10 Ways I Would Update the Kickstarter Platform

13 May 2015 | 31 Comments

Over the last few years, I’ve been really impressed by Kickstarter’s evolution as a crowdfunding platform. Their changes have been slow and deliberate, but almost every change brings a significant improvement to the previous version.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote a post about Kickstarter’s limitations. Several of the ideas I mentioned have since been incorporated into the site (by sheer coincidence–I’m not suggesting I had anything to do with the changes).

However, every now and then I wonder about what Kickstarter can be in the future. I’m not suggesting a complete redesign, as I think 90% of Kickstarter works great, and I’ll continue to create things there.

But today I wanted to talk about the 10%–the areas that could be redesigned–and I’d love to hear your thoughts. These ideas range from the small to the big:

  1. Built-in polls: One of the most beneficial elements of a crowdfunding campaign for both backers and creators are polls. Backers are engaged and creators are informed through polls. Currently I host polls on my website and backers click through to it, but how awesome would it be to incorporate them directly into project updates and even the project page?
  2. Integrated stretch goals: I think stretch goals should continue to be optional, but it could greatly benefit creators and backers to have them elegantly incorporated into the project page. Though perhaps this wouldn’t work well with the emerging achievement system.
  3. Economies-of-scale alternative to stretch goals: While stretch goals can be awesome for engaging backers and encouraging forward momentum, they can also be unpredictable and cumbersome. As an alternative, what if creators could set tipping points at which the price would go down for backers? Thus a creator could put everything in the game/product from day 1, and if they get 2,000 backers, the price goes down for everyone by X amount because of the decrease in production cost. Ideally this would be tied to the number of products being made rather than the number of backers (see next point).
  4. Integrated add-ons: Kickstarter isn’t a store, but it’s perfectly normal for a backer to want two copies of something instead of one. Currently this requires backers to manually update a reward level and for creators to sort through a mass of data post-project to figure out who added what. Why not integrate some add-on options into the platform? This would even allow creators to know how many rewards are currently being produced mid-project.
  5. One-click avatar updates: This is a little point, but it could simplify things. Most projects offer custom avatars to backers during the project, but it’s a hassle to change your profile picture. You have to save the image and upload it via your backer profile. Why not let backers do this with a single click?
  6. Enhanced dashboard: The Kickstarter dashboard offers some good data, but it’s still missing two key pieces of data: How many people have clicked the “Remind Me” button and how many people subscribe to updates. To be able to track that information from day to day just like the funding goal and number of backers would be amazing.
  7. Cancellation responses: When a backer cancels, Kickstarter asks them why they cancelled. However, creators never see that response (and backers don’t know that). While I think the vast majority of the data is irrelevant (backers change their minds all the time), every now and then I bet they give some really good feedback. At the very least I wish Kickstarter could tell cancelling backers that creators won’t see the feedback.
  8. Rewards with a tipping point: On my Euphoria project, backers asked for an alternate-art deck of cards and an extra set of dice to be added to the game. It was too expensive for a stretch goal, so after polling backers to gauge interest, I added a new reward level with some trepidation, as I needed at least 1,000 backers to choose the reward level to meet the minimum print-run requirements. I’d love to have the option to create premium reward levels with tipping points–if not enough backers pledge to that level, the new component won’t be made and their pledge would default to the next level down.
  9. Track and reward influential advocates: Some backers are more influential than others. They share the project more, they have a wider audience, and more people trust them. I wish there were a way to know who those backers are, even if it’s just to send them a personal message to thank them for the impact they had on the project.
  10. Rate creators: As Kickstarter grows, we’re going to see more and more repeat creators. A backer can look at a creator’s history to see what they’ve done in the past, but it’s really hard to see (without extensive research) how well those creators followed through on their goals and promises. So why not implement a basic 5-star rating system for backers to rate the creator based on campaign experience, communication, and product execution? It could use a Yelp-like system of removing the top 5% of ratings and the bottom 5% of ratings so the outliers don’t have too much of an impact.  That way new backers could quickly and easily learn about the creator before pledging their support. Heck, this system could even be used to rate backers, as they’re even more important to the Kickstarter ecosystem than the creators. If someone is spreading negativity across multiple projects, they could come to Kickstarter’s attention for further investigation through some low ratings.

