Emails and Organisation (Servd, March 2020)

The world ended. Nearly.

The situation was a lot less stressful if you had only recently bought a pack a toilet roll, which I had, so I was able to get on with some Servd updates without having to worry about that particular form of rationing.

What I Did

I could see from the very early days of Servd being publicly accessible that users were often dropping off before they'd actually tried the majority of the platform's functionality. So I figured it would be a good idea to entice them back with some emails, sent one per day after registration, covering some of the platform's features and how to get started using it.

Setting up the framework for this was easy - I use EmailOctopus for my marketing campaign list management and they also offer an email automation feature so I got Servd plugged into their API.

The emails I created covered several topics:

  • A general greeting from myself, founder and master of the Servd universe
  • Bundles, what they are and why they're used
  • Tasks
  • Assets platform
  • Backup + Restore
  • Some other stuff...

The words contained in these emails would likely make even the most novice of copy-writers feel nauseous, but they're a first pass and can be improved later.

Honestly, Servd doesn't have a large enough set of registered users to draw any conclusions RE whether these emails have helped at all. They have a decent open rate and only one user has unsubscribed from them so I'm going to take that as a positive signal. In retrospect I should have included some sort of CTA link rather than just dumping some info on them and wishing them 'Good day!' 🎩

It's a good job iterative product improvement is trendy these days.

Away from emails the Servd dashboard underwent some organisational changes. The dashboard had grown organically as I had added and removed features on a weekly basis so it needed to be reorganised. This involved splitting some pages into sections with sub-pages and removing others entirely.

I also took the opportunity to change the level at which some settings where defined, for instance Static Cache Exceptions were previously defined at the project level, they are now defined per-environment within a project.

Because a job can never be simple I also took the opportunity to update a lot of styling. Tailwind makes that a piece of cake. So no longer are important buttons hidden inside unnecessary menus! Subheadings and buttons don't look like a child designed them any more! Perhaps that's still open to interpretation...

Lesson learned: I need to learn copy-writing or hire someone to do it. Performing tests to improve engagement when your sample size is so small feels pretty pointless in retrospect. A small audience requires needing to just trust your own judgement. Tailwind CSS is still great. Iterative product development is also great and saves me from trying to be a perfectionist which I have been guilty of in the past.

Search Rankings

I honestly haven't looked at these since I wrote the last Servd update post. Let's see where we stand...

Looks like the beginning of an exponential curve! They've had a bad rap recently, but in this case it's moderately reassuring. What's less reassuring is when filtering by the 'Craft CMS Hosting' search term.

It's as if Google wants me to keep churning out relevant content. Do they not know how busy I am trying to book food delivery slots?

Lesson learned: set aside tie to continually create content or hire someone else to do it. It's like everywhere I turn people want me to raise capital.

Preferred Hosting Provider?

I started talking to P&T about becoming a preferred hosting provider. I am not pinning a lot of hopes on this as the service has only been public for 3 months and although my 10s of customers all eager with praise, they are a limited sample size and P&T will likely want to wait a while before intertwining our reputations too much.

I believe this will ultimately be the growth tipping point for Servd as a niche hosting service. And it'll likely provide a boost to that sweet Google rankings nectar.

Lesson learned: I potentially have a Chicken and Egg problem to solve RE long-term growth. Potentially solvable with a hard marketing push once core features are live and tested.

April 2020 Plans

Shelter in place. Then finish building a couple of features which I believe will make Servd somewhere close to feature parity with traditional hosting. Namely:

  • Scheduled Tasks (AKA Cron Jobs)
  • Pseudo-CLI access

As I'm sure you're aware, being an avid reader of my prose, direct CLI access to projects within Servd's platform is a little difficult due to the inherent high-availability setup and also some security choices I made which actually make it quite difficult to get an SSH tunnel in through the front door. Not one to be beaten I've devised a solution which maintains that security but also allows arbitrary commands to be executed in the context of a project. The primary caveat being that these commands are executed non-interactively, so they run to completion and then you get sent the results afterwards.

Hopefully that'll cover the vast majority of use-cases, but I'm still pondering about CLI tasks that might take > 5 mins to run...

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