An ‘unfinished’ transaction is when an order ‘has incomplete/delayed/invalid payment details’. For example a payment not completed after being flagged (correctly or incorrectly) as fradulent will be marked ‘unfinished’. Recently I have been getting a lot more ‘unfinished’ transactions than usual through my main payment processor, Verifone. This seemed to be particularly for people ordering from the UK.
The brown bars show the ‘unfinished’ transaction rate for all countries. The blue bars show the ‘unfinished’ transaction rate for the UK. So my suspicions were correct – there has been a huge jump in ‘unfinished’ UK transactions. In March and April the number of unfinished transaction is about 10x what I would expect historically.
Some of these lost sales I am able to recover by emailing them and sending a Stripe payment link. But it isn’t ideal, as it is a hassle for me, and the customer and Stripe doesn’t handle the tax. But many of these sales are just lost for good.
I emailed some of the prospective customers with unfinished transactions. Here are a couple of responses I got:
“Hi my bank tell me that you are not set up with the new security banking system. That is why my payment is not going through.”
“I was told to ring my bank to ask why the payment was denied. I spent ages waiting for [my bank] to answer the phone and had to answer goodness knows how many security questions before they were able to tell me that the payment company had not updated their software to be on Visa’s list of acceptable people to pay. Something to do with preventing fraud.”
What is going on Verifone? Why has my ‘unfinished’ rate for UK customers sky rocketed? Is it going to be fixed soon? This is costing me time and money. Quite a lot of money. Is anyone else seeing the same thing?
I emailed Verifone on the 11th of March to ask what is going on. I am still awaiting a substantive reponse from Verifone, over a month later. It isn’t the first time I’ve had to send several follow-up emails and wait weeks for a response. Verifone support response times are glacial. Unfortunately great little payment processing companies frequently get bought and become not-so great large payment processing companies. Back when they were Avangate, you would often get a reponse on the same day. I miss those days.
** Update 10-Jun-2022 **
Things got even worse in May, with some 30% of UK customer transactions failings. I kept on at Verifone and I finally got an email on 23-May-2022:
“Thank you for the patience you have shown us during the investigation. Our development team has resolved the described issue and released the fix into the production environment. We have tested it and confirm that the fix is working as intended.”
The rejection rate then went very quickly back to normal. When I asked what the problem had been I was told:
“There was a setup issue with the GBP payment terminal. Our engineers identified and fixed it.”
So I am glad it is fixed. But it took from 11-Mar, when I first reported it, to 23-May, when it was reported fixed. It cost me a lot of time and and money. It must have cost Verifone a *lot* more, Possibly millions in commission for an operation of their scale. You would think they would have spotted and fixed something like this very quickly. But apparently not.
 I was originally with Avangate, who merged with 2Checkout and then were bought by Verifone.
If you want to find out how to do something, such as do a mail merge in Word or fix a leaky valve on a radiator, where do you look first? Probably Youtube. Videos are an excellent way to explain something. More bandwidth than text and more scaleable than a 1-to-1 demo.
I’ve done explainer videos for all 3 of my products. But I found it a real struggle. I would write a script and then try to read the script and do the screencast at the same time and do it all in one take. I would stutter and stumble and it would take multiple attempts. It took ages and results were passable at best. I got some better software to edit the stumbles out, so I didn’t have to do it in one go. But it still took me a fair few attempts and quite a bit of editing. It became one of my least favourite things to do and so I did less and less of it.
Recently, I came across these slides on video by Christian Genco. These and subsequent Twitter exchanges with Christian convinced me that I should stop being a perfectionist about video and just start cranking them out on the grounds that a ‘good enough’ video is better than no video at all (‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’) and I would get better at it over time. As Stalin supposedly said “Quantity has a quality all of it’s own”.
So I have ditched the scripts and the perfectionism and I’ve managed to create 13 short Easy Data Transform explainer videos in the last week or so. And I am getting faster at it and (hopefully) a bit more polished. I’m definitely not an expert on this (and probably never will be) but here are some tips I have picked up along the way:
Get some decent software. I use Camtasia on Windows and it seems pretty good.
