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2016 Annual Customer Survey - Results & Action Plan

Each year around Christmas we ask our current members to provide important feedback and make product requests through our charitable survey. I really love this project because your responses not only help us plan the year ahead, but they are always full of positive and appreciative comments that really rejuvenate and motivate the team. We enter the new year with good clarity on who our members are and what they truly want. Not to mention being excited about delivering on their requests.

If you did reply to our survey, thank you so much for your participation! If not, there’s still plenty of time (it never expires). We collected nearly 900 responses this year with many still trickling in. I’m excited to share the results with you, and some of the background behind the questions we ask.

 

Why are we sharing the results?

I’ve never shared our survey results before, but I thought you might enjoy knowing more about what other members of this community want, and seeing how closely your needs align. I’ll leave out a few questions I would consider “sensitive” market research, but otherwise this post will break down each question, why we asked it, what the outcome was, and what we plan to do with the results. I was really blown away this year at how nice some of the comments are, and we couldn’t resist sprinkling a few of those throughout this post. Enjoy!

 

"I came for the themes, but stayed for the widgets. Your tutorials, however, are the icing on the cake. Your videos on responsive Muse were excellent. Keep up the good work across the board.” – Survey Response

 


 

Part 1 - Multiple Choice Questions

Question: What best describes your work situation?

Why we asked: to find out the mix of freelance/self-employed vs. corporate/agency use of our product. 

The results: over 80% of our user base is self-employed. The “other” category primarily included students, educators, and hobbyists/retired users.

What we’ll do with this: I believe price sensitivity is more important with self-employed individuals. Corporate customers don’t typically approach spending decisions the same way, and we need to be aware of keeping our pricing at an attainable level. We have no intentions of raising prices in the immediate future, and existing members are always locked in at their current price. Given how similar your professions are, I believe there is an opportunity for us to be more interactive and encourage our community to do so as well. Since you’re nearly all business owners, I’m sure there is a ton of information you can share with each other to be more successful with Muse, web design, marketing or general business information. We just need to give you the platform to share this knowledge, such as our forum or something even more interactive and engaging.

Regarding students and teachers, we DO offer significant discounts to those who meet this criteria. Please email us at accounts@musethemes.com for more information.

 


 

Question: What is the primary reason you signed up for MuseThemes?

Why we asked: This helps us know how to prioritize our design and development time between widgets, themes and other products.

The results: Consistent with past years, 3/4 of users join primarily to access widgets.

What we’ll do with this: We’ve always invested a little more heavily in widgets than themes, and this data confirms that’s probably the right direction. Although many users reported that even though they initially joined for the widgets, they ended up finding the themes, stacks, and tutorials surprisingly useful and an unexpected perk of the membership.

 

“Thanks for responsive themes and tutorials. You are doing well with new widgets. Just when I think of something you seem to have thought of it too. Kudos!” – Survey Response

 


 

Question: Are you planning to renew your MuseThemes Membership?

Why we asked: This question works as a general satisfaction question for us, and gives us an idea of how to invest in our growth based on renewal revenue.

The results: nearly 80% gave an outright “yes,” which is awesome and amazing! Of the 21% who answered “maybe,” most left a comment stating either they hadn’t used our product long enough to determine, or they may abandon Muse altogether for another web design platform such as Wordpress, Squarespace, etc.

What we’ll do with this: Stay the course! We'll keep working hard to add value to your membership, building cool products and giving you reasons to keep coming back each year. Renewal revenue is very important for our business, so we’ll always a huge amount of effort goes towards keeping current members happy, rather than only enticing new signups.

 

"I think you've got it nailed. Really, I am so impressed with MuseThemes. You guys are so professional, so honest, and actually caring. This really shines through, and is something so special and rare these days.” – Survey Response

 


 

Question: How would you rate the complexity of our themes?

Why we asked: Last year our survey indicated themes were too complex for many users, and we needed to focus more on simple layouts that can be quickly edited.

The results: 3/4 users felt they were at a good complexity level, with the next most common response being that they are too easy. This is great news and shows our efforts to make a change this year were successful.