What do you think about these ideas? I’ve created a poll below where you can pick the things on this list that you’d most like to see Kickstarter implement.

 

 

31 Comments on “10 Ways I Would Update the Kickstarter Platform

  1. The rating idea is completely and utterly fantastic. I toyed with a while at the idea of creating a browser plug-in for just that purpose, but it would leave mobile users in the lurch.

    I wish I had’ve ticked Integrated stretch goals, but it wasn’t until after that I grasped the power of the idea. The idea that there is a bar underneath the total that states xxxx of xxxx until Stretch Goal #3 (with that clickable to take you to the part of the page that explains stretch goal 3, or a popout) is excellent. It will be years before Kickstarter reaches this level of elegance however.

    I’d love to track influential advocates, but I feel like it should also be anonymous in nature. Every backer should be treated the same way in my mind, no matter how much more they have helped your campaign.

    1. Bane: Thanks for your thoughts. You hit the nail on the head with the integrated stretch goals. I think Indiegogo may be doing something like that, and I hope Kickstarter catches on.

      Yeah, someone else brought up your point about anonymity, and it’s a good one. I agree that all backers should be treated really well. At the same time, I really like a service called Klout that helps me see people in my network who are really influential. I try to treat all people with the same level of decency and respect, but I’m also running a business–it’s the same reason I might send a free game to a reviewer with 10,000 followers and not send a free game to a reviewer with 100 followers.

      1. As part of the integrated stretch goals, it would be great to also be able to tie them in with the delivery date(s) — just fund the base project, Delivery Date 1; base + stretch goal 1, Date 2, etc.

        This would go a long way toward helping better project management and backer confidence.

        1. Dave: That’s really clever. I would say that most stretch goals don’t need to add time to the project, but I’ve seen it happen. In fact, I’ve even seen creators say, “If we reach this stretch goal, we need to add 2 months to the delivery estimate,” which is great, but it would be even better if your idea were implemented so the official date next to each reward would also change if that stretch goal is reached.

      2. Just wanted to mention that Klout is extremely easy to game. It’s a good system to give some idea to the weight of people, but it’s a very vague and extremely nebulous connotation.

        I’ve been practically absent on Twitter for more than a year (Although when I was uploading YouTube vids in October they were posting to Twitter without my knowledge), and I still have a Klout of 27, and considered an ‘Expert’ in most fields related to game development and journalism. I could get it back up to 50 without even really trying.

        In other news, I don’t really go to your front page that often, but I did today and I really like it! I don’t know if that was a new update or not, but it looks fantastic.

        1. Bane: While I haven’t tried to “game” Klout, I agree that it’s probably possible to do so. Though it is interesting to have a metric like that at our disposal.

          Thanks! I updated the front page a week or so ago.

  2. #2 – Not kickstarter, not even the same model of crowdfunding as kickstarter, but Patreon’s Milestone system essentially does this. If I pop onto the Ludology patreon, I can easily see that they’ve passed their first Milestone and are currently working towards their second, a once per month silly gimmick at $500 a month. I can also look up to see that their first milestone was at $200 a month, and removed outside adverts.

    #3 – I’m /sure/ I’ve seen this sort of thing /somewhere/ before, but irritatingly can’t recall where or what it was called. It might have been channel hopping brought me to a teleshopping site using a system where the more people bought something the less the price got for everyone, even…

    #8 – This would be awkward, since if you put the version with the alternate art and more dice at $10 more than the deluxe version, and the minimum isn’t met… Does Kickstarter charge the $10 more? What about if someone wants to pay the $10 more weather or not they get the ? How does Kickstarter know the difference between those who want to give you $80 for the project and if you make the extra art deck, they’d quite like it, and those who would prefer to give you $70 for the level down unless the alternate art deck is viable at which point they’ll go for $80. (I rarely use Kickstarter in this way, but there are a couple of projects where the reward was secondary to the backing of the project for me; Patreon is the crowdfunding service I tend to use that way)

