Usage. It’s the ultimate driver of every business owner and CEO. We obsess over it. I have an entire 42” TV hanging over my desk with a real-time dashboard of numbers that measure this usage in different ways. I can access this dashboard on my laptop (where it is bookmarked), my tablet and even an app on my iPhone. It’s often the first thing I look at in the morning and sometimes the last thing I look at before I go to bed – much to my wife’s annoyance. Like I said, it’s an obsession.
Example of a Geckoboard we use for metrics
And it’s not just because I’m a data nerd. Metrics matter. More accurately, usage matters. The more people use your platform, the more benefit they’ll get out of it, the more likely they are to tell others about it, and the more likely your product is to go viral. Usage is the key to success – and in tech, more is always better.
In the world of data extraction, product usage means number of APIs created. There’s a lot of other metrics that surround and affect that number, but API creation is the real essence of what we do. This emphasis on API creation comes from our ultimate goal, which is to democratize access to data on the web by creating a fully structured web. In order to achieve this – rather stretch – goal, every API counts.
Building the tools for success
We knew when we started building our tools that the only ways we’d ever get to a fully structured web was if we got a whole lot of people to make a whole lot of APIs. And the only way to get that, was to make creating an API as quick and easy as humanly possible.
To that effect, we’ve spent the majority of our time creating and refining our data app. And the numbers were good. In the first year and a half, we steadily acquired users at an increasing rate who were building more and more APIs. But it wasn’t enough. We realised that if we were ever going to accomplish our goals in our lifetimes we needed to seriously jump-start our usage.
At a certain point it became apparent that no matter what we did to the app, it was never going to be enough to achieve the large scale API creation that we wanted. The app was really good at making very complex data extraction simple, but it still required a certain level of training and data knowledge on the part of the user.
For every step and button push you build into your product, you lose a percentage of people. Whether they get tired or run out of time or get frustrated or realise they left the stove on or whatever; the point is that even if it only takes a few steps to go from website to API, you’re going to lose a few. Not to mention the ones who never start in the first place.
For a truly democratized web, we need everyone to feel like they can take a webpage and turn it into data. While the app was relatively simple, it wasn’t simple enough to appeal to the masses. If we were really serious about democratizing the web for everyone, we needed to do something radical.
For us, that meant putting the app to one side and thinking: What is the least amount of user input we can take and still create an API?
Making the brave decision
Asking that question allowed us to strip creating an API down to it’s simplest form. What we then realised, was that in a lot of cases, all we really needed was the URL to a webpage with data on it. Theoretically, our algorithms could do the rest.
It took 6 months of development and testing, but at the end of October we released Data Magic. A web based app where a user could simply input a URL and get a table of data instantly, which they could then turn into an API. In essence, we managed to turn complex data extraction into copy and paste (from the user’s point of view).
Doubling our usage
The results were remarkable. In the first month our users created more than 67,000 APIs – more than double what gets created in a typical month. If the usage continues to grow at this rate, we will have created ¼ of a million in the first 3 months of launch.
The team celebrating
This is a massive increase. Of course there is still a long way to go until the whole of the web is structured, but being able to bring 67,000 new APIs into the world in one month is a good start. By not holding ourselves creatively hostage by our own product, we were able to think outside of the box (or app) and come up with something completely new that really changed the game for us.
This level of growth has made us truly excited for the future. The whole team at import is fully committed to continuing to bring this kind of innovation to the marketplace. If we can keep growing and innovating at this rate, the dream of a fully structured web starts to look a lot more achievable.