2015 is coming to an end.
Here are some of the important events that happened over the past 12 months:
- 195 different countries came to an agreement regarding world’s climate in Paris’ COP21 conference
- George R.R. Martin was at the Emmys acting like he didn’t have a book to finish!
Many fun, interesting, and challenging things happened in Piktochart in 2015 as well. All in all, it was a good year.
But without a healthy dose of reflection, all these would have been in vain. That’s why every year we like to take a step back and assess what happened in the past 12 months.
We want to celebrate our achievements, learn from our mistakes, get joy on our growth, and be grateful for everything that happened.
And most of all, we’re just really grateful to have you on board with us.
As a tech startup, we like to look into the future, and participate in shaping it. That’s why we believe 2016 will be even better.
In fact, if our current growth rate remains steady, we’ll reach a historical milestone for us very soon: Five million users!
For that reason, in this post we’ll take a look at what we’ve achieved and learned about in 2015, and share with you some of the interesting things we’ll be working on in 2016.
What happened in Piktochart in 2015
Piktochart in numbers
Startups are not all fun and games – we are, at the end of the day, a business. As such, most of our decisions are made based on data, and so numbers are a great way to illustrate our evolution as a company.
- In July 2015 we hit the three million user mark
- This year, 5,575,146 infographics created by 1,930,101 users
- Our team almost doubled! 17 new team members joined during 2015, bringing the total number to 45 (42 full-time, and 3 lovely interns)
- As a semi-remote team, we’re located in 6 countries, and speak at least 16 languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Korean, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Teochew, Tamil, Tagalog, and ASL!
10 most important product features released in 2015
The core of our company is our product, the software millions of users use every day to design and create beautiful and stunning infographics, reports, newsletters, social media images, and more.
We care deeply for our users, so we are constantly improving our product based on your feedback. Below you’ll find 10 of the most important product features we released this year:
- We integrated our tool with SurveyMonkey, making it easier than ever to add surveys and reports to your infographic
- We created a Lite plan for people who want all our templates, but have no need for the Pro plan
- As of 2015, all users can download infographics as blocks, or DPI for PDF. This is one of my personal favorites!
- We added paper size conversion, making it super easy for users to use A4 and US letter size
- We revamped and re-designed our charts, a key tool for anyone looking to transform boring data into engaging visuals
- We integrated with Braintree as our payment gateway, allowing people to pay directly with credit cards
- Our Presentation mode is the most advanced yet! This allows you to use your Piktochart graphics to present live, in front of an audience, like never before.
- We completely re-designed our Maps feature, allowing anyone to embed stunning, animated maps into their infographic
- Our fantastic team of designers added 150 new templates, thousands of new icons, typefaces, and photo frames
- We re-designed and launched a completely new and improved website and blog. We are super proud of this project, and our users love it!
5 crucial marketing changes
Growth is at the heart of what we do. As a marketing team, we are always testing, learning, and evolving. That’s why in 2015, we went through a few interesting changes for the team.
Pivoted our approach to content marketing
In 2015, we started our Piktochart Series. Every month, we picked a topic based on feedback we were getting from our customers, and wrote about it. For instance, in February we talked about Design Tips, and in December, we talked about marketing infographics.
As we approached the end of 2015, we decided that for us to build more trust and better relationships with our users, we should move to a new structure, based around three pillars: To inspire, educate, and share our lessons as a business.
In addition, we expanded our marketing team and brought onboard a content strategist, Daniel, to bring all the pieces together and work on strategy and outreach.
(P.S. We are looking for another blog editor to join the team! Find out more here)
You can learn more about our improved editorial process here.
Focus on user personas
2015 was a bigger year for us in this regards. We started investing in UX research, and brought Eureka on board. She was tasked with finding out who our customers are, what problems they are facing, and what are the motivations and drivers behind their decisions.
Eureka did a fantastic job defining three different customer personas, which allowed us to have a clearer picture of how our users are and what they need to accomplish. In turn, this has deeply influenced our content strategy.
