By virtue of the things I learned and the stuff that has happened since because I learned those things, Surfy Surveys was a great success. Sadly by purely financial measures, it tanked.

Surfy Surveys logo

Just like X, only better

Launched back in 2010, this little venture surfed the wave of me-too web applications. It came into being because some of our customers reported frustration with the market leaders (such as Survey Monkey, which in fairness has gone from strength to strength). As it turned out, those same customers were happy to use Surfy while it was free, but reluctant to pay for it once we introduced our fremium model. The idea was sound-ish, but the execution was all wrong.

Highs and lows

There were some good times. Technology Strategy Board ran a survey in partnership with NESTA and the Knowledge Transfer Network. The survey responses were dynamically composited into a map of the UK Creative Industries, organised by sub-sector. The UK Map of the Creative Industries (2012) is still online if you want to take a look.

Picture of map

Aiming (better) to please

It’s so hard to get a new product right. The market is constantly changing and adapting to new entrants. Customer’s expectations are growing and forming around their early experiences, word-of-mouth and their perception of value. Then there’s getting access to those customers and finding the write tone to strike a chord with them:

Surfy, not surly

  • For people with questions - It takes time and energy to run a survey, so we want to ensure that you get the maximum return. We offer a set of tools to help you design an interesting survey that will engage rather than irritate your audience.
    • More responses - Improve the response rate to your survey using better interfaces
    • Better answers - Connect with your respondents to get better responses
    • Brand experiences - Engage your customers and engender brand loyalty
  • For people with answers - It can be annoying when surveys ask you for the same information endlessly? Our surveys are different. They are engaging, innovative and enjoyable to interact with. If you’ve entered information already, we make it possible for you to reuse that data, rather than re-type it. At Surfy Surveys we treat our users as people who are:
    • Smart - We offer visually interesting widgets to have fun while you to participate in our surveys.
    • Human - We won’t ask for the same information twice. We won’t ask for things you’ve told us before.
    • Busy - We won’t waste your time with trivial questions. We will make the act of answering a survey as simple and quick as possible.
    • Savvy - We try to give back as much information as we’re asking for. We’ll show you how your answers are contributing to the bigger picture.
    • SPAM averse - We won’t share your information with third parties. You won’t even hear from us unless you tick a great big ‘opt-in’ box.

Test, learn, test again

When the Agile manifesto was written in 2001, it contained the elixir that Surfy needed, but I didn’t hear about it until 2013 by which time the ship had sailed. We needed to be refining minimum viable products, working out what our customers really valued about the service and innovating to meet those user needs, and only those user needs.

Getting back on the bus

The Surfy bus got lost somewhere off the A14

As we start thinking about our next project, I’m gripped by the sort of excitement that courses through the team at product inception. There are so many possibilities, so many par-baked product ideas, features that would ‘cool’ and markets that may exist one day if we’re there first. It’s dangerous territory, but wonderful too. I’m reminded of the UK’s favourite poem (allegedly If by Rudyard Kipling). I’m looking forward to the right time to dust off those “worn-out tools”.



Leave a comment