In early 2021, we started talking about building a new tool at Buffer. We wanted to build a new feature to allow our customers to create beautiful micro sites easily. We wanted to create a simple, intuitive, and delightful experience. This new feature would be the first time we'd venture beyond focusing on purely social media tools in our 11-year history.
Start Page launched in October 2021. Since then, we've made a lot of improvements and have been closely tracking its performance.
In all honesty, we were a little embarrassed when the first version went live. (That's a common feeling if we are really embracing shipping early and often, right?) We made some pretty difficult trade-offs at the time and launched our early access without even supporting basic functionality like themes. Early adopters reading this might remember that all Start Pages created back then only had yellow buttons and no auto-save. 😛
Fast-forward seven months, and there are now thousands of different combinations to customize your page to express yourself and your brand. Load up Start Page today, and it greets you with templates to help you get set up. Each template differs based on what you're trying to accomplish. Plus, templates come packed with blocks, designs, and features to help your page shine. You'll see statistics and new blocks for YouTube videos and Spotify tracks. Soon, you'll even be able to create multiple Start Pages.
In this post, I'll share more about how Start Page has been performing, what's working, and what's next.
How has Start Page performed?
Today, just seven months after we launched, Start Pages has been seen by more than one million people worldwide. 💥
Here are some other statistics (good and bad) that showcase Start Page's overall performance:
- 12,700 Start Pages have been published, and 56.4 percent are active (meaning the page received more than two unique visits).
- We've seen Start Pages for non-profit organizations, small and medium businesses, fashion brands, artists, and creators who have opened our minds and amazed us with their creativity.
- We've seen Start Pages in English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, and almost every language that comes to mind.
- Start Pages have collectively received close to 3.5 million visits to date.
- Total traffic to Start Pages has grown four times since launch and has been growing on average 38 percent month-over-month. 🙀
You learn something new with every launch. Some things are expected, but other insights surprise you. Here are some of the most surprising insights we’ve stumbled upon since launching.
1. New users created the vast majority of Start Pages
- Brand-new Buffer users published 73 percent of Start Pages.
- Users who signed up between 2010 and 2020 created 17 percent of Start Pages.
Currently, we only support one Start Page per organization. We believe this is why many of our longer-term customers haven’t built a page. Agencies, for example, typically need to be able to create a Start Page for each of their customers. Some businesses also have multiple locations and need a Start Page for each of them. We took this feedback to heart and are happy to share that we will be supporting multiple Start Pages starting in July 2022. 😀
Supporting multiple Start Pages should lead to more of our existing customer base creating and publishing Start Pages. It will also allow new Buffer users to do much more with Start Page—creating a different Start Page for the variety of needs they might have.
- 10 percent of active Buffer users created a Start Page
One of our goals with this new product was to build an experience that adds more value to our product offering in general and more value for creators and customers using Buffer.
We measure success by determining whether our active customers are actively using the product. Ten percent of active Buffer users have created a Start Page, and we see this as an early sign of them finding value. That said, we'll be monitoring other metrics, such as how often these creators come back and keep using their Start Pages.
Shoutout to Maria Thomas, our Chief Product Officer, who dove into the data and found these insights!
What we've been working on
While building Start Page, we've tried to embrace shipping early and often.
Most companies strive to ship value to customers every cycle/sprint, which means that ideally, you are shipping new features or improvements every couple of weeks.
We've strived to deliver on a weekly basis, getting close with a 71 percent weekly ship rate since launch! 🚀
This focus on shipping value to customers every week has helped us embrace our philosophy of building things iteratively in the open and working closely with customers to learn what to build. As a result, our best-performing new features have been shared by early adopters who've helped us shape and improve Start Page.
The features we've added 🧑🚀
A lot has happened these past seven months. Here are some of the most notable improvements to Start Page:
- Themes, font packs, and other customization options
- A curated gallery of GIFs
- Templates for new users (e.g., musicians, coaches, NFTs, pets, and loads more)
- New blocks (Spotify, Images Grid with Links)
- Auto-save (We released early without this and it was not a pleasant experience for early adopters)
- Multiple banner styles
- And there's even more we haven't mentioned.