    This is the only one I’ve not voted as wanting to see, I just don’t see how it would work in a way that neither pushes Kickstarter closer to being a store, nor is implemented in a way that’s adding yet another risk to backers. (It isn’t accurate to say that all the risk in a Kickstarter project is on the backers; most successful kickstarters are a top-up rather than all-the-funds, as far as I can tell, and more importantly there are a couple of high profile failures which involved loss of property or bankruptcy filings for the creators, which perfectly illustrates that Kickstarter doesn’t remove all risk for the project creator, but I think Kickstarter puts more risk on the backer than most transactions people have with businesses.)

    #10 – Kickstarter already tracks when people got the reward – or at least allows them to tell Kickstarter that they’ve got their reward. At the very least, an means of indicating how well people keep to the Estimated Delivery Date might be useful.

    1. Stephen: That’s a great comparison to Patreon. I like that Milestone system.

      As for #3, there have been some social buying sites that do this.

      As for #8, the idea is that you would pledge $80, but if the tipping point isn’t met, you would automatically drop down to $70 (you would only be charged $70). I don’t think there would be an option to pay $10 extra anyway, but I think it’s pretty rare that someone would want to. I think it’s more likely that someone paying $80 might only want to support the project if they’re going to get the $80 reward–an all-or-nothing proposition that could complicate things.

  3. I really like 1, 2, and 6. However, I think a creator rating system might disadvantage first-time creators, even if they’ve already backed 10 projects themselves. Do you think there’s a way to give first-time creators some form of credibility within the rating system?

    1. I didn’t really think on the topic of the disadvantage to first time creators. Perhaps, like ‘Backed and Created’ it can only be seen if you click on their profile directly? It makes it so it’s out of the way, but still able to be useful.

    2. Sheldon: That’s a good point. First I’ll respond to Bane: I think the effectiveness of the system would depend on the rating being front and center on the project page, with the main idea being that backers who see the new flashy thing from a creator of 5 projects wouldn’t just insta-back it–first they would see that the creator only has 2 stars no matter how pretty the art looks, and they’d pause for a minute to dig deeper. Conversely, a project that may not look great aesthetically might get a boost from a creator with shallow pockets but has treated his past backers really well.

      But Sheldon’s point is a good one: First-time creators would be a blank slate. I think they’d get judged for all the same things the currently get judged for, though (project page polish, reasonably priced rewards, etc).

  4. Firstly I’m a backer and have never created a project.

    #1 Polls useful, depending on the project. For me it’s one of the smaller niceties on this list.

    #2 and #4 integrated stretch goals and addons would be great, but I can see these can get rather complicated. One issue with stretch goals is it would be easy to have it work with total pledge amounts. What would be problematic is those stretch goals backed Facebook followers, Twitter followers, or other sources, or even the achievement system we’ve seen. So you could integrate stretch goals but you might not be able to automate it. Addons can be tricky as well since a lot of project managers only allow addons at or for certain price points. Of course you can work around that once such a system is in place, simply specify a minimum required pledge $ for each addon.

    #5 I haven’t changed my avatar much because of the hassle. An avatar IS a big thing because if you see someone’s avatar it speaks a lot for the project (and creator) the avatar represents. Backers won’t change their avatar if they’re not serious about a project so it can be a big indicator.

    #7 As a backer I’ve pulled out of several projects, so I can imagine a cancellation reason would be useful.

    #9 is an interesting one. I and a couple other WAU members regularly post interesting new projects to the CrowdFunding subforum on wargamerau and certainly there will be others doing similar on BGG, DakkaDakka, TMP and various other fora and blogs.

    #10 Rating creators would be hit and miss and you have potential issues with trolling. People also tend to take action when they’re unhappy with something rather than when they are happy. Not sure reliable this would be.

