I was recently asked by my friends at FilePicker to give some advice on how to write an archetypal blog post for new product features. This is a common question I get asked so I’m going to outline best practices in 2015, and then use these to scope a blog post for FilePicker.

Best Practices

Blog Posts

A blog post is a useful way to communicate a new product and feature release. Using a blog makes it easier for the whole team to quickly post and communicate with customers. It allows for quick and iterative announcements that can be synced up with marketing at a later date to update and create appropriate updates to the marketing site.

Examples of good blog posts introducing features.

Docs

Clear, comprehensive and up to date documentation is extremely important for developer tools. Along with an update to a blog a more technical duplication of the content should be copied and stored in documentation. For SDKs and developer tools it’s good to keep a Changelog

Examples of good documentation.

Marketing Site

For larger feature announcements it is best practice to update the SaaS marketing site. Depending on the size of the feature, this could be a landing page specific to the feature or a comprehensive overview for the whole marketing site. This may mean expanding the information architecture of your marketing site.

Newsletter

A newsletter is another good touchpoint to inform customers of an update. If it’s a large update you can make it all about the upgrade, or as in this version we’ve limited updates on the new features.

In-App

A problem with Blog posts, Docs and Marketing is that many long time customers don’t visit these sites on a regular basis. Even a newsletter may not reach all you active users. For new users a well defined on-boarding process should be defined but for current customers I would recommend slowly informing customers of feature updates. This can be done by a in-app message on a specific URL, see this intercom post on best practices.

It is also becoming common got add in an activity feed of new features and Wells Fargo even shows a coming soon section.

Applying this to FilePicker

Filepicker asked me for the archetypal blog post for a new document conversion feature. I had little knowledge of Filepicker but after doing some research I used the below framework to help with the product announcement. Lucky Filepicker had already created some great documentation

What?

Filepicker offers a service to convert existing files to another format. A comprehensive list is the the documentation. AN example is a PDF converted to jpg, odp, ods, odt, png, and txt. Filepicker provides a very simple syntax to convert files a customer simply need to add a format string and the output is created on the fly.

Why?

This product feature is useful as it allows for document conversion on the fly and in the cloud. There is no need to download the file open the file editor of choice and then save the file. This does it for you. Though this doesn’t why you would want to do this. Here are few ideas I had for this feature

  • Convert PDFs to TXT for easier indexing and searching.

  • Creating PNG or JPEG still images for documents so a preview can be embedded without having to download a .doc which can’t be viewed in a browser.

  • Creating HTML pages from a simple TXT files, useful for easier sharing of older pure .txt files.

For Who?

File Picker is a B2B service and unlike filepickers UI this service is unlikely to have a customer facing UI. I would expect that it would be used in the background on-demand by using link modifiers. For example, Download this doc as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.

Benefits?

The main benefit of this feature is that it provides a range of options that could either be done on-demand or could be used in a batch to create another format for either machine reading or another purpose such as defined above.

Where to post the updates?

Filepicker current has Blog, Documentation, marketing site and an in-app dashboard . They have already posted the documentation but it’s hard to for both new and existing users to get an overview of the feature.

Another way to increase discoverability of this feature would be enable this option from the control panel to show an example of the API in use.

The todo list for Filepicker would be

  • Create docs

  • Product specific blog post

  • Provide subtle indication in the UI that the feature is available

  • Provide product stats on feature usage to customer

Another area Filepicker could focus is guest blogging for 3rd party services. Since file picker integrates with multiple services it would be good to cross post. For example they recently launched Google Cloud integration for storing files, and it would be good to write a short blog post on Google Cloud blog as it’s guest post friendly. Especially since Filepicker supports both Picasa and Google Drive.

A sample blog post for this new feature would be.


Simple online document conversion for Filepicker.io

Filepicker has added a vast improvement to its processing function. We now offer a range of documentation conversion options for all major file formats. Do you need to create jpeg previews of PDF? Make OpenOffice files more accessible? Filepicker makes it simple with a new document conversion file processing option. This feature is only available to Startup and above plans.

How it works?

Once a file is uploaded and stored in Filepicker we provide a Syntax to convert a document into a over 8 different formats. The full range of possible conversions types on our documentation .

Step 1: Have a file already uploaded to Filepicker

Step 2: Use this Syntax

https://www.filepicker.io/api/file/handle>/convert?format=[options]

Step 3: Your file will be stored in the root directory by an unscore and filename. You can modify this and the access with {storeAcess} option.

How can I use this feature?

Here are a few ideas for how you can use this feature in your application.

  • Create an image preview of PDFs before they are downloaded.

  • Convert .TIFF files to a format the is usable by browsers.

  • Create static HTML from legacy .txt files

  • Provide a universally accessible spreadsheet by converting XLS to OpenOffice .ODS format.

  • Create an online Powerpoint viewer by converting PPT to PNGs.

  • Make indexable documents by converting .doc to .txt

Monitor usage.

Any file conversions will show up in the Filepicker dashboard, the Startup plan start at 6,000 conversion a month and custom plans are available.