Over the last months we’ve been analyzing SourceForge historical data, looking for trends and correlations. We’ve found factors that can help project administrators to get both more downloads and more visibility.
- Project Icons
- Project Title, blurb, and full description fields
- Feature bullets
- Accurate project categorization
- More frequent releases, and flag latest release
- Rapid turnaround on tickets
All things being equal, projects with these elements are more prone to capture people’s interest than projects without them.
A user visits a Project Summary Page either because they know exactly what they are looking for – in which case you don’t need to provide them with nuts and bolts – or because they are looking for something, and they don’t know if your project solves their problems. In this latter case, you have just a few moments to make a good first impression. Here’s a few tips to help you do just that.
- “Put an alligator over the pocket” (W. Allen, With our Feathers – “The Scrolls” – 1975).
When you put a logo on your project, people associate it with certain core values like trust, quality, reliability, experience, etc. If you don’t believe it, read Woody Allen’s “put an alligator” and learn how Lacoste eventually became famous!
- “A Picture’s Meaning Can Express Ten Thousand Words” (literally translated from a famous Chinese proverb)
While for many projects (especially for command-line software) screen captures may not be appropriate, we’ve found that it’s what visitors click on first when they’re looking at a project. It only takes a few seconds to look at an image, and, on average, visitors stay on your page for less than a minute. Screen captures capture their attention more effectively than any amount of text, and shows them what’s unique about your project.
- “Knowledge is power.” (Sir Francis Bacon)
After all, that’s what they’re looking at your project summary page for. They want to know what your product does, and where it’s headed. You have one minute to describe what it is. Go.Once you’ve done that, there’s also the project summary – a single phrase that encapsulates your project, your product, or your community, can capture the visitor’s attention and stick in their mind. It can also help you define, for yourself, what it is that you’re trying to accomplish.
- “If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.â€ (Scott Adams)
By enumerating the most important features of your software in the feature list, you help your customers determine if it’s the one for them. Remember that you have hardly any time at all to convince them, so the most compelling 3 or 4 features are what it takes to grab their attention and get them to take a closer look.
- “Without the discovery of uniformities there can be no concepts, no classifications, no formulations, no principles, no laws; and without these no science can exist.” (Henry Murray)
People walk through our directory of free software using categories we call ‘troves’. The better you classify your project, the easier it is for users to find it.
- â€œYou can only be young once. But you can always be immature.â€ (Dave Barry)
Youth is often perceived a sign if immaturity, and length of time from the last release is often perceived as a sign of the project’s demise. By releasing often, you tell the world that your project is actively developed, and worth their attention. Sometimes a release date from a year ago is all it takes to turn away an interested user. And be sure to flag the latest release, so that your customers have the best possible experience.
- “The doctor is IN.” (Peanuts – Charles Schultz)
When someone opens a problem ticket on your project, they expect – perhaps unrealistically – that they will hear back from you immediately. If a week or a month goes by, they’ll assume that the project is abandoned, and move on. Even if you don’t have an immediate solution, let them know that you’re listening, and give some estimate of when you might be able to look at the problem.
All you need to do now it is to spend few minutes on your Project Summary Page and turn these tips into a reality. If you have doubts, questions or just feedback, feel free to contact us, we are here to help you: if you grow, we grow.
Your SourceForge Community Team