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!
(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