What we’ll do with this: In 2016 we made a major effort to simplify some of our themes. There’s no point in starting with an existing design if you can’t easily modify it to deliver a client site. Our Build theme was a great example of a simple fixed-width layout that many users said was one of our best themes ever. In 2017 we’ll keep up this trend of offering a good mix of simple / flexible layouts and complex / innovative ideas along the way.

 


 

Question: How would you rate the complexity of our Widgets?

Why we asked: To ensure our products weren’t too complex (or too easy) for users, and to decide how far we can push things technically.

The results: 3/4 users felt widgets were an appropriate complexity level, and most of the others said they were too easy.

What we’ll do with this: We have big plans for segmenting widgets in 2017, to ensure a good balance between simple / highly compatible widgets and advanced products. I could tell you more, but I'd have to kill you.

 


 

Question: How important is it that clients can update their own website?

Why we asked: To determine how much of our development efforts should go into content management and client-editable solutions for Muse.

The results: I would interpret this as a 60/40 result. If you safely assume that a user who answered “occasionally important” needs CMS abilities 50% of the time, then you’re left with a result of 60% saying it’s extremely important and 40% saying it’s not at all.

What we’ll do with this: We already have several new Connect series CMS widget spec’d out and ready to build (and a few in testing, almost ready to go). Based on many comments in this survey we believe offering an “à la carte” selection of CMS widgets is a better solution than trying to build a single system that can do it all. Users should be able to choose and combine the tools they (or their clients) need, rather than installing and maintaining a complex system that overdoes it. No need to hammer a nail with a sledgehammer.

 

"Guys, I am genuinely inspired by your business. I am sure behind the scenes there can be chaos at times ironing out creases and problems but on the surface MT is very calm, very straight to the point, friendly and beautifully open and honest. You're a business that feels like a friend and it's a real pleasure to use you guys.” – Survey Response

 


 

Question: Short Answer - What elements of your website do your clients need to edit?

Why we asked: This question was only presented if you told us content management was important in the previous question. The word CMS is extremely vague, and means very different things to most designers. We wanted to find out exactly what parts of a website your clients truly need to edit.

The results: Your answers were surprisingly consistent, with “images and text” being 90% of all responses. The remaining 10% included answers such as blog posts, creating new pages and updating galleries.

What we’ll do with this: One of my biggest fears with releasing a super complex custom CMS (e.g. Agent) was that it would require 50% or more of our company resources to satisfy a very small segment of our users. I think that fear was justified. This survey indicates that most Muse users have basic CMS needs (simple text / images), and it's clear we don’t need to build a Ferrari to compete in this race. A stylish and reliable product that “just works” will do the trick here.

  


 

Question: Where do you prefer to host your websites?

Why we asked: We wanted to know the true breakdown of how many users hosted sites on Adobe Business Catalyst vs. alternative options. 

The results: The results for hosting preference were varied, but only 1/4 of users host their sites on Adobe BC.

What we’ll do with this: As you may already know BC is extremely limited in it’s support for server side code. This limits us to basic widgets that mainly utilize JavaScript for functionality. If we don’t need to worry about supporting Business Catalyst as a host, we could build much more complex widgets that utilize server side systems – this means blogs, directories and more.

 


 

Part II: Short Answer Findings

The remainder of our survey questions were short answer, so it’s not possible to publish a graph explaining the results. I read each response carefully over several hours, and tried to summarize common themes and requests. Here are some of my findings: 

Things that Make MuseThemes Users Happy

I made a list of items that made users happy. Simple as that.

  • Clear and Transparent Communication – we try really hard to be transparent and keep in touch often. Honesty is always our policy. We’ll absolutely keep this up and expand on our efforts, perhaps through webinars, live training, or interactive Q/A sessions. Our monthly member updates are a big hit; users appreciate knowing what is going on behind the scenes.

  • Build Innovative Widgets – our Connect series was a survey favorite, with many users saying these widgets have completely changed their workflow in Muse. We have big plans to expand our Connect series way beyond what it can do now; so stay tuned. Other vendors have started to emulate our Connect system (as we expected) but we'll always do it better.

  • Tutorials – this year I’m going to expand our tutorials into more general Muse training. Expect to see comprehensive courses on mastering the basics of Muse and essential tips / tricks. We also plan to overhaul our video organization on the site to ensure you can easily find what you need.

