Software for your SaaS company

As a small software company, we find it important to share the love and support other software that we use and love in the hopes that they continue to be successful, so here is the first

Little Warden’s Favourite Software (2019 Edition)

(with no affiliate links!)

Balsamiq

Balsamiq is my favourite bit of software ever (sorry Sitebulb)

Every single feature of Little Warden is designed within Balsamiq and then built in code, it’s probably the software I’ve spent the most time in (other than Sublime) over the last 10 years (infact this year will be my 10th year using Balsamiq)

Although they are moving towards a web based tool, I’ll try and stick to the software as much as I can as I love the responsiveness.

ProfitWell

A new entry for this year (well technically they all are, but we only started using it in 2018) ProfitWell is fast becoming one of the most helpful bits of software we use.

You signup, hookup your payment gateway and it gives you all the stats a software business needs to know, MMR, Churn, segments, growth trends and retention rate.

Did I mention all that was free?

They have a premium product called Retain which we are just about to start trying this week so will update next years list with how that goes.

Canva

I never learned to use Photoshop and I’ve never forgiven Adobe for killing Fireworks, Canva allows me to create quick images for instagram or facebook, page layouts for booklets or magazines and slides for presentations or videos.

Crisp

We’ve been using Crisp on Little Warden since the beginning and it’s helped us considerably for both support and sales. I’m always more inclined to trust a service a bit more if they have live chat and I always try and answer as soon as possible (even if this means answering support queries on my phone in the queue at Tesco). Crisp is one of the best we’ve used interface and product support wise.

Camtasia

If you are trying to do product explainer videos or walkthroughs, I believe there is no better product than Camtasia, it’s simple but powerful interface means that even a video idiot like me can put something together that’s pretty sweet.

Monosnap

Last year we switched from using a combination of Skitch and recordit for annotations of screenshots and small videos.

Monosnap is a free tool which fits into our workflow perfectly, the drag-and-drop ability to annotate and then instantly drop into a document makes it perfect for quick edits and suggestions for customers.

And it’s free (with a small IAP for cloud storage and other things)

Sublime Text Editor

We’ve been using Sublime since we started working with Ruby and it’s been a pleasure, it handles everything we throw at it including the occasional 8gb CSV file!

Sublime text is made more powerful by the packages and Package Control package manager meaning it’s extendable to almost any language and has powerful inbuilt IDE like features like git integration and on-demand runtimes for inline errors

Mailplane

If you are anything like me, you’ve amassed a collection of email addresses over a few years and if you are still like me, they are all GMail.

Mailplane allows you to manage all the inboxes in one application and not have to have separate browser window for each .

SQLPro Studio

We’ve only started to use SQLPro studio since November but already it’s proving to be value for money, it’s a really lovely interface to PostgreSQL and MySQL (and a load of other databases that we don’t care about.

Notable Mentions

These are products that we use often but are ‘larger companies’ and so don’t need as much publicity

Disneyland Paris advice for attendees of Search Y

There is an SEO conference in Disneyland Paris this weekend and I’ve not been invited to speak… Almost all of my search presentations involve Disney and this would be the one ligitimate conference where it’s relevant!

I am gutted.

But that’s not going to stop me from giving you a quick Disneyland Paris Primer to make sure you get the most out of your post conference activities

Disneyland Paris is two parks and a Shopping / Dining village, these parks are smaller than their American counterparts but still have their own charm,

The most common question I’ve been asked by speakers is “what rides I go on” so let’s try and answer that and a few other questions

Disneyland Park

Notable Attractions

  • Phantom Manor  (closed for refurb)
  • Space Mountain* – ( In the dark coaster)
  • Star Tours* – (Star wars based motion simulator)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean* – (Water base dark ride which inspired the films)
  • Indiana Jones* – (Standard off the shelf coaster, nothing special)
  • Big Thunder Mountain* – Runaway mine train, probably the best version out of all the Disneys
  • It’s a small world – if you come to Disneyland and don’t go on this… what is wrong with you.

Walt Disney Studios

Notable Attractions

  • Crush’s Coaster – (Closed for Refurb)
  • Ratatouille* – Just do this one (soon to be copied in WDW’s Epcot)
  • Aerosmith* – Indoor coaster
  • Lights Motors Action – Car based stunt show
  • RC Racer – Half pipe car coaster
  • Tower of Terror – world famous drop attraction

(These recommendations are based on a solo traveller without any children, if you are bringing kids, let me know and I’ll recommend some different plans)

Other things to notes

Fastpass

Disneyland Paris has a Fastpass system which is free to use, if a ride has a large queue, you can go to a Fastpass machine, put in your park ticket and it will give you a time to come back (the attractions above with * all have Fastpass)

You can have one fastpass every hour or so but some of the top rides run out of Fastpass quickly)

If money isn’t a problem and you are short on time, Disneyland Paris have recently introduced a paid fastpass which allows you to skip the queue on one or all the rides, once or unlimited times throughout the day.