    1. Mark: That’s a good point that a formal stretch goal system could get in the way of variety and creativity. I think it might work better moreso as a template with a devoted place on the project page that you can easily update and type in whatever you want. You’d have to manually update it when you reach a new goal, but it would be a lot easier than the current process of updating a stretch goal image and uploading it every time. It would all be incorporated into Kickstarter’s template.

      As for #5, that’s exactly my point. :) It’s too much of a hassle, but Kickstarter could make it way easier.

      As for #10, yeah, I’m hoping to avoid the trolling by not factoring in the top and bottom 5%. All backers would be asked to rate the project in an e-mail from Kickstarter (the one you get when Kickstarter informs you the project has ended and your credit card has been charged) and maybe one more e-mail when the product is delivered.

  5. I love the idea of in-project polling. Not to call out a specific other project, but I remember the Viceroy project got into trouble by putting a poll up on BGG, and how the backers felt they were being misrepresented by voters who may not have cared nor had any stakes in the matter. By keeping polls internal to backers, it makes it more convenient and therefore more likely to be utilized, but it also ensures only those who have backed said project can impact it.

    The improvement that has received the least amount of traction on the poll; tracking influential backers, also had me thinking. I can see how it could be useful for a creator to know who heavy hitters are and whether they are on board or not. However, there are negatives as well. Unless activity tracking is an “opt in” setting, people could feel uncomfortable about having their info collected and tracked in such a way. Also, even if it was voluntary, people who are not labeled influential may feel like they have less involvement, and matter for less.

    In my experience, spotting the real promotional workhorses usually can happen organically, as those people tend to post a lot in the comment section as well. Creators tend to learn the names and personalities of those backers as things progress. I recognize that some very active people may not post, and indeed there would be no way of me knowing who those people are by their very nature. Either way regarding tagging active backers as a whole, I don’t think these squeaky wheels should get the proverbial grease, even if it would help the driver do his thing a little better. It just sort of strikes me as elitist and ostracizing.

    1. Dave: I agree with the concept of opting in for influence; while I can see who is vocal about the project on BGG and the treasure chest, I can’t see how many people become backers thanks to those people. I’d love to have that data.

      1. I think what might be more appropo then would be an in system questionnaire where you can ask how people came to the project, rather than an outside survey. One response could be the ability to list a referral friend. If you see someone’s name a few times, great.

        Alternatively, if someone walks into a project with a “followers list” or other metric from past impact, it can be detrimental. A creator can see someone helped another project a lot and give their input greater value than someone new or previously quiet. Even if the big user doesn’t care much and the new guy is mobilized and excited about the current project. Rich gets richer scenarios.

  6. Great list. I would add a #11 which has been raised many times by creators: An option to exclude shipping from the funding amount, so that excess shipping does not trigger extra SGs (or, worse, the funding itself). This would end one of the drawbacks of subsidizing the most expensive shipping options, would (hopefully) do away with the whole “we’ll collect shipping after project ends” fashion, and would encourage creators to be more transparent with shipping costs.

  7. great list a neat feature that they’ve messed up recently, that i’m curious if others are seeing, can you star/unstar a project you are backing? Once i back a project i’m unable to ‘star’ the project. I used to be able to do that.

  8. All great ideas, but as a backer, I have two favorites. First, it’s incredibly frustrating to to hear that the pledge cancellation comments is a black hole. That needs fixing. Integrated stretch goals is a no-brainer. I can’t believe adding arbitrary amounts of money to a pledge and expecting backers and project owners to sort it out is even acceptable. Super clunky.

    1. Here’s another curve-ball for you then.
      With many of the tabletop projects, particularly the miniatures games, people will regularly up the pledge early on to help hit stretch goals and prepare for upcoming addons that aren’t available yet but are in the stretch pipeline. If a stretch goal isn’t available yet you shouldn’t be able to pledge for it if it’s not available, utilising an integrated pledge/stretch mechanic.

    2. Roll Your Own Dice: Thanks for highlighting those two points. I agree! :)

      Mark: That is a bit of a curveball. That’s an interesting concept, though I’m personally not a fan at all of stretch goals that simply unloack add-ons.

