Olive – a Web App for Web Designers

About 6 months ago I found myself hunting for an app that did just what Olive is going to, I couldn’t find one so I set about developing it.

Olive is a web app that allows designers to bolt on additional maintenance services quickly and easily, thus quickly increasing your monthly income with your clients. I’m very excited about Olive, it’s an easy, intuitive solution that fills a void. The chances are you possibly already offer your clients web design maintenance contracts, if you don’t, Olive is the perfect excuse to start.

If you do already have maintenance clients you will be familiar with the amount of emails you get in relation to a single update, they’ll first send you an email to say they need an update, you’ll then send an email back asking for the files before you can quote, they will send you an email with the files, you’ll send an email back with the quote for the amount of time it will take you, they will send you an email accepting and saying go ahead, then give it a day or so, and they’ll be emailing you to ask when they should expect their update completed. That’s a lot of inbox clogging for just one client!

‘Olive’ gives your client a “one click” access to your services with a custom branded app that suits your business branding. Your client will log in, type their update, attach associated files which get sent to you – you will receive a notification in your dashboard with the files and what the update is, you will then assign how many credits the update will need. Credits? I hear you say….what are these credits you speak of?

Olive works on a unique pay as you go system, you set how much a credit is worth to you ie. 1 credit = £10.00 ($ or €). Your clients can pre-pay blocks of credits to use with the services you provide, you can also set a client as “unlimited” and set your monthly charge for unlimited access accordingly. This captures both types of common client, the one who does not want to be on a rolling monthly contract for small frequent updates, and those who do. You may choose not to use the unlimited feature at all and simply use it as a “pay as you go” system. For example, the pay as you go clients may need you to fix something they have broken using their CMS system (we’ve all been there!) or create a new graphic for a promotion they are running, perfect – introduce them to the ‘pay as you go system’ and keep all their requests in one place. You can also use the credit system for client support, lost password requests or changing name servers for example, set the amount of credits that suit you.

The beauty of Olive is the simple interface client side, this gives them all the information they need about their updates at a click. Lights next to their updates mean different things, red means it’s been sent to you, the designer, and is pending credit allocation, yellow means it’s being worked on and green, completed. No more emails back and forth, they can log-in 24/7 and see the status of any given project at any time.

As an Olive user, you will have your own unique sub domain name, set by you at sign-up, to point your clients to, you can also upload your own logo and customise the overall look of the app to suit your business. I’ve realised how important this is as a designer myself. Your dashboard shows you all incoming updates and the status of those updates in one easy to view screen, you can also message the client and receive client messages on each update request. You can also add additional users for use with other designers in your office or freelancers should you wish.

Olive can literally be what you want it to be, a credit can be £40 for one designer and £1 for another – use it for web design maintenance or client support, it can be used for any service you want to provide to your clients. Your clients will love the informative interface, simplicity of updating and the feeling of having you at their fingertips. You will love the ease of having everything in one place, a clearer inbox and getting paid right away for the updates in your dashboard. Create your own custom packages and advertise them to your clients, for example; new image creation 5 credits, name server change 2 credits. Advertise in your next newsletter or send an email out to all your clients, manually add a few credits to their account as a promotion to get the ball rolling, I guarantee from my personal experience, they will love it!

To summise, Olive is a great way to increase your monthly income, using the skills you already have to sign up clients who feel a monthly maintenance package may be too expensive for them or not the right solution, for the few updates they need per month, but a quite a few clients with a few updates per month equates to many pounds in your pocket!

Olive will be available to beta testers shortly and general release in the next month.

Thank you for reading, I really appreciate the interest you’ve shown.

Olive Website

The Olive website is currently under construction aka. fiddling.

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  • Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  • Wow Sarah, this looks and sounds awesome! Can I apply for beta account?

    Pete.

  • Sounds very interesting indeed, and at first glance, it would certainly seem as though there’s nothing similar out there at present. Would be very interested to try the beta with a client or two to see what we all think…

  • Naz

    awesome, well done.x

  • Looks absolutely lovely.

