What’s important when building digital plugins for partner websites?

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It’s not unusual to handle the most diverse tasks when working with startups. When Taylor asked me to support him with the concept for a SCHED plugin for Eventbrite.com, I was very excited about having another opportunity to work directly on a digital product, and so, we kicked off January together.

For everyone who doesn’t know what SCHED is, it's the perfect software for every event organiser who wants to give their attendees a personalised schedule on their mobile device. When SCHED was founded, their MVP was to give every event organiser a mobile app. Now, years later, the service SCHED replaces the need for a separate web presence. Their product is sophisticated, customizable, and simple to use. In short, SCHED offers everything you need when organising a conference, educational gathering, or any other event. 

When Eventbrite approached the team at SCHED to provide a plugin, it was an incredible opportunity for SCHED to grow their user base by doing what they do best; building a great service for people in the event business. SCHED was asked to provide two features – the iconic feature for organisers to upload thumbnails of speakers to make their event pages look better and a customisable toolbox to visualise session calendars. While both of these features eventually make the event pages look better, they serve a different purpose. When Taylor and I discussed SCHED’s product features, we figured that it didn’t make much sense to provide both of them under one and the same name in the menu, originally planned as the “SCHED plugin.”

When building digital products, names play a significant role. They must be intuitive and immediately give the user a clue what to expect. I didn’t see much sense in trying to combine both of SCHED’s services. Can you think of a digital service that succeeded because it could do it all and could do it all from the beginning? 

When you start building a digital product, it’s important for it to have one feature that works really well. You need to be able to summarise the use of your product in one sentence. On Wunderlist, you can create to-do lists. With Mailchimp, you can send beautiful emails to a large group of people. On Kickstarter, you can realise creative products. Do you see my point? These companies don’t try to pitch to you all the small services they provide: when you see their name, you know what these products are useful for.

Ok, let’s go from a macro-perspective and look at the micro-perspective of digital products, such as a website’s directory. When you click on ‘about,' you expect to get a description of what a company does. When you click on ‘references,’ you want to know who the team has worked with in the past. You have expectations and probably no patience to ‘search’ for content you cannot find immediately. 

For the reasons described above, when Taylor and I conceptualised SCHED’s plugin for Eventbrite, we decided to make two single purpose plugins. We knew that the Eventbrite team might not want to give us two menu referrals immediately, but we had a clear explanation why it made more sense to only focus on one feature at a time. 

Knowing we would build two separate concepts, it gave us the opportunity to focus on one thing at a time – “SpeakerList by SCHED” and “Visual Schedule by SCHED”. Two names that immediately tell you what to expect even before you click and read the copy. And let’s be honest here, how many of us really read the descriptions on websites? 

With the possibility of having a permanent link to one’s service on such a great website such as Eventbrite, we knew we wanted to be one of the teams Eventbrite always mentions when explaining why they collaborate with third-party services. There were several other companies Eventbrite could mention in their announcement, so what did we do to have Eventbrite choose SCHED as one of their top plugin partners? 

It’s a very simple idea…we did everything to make them look better: our entire approach to building a feature was to make it as seamless and as native as possible. It was important to us to give Eventbrite everything that would make their users feel even better about using Eventbrite. Every decision we made was completely user-centered while respecting this user to be Eventbrite’s user and not SCHED’s user (yet). If you follow Eventbrite’s blog or their newsletters, you might have already noticed that our approach has worked. 

When you build a plugin for a third party service, you of course want to increase your user base, too. Everyone who installs SCHED’s plugin on Eventbrite and agrees to share their details with SCHED automatically creates a free account on SCHED. In the first instance, our aim was to have as many people as possible install SCHED’s plugin. Our next aim was to have a number of these new users upgrade to the paid version of SCHED. We decided to follow up with everyone via email and showcase how upgrading to SCHED’s full version would benefit them and their attendees. We knew all our efforts paid off when Eventbrite suggested another collaboration that will eventually benefit both sides. Of course, also financially.

I am still plugged into SCHED’s back-end and receive daily reminders of the increasing number of signups. Another project we have worked on together with Taylor was a communication cycle to keep these users looped in, which I’ll blog about another time. Now, to summarise what I’d recommend to consider when building third-party plugins, here are three bullet points:

x) When choosing names, make it obvious for the user what to expect. Your company’s name won’t make the cut.

x) Make your plugin look as native as possible to the website where it’s featured.

x) Whoever the partner website is, make them look better to impress their users. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

I hope my take on building digital products for third-party websites has inspired you in one way or another. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out: monikanicolettaATgmail.com