Try to talk slower.
Try to sound upbeat (not easy if you are British and could voice double for Eeyore).
Try not to move the mouse and talk at the same time. This makes editing a lot easier. Some people like to do the audio and the visual separately, but that seems like too much hassle.
If you stumble, just take a deep breath, say it again and then edit the stumble out later.
Get a reasonable mic. I have a snowball mic on a cantilevered stand. I covered it with a thin cloth to try to reduce pops.
The occasional ‘um’ is fine.
Have a checklist of things to do for each video, so you don’t forget anything (such as disabling your phrase expander software or muting the phone).
I’m lucky to have a very quiet office, so I don’t have much background noise to contend with.
Using Camtasia I can easily add intos and outros, edit out stumbles and add various effects, such a mouse position highlighting and movement smoothing. I just File>Save as the previous project so that I don’t have to re-add the intro and outro. Unsurprisingly, Camtasia have lots of explainer videos. I wish there was a way to automatically ‘ripple delete’ any sections where there is no audio and no mouse movement (if there is, I haven’t found it). Some people recommend descript.com. It looks interesting, but I haven’t tried it.
I did an A/B test of recordings with my Senheiser headset mic against my Snowball mic and the consensus was that the headset was ok but the the Snowball mic sound quality was better.
Some people prefer to use synthetic voices, instead of their own voice. While these synthetic voices have improved a lot, they never sound quite right to me. Also it must be time consuming to type out all the text. Or you can pay to have a professional voiceover done, but this is surprisingly expensive (around $100 per minute, last time I checked) and almost certainly more time consuming than doing it yourself.
Some people aren’t confident about speaking on videos because they are not native speakers of that language and have an accent. Personally accents don’t bother me at all. In fact I like hearing English spoken with a foreign accent, as long as I can understand it. Also I think there is an authenticity to hearing a creator talk about their product in their own voice.
I’m not a big fan of music on explainer videos, so I don’t add any.
I let Youtube generate automatic captions for people that want them (which could be people in busy offices and on trains and planes, as well as the hearing impaired). They aren’t perfect, but they are good enough.
My videos are aimed at least as much at finding new users as helping existing users. So I make sure I research keyword terms (mostly in Google Adwords) before I decide which videos to make and what to title them. Currently I am targetting very specific keyword searches, such as How to convert CSV to Markdown. Easy Data Transform can do a lot more than just format conversion, but from an SEO point of view it is better to target the phrases that people are actually searching for.
I upload the videos as 1080P (1920 x 1080 pixels) on to the Easy Data Transform Youtube channel and onto my screencast.com account (which I pay a yearly fee for). I then embed the screencast.com videos on relevant easydatatransform.com pages using IFRAME embed codes created by screencast.com. I don’t use the Youtube videos on my website, because I don’t want people to be distracted by Youtube ads and ‘you may also like’ recommendations. They might be showing a competitor! I don’t host the videos on the website itsself as I worry that might slow down the website. I also link to the videos in screencast.com from my help documentation, as appropriate.
Some people like to embed video of themselves in screencasts, in the hope of making it more engaging. But personally I want people to concentrate on my software, rather than being distracted by the horror of my face. And not having to comb my hair or look smart was part of what got me into running my own software business.
In the next few months I will be checking my analytics to see how many views these videos get and whether they increase the time on page and reduce the bounce rate.
If you can spare a few seconds to go to my Youtube page and ‘like’ a video ot two or subscribe, that would be a big help!
Note that some of the above doesn’t apply when you are creating a demo video for your home page, rather than an explainer video. Your main demo video should be slick and polished.
Easy Data Transform and Hyper Plan Professional edition are both on sale for 25% off at Winterfest 2021. There is also some other great products from other small vendors on sale, including Tinderbox, Scrivener and Devonthink. Some of the software is Mac only, but Easy Data Transform and Hyper Plan are available for both Mac and Windows (one license covers both). Sale ends 11th January.