Parades & Special Events

It’s currently Star Wars time at Walt Disney Studios park has special things throughout the day with marches from the First Order and Legends of a Galaxy Far, Far Away featuring some of the best characters from the galaxy as well as some special photo opportunites (this week it’s Chewbacca) .

Disneyland Park has it’s usual Stars on Parade parade which is well worth seeing if you have time.

Evening Shows

At the end of the evening, Disneyland Park has a ‘kiss goodnight’ show, now I will warn you, this won’t be an all singing, all dancing fireworks spectacle of its American cousins (there are people that live too close to DLP with noise complaints about that) but they have some wonderful projection mapping and water effects (without spoiling)

Walt Disney Studios usually closes earlier and at this current time has a Star Wars based show which has some impressive mapping.

I hope this helps anyone attending if any anyone would like any more advice or has any questions, @thehodge on twitter @ukdisdad on instagram

Our First Twitter Ads Test (and a weird Twitter Bug)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It’s 2019 and our new year’s resolution is to double the number of customers we have (We’ve a family trip to Disneyland Tokyo planned). This means looking into alternative sources of traffic and leads, no more can I rely on “witty bantz” from Twitter or going to BrightonSEO and shouting at random people that they’ve not bought my product (this has worked in the past but it doesn’t scale) No, not this year, this year is the year we do some PPC properly. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Bing, PornHub… If there are ads available, I’m gonna give it a go. So we started with Twitter, everyones favourite way to avoid ‘proper work’ and invest in a social profile. I’ve come up with a bit of a campaign (that I’m slightly proud of) that explains clearly some of the issues we solve with LW
https://twitter.com/littlewardenapp/status/1081211253572407297
I’ve created a series of about 20 of these all with different scenarios and photos (all properly licensed of course!) So when you click to see a Tweets stats, you are given the option of “Promoting a Tweet” to a wider audience.
Once you decide to promote using this method the only options given are location and budget.
So either Twitter;
  • Will show it to EVERYONE in that location the tweet (not good)
  • They will use some Machine Learning fun to work out the best people to show it in that location (maybe good)
I knocked the money spent down to the smallest amount £50 and the campaign was on the way.
As you can see, at the start of the campaign, the organic stats for the tweet were ‘okay’ considering it was Christmas week and a Friday, not our best tweet but not bad. I updated twitter throughout the day with the spend and impressions.
https://twitter.com/littlewardenapp/status/1082271786807541760
When I saw we had two likes, I was interested in the people that this campaign was targetting to our like stuff so I popped over to the tweet and saw…. no new likes. Twitter as part of the campaign was taking credit for likes we ALREADY had.
Twitter Likes Before Campaign Started
Twitter Likes After Campaign Started
You can see our blue organic likes have turned into yellow promoted likes, this is massively worrying as without a valid explanation it means I can’t trust any of the stats that I get from Twitter. I asked a few people who I know use Twitter Ads but none of them had seen anything like this before, so we kept the campaign going but kept an eye on the stats. The final stats of the campaign and what we actually got for our £50 budget.
  • Impressions – 22,854
  • Media Engagements – 164
  • Detailed Expands – 45
  • Profile Clicks – 4
  • Link Clicks – 3
  • Likes – 0 (Allegedly 3)
  • Retweets – 0
  • Replies – 0
  • Followers – 0
  • Conversions – HAHAHHAHA
So not the best use of £50 out of the company Kitty but it was worth a try, before I put anymore money into Twitter Ads though, I wanted an answer on what happened with the likes, so I contacted Twitter Ads support.
Well I tried, but you wouldn’t believe it.. the issue box only allows 280 characters! So I tried again with a much more ‘direct’ message. I received an instant auto response with a rather worrying line embedded in the middle of it.
They want me to reply with more info… but they didn’t let me give any info in the first step which feels like a massive waste of my time and an annoying way of them filtering out queries. And even if I do that, I might not even get a response! Thanks for your money but we are too busy with other customers. I replied to the email and we will see if we get a response. Next up is Facebook. UPDATE: Twitter have gotten back to my detailed question (with images and dates) with this response that basically treats me like an idiot.
Not helpful at all, I have replied to this email with a less than happy tone. SECOND UPDATE  That’s it, as far as Twitter is concerned they don’t need to answer my question. As far as I’m concerned this isn’t good enough
If you’ve enjoyed this post, why not signup to our mailing list or even better BUY THE BLOODY PRODUCT.