  • Stacks – members love our Stacks! We’ll make a big effort to put out more Stacks this year, and simplify some of the layouts. Perhaps something less artistic.

 

Things that Make MuseThemes Users Mad

It’s fun to look at the list of items that you love, but we can learn a lot from users who are upset. Here’s a few things that we need to work on:

  • Widget Bugs / Upgrades – some of our widgets aren’t as flexible as they should be. When we design a widget we often build it based on a specific use scenario, and if designers try to utilize it in a completely different or innovative way, it breaks. I’ve got some ideas for the new year about how to better prioritize our bug-fixes, and if budget permits we’re even looking at bringing on a new developer to focus specifically on existing product improvements.

  • Support Response Times – when something goes wrong you deserve a quick response, and we currently run a 12-24hr average response time on support tickets. We’re going to try and improve this metric in the new year by increasing our support resources and bringing back our live chat system. In 2016 we closed nearly 14,000 support tickets, so it's an area of the business I don't take lightly.

  • Updated Videos – it's annoying when a widget doesn't look anything like it's training video. We're a little behind on updating some of tutorials to match the latest release of the widget. Between the addition of another staff member (Ashton) now helping me to produce videos, and our ability to use "playlists" for videos (instead of replacing single videos) we believe we can offer much more comprehensive training for each product.

 

Final Thoughts

One word that I heard repeated 100's of times in our results was trust.  Members stated that MuseThemes is the Adobe Muse resource they trusted most, and that they felt confident using our products in their client websites.

I think this is a powerful message that I'd like to make our focus in 2017. Sure, there are some great developers out there who can build a nice-looking widget, but if you don't trust the code they're putting into your site or that they have your best intentions at heart it's not worth using. We'll work extra hard in 2017 to ensure we build trust with our members and solidify our place as an essential partner to your business.

That’s it! If you agree or disagree with any of my survey assessments, or feel that I’ve missed something important, please feel free to comment on this post below.

Thanks again for a great year! Enjoy the holidays and we'll see you early in the new year.

Cheers!
Steve Harris

 

“All in all, you've found a way for people like me to find something at a great price point that has quality and value to it. I've looked at other sites trying to compete and they don't hold a candle to Muse Themes." – Survey Response

Steve Harris
Steve Harris / Calgary, Canada

Steve Harris started MuseThemes in 2011 and steadily grew the company, going from a full-time corporate employee to being his own boss. More than just MuseThemes, Steve is a conference speaker, Lynda.com author, and holds equally large collections of both business books and fine scotch.

Comments

Julia C
Julia C

Totally agree with everything! Love that you shared this, it’s very interesting for me to see how you make these decisions. Thanks again MuseThemes and keep it up!!! ;) Excited for a new year.

Ross J Slade
Ross J Slade

This summary of your questionnaire was fantastic – another example of a well thought out exchange of information with your client base – keep up the good work

Gianni
Gianni

A big thank you to all the staff, I am happy with your work, you have attime ideas developed to perfection and impeccable service.

When you are big you are great nothing else to add

John Huling
John Huling

What about improved SEO in widgets. Was I the only one?

Ewhyn D
Ewhyn D

I applaud Muse-Themes’ transparency in sharing the survey results. This creates a 2-way communication and will only benefit both Muse-Themes and us (designers/developers) in achieving greater success in our projects.

Awesome job Steve Harris and the team at MT

Happy Holidays!

Ralston
Ralston

Every month I visit your candy store of widgets which blow my mind. My New Years resolution is to stop waiting for the next greatest widget to come along but instead to just use what I already have with my current subscription. Promise.

Joe Naimo
Joe Naimo

Thank you Steve for providing quality solutions. I must admit that after submitting the survey I realized that my knowledge of and depth of product offerings is sorely lacking. I felt bad that I gave short-sighted opinions when in fact you already had solutions for what I was looking for. I have been on your site for several days now educating myself on what you have to offer. I have a lot to learn! Thanks again to you and your team - be sure to let them know! Merry Christmas!

Steve Gulla
Steve Gulla

One extremely important note: While most of us don’t house our finished sites on BC, I would venture to guess almost all of us run our test sites on it. So, if the functionality isn’t there, we won’t be able to show a test link to our client early in the process. I basically would avoid any widgets that wouldn’t run on my test site.

