Discuss Home · Bootstrapped Podcast · Scribbleton Personal Wiki · HelpSpot Customer Service Software · Thermostat NPS

Released our desktop software - ElectricVLab


#1

I have been visiting this board for a while. It has been helpful to read about the thoughts and experiences of other developers who also have been bootstrapping the development without going for external funding.

Our product ElectricVLab, which was in development for the past few years, finally got released. The website is still being updated and the marketing is yet to ramp up. But, it still feels good to have come this far!

Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated.


#2

Looks interesting.

The screenshots look great, so I would put one of those right near the top of the home page.

Too much text!

Some people might see the term ‘newbies’ as a bit insulting.

The irregular sized green boxes on the features page look ugly IMHO.

The ‘buy now’ button on the ‘buy’ page doesn’t look like a button.

I couldn’t see how to download it. Is there no free trial? I think that’s a huge mistake. Or maybe you just haven’t added it yet?

Congratulations on launching.


#3

Looks like you have a product with a niche that adds real value to people.

Here’s an unsolicited tightening of your headline:
“ElectricVLab is a user-friendly feature-rich software that lets you build and simulate electronic circuits virtually in an interactive environment.”

Is much better as:
“Build and simulate electronic circuits virtually in an interactive environment.”


#4

Are you selling any yet?
Have you targeted schools (or anyone teaching electronics) ?
Even an electrical engineering college dept.
(My degree… 25 years ago!!, was in electrical engineering).


#5

or (as 3D is your differentiator):

“Build and simulate electronic circuits virtually in an interactive 3D environment.”

or

“Build and simulate electronic circuits in 3D.”


#6

Thanks for the feedback, folks!

Just finished one round of updates and incorporated some of your feedback (Yet to act on others). Also added a “Gallery” page to put some more screenshots.


#7

Too much text.
You’ve got maybe 10 seconds to get someone’s attention.

As others have said, it looks like a really cool products (my degree is in electrical engineering).

Suggestions:

  1. Try out one of the free webinars on Landing Page teardowns. (I did one with KickoffLabs. Very helpful)
  2. At the very least, create a much simpler version (just remove stuff)
  3. Measure clicks on the download free trial
  4. Try A/B testing with Google Analytics (one snipped of .js. Super easy to do)

#8

Thanks “Clay Nichols”!

I am particularly intrigued by your suggestion #2 that suggests “create a much simpler version”. Would you mind elaborating upon that? Do you mean to say, for example, that we should have fewer components and features? We are currently doing the opposite :). We have been steadily adding more components and features. Yes, I am afraid that by doing this (i.e., adding more components/features), we do run the risk of potentially scaring away some of the “beginners” such as young children, or parents who buy for young children. In a way, they shouldn’t because we try to keep the usage simple enough for the novice users and they can delay using the more involved things until they have grown older or gathered more experience. As stated on our home page, our goal is that “ElectricVLab is intended to be a lifelong companion of an electronics enthusiast starting from the budding young age” and “ElectricVLab will entertain and invigorate the young mind’s curiosity in electronics and will continue to be a helpful tool in college and
beyond.”.

But, in reality, I do fear whether not all potential buyers might see it that way. It is possible that some of them might think that “Some of those are way beyond my child’s current level” instead of viewing the software as something that can be used over several years as the child keeps growing. If such “fear mindset” starts hurting us significantly, one thought we have is to split the product into separate “junior” and “senior” versions at some point.


#9

by “simpler” I was referring to the Landing Page.

I haven’t tried the software itself, so I don’t know.

I HIGHLY recommend you offer free 1:1 live demos for people. It’s a GREAT way to get feedback. And if you can filter your visitors down to the 5% that are most motivated/interested, it’s very likely that they’ll buy.

-Clay


#10

Thanks for the feedback “Clay_Nichols”!

We have now simplified the home page by reducing the amount of text. At least, it is quite a bit less than it used to be :).


#11

Better. But I think that page could work even harder for you.

On thing that’s helpful is to let the user choose how deeply they’ll read and guide them to the most important stuff for that amount of reading.

For example, most people will spend about 10 seconds and then decide if this is appropriate, if not they leave.
(Look at your bounce rate to see that)

So… if the user was only willing to spend 10 seconds, have you made the most important 10 seconds completely obvious?

If you are a student, hobbyist, or any electronics enthusiast who wants to build and simulate electronic circuits in a fun virtual 3D environment, ElectricVLab is for you.

It it helpful for other people than those 3 above?
If so, why limit yourself. Youv’e also buried the lead.

Are you a/b testing (free with google analytics)?

Try :slightly_smiling:

Build & Simulate Electronic Circuits

in a fun virtual 3d Environment

Now, they can’t miss that it’s about, even with a 5 second glance.

I’d also show an image of a cool electronic circuit. (How about an op-amp used to make some cool sound effect, etc.)