    Not something we would use (well not directly but maybe in the future) as we’re not really client based.

    Love the name and logo.

    Good work.

  • This looks really good and really useful (something I could use on occasion). Good luck with it.

  • Dan

    Awesome! Saves both the client and the designer/developer time as well as looking slick and very professional!

    This is going to take off in a big way! Well done!

  • What a brilliant idea – I can see that this has a lot of potential to work well in simplifying all those interactions with clients.

    I would love to have a play with it as a beta tester!

  • Yes, it looks very promising. Where can we sign up for beta testing? 🙂

  • This sounds really handy. It will save a lot of time and mean I don’t have to remember to add small things to my to-do, which can get forgotten! I’ll be keeping an eye out for the release 🙂

  • Brilliant! Just what I need, can’t wait to try it out.

  • Loving the colour scheme, I can’t recollect seeing any website (or certainly web app) using it. The idea of variably priced credits is genius too.

    Nice work!

  • Hiya,
    This sounds great and would be interested in the pricing plans you intend to use for Olive, if its a good price I will be definitely be recommending this to my bosses at work.

    One last thing whats the URL we can expect the app to be launched on?

    Thanks,
    Warren 🙂

  • Sarah

    The pricing structure is set to be as follows, but I’d be really interested to hear any thoughts!

    FREE – 2 clients, 0MB storage space, non-branded app

    BASIC – £5/$10/€6.50 per month
    15 clients 512MB storage space, branded app –

    PREMIUM – £10/$20/€12.50 per month
    Unlimited Clients, branded app – 1GB space – branded app.

    To keep it nice and simple.

    The web address will be announced in the next few days when the site is live.

    🙂

  • This sounds great! Would definitely save me quite a bit of time with certain clients, count me in for a beta!

  • Basic is a good entry level price point, but I reckon large agencies would have no trouble forking out a whole lot more for unlimited.. they might be attracted by more space mind you.

    Pete.

  • James

    I think everything about the app so far looks brilliant, clearly an awful lot of thought has gone into every aspect and I wish you every success. Its definitely something I’d be interested in using.

    Pricing structure would suit my situation (someone trying to enter freelance world), £5 per month seems like it would be money well spent considering the extra income this could generate.

    Will there be a screencast demoing the functionality?

  • It should streamline the interaction with clients, this can only be a good thing!
    The pricing structure is fair, even for small developers but 512MB of space is very small. How many clients really know the size of the files they are uploading, it would be hard to explain/they might not understand how to reduce the size of say, 12 megapixel photographs they are uploading to you… I think it would be useful to have the ability to ‘buy’ extra space.

    Am looking forward to testing it. : )

  • Sarah

    Pete: That’s a very good point, I just didn’t want to create too many different types of accounts, is 15 about the average number of clients a small freelancer/design agency would need without going up to the unlimited plan?

    James: Thank you very much, I will certainly do a screencast for the opening of Olive, no problem at all.

    Will: Definately a good point and one I will take into account now, you’re right about clients not having any idea about 12MB photos, thank you for the heads up.

  • Reiterating Pete’s point above I think an unlimited price plan would be no problem for larger organisations. Or you could look at the usenet client sign up and have first month free then charged on an ongoing basis dependent on the product chosen.

  • I agree with Pete in that the premium seems a little cheap. Having said that, it makes it very affordable, which means that you are going to have a much bigger take up.

    In my case I have more than 15 clients who I would want to have access to this, however only a few of them would be using it regularly (as some of my clients only have updates done once in a blue moon).

    Perhaps charging for additional storage would be one way of getting more money out of the heavy users, without penalising the smaller ones.

    I might suggest giving a small amount of storage to the free users – otherwise they would still have to have email to receive files, which would mean that they wouldn’t see the full advantage of using Olive.

  • We had a similar pricing to yours when we released paid packages.
    Free -> $10 -> £20

    We’ve now changed this to be Free -> $5 -> $20 -> $50 -> $200 (see here)

    We found big clients where willing to pay for big packages and a lot more. But people also wanted a low entry package for the bottom end.