This is a guest post from fellow software developer, Simon Kravis.
Few developers would choose their development platform on the merits of their respective Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) but it happens that applications developed in Windows need to be made available on the Mac platform.
There are many environments offering cross-platform (Mac, Windows and sometimes Android) functionality, but close inspection shows that they all have limitations. Visual Studio (the native Windows IDE) can produce apps which will run on a Mac using .Net Core – but only if they are command line apps on Windows. Other environments (like Xamarin) do support interfaces, but only involving simple controls like text boxes or drop-downs. There are other cross-platform IDEs (such as Qt) which offer better graphics support, but they are not cheap and the extent of their support is not evident. If you need functionality such as computer vision, there seems to be no alternative to creating a separate code base for the Mac. Once you start on this path it becomes obvious that Macs handle graphics (and interfaces) very differently from Windows.
Macs have evolved rather more than PCs over the decades: they abandoned their proprietary Mac operating system in favour of UNIX in 1999, adopting the NeXTSTEP platform created by NeXT. Apple originally used PowerPC chips, replacing them with Intel Core processors in 2006, and they are currently transitioning to RISC chips. The Mac NeXTSTEP programming language was Objective C, developed in the 1980s and this is still supported, although the modern Swift language was introduced in 2014, and the Xcode IDE appeared in 2003. Xcode is free, even for teams. It uses the Cocoa API, which is accessible from other environments. The current release (MacOS 13.0) supports both Objective-C and Swift and is also used for developing iPhone and iPad apps. Mac operating systems since Catalina (released in 2019) are 64-bit only. Xcode can only develop apps for Apple operating systems, notably iOS, which powers the iPhone. Most of the web questions and examples relate to iOS rather than MacOS. MacOS uses different frameworks from iOS, so some functions used in iOS are not available in MacOS, or have different parameters.
The Windows IDE (Visual Studio) dates from 1997, when it bundled together Visual Basic, Visual Fox Pro and Visual Source Safe and Visual C++. It has an open architecture based on plug-ins and supports 36 different programming languages, but the major ones are C#, VB.Net and C++. Visual Studio can develop apps for any platform via the .NetCore framework, but capability for non-Windows platforms is limited. The Community edition is free, and has almost all the functionality of paid versions.
Both Visual Studio and Xcode are highly complex applications. They both have graphical interface builders where controls are dragged from a library onto a form. Each application has a vocal supporters and detractors. My experience comes from about 5 years with Visual Studio developing C# applications. Before this I worked with Visual Basic for Applications in Microsoft Access, so I am well-versed in the Microsoft way of doing things.
Like most complex applications, Visual Studio and Xcode each have plenty of bugs, often producing completely unhelpful error messages. Reporting an Xcode bug through standard channels resulted in … nothing. Not even an automated message saying “Thank you for feedback. It will be used to improve future versions”. I haven’t even tried to report a Visual Studio bug, but I suspect that the much larger user base for Visual Studio will mean that workarounds are more readily available, even if the giant ship of Microsoft takes years to respond.
Moving to the Mac and Xcode for development was a shock as I found I didn’t know how to do the most basic things. String manipulation (used in most applications) in Objective C is highly verbose compared to C#. Google was invaluable for finding answers – mostly they were from Stack Overflow, but often from 10 or more years ago, sometimes from Apple Developer Forums. As Xcode has changed considerably since then, answers often had to be adjusted before they could be used. Another problem is that functionality once provided externally has since been incorporated into Cocoa, so attempts to find a current version of a component (or framework as they called in Cocoa) are often unsuccessful.