New Feature – Related URLs

We are always trying to be a little bit smarter at Little Warden, we’ve several projects on the go at the moment trying to estimate which actions you want to take on a specific domain name to reduce your setup time.

Whilst we train the machines to slowly replace us, we’ve launched a stopgap feature called Related URLs

Related URLs 

Now when you go into a URL page, you’ll see an extra button (I know, I know the UX needs a bit of work but one step at a time)

Clicking that button takes you to a special page which allows you to select the type of relation to the website

Redirect URLs – These are URLs that should redirect to the root domain (such as trademark domains, geodomains and previous brand names)

Staging / Test URLs – These are URLs for development or testing of the original URL, they should not be indexable by search engines

By using these Related URLs, we can set some custom configuration on checks such as URL redirect and indexability.

We will be adding more related URL functionality as it’s requested (so keep your feedback coming)  

If you’ve been thinking about signing up to Little Warden but haven’t quite gotten around to it, take a look at our website at about midday today for a sneaky special offer 😉 

Why have 1 announcement? When you can have 3!

It’s an exciting day here at LW and we’ve got three announcements here to go! How lucky are you??

Little Warden’s new look

First up Little Warden has a brand new look and it looks smashing!

After months of planning, notes and a design brief which partly said ‘the current marketing site is bodged together, please help us’. We’ve been working with designer  Joe Rutland on breathing life into our marketing site and we are really really pleased with the result (although we highly recommend Joe, we ask you don’t send TOO much work his way as we need him to work on some more stuff for us soon)

Better Slack Integration

The Little Warden Slack integration is one of the most popular ways of being informed about Little Warden updates, today we’ve taken that one step further and are pleased to say that  Robot Dom can now join you directly into your slack room allowing you to manage almost all of the Little Warden daily jobs directly from your chat.

You can read the full Slack command list or just head over to the notification sections inside your control panel and get started!.

Domain/ SSL Expiration Calendar Feeds

A few weeks ago I was listening to the Startups for the rest of us Podcast when one of the hosts mentioned that he has a calendar with all his domain renewals on that he manages manually but it didn’t scale very well…

So we contacted him and now he uses Little Warden.

but it did get us thinking.. that’s not a bad idea at all..

So now you can head over to the renewal report page. and get a direct iCal feed to import into your calendar of choice (make sure you add it as a feed rather than a file and PLEASE don’t check for changes more than every hour) 

We’ve got some more news and other exciting things to share soon but it’s 10pm and we are going to celebrate with a cider and picking up all of Scarlett’s toys off the living room floor.

Thanks and have a magical day

Dom, Heather (and Scarlett but she is in bed)

Introducing Zapier Integration and Webhooks!

Today we are VERY excited to launch not one… but TWO of our most requested features from our more ‘technical‘ users.

Zapier Integration

We get feature requests all the time (okay, maybe once a month) asking us to ‘integrate with x’ or ‘it would be great if you could y’ and with a small team, it’s just not possible to keep up with API changes and updates (and to be honest we wouldn’t get anything done)

So we started looking at what to integrate as a third party and we narrowed it down to two websites Zapier and IFFT.. We spent a long time looking at the pros and cons of each service including userbase, our current customer’s preference, API docs, ease of integration and then looked that Zapier was free but IFFT wanted to charge us to integrate so Zapier won!

Zapier has thousands of integrations with services and with it, Little Warden becomes much more powerful one of the most common test cases we see is the ability to send notifications directly into Google Sheets, Trello, Asana or other project management tools.

We are currently in the ‘invite only’ stage which means we have to prove to Zapier that we are a real company and people want to use us but login to notification preferences now and give it a go!

Webhook notifications

Another feature requested by our technical users is the ability for us to send a webhook to a URL on any change or notification.

We send a JSON payload with the following schema;

{
  "title": "The URL status check returns a 200 status code",
  "text": "<p>The URL https://www.agenericdomainname.com should return a status code of <strong>200 OK</strong></p><p>Which it does so that's all good!</p>",
  "type": "url-check",
  "status": "all good",
  "url": "https://www.agenericdomainname.com",
  "direct_link": "https://littlewarden.com/sites/<site_id>"
}

 

That is now live with some sample code, you’ll find it under Notification Settings.

We’ve got another bumper update coming in the next week or two so keep subscribed to the blog (and awesome twitter account)

Thanks and have a magical day

Dom

Launched – a Slightly tweaked control panel

When we came up with the concept for Little Warden, we planned that each person would add the Root URL and maybe a few subdomains and so we planned the backend and frontend to match this.