    I think your bottom end price is fine, but you’re missing a package

    Free -> $10 -> $25 -> $99

    Your $10 package is fine. Although maybe bump up the storage a touch.
    Your premium package is too low. For what you are offering, I would position unlimited at more the $100 mark . And I would off more space with that. 10 gigs give or take.

    If you do that though, you need a middle package between the two. Something that suits everyone but the big guys. For $25 I would go with 50 or 100 clients (I’m guessing here, you know this space better than me) and double the storage over $10.

    I also agree with what Phil said about offering some basic storage to free customers. 100 megs or 50 megs is not a lot but also will encourage full use of the platform and you’ll convert more free customers to clients.

    Remember storage is dirt cheap (relatively speaking) these days. Use S3 to start with.

  • Dan

    That sounds good to start with. I’m sure if people start using it and get in touch with you wanting more of this and less of that, you could create alternative packages and prices later.

    Just see what people ask for and base future packages on that.

    Dan

  • Hi this sounds fantastic, However – Any chance on it being a “Script” so it can be hosted on our own servers? The majority of designers now adays have a solid reseller package or even their own dedicated servers, I’d just begrudge paying twice for hosting 🙂

    Looks great though, want to see a demo =]

  • It seems the pricing structure is quite well received, even a little low in some eyes. It certainly looks like a useful app though that I’m sure most freelancers and agencies will find a use for.

    As for using S3 for storage (suggested by Adrian above), I’d think twice about doing that before implementing it. If you do, make sure you have a backup plan in place after the recent downtime that has hit many big name websites in the last week: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/more_amazon_s3_downtime.php

  • This looks fantastic Sarah! Great job.

  • Sarah

    Adam: Unfortunately it won’t be released as a script, only a hosted app. I myself have a reseller package but as it’s ruby on rails it needs specialist servers which would prove too difficult for some.

    Si: I won’t be releasing it as a script but thanks v. much for the info, that was an interesting link.

  • Si & Adrian: Thanks for the S3 suggestion although we won’t be using this to start with in favour of our own storage platform.

    Adam & Si: As Sarah mentioned, we won’t be releasing this as a script at the current time because the majority of users might struggle to install the Rails application but we are hoping to announce a full API shortly after the launch for users who wish to integrate with other management systems.

  • It looks nice Sarah.
    I would like to see that beta.

  • Sarah this looks amazing and is clearly something alot of designers including myself will be all over! I would love to be a beta tester and i already have several clients who this would suit down to the ground. I think the price structure is extremely affordable although the premium does seem on the low side for unlimited clients. The ability to buy extra space is something i would love to see as well 🙂

  • SI:
    Interesting link. Although non Amazon storage options also have downtime. As the article said, as long as it’s infrequent and fix relatively quickly this isn’t a concern. And as long as your system is designed to managed components going down.

    Adam/Sarah:
    I don’t think releasing the service as a script is the way to go. Providing a service is now an established and working model, and I think simplicity and ease of use of it being ready to go will more than out weight bringing those people who want to run it themselves. You may want to have a way for people to add their own storage to the system if they want.

  • Dan

    Adrian, I can see the advantage of releasing it as a script but at the same time, you’re right about the hosted app route being a well established model.

    Sarah, if olive will be entirely hosted will there be substantial linking incentives or will links to client/developer’s sites be hidden from search engines? I imagine this app will end up with one hell of a page rank so links from it will be worth their weight in virtual gold.

  • I was thinking about this last night and how it would relate to my business. Having got fed up of getting lots of small changes from clients I have (over the past few months) done the following:

    * Put the clients onto an amount, against which their amends are recorded. For example, the client might have a budget of a day and we log time against it until they have spent the day. Saving lots of little invoices.
    * Phased out those clients!