Keep up the great work!
Steve

Kor Gable
Kor Gable

You guys rock!!!
Love that you shared your survey with us.

Just want to share the following: I was trained in the use of Dreamweaver, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, et al; but after years of never getting paid enough for the hours it took, I gave up web design. By contrast, Desktop publishing I have stayed with cos I’m totally a visual guy, a graphic designer.

So when Adobe came out with Muse, I reluctantly reconsidered doing web design again… But it was you guys with the Themes and Widgets that tipped my scales and resurrected my dead interest in web design. And I am now earning money with it again. And I don’t mind if I don’t get paid my asking price because now I can create a website so much faster and easier that it’s worth it. In other words, you guys have solved my the work-to-wage ratio problem. If I can’t increase the payment, then decrease the time it takes to do the work. Right?

I have, however, found “responsive” design a bit of a headache, and I’m not sure if it’s Muse or the Widgets that are the problem, but many times I’ll do the layout for one breakpoint only to find it a mess in the other breakpoints, and sometimes when after all the breakpoints are done, I change something in one of them and the others get scrambled. I have found that while I can pull together a design in hours, it takes me days, even weeks to get all the breakpoints working properly—majorly frustrating. I hope you can do something to make it easier.

In closing, to emphasize once again, I am definitely interested in and am looking forward to your training videos on Muse, and I am ravenously hungry for a whack load of new stacks!

Keep up the good work!

Kor Gable

Liz K
Liz K

I really appreciate all you and the team do, Steve! I’m still very much a novice to Muse, but your videos and tools make me excited to keep learning and applying all this great stuff you’ve created! Merry Christmas to you all, and I wish you a wonderfully creative and successful new year!

Dann Hall
Dann Hall

I’ve been a Muse Themes member since early 2012 and watched this grow and you’ve always been right ahead of things. TRUST is important and I know I can trust your widgets, training, and support! Thank you so much for helping us learn, grow and most of all earn a living doing what we love. I fully agree with Kor Gable’s comments above— I also seem to have some challenges working with the responsive aspects of Muse, even though I feel I’ve almost mastered the basic adaptive approach. It would be great if I could get this nailed. I also agree that MORE STACKS would be GREAT!— You guys ROCK!

Giosetta
Giosetta

Hey guys. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing the survey results. It was so interesting to see them and to see how you interpreted them and what future actions you’ll take. I was also completely chuffed to see my very own comment among those quoted. As I always say, you guys rock!!! Can’t wait to see what you bring in the new year. Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday break. You sure deserve it. Thanks again MT Rockers!! Jo : )

David Hughes
David Hughes

I am a graphic designer. I bought adobe cloud and found that muse helped me give my clients a more hands on informative layout, instead of the old fashion flat design. I like a previous comment have big problems with the responsive design. Getting the break points to work can be far the most time consuming part of a web design. There seems to be no reason sometimes that you make a small amend and it break the whole site. I would like to see more of the templates being made responsive so I have a bigger choice and not have to hunt around the other suppliers.

Ricardo
Ricardo

Great to share the survey results and well done, just an idea for next year’s survey ….of applying a little focus on how your customers view the basics in 2017 web design needs.

Question:

Apart from great easy access content on any device

Using a value of 1 through to 12 (where 1 is the least important and 12 the most important)

For Type A (Ecommerce site), Type B (Information site) and Type C (other site- please specify)

Please score the following attributes :

Ease of Navigation
SEO Google Search position
Social Media content and connectivity
Innovative design
Traditional design
Video rich content
Image rich content
Text rich content
Graphic rich content
Interactive content
Secure content
Other content (please specify)

This type of question will show where Muse Themes production is hitting or missing the main customer website design focus

Anastas
Anastas

One suggestion: for the widgets, it would be. Ice to include links to training videos or web pages in the user windowsnof the widgets so we don’t have to search.

If I try to customize a widget for, lets say, a photo gallary, and I forget how to ise it, a link would be persect to watch a training video. Or when you need a spreadsheet or word cloud, a link to the site where you customize the widget would be pretty awesome.

Webtady
Webtady

Super !
Thanks to writing this article .

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