It's easy to forget how much a product can change in just seven months, so here's a visual recap of all the new value we've added to customers since we launched Start Page back in October 2021:
How have some of these new features been performing?
Many of the new features have been heavily adopted by our users. Here are some notable ones:
1. Multiple Header Styles 💅
One piece of feedback we heard loud and clear is “let me change the header design”. Customers didn’t always ask us this directly, but we heard feedback such as: “The header is too prominent”, or “Start Page is great, but on small screens the header takes up the entire view and my visitors have to scroll to view the links.”
Interesting feedback, we thought.
We went back to the drawing board and explored what we could do about this. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if users could select different header styles. We knew some creators were using Start Page as a link aggregator, while other used it as a microsite.
So, we created different headers for the different jobs-to-be-done. If you want to use Start Page as a place for all your links, you’ll probably love the minimalist header options, but if you are building a microsite, you’ll also find options that make the header more prominent.
We’re happy to share that in the past month, Multiple Header Styles was used by 53 percent of users. 🙌
2. Hide a Block 👀
Early on, we heard that customers occasionally want to hide some of their content.
Say they’re hosting an event for one week and want to only promote that. It made more sense to hide these blocks instead of deleting them. So, we added the hide block feature. And 17.7 percent of customers use it.
3. Statistics 📊
21.8 percent of users that published a Start Page in April stopped by to check the performance of their page in the Statistics tab.
With Start Page, you can track the traffic your page is getting and how many times people are clicking on links on your page.
4. Curated GIF Gallery
22 percent of users that published a Start Page used this gallery to find a GIF for their Start Page. This number jumps to 29 percent if we look at people who used Start Page for the first time.
This feature was optimized precisely for new users because we noticed that a lot of users kept the same GIFs as those on the templates. We wanted each Start Page to be unique, so we helped creators find beautiful GIFs (that also comply with accessibility best practices).
Where can we improve? 🤔
Traffic to our landing page 📉
For the first few months after we launched Start Page, we ran paid ads directing potential new users to our landing page. As a result, over 70 percent of the traffic going to Start Page's landing page came from paid ads. After removing them, our traffic dropped from around 5,000 weekly visits to 1,000.
Surprisingly, new signups increased even after the traffic reduced. Likely because we launched a new landing page, and the average conversion rate increased from about 0.8 percent to almost 3.5 percent.
Around 1,000 weekly visits still show how much room we have to grow so Start Page can contribute to more signups (currently, 0.4 percent of new signups can be attributed directly to Start Page's landing page).
Phill Agnew, Senior Product Marketing Manager here at Buffer, and I are currently exploring how to expand Start Page beyond Buffer's current customer base by tapping into existing communities around the world.
Spam Control ❌
We've recently seen an increase in Start Pages used for phishing and spam.
If we look at the pages that are causing this recent spike in traffic, we'll see that most of them are pages that violate our Terms of Service, and we've taken down or are in the process of taking them down:
Spam is a complicated problem to solve across the internet in general.
Fighting spam and abuse is not an easy task. However, we are committed to making sure we are continuously working to make Start Page safer for all our users and visitors. Our email verification, which was introduced recently, is already helping us combat this, but we're not stopping there. We'll continue prioritizing initiatives that help us make sure Start Page is safe for our customers.
What's next? 🌚
We are working hard to launch Multiple Start Pages and turn Start Page into Buffer's first native channel. Start Pages will count (and act) as its own channel, which will help us ship native channels much faster in the future. We'll work on identifying initiatives that can help Start Page continue growing by leveraging new Buffer signups.
We'll also be working on identifying opportunities for Start Page to help us acquire new signups.
Our focus will be more on marketing and distribution, so we can focus on validating and bringing new experiences to market (blogging from Start Page is up next 😉).
We can't wait to share more about Start Page's performance soon.
A huge shoutout to everyone that's been part of this incredible journey across the company. Please join us in celebrating Start Page, especially our early adopters, who've helped us identify so many opportunities for improvement and shaped this product. 🥂
Over to you! We'd love to hear any fun stories you might have from either using Start Page or seeing how our customers have been using this new service. Send us a tweet! 💕