Well, it turns out there is a reason that all the startup books tell you to interview your customer base before you start to build stuff. 

Turns out that Little Warden users like tracking pages as well as root domains and some of them like tracking 5000 or more pages on a single domain.

This has proved… interesting from a product perspective and whilst we’ve managed to make the product ‘work’ with this many URLs.. it wasn’t a great experience and certainly doesn’t fit in with the four keys that we try and run the company by.

Well, today I’d like to announce that we’ve launched the refresh of our internal system which means that URLs are grouped by domain or subdomain and you can quickly modify the checks and settings on a mass scale!

A change to our Search Console Importing

Today we’ve pushed out a small tweak to how we import URLs from Search Console.

The change comes down to how Google views ‘sites’ in Search Console for example;

  • http://example.com
  • http://www.example.com
  • https://www.example.com
  • https://example.com

These URLs would all be considered separate sites with GSC (or WMT as all the cool kids call it) and if we import 4 sites for the same URL then that just becomes a pain in the arse for everyone involved.

As far as Little Warden is concerned.. if you added the https:// version which renders, we check all the other URLs by default so there is no need to add them.

So from now on, we don’t import them automatically we just pick the one which renders and import that one (you can force these to be importing by switching auto sync to manual checks).

 

 

Papa’s Got A Brand New Changelog

Over the past few weeks, as well as eating cake and sponsoring conferences, we’ve been working on some backend changes to our system to enable things like hourly checking.

BUT it’s been a while since we launched anything VISUAL so I’d like to present to your our latest update – Recent Changes is now colour coded and in a timeline.

But Dom?

I hear you ask 

This is just a Balsamiq mockup of the feature and not a screenshot of the application in situ

A very good point.

and?

Well, If I wanted a screenshot of the website I’d either have to redact some customer data OR spend a few hours mocking up some fake changes on some generic websites and to be honest, not enough people read this blog to make it worthwhile and the mockup looks pretty close to the final feature

Well that makes total sense, thank you for your reasonable answer, I shall go and look at that feature now

No problem.

So head on over to https://littlewarden.com/change-history and see whats happening. This report will also update your daily changelog to make it a bit easier to see and understand.

Happy Birthday Little Warden!

About a year ago we launched Little Warden to the public. So this week we had a little party to celebrate.

(Whilst we don’t have the marketing budget for big fancy parties we can invite all our customers to, we do have enough money to buy discounted party tat from Poundland and a caterpillar cake)

What a year it’s been for us, we’ve had over 20 feature launches, some simply wonderful tweets, mentions at conferences all around the world, sponsored a podcast and a conference and spent good marketing money on stupid stuff on Fiverr.

We (Heather, Scarlett and I) would like to thank every single one of our customers for their support, feedback and suggestions over the last year, we read every single tweet, email and live chat (well Scarlett doesn’t but we read the good ones out to her) and they really do mean so much to our family.

But more importantly, it wouldn’t be a birthday celebration without presents so here is ours.

Hourly checks are now enabled for everyone!

We’ve been testing this for a while now (mainly for scale) but when you add sites now, you get the option of checking hourly instead of daily, this feature suggestion has been one of the loudest we’ve received from customers since we started and now we feel confident in enabling it to all our customers at no extra cost. (we did initially think about doing this as an add-on, but that would have been a shit birthday present) 

So what’s next?

We’ve got plenty set to launch in the next few weeks

  • A brand new website! (we had hoped to launch this for our Birthday but it turns out writing interesting marketing copy about rel=’canonical’ changes is hard)
  • Some UX and speed improvements in the application (Including the ability to mass-change checks on multiple URLs)
  • A Little Warden podcast (because what you needed to hear was more of me)
  • More Checks! (yep, the aim is to have 40 selectable checks by the end of the year)
  • More charity fundraising (like the Penguin Awards! Remember to get involved with those please!)
  • More event speaking (I’m speaking in September at BrightonSEO but I’m hoping to get a few more events in between, if you have an event and want a part time coder / part time comedian  to do a talk, get in touch.)
  • More family photos. (obviously)

So with plenty more to come, it’s time to put a close on year one.. and look forward to year two.

Thank you so much and have a magical day

Love

Dom, Heather and Scarlett.

P.S. if you’d like to get US a birthday present, there are three ideas;

  • If you are a customer, please consider sending a tweet that we can add to our testimonials page.
  • If you are a digital agency or work in digital, please consider entering the Penguin Awards, they are 100% for charity and I’d like to raise £7500 this year. 
  • If neither of those applies, we have a Just Giving page for the ‘stupid runs’ Dom is going to do this year (including one this weekend), please consider donating some scratch for Martin House Children’s Hospice.