In our effort to build forums.com there are a lot of things that we must learn, one of them being the art/science of getting users. First of all I must tell you that we are in Kolkata, India, where the traditional software business is mostly small to medium projects for clients. Very few companies build or work on projects spanning multiple years where they are involved in every aspect of the product they build. Although technically we build forums.com for a client, but it's an independent venture. So it's constant learning for us as to how we can build a product for the masses to appreciate.
So back to the point of users. forums.com is a common single word in English and thus we have some direct hits to the site to start with. The numbers were around 300 visits a day about 4 months back. Now we are about 900. On an average we get 10 new forums each day. That is not a bad count. But we want to have more of them. That is what every software builder wants. But instead of spreading the name to more masses we must think of our current scenario. We have absolutely NO brand now. forums.com is a hosted forum/group communication application. So you can imagine we have zillions of competitors including big ones like Google Groups, Yahoo! Groups and Facebook Groups. We are tiny (even smaller) compared to them. But why are people still opening forums on forums.com?
The only way I could personally answer that question is my own experience: people sometimes like to try new stuff. forums.com may seem a new toy to some onlookers. And that's it, they start a forum and use it. Good for us. But then that means we should get more onlookers? Yes and no. Yes because it would obviously help us, no because we need some background check. Think of these 10 new forums opening daily. Once of them, each month at least, could become a 100 folk (member) forum. But we are not having that. Reason? Software.
The same software which made someone create a forum may not be living up to their expectation afterwards. On the internet a person who tries out forums.com is probably an average connected folk in her community but unless we wow! her, the person would not invite 10 of her friends. That is why the ball is not rolling. People have high expectation from software nowadays and maybe we are not delivering that.
Then the question is: do we suck? The answer is no. We may be doing a good job if you compare forums.com to Google Groups. But when a user goes to Google Groups, she is part of the Google experience and that helps. She feels there more in the offering. Thus our offering in forums.com has to be stronger and make someone feel more cared, more served. User's time is important, and she will not hesitate to change to another provider. Thus the job of a product developer would be, at our stage at least, to satisfy the initial user-base. They are already here, so why not make them part of our family, forever.