The journey hasn’t stopped there. After segmenting our users this way, we’ve realized that we needed to look at it from a different angle. Instead of looking at their roles, we started paying attention to their ultimate goal with Piktochart and the way they used it.
After more research, we’ve narrowed them down to two different personas which we now pay attention to whenever we make decisions. This study keeps evolving as we gather more insightful quantitative and qualitative data.
Started being more data driven
As a technology company, we gather millions of data points every single month. The challenge in 2015 was making sense of that sea of data, and structuring it in a way that helps us make better decisions.
For that reason, we brought Flavien, our first data scientist, on board to complement research from Weijian, our data analyst.
Flavien focuses on looking at usage patterns within our editor in order to draw, through the lens of our users, a quantitative picture of its strengths and weaknesses. The collected information supports our decisions in terms of product development, UX, as well as marketing.
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We also hired Laura, our new UX researcher who looks at things from a more quantitative perspective.
With our three research rangers on board, we get more and more insights every day and try to pivot our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and strategy accordingly.
We want all our future product and marketing decisions to be derived from these observations. For instance, one of our a-ha moments this year was realizing 25 percent of the people who sign up, do not proceed to creating an infographic. Only 27 percent of new users stay with us after the first week.
We’ve realized that we need to take a variety of actions to address activation and retention problems:
- Crafting a better template selection tool
- Onboard users properly with Piktochart (on a one-to-one basis, as well as through webinars)
- Offer users even more customized tips every step of the way and providing them with more educational content on our blog
Introduced new marketing roles
So far, we’ve brought on a UX researcher, a customer success guru, and finally, our community evangelist. We wanted to focus on two things:
- Focused on building community. We have a strong, growing community with millions of users, but haven’t been proactive enough about engaging with you in the past. A few months ago, we could barely manage the amount of incoming partnership and sponsorship requests, not even mentioning of doing an outreach to hundreds of amazing Piktochart users who evangelize for us. Jacqueline, our community evangelist, brought in numerous incredible partners and implemented the PiktoTour events which aim to bring people closer together.
- Focused on customer success. We’ve always wanted our customers to use the editor and use it well and often, but this year we made it our priority. We set out to define how our customers define their success and then translated across all aspects of Piktochart – from development to customer reachout. While we always have room to improve, we hope that our focus on user onboarding and listening to their feedback has made it apparent that our users are our most valuable asset and that we want to continue to help them reach that next level in 2016.
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Established a semi-remote team
After being almost a fully in-house team with only one marketing team member working remotely, we have ventured out and hired more remote people for our marketing team since.
This was a fun and interesting experiment that, so far, has paid off. Personally, we believe the flexibility of a remote job helps you maintain a positive work-life balance, and working when and where you feel the happiest is a win-win for team members and Piktochart.
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Also, we needed people to be closer to the majority of our customers, operating in their time zones and building relationships face-to-face. We were also hunting for new talents which has become a challenging task in our corner of Malaysia.
Of course, we did face a few challenges. Communication over multiple time zones isn’t easy, and as we all come from different backgrounds, we initially had to deal with some cultural differences.
Also, not being able to bond as others in the office do is a setback, but by developing a habit of daily communication (through scrums or Hangouts), we’ve been able to counter this successfully.
5 cultural changes
2015 was an extremely interesting year, culture-wise. As a team, we are always looking for experiments, tools or methodologies that help us be more happy and effective. We’ve tried many things, but below you’ll find 5 of the most meaningful changes we went through these past twelve months:
Brought in many more apps and tools
With Slack leading the charge, 2015 was the year of game-changing apps. As our team gets more remote, we started using new tools that facilitate our processes and helps us remain productive.
On the team side, we moved from Skype and email to Slack (yay!). We started using Status Hero for our daily scrums, and Perdoo for our OKRs. As we mentioned in the past, culture is extremely important to us, so we started using CultureAmp to gather team feedback, and Greenhouse to hire the best talent.
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Regarding marketing, we gave Tweepi and Mention a try, and loved it! Jacqueline also started using Periscope to engage with our users. Oh, and I don’t want to forget Unbounce, which makes designing high converting landing pages a breeze and CoSchedule that we use to plan our content calendar.