MacOS provides more native functionality than Windows. Features such as computer vision and PDF generation are included in MacOS, rather than requiring the use of 3rd party components, which may not as robust as desired, and may require a license for commercial use. However, documentation of MacOS functionality, if present at all, was rarely useful. A few times I asked questions on Stack Overflow which attracted the ire of the Mac gurus for either through having obvious (to them) answers or through not conforming to the forum guidelines (in their opinion). However, the integration of NuGet with Visual Studio provides easy access to the massive number of 3rd party libraries available for .Net on Windows.
The model-view-controller paradigm used on the Mac took some getting used to, as did the design of the main Xcode screen. Sometimes a useful display would disappear and I had difficulty in finding it how to bring it back. I often had to resort to retrieving earlier versions from the excellent Time Machine backup. Form design is similar on both platforms – dragging and dropping components from a library. Both Xcode and Visual Studio have bugs, as would be expected for such complex apps. Events from components are generated automatically in Windows, but have to be defined on the Mac (as Actions). References to the component you’ve added also need to be defined on the Mac (as Outlets) and are not a property of the component, whereas on Windows they are.
The Xcode environment provides only basic facilities from scratch: if you need to do something more sophisticated you’ll have to Google around to find out how. Once you know – it’s easy, but the learning curve for Xcode is much higher than for Visual Studio.
Rather than starting from scratch with the Mac version of my Caption Pro app, which uses local computer vision functionality to detect multiple photos, changes image dimensions and adds text to images, I found an existing open-source project on GitHub with similar basic functionality. This dated from 7 years ago and used Objective-C, so that was the language I opted for. An immediate handicap was that many of the answers I found to my questions used Swift in their example code, which is not interconvertible with Objective-C in the way that C# and VB.Net are. iOS applications for the iPhone (which are most common) use different frameworks from Mac apps, and routines in them sometimes have completely different syntax.
The user interfaces for the Mac and Windows versions look quite different, as shown below. There are some basic differences – menus appear separately to the application window on the Mac and are locked to the top of the screen, whereas Windows menus are part of the application screen. Toolbars offer access to common functionality on the Mac. Differences also arise from the fact the Mac application was adapted from existing code rather than created from scratch.
Open-source examples (often from GitHub) are useful, but rarely work out-of-the- box. Sometimes the modifications need are minor – like defining the development team- but sometimes it’s not possible to get them to build in a current version of Xcode.
Debugging on Xcode is frustrating – the call stack frequently contains assembler (which is perhaps why app performance tends to be better on Macs), and the debug variables window does not list all relevant variable values. Variable types may not be correct – Boolean values may appear as dates, and sometimes variables cannot even be evaluated by po (print out) statements. Printing out structure variables may show nothing. Despite the generally superior performance of Mac apps, building apps in Xcode appears to be much slower than in Visual Studio on similar vintage machines, and after code stops at a breakpoint, it may take a long time before the variables window is filled. Deployment of Mac apps can still be done on an ad-hoc basis, but you have to register as an Apple Developer to avoid blockages in installation arising from being an ‘untrusted source’. Bypassing these blockages is more than a matter of clicking “Install anyway” so it’s hard to avoid forking out US$100 per year for registration. Windows has similar blockages, which can be bypassed with a code-signing certificate. These certificates are available from many vendors, and are slightly cheaper than Apple developer registration, but the process of obtaining one may be very involved.
Ad-hoc deployment is somewhat easier on the Mac than on Windows, but the method of doing it via Archive generation is anything but obvious. Mac applications are actually disk images and applications keep all of relevant files in a folder. This makes uninstallation a matter of dragging the application icon into the recycle bin, a far simpler process than on Windows. dmg files are not recognized by IIS web servers (and may not be by Apache either), so unless the file type is registered, download from a web site will not be possible.