Suggestion:

Offer free demos to 10 people. Show it to them, see they like, what words they use to describe it.
It can be scary to talk to strangers but it’ll pay off big time. (You can also prescreen them with a few questions. Figure out who your ideal customer is. (Someone who has built circuits before, understands basic electronics, but would love to simulate a circuit, etc.)


#12

@Victory,

If you are a student, hobbyist, or any electronics enthusiast who wants to build and simulate electronic circuits in a fun virtual 3D environment, ElectricVLab is for you

I think you forgot an important class of users who can really pay: teachers, schools, academic professors. They need to make their students understand the electronics, and you can help with your 3D effects
Also what about writers of educational books about electronics who need to illustrate the circuits.


#13

Thanks “startrinity”!

You are right. The software can be very useful for instructors of electronics. For example, instead of drawing diagrams on the board and explaining, showing the circuits in action can be much more effective in many cases.

The sixth bullet point on our home page does include “electronics instructors” to cover this case.

Has lots of features
that can cater to the needs of a wide range of audience including
newbies, students, hobbyists, Arduino users, electronics instructors,
and even professionals.

But, as you suggest, it may be a good idea to include that in the very first sentence. As of now, a handful of instructors/professors are already using ElectricVLab and have really liked it. But, so far, we haven’t spent any money on advertisement or marketing and as of now, only a tiny fraction of the target customer base knows about our software.


#14

Yes, I would move this bullet from 6 to 1st place. Because the professors and schools have good money. Another thing I’d like to recommend you - watch users’ activity at website and in the GUI via internet, track them

I also did not spend anything on marketing and advertising; it is good that someone already uses it without advertising


#15

This looks very cool, and exactly what I was looking for as I am (as a hobby) learning some electronics.

Is there no trial download? The first thing you need to do is add a big bold ‘download’ button somewhere, I had to click around to almost all pages to find any place to download - on the ‘update’ page of all places.

An audience that is certainly interested is the sparkfun/arduino beginner crowd (like myself). The price is good, if it works like described I’d buy it, but I don’t bother with getting out my credit card without having been able to try a demo. Also, Paypal is a pain in the ass that I only use if I really, really have to.


#16

I agree with @Roel_V. I’m anti-paypal myself. You could consider using something like Stripe. I’ve used it in the past to handle subscription billing for a rather unsuccessful SaaS attempt (should be even simpler to use for one-off purchasing like this), it’s rather nice IMHO.


#17

Thanks for the comments “Roel_V” and “jcadam”!

@Roel_V: Glad to know that you are also an Arduino enthusiast. That was somewhat of a pleasant surprise on this forum for bootstrappers. I presume you looked at our blog page related to Arduino?

Regarding Paypal: As you would know, one is not required to have a Paypal account to pay at their site. One can pay using any credit card at the Paypal website. But, I do agree with your suggestion and we do want to provide the option of paying via Stripe as well. It is on our “ToDo” list.


#18

Holy sweet Jesus, this product is amazing. Victory was kind enough to send me a reg key ‘in advance’ so that I could try it out, and this thing has so much potential. I think it has been released way too late though - by that I mean, you should have released years ago without the Arduino integration, way less components, no manual, no undo/redo, no BOM etc. You could have gotten revenue and customer feedback much earlier. But anyway, it’s here now, congratulations!

First, it’s WAAY too cheap. I understand you want to make it accessible, but maybe make a ‘light’ version for 19.95 and a ‘pro’ for 49.95. That’s still a steal. Users in a classroom won’t need e.g. the Arduino, the signal generator and the BOM, your application has the perfect model for segmentation by having different levels of components. At your current price point I don’t see how you’ll make real money, or at the very least, you’re leaving a lot on the table. The website says you want to be comparable to a textbook - there are no textbooks for $12!

BUT - there are many small things that, I think, prevent it from becoming a hit in its current form. But all of them are fairly easy to fix. In no particular order some things I found:

  • Navigation is hard. It seems there is no panning, except for ‘Center in View’? I expected it to work like Sketchup but the rotating is hard and error-prone, the forementioned lack of panning, even the zooming was wonky some times.

  • Hard to make connections between components. It’s difficult to see which wires are connected, and you can’t move connections at all it seems (after you’ve placed them). It’s difficult to wire up e.g. an LED because the legs are under the ‘bulb’ so you need to position the camere almost parallel to the plane.

Maybe you can draw a tin-colored half sphere on each connection point where there is at least one wire, like a solder joint? That would keep you from having to make algorithms that join the wire ‘pipes’, plus it would give you an object that can be manipulated (moved) when you want to move the end point of a connection, because that is missing.

  • Selection - there is what looks like a selection rectangle, except when you release the left mouse button, the context menu is shown. It seems I can’t delete more than one component or connection at a time.

  • Half of the time when I want to change parameters on a component, I end up moving it. The UI there isn’t very intuitive.