    Your credit ideas is really interesting. I wonder if it is suited more to small clients than bigger? I don’t know if that is true, just thinking aloud! Can’t wait to give this a go to see if it will help my business.

  • Sarah:

    If your uneasy of releasing such script because of the ability to hack it, and thus use it without a serial or whatever means, it is very simple indeed to need to to “talk” to your servers once a day to make sure its a valid copy, if its coming from a domain that isn’t registered then it would kick it.

    I think its a fantastic idea, however I wouldn’t be parting money with it on the bases of it being hosted elsewhere, The cost is superb, I personally charge clients that a month(and more) for basic hosting, however for my clients to have to leave my domain, I am certainly unsure about, there’s a tonne of data protection issues id have with that I would be “uneasy” at best, unless you plan on using SSL?

    Also with it being hosted on your own servers, I take it that you wouldn’t allow FTP access to certain people so they could change the look and even perhaps layout of the site? One wouldn’t want their customers moving from their brand to a totally different brand to discuss details, it brings confusion, I am really one for consistency in websites!

    I will keep ears to the ground on this one! Keep up the good work mind!

  • The domain issue can be easily resolved in DNS with a cname (olive.yourdomain.com)

    Data protection issues can be covered in a policy document. If you’re still uneasy with that then I guess it’s up to each individual to decide the trade off between the value the service provides and data protection concerns.

    SSL would be a nice value add for the top two tiers though.

  • My concern if they can pay for the services through it, the whole payment process, as you can imagine with today’s growing concerns for security, SSL should be as standard, there will be likely a bucket load of personal data, and “Shared” SSL is a freebie for most people – all my hosting comes with a free shared SSL (unbranded urls) And it does say subdomain.olive.com

    Hopefully there will be a demo live soon so we can have a look and see 🙂

  • Sarah

    Adam: Just to clarify, automatic credit payments are handled by Paypal and then the credits are allocated to the specified account, and are therefore secure – offline credit payments are up to you, credits can be added manually to accounts should a client wish to pay by cheque or by other means suited to you.

    It definately won’t be released as a script, this brings a whole host of issues that most users will not want to encounter, one of them being finding a compatible server, sorry! 🙁

    Olive is going into closed beta and then general release shortly.

  • Hi Sarah,

    Its not just the payment issues there though there will be surely a whole host of personal data stored there for clients?

    Also paypal is totally useless, its not regulated by the FSA and thus most companies don’t use it, or even have an account 🙂

    I personally know I can install and run ruby on rails on my servers, for me or my clients, its rather simple actually, well I think anyway 🙂

  • Sarah

    I’ll gauge opinion on SSL for personal data and see what comes back, it hasn’t been an issue so far with the designers who have looked over it?

    Paypal isn’t useless otherwise we wouldn’t have used it, I personally use it for 90% of my business transactions through Virtual Terminal and my accountants have never had a problem doing my books because of it. But, should someone not wish to use Paypal there are other means to add credits to clients accounts, which is why this was implemented. A large percentage of the designers (not just freelancers I hasten to add) I spoke to in the wireframing stage of Olive have Paypal and use them regularly, this is why this route was taken.

    Thank you for your feedback, I do appreciate it.

  • I don’t think SSL is that big a deal for everyone. Having it as an option for the top tier accounts is fine. You want it you pay for it. You don’t want it, no problem.

    I’d also dispute the PayPal thing. I’m former eBay though so I am biased. But the facts don’t play out. And plenty big businesses are using it now too. Boots for example. And you don’t have to pay with PayPal to use PayPal. You can just use it for credit card processing and it’s no different to any other payments gateway.

  • Adam: Thank you for your feedback.

    Re: SSL/Data protection
    The only information transferred between the browser and server is very basic client information – Olive doesn’t try to be a complete client management system – there are plenty of those around – so the only information transferred will be things like the name of the client and information about the jobs. Having said that, we will be adding SSL encryption to the higher paid accounts.

