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I've been working with a startup for a few years now, and we've gone back and forth a lot over the years on the actual product, what it is, who our target demo is etc. We've solidified our position now as a white-labelled Saas B2B2C product, in that we've identified and signed contracts with several customers for that.

Up till now our sales plan involved a lot of in-person networking and demo's by the CEO. The team + CEO agree that we should move to a more passive approach to sales via the website/homepage, but that's where things sort of devolve. I'm assigned with designing said homepage. Here are some of the issues I'm facing as the UX designer.

1) It's a B2B2C product, so while our end-end users of the product are consumers, our paying customers are businesses. We have roughly 10 customers currently, and they're based in different countries. It's very difficult to really profile them in any meaningful way. The CEO knows them personally, but he's really off the mark when it comes to describing people, and often will just give me a flippant answer like "They're just a bunch of know-it-all engineers. Make the website really full of esoteric information"...As you can imagine, that's not at all helpful for creating personas. I've started sending out surveys just to try and get some insight into how they chose our product, what they like about it, why they chose us over the competition, etc. but that still doesn't help me very much in creating a persona for future customers.

2) The CEO also strongly believes that we need to remove information from our current homepage design, as the competition is stealing our ideas. His proposed solution is to have a very very minimalist homepage which really just acts as a gatekeeper, wherein visitors who are interested in the product must request a link to the more informative, but hidden website (argh). So essentially, after 5 years of being public, and now that we actually have had some success, he wants to go back to stealth mode.

3) I've looked at our homepage stats, and a) the traffic is very very low and b) there's nothing to suggest that competitors are visiting our site to steal information. In fact there's nothing concrete at all to suggest that in general, except what he's heard through hearsay in the market.

TL;DR - I have very little means of conducting meaningful user research into potential customers, and our CEO wants to change the homepage into a gatekeeper to block competition, rather than sell the product. HELP.

  • That's an interesting background for the situation you are in.. but what is the question , why/where are you seeking help ? is your question how can you build a easy intuitive website with other features hidden by 'stealth' mode as you call it ? – PK2016 Dec 28 '15 at 18:36
  • So to make it a bit clearer, the website in question isn't the actual platform with the features, it's the homepage/some subpages that explain the product and hopefully sell the product to potential customers. I'm seeking help on how to design it in a way that will be ultimately be successful in converting visitors to customers (or serious prospects who request a demo) – Phoebe Dec 28 '15 at 19:10
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This is a common story. CEO thinks he knows everything about everything, but clearly doesn't.

Here's what I'd do in your shoes:

Don't worry about personas at this stage

Just use a mix of conventional design patterns, competitive analysis, and your own experience to come up with a design that is 'good enough'. I already have a picture in my head of what your homepage will look like, and I don't even know what your product is - you can come up with something.

Just do what he says

It sounds like even if you could access users and show this CEO data, he'd still know better than you and the market. He IS is the CEO after all : /

Present your proposed approach and design, when he says "I don't want that, I want this" do whatever he says, but be clear that he and any other stakeholders are clearly aware that you're running with his ideas and not yours. Then monitor the success/failure of the design (by setting goals and tracking conversion), and when his design ideas fail, take that opportunity to re-introduce your ideas.

Test concepts, not specifics

If you do want to carry on down the path of trying to convince this guy with research and data (and you don't have a lot of traffic, don't have a lot of users, and don't have good access to them), then think about zooming out a bit.

For example, if your CEO wants to present key information in a carousel on the homepage, you don't need to do a study with your users to prove that carousels suck. You have hundreds of articles and lots of small studies that have already done your work for you.

  • Thanks Dennislees! This is pretty helpful and helps me affirm the path/approach I'm taking. It will be difficult to test the solutions on organic traffic, since that's low, but I'll be sending it to prospective customers and current customers (for feedback) as well as getting internal validation from the team. – Phoebe Dec 28 '15 at 19:12
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  1. It's a B2B2C product, and you have two types of customers, so the home page could be a long index with sections, and out of all sections two should belong to the customers: business users and individual users. There should be one CTA (call to action) at the end of each section. What you are citing from your CEO doesn't come off flippant to me, if he's positive his clients are engineers, then it's a valid insight to use for your Business Customer persona and you can get a bit technical with the explanations on the home page. I would do an infographics or a macro icons chart to explain the current problem the product resolves, how the product works and why they'd totally benefit from subscribing to the plan (CTA here). This being said, flippant CEOs are not unheard of :-) So just use him as your information source and make sure he knows that if he leads you on a wrong path, he won't get a selling page.

  2. Two websites are not the best idea, since it will serve just as an obstacle on the way of your users' conversions, and you will loose people at this point. If CEO is adamant he doesn't want the information to be present on the page, you could try to avoid displaying details, although it will inevitably drive people off, especially developers & engineers, they tend to prefer transparency and to understand how things work, and when engineers are your business clients, last thing you want to come off as is shady. :-)

  3. I wouldn't necessarily shrug off your CEO's suspicions, it's his job to know the market, hearsay is a good source of information, and there is a saying that only paranoids survive in the business. There is a way to validate his hypothesis by revealing some of the fake information (at a press release, for instance) and see if competitors react to it. But it's long and resourceful and there always is a place for a coincidence.

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EDIT : in light of your update in the original post, my suggestion below wont fly.

You can have all the information that is "approved by CEO" on the website publicly available. For the 10 customers (or more in future) who are serious about doing business with your company, create a customer profile, account sections wrapped by standard web security features like login pages, passwords etc. Because they have already signed up with your company, they will be serious enough to access "more private" content by logging in to "customer only" sections.

Go to MSDN website as a general user you see what is all available and what MS has to offer in this area. https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx

Users/Customers who have an account/subscription can only access private content. They have to log in (get membership) to get any real benefit from the website.

  • Right - although one thing you said did actually resonate - which is "all the information that is "approved by CEO" - It will be helpful for me to get a more concrete idea of what that is. I'll start by putting in as much info as I think I can get away with, and seeing what he whittles away. So that was pretty helpful! Thanks – Phoebe Dec 28 '15 at 19:15
  • Good luck.. please keep us posted on what approach you take to satisfy business req. and the boss .. tough ask. – PK2016 Dec 28 '15 at 19:20

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