Week 1. Competitive analysis
This post is part of a series of posts in One experiment a week project.
First, I decided to pivot the planned experiment
Last week, while declaring StitchEase assumptions, I decided on testing the appetite for such an app in the market. The experiment I wanted to run was "paint the door test:" create a landing page with the value proposition and see how many people:
- Click on google ad
- Leave their emails
However, when I started putting together the landing page, I realized that I was missing some crucial information:
- What's the value proposition of the app? How should we try to reach the intended audience?
- Some visuals to entice and attract people would also be nice.
In addition, I had an idea on how to test the value proposition more effectively and find some potential partners and users to talk to (Crochet Designers). I decided to offer Crochet Designers to manually convert their drafts or sketches into a visual chart and see what happens. I'll try to connect with as many designers as possible, but I will limit the number of free conversions per designer if it gets too overwhelming.
- creating crochet charts in Figma wouldn't be that hard,
- it would allow me to develop many symbols that I'll need eventually for the app itself
- connecting to designers directly can help me get crucial information about their painpoints.
Second, direct competitors are few and far between. The usability of their apps is sufficient but could be improved significantly.
Trying to glimpse into value propositions already available, I started looking at competitors. It seems like designers use text editors like G docs or Microsoft word to create pattern PDFs. There are a few recommendations when it comes to creating visual charts:
It's cited as the most flexible way to create patterns. Some enthusiasts created a font with crochet symbols that can be used to kick start the project. However, Illustrator's learning curve (as we, designers, know so well) is relatively high.
- By far the most flexible solution out there
- Works on both Windows and Mac
- Plenty of tutorials on how to become a power user
- Steep learning curve. It's professional graphic software, so not tailored to the needs of Crochet Designers at all
- While $10/mo price is reasonable, it's pricier than other solutions that I saw
- One either has to create their own symbols or find a premade library or font, so starting curve can also be steep
Stitchworks (prev. Crochet Stitches)
I haven't dug deep into the app's history, but it looks like a few years ago, the developer decided to stop selling it and converted the app into an open-source project. Something worth investigating, since depending on the level of effort and technology used, this could give a start to what I have in mind.
- Designers using the app mention its ease of use.
I think this is comparative to other solutions I've seen, as it took me good 5 minutes to figure out the basics, let alone produce something worth sharing. And I'm supposed to be tech-savvy! In any case, there are plenty of opportunities for improving usability and reducing the learning curve.
- The app is free to use
- Many valuable features already built: library of stitches, various grids, converting visual patterns into written instructions
- It's unclear if the app is still being developed
- Usability can be improved. For example, the Grid view allows to align all the stitches, but that limits the flexibility. In contrast, the Freeform view gives you a lot of flexibility but harder to make things align.
- Learnability is mediocre. Some things are apparent (placing stitches), but other things are hard to achieve (alignment)
- It's a desktop-only app. Currently, you can only download Windows and Linux versions. Supposedly, you can access the Mac app by contacting the developer, but I requested it and couldn't get it yet.
This is probably the strongest competitor from what I've seen so far.
From what I could access (free research using SimilarWeb and similar), their website is the most visited website of all specialized apps, with a whooping ~300K+ visitors each month! There's no way to tell whether those are unique visitors and whether any of them are paying subscribers. However, considering the barebone appearance of the site and the app, as well as (from what I can tell) only word-of-mouth and social media acquisition strategy, these results are pretty impressive! If StitchEase ever became an actual company, this could be a good acquisition target (depending on the price).
- Targets broad audience: not only crocheters but also knitters, cross-stitchers, quilters… It also gives you an option for "other," which I assume can be used by any craft that needs a limited number of symbols + a grid…
- Many features have already been developed: library of stitches, various grids and freeform charts, colored stitches, a graph from a picture, etc. This makes StitchFiddle easy to get started with.
- Relatively low learning curve. While getting your patterns perfect might take some time, it's pretty easy to get started.
- Most features are available for free. Users have to pay for some premium features, but most are open to anyone. The premium subscription is also very inexpensive — you can get started for as low as $30/year ($2.50/mo).
- It's a web app, which means it's accessible from any device. Although the editor is intended to be used on a desktop, one could still access charts from mobile apps.
- Unclear if the app is still in development and if new features are being introduced
- Usability can be improved to reduce the learning curve and the quality of the final output.
- Creating patterns on mobile is really hard. usability of both apps I've seen is questionable
- Generally, these don't have a considerable following (based on the number of downloads)
The next steps
This week I want to take the competitive analysis one step further and try to understand:
- What are the value propositions of these apps?
- What are the "table stakes" features?
But also, I'm going to start working on the patterns-as-a-service idea I mentioned at the beginning of this post. To begin offering it to designers, I need to:
- Understand the needs of a Casual Crocheter. If I can understand their needs and painpoints, maybe I can develop a better way to create patterns? After all, Causal Crochetters are the ones bringing money to this ecosystem.
- Create a prototype of the "output." What would a finished pattern look like? What is it that I'm advertising?
- Draft a post on Ravelry to attract Crochet Designers
Read about the next steps:
Have an idea for an experiment or would like to be a part of the project? Or maybe you’re a crochetter yourself? Let me know your thoughts and ideas! I love collaboration!