about 3-4 weeks to grow on you, before you finally accept it or reject it … especially with names that carry no meaning at all …

It took my team almost 3 weeks, before all of us really started liking Fachak.com … before that it was yet another idea thrown in by a crazy entrepreneur 😉

Fachak & MVP get more coverage !

Some more coverage … this time from Indian blogs 🙂

http://www.pluggd.in/2008/09/morpheus-ventures-new-batch-of-startups

http://www.watblog.com/2008/09/11/morpheus-ventures-announces-7-new-startups-under-its-y-combinator-model/

http://www.startupdunia.com/2008/09/10/morpheus-venture-partners-second-batch-of-companies/

http://news.digimouth.com/generic-news/morpheus-funds-7-indian-startups.html

http://www.alootechie.com/content/morpheus-venture-partners-selects-7-startups-mentoring

Design – What works, what doesn’t – Basics

Working at a startup would teach you many things. A founder is supposed to don many hats and simultaneously handle many jobs. Unlike well established companies, where you always have a specialized team at your disposal for each big or small task, a typical startup would never afford such liberties. It’s always the one man show where each founder is playing multiple roles of the programmer, the designer, the marketer & the financier.

When we first contemplated Fachak, we were lucky to have partners who were from different backgrounds. All of us had skills that complimented those of others and hence we thought that there will be well defined responsibilities from day one. But so I thought.

Initially, as we thought, my major contributions were supposed to be in marketing & product strategy as those were the parts i had some experience at … but a start up is bound to surprise you with the vocations it has in store for you. As it folded out, soon after we started, I found myself working closely and all most full time on design – first with Jasginder and now with Jetin. I also had luck of interacting with Nandini  recently and she brought some completely different user behavior insights.

During course of designing for Fachak, we did a lot of mistakes. All of us were inexperienced and learnt a new thing everyday. There were a lot of hit and trials and we got to know a lot of things the hard way.  Looking back, we went through a lot of cycles.  I have tried to condense what all i have learnt about good design in these 5 observations:

KISS your design

Good design should be about simplicity. Any design team would always have a zillion choices but more often than not, what is best is also the simplest of the choices. Make sure that design doesn’t make the users think; as their primary aim of being at your website is not to enjoy the design but to use the website. Strive for the KISS (Keep it simple stupid).

Open your PSD’s and see what all places there is a choice between effectiveness and design. Remove all unnecessary components without sacrificing effectiveness. See if there are simpler methods with design to achieve the same results. Iterate this process a few times. What you would get at the end would be much better than what you started with.

Nutshell – A great design should be almost invisible.

‘Design is not an art’ 

Your design team members are working 24 by 7 on your project with all their hearts into it. It’s but natural that some emotional connections would take roots. It’s very humane to feel attached with your creations and design is no different. Only that it’s an ambush a good design team can’t afford.

Design is not an art, it’s not a form of personal expression. It’s all about users. It doesn’t matter what you think, what matters is what users think. Give users what they want. Even if it means scrapping what you have worked on for past 4 months and starting from scratch, do it. Usability and not design is the primary factor behind success or failure of a website. So if it’s not usable, it may as well not exist.

Nutshell – A design is always about solving problems and if its not solving what’s intended, scrub it, stash it, slice it … do whatever but ensure that it starts solving what its supposed to solve.

Lead your user around 

A great design should be able to lead the user’s eye around the screen to the information he wants to get. So decide what the important parts of your website are from a user perspective and decide their visual weights in your final design.

For example, in Fachak, the first thing a user  want is to know where he is … so he should see our logo. Then, of course, the most important thing for him would be content, so our design should lead him to what he is here for. After he had a look at the content, he may wish to vote or share the content and hence our design should lead him to those options, uniformly, easily and without hiccups.

Typical web users don’t read, they scan or at worst they skim. They use websites in glances. Back to Fachak’s example, our design has to ensure that logo gets the first glance. So it gets a big chunk on the top left. Content gets a warm white space covering most of user screen space, hence making it easy for the user to focus there … voting and sharing options get bold colors and icons to capture user attention after he has seen content.

Nutshell – Discover the most valuable actions for your users and place them at the most valuable places in your website.