  • So I made a small test circuit with a battery, a resistor and an LED. I had to set the resistor to 5 ohms to get the LED to light up in simulation mode, but at that point almost 1/2 amp was flowing through the wire. That must be a mistake somewhere?

  • No short-circuit detection it seems? I guess you can tell from the speed of the current indicator, but maybe color the connections red when more than X amps are detected somewhere. My LED is at full brightness even when 8.37e12 A is flowing through it…

  • UI is (sorry to say) a real engineer’s interface. The colors are straight out of the 1990’s (why not color the working surface in dark green and copper, like a real pcb?). The controls (Build Tools, View Controls) look somewhat younger, but early 2000’s at best. There are plenty of free icon packs that look much better, I think an afternoon polishing that would yield 10-fold improvements.

  • Website is ugly and hard to find stuff on (what’s the difference between ‘components’, ‘gallery’, ‘resources’ and ‘updates’?). Put a big, bold ‘Download here’ button at the top so that people can get straight to it. Plus a trial, but I’ve mentioned that before… Too much text, not enough whitespace, …

The whole product/website looks like the prototypical ‘technical founder’ story: focus on product first, we’ll do marketing ‘later’, ‘when the product is done’. I think an improvement for the home page could be to focus on benefits to specific audiences. Toss out the list of text, and put in bullet points:

  • Are you a teacher? Make your students experiment with circuits without actually building them!
  • Are you an Arduino enthousiast? Prototype your circuits before spending money on components!
  • Are you studying electronics? Visualize what you’re studying much more easily than by building the circuits!
  • etc…

(note that these are three different benefits: ‘make my life easier’, ‘cheap’ and ‘easy to use’ or ‘get better grades’ - you need to split that out according to each audience you want to reach)

Here is a trick I use when I need to do something ‘creative’ in a field I’ve never done before: I get a few people on Fiverr to make a start, and then I work from there. For example, last year I officiated my sister’s wedding. I had a concept for the ceremony in mind but I didn’t quite know how to make it concrete. So I explained the concept to 4 people on Fiverr and had them write a speech of a few paragraphs each. I ended up with 1 ok (not great, but ok) idea and 3 half-assed ones (hey, what can you expect for $5 each). But I took those 4 speeches, wrote down what I didn’t like and did like about each of them, and then from that, the actual one that I used was quite easy to write.

I do that for logos, icons, website designs and marketing copy too. For $20 or $40, I ‘bootstrap’ the brainstorming phase of the creative process. Especially because I’m on my own, I’ve found that to be tremendously useful.

  • Feature requests (but I’d prefer to have good navigation before all else):
    • Layout on a virtual breadboard
    • Some indication on trace width and maximum current it’ll carry (e.g. if I indicate that a connection will be 1 mm wide on the pcb, how much current can that take, and where in the circuit is that being exceeded?)
    • A ‘symbol’ view, that shows diagram symbols instead of (or maybe in addition to) the 3d views of the components.
    • A ‘live’ simulation mode, where you can build and simulate at the same time. Right now, I’m not sure why it’s modal.
    • Detect polarity; maybe show a symbol when the cathody is connected to the positive side of a circuit or vice versa. Also show in the symbol library which components have polarity, and how.

I’m sure there are many more things like this, but the base product is great and I’m sure this would be a useful tool for many. Maybe try to partner with component vendors like Sparkfun, Conrad, Elektuur etc, and see if they want to resell for you? And/or get them to feature a tutorial by you on your software? There are many ‘natural’ marketing opportunities for something with a target audience as focused as this.

But most importantly I think you need to focus on polish and ease of use a bit. It’s not hard to be better than Eagle in this respect - in the land of the blind, one-eye is king…

Congratulations on getting this far, I know what a slog it is, but I also vividly remember that once I got to that point the first time, I only then fully realized that the hard work was still ahead of me. I mean you can read it a hundred times from others but you need to experience it to fully grasp that writing the software is only the first 10%. And I never made a product as ambitious as this. Feel free to contact me for any clarifications or if you’d like to brainstorm on how to move further with marketing and selling your product. I’d love to see you succeed, if only because I love playing with virtual circuits myself so much :slight_smile:


#19

@Roel_V: Thanks a lot for your detailed feedback! Much appreciated.

I will follow up with you over email regarding the details. A couple of things you mentioned (e.g., the ability to “pan”) are already there. But, the fact that you didn’t find them does tell me that we need to expose them in a more intuitively obvious way. Adding a 2D like “symbol view” has been on our “todo” list for some time. That view will also make it easier to wire the components. Your comment makes me think that we should prioritize the implementation of that feature over some other things on our list.

Overall, very helpful feedback! Thank you.


#20

Hi @Victory, I have a question, how did you come up to such a great idea? and how did you understand that it is the right one (if you have other ideas in your mind)?