    Re: Distributing this as a script
    While some shared hosting platforms are beginning to introduce Rails hosting, quite a few hosts do not support it at this time and would exclude a significant proportion of the target market. This isn’t the only problem with distributing it in this manner, it would significantly increase the support load. By offering a fully hosted service, we assume the responsibility for ensuring everything is working correctly.

    Re: Branding
    The site will allow you to choose your own colour schemes and upload your company logo. However, if you wanted close integration with your website, you may be able to take advantage of the API for your clients.

  • Re: Paypal
    Paypal originally had a bad reputation for various reasons although in last 12 months, it’s take up around many internet sites has been huge and we are more than confident in using it as the payment processor for Olive. You will have the option to take payments offline and add credits to a client’s account without using Paypal itself.

    Again, if the demand is high enough we may look into providing other payment services in the future, however, for now, we’ll be sticking with Paypal.

  • Paypal, yes/no.. If you cant provide proof of postage, then you loose, customer gets money back, virtual goods? They really really are asses when it comes to that, believe me, I’ve had experience personally with that. And their not regulated by the FSA, which means they can put a hold on your account, take all your money and you cant do a thing about it.

    SSL. If you don’t think your clients personal information is important then I am afraid your seriously in the wrong business. It would severely increase customer confidence with visiting and external website.

    For minimum arguments sake it should be a bolt on. Or at least free for unbranded “shared SSL” and of course an annual fee for 12months.

    I am going to agree again with everyone else though £10 a month for premium is too cheap, £20 a month seems more like it +SSL Charge, seriously – OK you will get loads of people on-board for that price? But put the price up and put a discount of 50% up for the first 100 customers? or Just free for 3months?

    For the people who are still not quite there with SSL, would you like all your details stored insecurely? Anywhere where a username and password are used, or personal data is kept, SSL should be used.

    I make e-commerce websites, and sales go up just by poppin a shared SSL Certificate on the website, without even enabling SSL? Add it to eshop and buyer confidence is through the roof.

    And I’ve sold on ebay as a power seller selling items at the average cost of between £75 – £300, we always kept proof of postage so there was never no problems with physical goods.

  • Ah you posted before I finished writing mine, well Google Checkout support would be great too. And having you host it has it advantages there, for non technical people or people with little time to mess about on their hands its quite good.. What’s the uptime for the servers though and does a guarantee come with it?

    “So the only information transferred will be things like the name of the client and information about the jobs” – My reason for SSL just got bumped

  • Without trying to get into it to much (on PayPal) … PayPal offers plenty seller protection too. Google Checkout also isn’t covered by the FSA.

    My advice on payments (online)
    Use PayPal Express checkout initially. It’s pretty easy to get set up. Use this to get you going. We’re using this currently.
    Then add WebSite Payments Pro if you want to take credit cards from users with no paypal accounts. More of a pain to integrate I’ll grant you, but if you already have PayPal not a bad way to go.

    Both allow for recurring payments and subscriptions.

    After that make a decision if you want / need to integrate Google checkout as well. Personally I think two many options are confusing and I’m a big fan of Paypal or Credit card options.

    Any problems with these give me a shout. We’ve done it and I still have some friends at PayPal who can help.

  • It sounds absolutely fab Sarah – can’t wait to start playing with it, and the fact that it’s beautifully designed just makes it all that much more pleasurable 🙂

    Congrats x

  • Very impressive looking app – what a great idea. I look forward to having a go. If you haven’t got enough Beta testers already count me in!

  • Dan

    Just a thought, seeing as a lot of us web designer types have iPhones, are you going to include an extra iPhone friendly interface/stylesheet?

    Would be pretty sweet… or even an iPhone app to check your Olive for new requests and do basic organisation on it…

    Maybe one for the future 🙂

  • Hi Sarah,

    Just a question?

    Whats the domain name going to be for the software, olive itself would have been ok, since its not long winded, ie minutedesigns.olive.com wouldnt have been so bad, but since olive.com and all the other domains are taken, what was you thinking about?

  • Не совсем уловил некоторые моменты, но в общем прикольно 🙂