After working with KPIs but not having a comprehensive system to track them, we’ve introduced a new OKR system using the Perdoo app.
The OKR system is a popular technique for setting and communicating goals and results in organizations. Its main goal is to connect company, team, and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move together in right direction.
Moving towards OKRs helps us being organized and goal-focused, puts everyone on the same page, and keeps motivation levels up. This is a recent change, so the jury is still out on this one, but we are confident it will help us get closer to our goals!
Became more transparent and remote-friendly
Taking Buffer as an inspiration, we started sharing much more on our weekly MMM’s including stats, project insights, company directions. We kicked off the AMA series (Ask Me Anything) and every two weeks we get to ask interesting or fun questions to other teammates who then have to present their answers to the whole team.
We also started recording these sessions for our remote members to be a part of them.
In the spirit of opening up more, we’ve recently started sharing the lessons we’ve learnt in building a startup via the Piktochart blog. We aim to bring you behind-the-scenes of every major decision and feature release, as well as share our tactics and marketing decisions.
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We learn as we go along, and sharing our journey with you all helps us to reflect on the things we’ve done.
We went on a company-wide retreat!
For the first time in Piktochart history, we went on a company-wide retreat to Melbourne, even inviting all the remote team members!
It was a fantastic and unforgettable experience – a great time to bond and get to know each other before we each went back to our home countries.
Moved into a new home
As our team grows, we need new space. For that reason, we added 12,000 sq ft of new office space in Penang’s Business District. Pictures speak louder than words:
Plans for 2016
2015 was a life-changing year for Piktochart. These past 12 months went by in the blink of an eye. But as I mentioned before, we like to look into the future, and keep moving forward, closer to our goals.
For the past few months, we’ve been working around the clock to prepare ourselves for next year. We have a fantastic team, and we are confident that 2016 will be our best year yet.
For that, we have planned dozens of interesting changes, events, feature releases, and more. We’ll be announcing them as we go, but if you want a sneak peak into Piktochart’s future, here goes!
- Be even more data driven. With regular OKRs, results from our surveys, user research, tests, and studies, we hope to deliver even better product and help you become better designers and storytellers.
- Continue bringing high quality content. We want to focus on delivering on people’s needs via all types of content beyond just blog posts. Webinars, Slideshare presentations, ebooks, user-generated videos – these are some of the things we plan to create besides longform articles.
- Focus on activation and retention. One of our goals as a company is to build a team that works together and does wonderful things for years to come. We will be focusing on onboarding people well, educating them, providing them with even better tools, and making sure they are making the best use of our tool and reaching their fullest potential.
- Go beyond English speaking audience. Our second largest audience outside of English-speaking countries are our Spanish-speaking users. We will be focusing on providing them with content, support, community events in their local language and more.
- Continue building our community. We plan to support even more local activities, hold more face-to-face events, and run PiktoTours worldwide wherever we are. As such, we will also continue telling stories about our users and feature user-generated content more.
- Give our brand a facelift. We will be working on establishing our brand style guide that will reflect how our Piktochart editor and communication materials look like. We take it as an exercise to better define our identity.
- Introduce functional teams. Currently, Piktochart is structured in teams based on one another’s expertise. We’ve had frontend, backend, UI/UX, marketing, customer delight, assets and operations. To move the product and company forward in a more efficient way, we have decided to introduce functional teams that will focus on three areas: Core, Growth, and Labs. Each team will have its own product manager, a set of OKRs, and will focus on improving a different stages of the user journey by leveraging unique technical skills.
- Pikto-Revolution. We are constantly thinking of how our product can evolve and fulfill the needs of more people. As trends change, we need to adapt too, widening our functionalities and purpose. We’ll push the boundaries of what’s possible for you to make smarter design decisions. Something big is coming up. Stay tuned!
- Stay HOPEFUL. In order to achieve all the above, we won’t forget about scaling our culture, doing the right things to ensure that everyone is kept happy. We constantly invest in our people, making sure that skills are being upgraded and we constantly feel challenged.
What do you think? Do you have any suggestions for how we can be even better? Tell us in the comments below!