Apple pioneered the App Store for iPhones (it is the only way in which iPhone apps can be installed) and Mac apps can also be put there. Apple takes a commission of 30% (or 15% if you are a small company) and they review all apps before adding them. Passing the review process may be a lngthy process, as not all problems are detected in a review cycle. Fixing these issues and resubmitting may result in further problems coming to light. The review process may also be somewhat arbitrary. One App Store app presented an interface in German by default. English was available as Preferences option, but only after guessing where the Preferences option was located. App Store apps operate within a sandbox, which places restrictions on filesystem operations. Whether App Store deployment makes economic sense depends on the nature of the app, its market and price structure. Its advantages are that it targets the 16% of desktop users who use Macs, and streamlines installation (and payment, if applicable). The App Store supports ‘freemium’ pricing, where additional features are made available to paying users, but apps with free trial periods are shown as being free but with ‘in-app purchases’, which annoys some users.
Windows deployment can use .msi files, which have been around for decades, but are not easily installed by non-admin users. Self-extracting executables are more tractable, but 3rd party tools have to be used to create them. Windows 10 introduced Universal Windows Programs, which are easier to install and can be placed in the Microsoft Store, which operates in a similar way to the Apple App store, but for Windows desktops and tablets.
A key question which is very difficult to answer is “How long will it take me to convert my Windows app to run on a Mac?” Factors affecting this are app complexity, functionality and programmer skill. The time between starting work on the Mac app and first deploying it on the company web site was about 3 months, but the amount of time spent on the project each day varied between zero and 3 or 4 hours. If you are a paid resource, then the cost of a cross-platform IDE may be justified, but the requirement for local computer vision functionality added a great deal of complexity to my requirements, which is one reason why I opted for a separate code base. Substantial evaluation would be required before deciding if a cross-platform environment could support any required functionality.
Simon Kravis runs Aleka Consulting, a small software and consultancy company in Canberra, Australia specializing in information management and offering a number of software products. He has mainly developed scientific and engineering programs, starting in the era of paper tape.
I started selling software online 16 years ago. Until this year I never had a forum for any of my products. I handled customer support for PerfectTablePlan and Hyper Plan by email and kept customers up-to-date with an opt-in email newsletter. But I rethought this position with my latest product, Easy Data Transform and started a forum at forum.easydatatransform.com in December 2020.
My ISP offered various forum software packages, but I really wanted Discourse, as I consider it head and shoulders above all the other forum software I have interacted with as a user (even if I find the badge system a bit patronising). I didn’t want the hassle of setting up and patching a Discourse server, so created the forum through www.communiteq.com (previously discoursehosting.com). It was suprisingly easy to set-up. And it gives the option to export everything, in case I want to part ways with them. The sheer number of options in Discourse are quite daunting, but I stuck with the defaults for the most part.
Some people use Facebook Groups for their product forums. Ugh. You have almost no control of such a forum. Facebook could even be showing ads for your competitors on your forums. Or they could just decide to shut you down and delete all the content. That is before we get on to the fact that Facebook make their money monetising hatred and abusing our privacy at an industrial scale. No thanks.
The advantages of a forum are:
Letting customers talk to each other, and post content helps to create a community around the product. Which, in turn, can add a lot of value to your product.
Customers can help each other with support questions. Sometimes they will answer before you are able to or will give a different perspective. Or even give a better answer.
If a customer asks a question that has already been asked, you can send them a link to the appropriate forum page.
It is a quick and easy channel to communicate with customers. I can post a link to a new snapshot release in a few minutes. This is much quicker than sending out an email newsletter. It is also more interactive as customers can respond on the forum and see each other’s responses.
A lively forum is ‘social proof’ that your product is worth buying.
A forum with lots of content should have a large SEO footprint.
The disadvantages of a forum are:
The time to maintain it. A forum that is broken or full of spam and unanswered questions is worse than no forum.
Disgruntled customers potentially airing their grievances in public.
The cost of the forum.
An empty forum looks bad.
Bad actors can be a pain. For example, people posting links to spam or competing products.
It probably only takes me 1-2 hours per week to post on the forum at present. Some of that is time I would have spent answering support emails. If that rises substantially then I may have to delegate it.
I try very hard to provide a good product, with good support and haven’t had any issues with negativity, so far. But I know from my experiences moderating Joel Spolsky’s Business of Software forum that moderating a busy forum can be tricky, time-consuming and emotionally draining.