Maintain Consistency

Design is like a symphony. Even if one tone is bad, it spoils the whole experience. Everything has to be orchestrated and has to be perfect. Similarly in design, everything has to be perfect. So what that means is: match everything – headings, colors, buttons, photos, icons. Make sure that there is one unifying and coherent theme throughout the website. Make sure that all the changes that you did during later iterations of your website are reflected in pages that were frozen weeks back. Make sure that while jumping from one page to another, user still feels the part of same website. Make sure that there is no inconsistency anywhere in your design.

Nutshell – Inconsistencies lower the quality perception and hence lower the user experience.

Test Early, Test Often 

This is one lesson we have learnt the hard way at Fachak. We waited for Fachak’s design to be finished before showing it to the outside world. And when we first showed it, feedback surprised us. We were expecting the feedback to be very positive and when it wasn’t so it bit us. big time We had to go back to drawing board and it took us quite some time to get it right again.

Don’t stay in shell. Start taking user feedback as soon as you have something to show. Complete your logo and show it to your friends. Do your first cut and get some feedback. After a team has worked on a design for few weeks, its almost impossible for them to observe it from a fresh perspective. Hence  get some people who were previously unexposed to your design. User feedback will always bring some new insights.

Nutshell – Design something, take feedback, fix it, take feedback, fix it again, take feedback.

I have started calling the above observations as C-Salt (pronounced as sea-salt) principle. Consistency, Simplicity, Art but NOT THE ART, Lead your users & Test your designs.

These were the few learnings that we had over last few months. With the expert consultancy we have now on board with us, I am sure there would be a lot more in future. C ya till then !

Positioning Path – Time to think beyond End Positioning?

Something I wrote more than two years back. Republishing it.

Cavincare for a lot of Indians is a household name. The originally Southern company that made its mark with Chic is now trying to expand its wings across…

‘Spinz’ the Talcum, Deo & Dab-on brand of Cavinkare is one such product which might become a significant business for the company. Few facts…

  1. 600 Crore talcum market,
  2. 55% market share for Ponds Dreamflower talc & Ponds dream flower magic.
  3. J&J is the second guy in market with 10% share (near domination in kid powders)
The respective positionings of all players as espoused via their respective TVC’s

Brand

Target Segment

Positioning Path

Ultimate Positioning

Ponds DFT

Middle-Aged Women

Freshness

Confidence in social interactions

Ponds Magic

Young Women

Fragrance

Attraction of Opposite Sex

Spinz

Teenagers

Fragrance

Life Non Stop Fun

As per marketing team of Cavinkare at IIMB workshop, they wanted to establish Spinz as a brand that is associated with fun, a positioning that is not taken by anybody in the talcum market. The marketing team decided upon this positioning after a lot of consumer research and was pretty confident about its success.

In blind tests for better fragrance, the competition was beaten hands down. Same was the case with their innovative packaging. Response from market was good. Great going till here… But consumers still were not buying the product (3% market share… growth rates were good, but with that kind of differentiated positioning, the potential was much higher), and the marketing team was left wondering what went wrong.

Well this is a typical case of undifferentiated positioning path. While the final desired positioning is pretty clear and differentiated; the way TVC’s reach that path is not.

To make matters worse, the TVC’s of Spinz only remind you about the Ponds advertisements. They show males swarming the female model during most of the ad, and frankly the only difference I found in this advertisement when compared to Ponds Magic was the model they were using.

Also, the fragrance of Spinz in market is Rose and Lavendar, the two fragrances ponds is known for. So again no differentiation here.

They should change their positioning path to something else instead of fragrance. But then the investment in the fragrance had been huge. So may be, they can keep Fragrance as main idea and change the way the TVC’s are made. Spinz is pure fun and Ads should communicate that in a humorous and hip way.

Other thing they can do is to launch new fragrances in market, (Presumption is that a new teenager is a prosumer and will like to move beyond what has been on offer for years) and move beyond Rose and Lavendar.

Moving over, a major hiccup for the company has been the low market share of Spinz especially in North; possibly because of not that great S & D structure.

Now I don’t know much about inter company relations, but I see no conflicts between Cavinkare and ColPal, which might form a amazing set of channel collaborators. Albeit such stuff in actual boardrooms is a matter of fantasies.