      1. True, but miniature games are in a different level to your normal games and other projects. Anyway, it shows there’s always going to be some projects which do work differently, or where the backers will work differently. For most projects on KS there probably is no issue, it’s main miniature games where you create a wealth of options. I’ve also been in projects where I and others pledge high up front (maybe another $150-$200) knowing there’ll be another $100 or more of addons in the pipeline without allocating for anything specific.

  9. Thank you for the incredible post, Jamey!
    I agree with all 10 points, except for the 2nd. Integrated Stretch Goals pretend to be an awesome idea, until you try to implement them. It brings a huge amount of limitations OR devilish complexity. As a result, it comes out that it is much easier to leave them as they are.
    For example, one wants to make an automated header for the stretch goal, but there will be creators who don’t want to use a standard header, because they have something different, maybe more complicated (with 10 headers and tree structure).
    It looks like an excellent idea to link stretches to the funding sum, so every stretch goal will be fulfilled automatically. It’s a paradise, isn’t it? At the moment when the strech goal is reached, every backer receives a letter about it! Great. But the next moment someone cancels his/her huge pledge. And what do we do now with the “achieved” stretch goal?..
    This problems will be nearly with the every element of a stretch goal. OR we will get a simplified system with arrowslit corridors for creating stretch goals. OR it will be complicated as hell, with numerous options. Some time ago I was involved in creating a crowdfunding platform, so I have some experience with this.

    The other thing I want to mention is 4. Integrated add-ons. This one is the MUST for Kickstarter, I think. It’s not an easy option, but it can be implemented. The best working example I know is this: https://www.startnext.com/ (it’s just an example, I never worked with this site personally). To achieve the best results, there should be groups for rewards: basic (base game, etc), key expansions, numerous optional tiny buys. Creator should be able to make up to 10 groups and to name them as he wishes.
    The tricky thing here is discount, and shipping costs calculation. It’s easy to say “-10% for 2 copies of my game”, but then it is automated, it results in some madness (2 copies is an easy example, but 2 copies + 3 expansions + some minis + playmats is a good one!). The shipping costs are also hellish, probably the best way to calculate them for multiple rewards system is to do it after the campaign.
    That’s all, I just shared some thoughts :).

    1. Denis: Thanks for sharing these great thoughts! You make some very interesting points about integrated stretch goals. I think the best way it could be done is to cut out any automation and just make it a place to enter and update text as the creator wishes–almost like a chart built into the project page in a way that doesn’t take up too much space. You could highlight rows as “achieved,” “recently achieved,” “locked,” and “next up” (“next up” would appear at the top of the project page if you select it). It wouldn’t fit all needs, but if a creator wanted to do stretch goals the old way, they could still do that as an image uploaded to the page.

      Those are good points about add-ons and shipping as well. I think part of that might just be up to the creator. Creators already figure that out on Kickstarter (at least, they try to), so I think they could figure out how to price the rewards and add-ons correctly to include or exclude shipping as needed.

  10. Hey Jamey, Great list. I’m planning a campaign now and am really enjoying reading your blog cover to cover.
    I wish there was a way to select two categories when creating a campaign. Sure, you can select a sub-category. But this new thing I’m working on (the culmination of 30 years work) fits into games and design equally well. What’s your advice on this please?
    Keep up the great work.

    1. Murray: Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I do think it would be neat if creators could tag a project in multiple categories or sub-categories. Without knowing your project, I would say you should categorize it based on the audience it will appeal the most to.

  11. A generic tagging funcion would be pretty cool, particularly coupled with something similar to the Kicktraq RSS feeds allowing you to subscribe to (or ignore :P) particular tags, such as “Euro”, “RPG”, “Miniatures”, “EU-Friendly” (or “Zombies” :P)

  12. The thing about the rating system is not only the disadvantage that it puts first time creators at but possibly the problem it causes for long term creators. If they bought it in tomorrow the next Stonemaier project would be unrated (having occurred after the system was bought in), new backers seeing an established company without a rating would find it odd or suspicious. Bringing in a system which would disadvantage some of their biggest names and so biggest draws would probably not be popular with Kickstarter as an idea.

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