The cost of the forum is currently around $20 per month, so pretty low. That may climb, but hopefully sales will be climbing as well.
I was a bit worried about whether the forum was going to look empty. I warned customers that the forum was an experiment and would be closed if there wasn’t enough activity, to manage their expectations. I also created a ‘sock puppet’ account and ‘seeded’ the forum with a few support questions that I had been previously asked by email (with the permission of those that asked) and then posted answers. But I only did this a handful of times and then the forum started to take off.
I have heard stories of people getting 1000+ spam posts a day on their forum. But I haven’t had any issues with bad actors, so far. I’m not sure how much of that is down to Discourse and how much of it is down to luck. But, no doubt issues will occur at some point.
I still have my product newsletter, which I send out every few weeks when there is a new production release.
Overall I am pretty happy with how the forum is going. Should you have a forum for your product? As always, it depends. I think you should consider it if:
Your customer base isn’t tiny.
You want to interact with your customers and get feedback. This might be less the case with mature products.
You have the time and energy to police and maintain it.
Your product is relatively open ended or complex. For example, if your product just checks whether website are up or down, there is probably a very limited amount you can discuss.
The colours used in Easy Data Transform make no difference to the output. But the colours are an important part of a user interface, especially when you using a tool for significant amounts of time. First impressions of the user interface are also important from a commercial point of view.
But colour is a very personal thing. Some people are colour-blind. Some people prefer light palettes and others dark palettes. Some people like lots of contrast and other don’t. So I am going to allow the user to fully customize the Center pane colours in Easy Data Transform.
I also want to include some standard colour schemes, to get people started. Looking around at other software it seems that the ‘modern’ trend is for pastel colours, invisible borders and subtle shadows. This looks lovely, but it is a bit low contrast for my tired old eyes. So I have tried to create a range of designs in that hope that everyone will like at least one. Below are the standard schemes I have come up with so far. They all stick with the convention pink=input, blue=transform, green=output.
Which is your favourite (click the images to enlarge).
Is there a tool that you use day to day that has particular nice colour scheme?
I hope to also add an optional dark theme for the rest of the UI in due course (Qt allowing).
I released v1.1.0 of Easy Data Transform this week. It is a big upgrade, with some major new features.
There is a new Lookup transform. This allows you to lookup values for one dataset in another dataset. For example, if you have a dataset with a column for country code and another dataset with columns for the country code and tax rate, you can look up the tax rate by country code.
Previously you could only output your data in Excel and delimited text formats (including CSV and TSV). The new release also adds output to JSON, HTML, Markdown, vCard, YAML and XML formats.
I have improved the speed of the Join transform significantly using hashing. This makes a big difference with large datasets.
To save time, Easy Data Transform guesses the likely columns you want to use as keys when you Join, Intersect, Lookup or Subtract two datasets. For example if 2 datasets both have colummns called ‘ID’ with lots of unique values that are common to both columns, it will choose those two columns as the default key columns. I have improved the heuristic used to set the default columns.
You can now add comments to input, transform and output nodes as a note to a colleague or your future self.
You can now snap your input, transform and output nodes to a grid, so you can keep your layout all lovely and neat.
I have also made some bug fixes and minor improvements.
I finally released a paid version of Easy Data Transform today, for both Windows and Mac. I am very pleased with how it has turned out. Obviously it is only v1.0.0, so there is plenty of additional features I could add, including:
Support for JSON, XML, SQLite input/output
A 64 bit version for Windows
A Linux version
But I need to listen carefully to prospective customers to decide which additional features to prioritize in future releases. It might be something I haven’t even thought of.
The product has a fully-functional 7 (non-consecutive) day free trial. I think that is enough for prospective customers to decide if it does what they need. I also have a 60 day money-back guarantee.
