ClearSight Interactive - ClearProfile

Challenge
Useful Vendors is an excellent example of how ESI can help seed-stage start-ups with limited resources to enter the market with a disruptive product. The company was founded by an ambitious entrepreneur who came up with an idea of creating a "Yelp" for B2B service providers, where small business owners and entrepreneurs can share information about vendors they have used and why they found them useful . The distinctive features of the website would be the simplicity of the user interface, lack of advertising and other distracting features, and the easiness of review submissions. That would pursue the dual goal of attracting traffic by rapidly growing the number of reviews and, at the same time, increasing the quality and impartiality of the posted reviews. The company came to ESI with a challenge to build a very simple yet highly-scalable to the enterprise level commercial product, which it could easily iterate in the future. Since the budget was very tight, it was paramount to carefully select the most valuable features feasible to include into the first iteration, and then to implement them in such a way that they could be easily changed, extended, or scaled to support tens of millions of users.

Result
ESI deployed the first commercially available version of Useful Vendors website within weeks since the project inception and at a minimal seed-stage cost. That enabled the client to start gathering meaningful user feedback almost instantly. Due to the careful feature planning and thorough testing conducted by ESI Quality Assurance team, almost no alternations and improvements of the existing functionality were requested thereafter. The project quickly started getting traction and the concept soon attracted the attention of many potential partners and investors. In addition, based on the user suggestions and the early performance analysis, ESI helped the client to specify a prioritized list of features and extensions for the future product iterations, specifically targeted for further increase in traffic. This way ESI helped the company to strongly position itself for the first round of financing.

Action
Because of its experience with enterprise customers, ESI could attract the expertise of professionals experienced in building enterprise-level scalable products to design the solution for Useful Vendors and then implement it in a matter of weeks. Due to its proven project management methodologies as well as structured requirements gathering process, ESI organized the development in a way that allowed for a significant reduction of cost to build a high-quality product under a tight deadline. Specifically, ESI

  • Assigned an experienced project manager who helped the customer to detail the product requirements, prioritize and narrow them based on the implementation costs, wrote clear technical specification, and oversaw the development and Quality Assurance stages.
  • Assigned a professional software engineer with the extensive experience in both Consumer Internet and Enterprise space, backend architecture, and database design.
  • Created a clear project plan with specific milestones and measurable deliverables.
  • Established regular communication with the client to discuss the product features at both the planning and the implementation stages.
  • Kept the client constantly informed about the emerging project threats and risks. Provided regular progress tracking, status reports, and risks assessments.
  • Established a repository for the centralized management of change requests and "nice-to-have" features to make sure every client request, as well as every bug found by the Quality Assurance team, was taken care of in order of its priority with regard to the available time and resources.
  • Early started Quality Assurance to ensure the system was properly tested and released on schedule.

Product Highlights

  • Carefully iterated User Interface with breakthrough simplicity of review finding and submission.
  • Minimized number of clicks for each user action.
  • Innovative and fun-looking image recognition CAPCHAR test.
  • Simple intuitive means for reviews browsing, expanding/collapsing, and sorting.
  • Extendable backend and database design allowing for the traffic increase of up to tens of millions of users without the necessity to change the product architecture and no noticeable decrease in performance.
Technologies and Tools Used
- Microsoft ASP.NET 3.5, C#
- AJAX, JSON; JavaScript, MooTools library, customized jQuery; HTML, CSS
- Microsoft SQL Server 2000
- Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 SP1
- Borland Starteam; Microsoft Project
"ESI developed usefulvendors.com and they did a great job. They managed the project well, maintained excellent communication, were always responsive, and perhaps most importantly, they understood my objectives. And their rates are highly competitive. Outsourcing web development has its challenges, and I think it is even more challenging for small businesses with limited budgets because a lot of the project management falls on your shoulders. However, with ESI, it was surprisingly very smooth. I think that is because we kicked off the project creating a very clear systems requirement doc, which forced me to fully think through the design (I know this is "standard", but surprisingly this has not been my experience with other vendors. There seems to be a tendency to "jump right in"). ESI also understood how to work within a limited budget and differentiate between the "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves". But they were flexible about reasonable changes. ... Again, I highly recommend them."
Tim Greene
Useful Vendors, Founder