I have decided to go with a subscription model: $99 / €90 / £75 + tax per person per year. Which covers up to 3 computers. At this price point I can afford some paid promotion and to provide a decent level of support. I am not offering a monthly subscription, as I don’t really want people who are going to pay for 1 month (to do their annual TPS reports) and then cancel.
Have you got some data you need to merge, clean, reformat or de-dupe? Give it a try. You can get a 25% discount if you buy a subscription by the 27th December 2019 using this link.
I am continuing to work on my new product, Easy Data Transform. I have thrown together a 3 minute video to give an idea of what it is capable of.
You can download Easy Data Transform for Windows or Mac here. The beta is completely free, but time-limited (I do plan to start charging at some point). Please try it and let me know what you think.
I don’t really enjoy doing screencasts or voiceovers. If you can recommend someone who does slick screencasts and voiceovers (or who can polish my amateur attempts), please feel free to give them a plug in the comments.
I have been furiously coding a new product. Easy Data Transform. It is a Windows and Mac tool for transforming table and list data from one form to another. Joining, splitting, reformatting, filtering, sorting etc.
I have been thinking about this product idea for years. In fact I threw together a janky prototype back in 2008. It allows you to perform various operations on a pair of lists.
I used this prototype for jobs such as creating a list of emails of people who had bought Perfect Table Plan v5, but hadn’t upgraded to v6 yet. It worked. But it wasn’t very good. The biggest annoyance was that each operation obliterated everything that came before. Which made it very easy to lose track of where you had got to. And there was no repeatability. It was also limited to lists and it became clear that I really needed something that could also handle tabular data. I never released it.
But the idea has been running as a background process in my brain for 11 years since. And I think I have come up with a much better design in that time. Finally I had mature, stable versions of my Perfect Table Plan and Hyper Plan products out, so I decided to go for it. I am really pleased with how it has turned out so far.
If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0 you didn’t release it early enough. And so I have cut lots of corners to get this first public version out. The documentation is only part written. I created the application icon myself in 10 minutes. There is no licensing. The GUI is lacking polish. The website would make a designer cry. But the software seems fairly robust. My 13 year old son wasn’t able to crash it after 10 minutes of trying, despite financial incentives to do so.
I did some market research and spoke to some people who knew a bit about this market. But I deliberately didn’t look closely at any competing products, as I didn’t want to be mentally restricted by what others have done. For better or worse, I want to blaze my own trail. Copying other people’s stuff is a zero-sum game with no net benefit to society.
Most of the things that Easy Data Transform you can do, you can also do in Excel or SQL. My claim is that it is much quicker, easier and less error prone to do in Easy Data Transform. No programming or scripting required. I am hoping that people will be able to start using it within a couple of minutes of downloading it (I plan to do lots of usability testing). Will people pay for that? I hope so. I’m not aiming it at programmers. Perish the thought.
Naming is hard. I came up with some 70 names. Things like ‘Data Hero’, ‘Transform Flow’, ‘Transmogrify’ and ‘Data Rapture’. But the domains were taken, people I asked hated them or there was an existing service or product with that name. So I ended up with Easy Data Transform. It does what it says on the tin.
Why desktop? Surely no-one is writing new desktop apps in 2019? I believe a desktop solution has some real advantages in this market. The biggest ones are:
You don’t need to load your (potentially highly sensitive) data on to a third party server.
Not having to upload and download (potentially very large) data sets makes it much more responsive.
Easy Data Transform is currently free for anyone to use. You can get it from the super-minimalist easydatatransform.com website. The current 0.9.0 version expires on the 4th August 2019. You will then be able to get another free version. Once the product is mature enough, and if I am convinced there is enough demand, I will release a paid version. The free beta will probably last several months. Please try it and let me know how you get on. I am particularly interested to get feedback from anyone using it for real day-to-day tasks.
Of course the real challenge is always marketing. How to get noticed amongst many competing products. As well as helping to improve the product I am hoping that this extended beta will also help me to get some traction and better understand the market. For example, what price to charge and what trial model to use. Watch this space.