Kickstarter Lesson #154: Hip Surgery, Organization, and Customer-Facing Service

7 July 2015 | 19 Comments

What does hip surgery have to do with crowdfunding?

A friend of mine is a professional organizer. People hire her to come to their homes, assess what they have vs. what they really need, and reorganize everything so it’s more compact, efficient, and easy to find.

Recently she was hired by an elderly man who had fallen down the stairs in his house. He broke his pelvis and required extensive hip surgery, and his ability to climb or descend stairs was permanently diminished.

So my friend had the challenge of moving the entire contents of the man’s house to a new single-story condo while the man was recovering from surgery. She needed the man to feel at home when he returned, and the man needed to be able to find everything in his house on his own.

Now, there are a few ways my friend could have facilitated the move. One way is that she could have move the man’s possessions to the new condo without any input from him and organized them in a way that made sense to her. I’m sure the condo would have looked nice if she had taken that approach, but the man would really struggled to find things, and it wouldn’t have felt like home to him.

Instead, she took a different, more calculated approach: First she walked through the man’s old house and took photos of everything. Then she Facetimed with the man before she moved anything to see if there were certain things that could go in storage or be thrown away.

Then she painstakingly moved everything to the new location and recreated each room exactly as shown in the photos, even down to the spare pen on the bedside table. To her it was just another pen, but to the man that pen–and where it was located–might be really important.

My friend wasn’t there when the man moved in, but she got a call from him soon after. She could hear the emotion in his voice as he described how worried he had been, but that his worries were washed away when he walked in the door. It instantly felt like home to him.


I was reminded of this story yesterday when a customer e-mailed me about the status of an order he recently placed through our new Shopify store. He was looking for some information that he couldn’t find, partly because the information wasn’t available on the store.

So instead of just answering the question, I asked him, “Where exactly did you look for the information? I want to make sure I put it in the right place so it’s easy for you and other customers to find.”

I was trying to take a cue from my professional organizer friend. Rather than put the information where I thought it belonged, focused on the customer’s perspective.


I’ve experienced this recently with Scythe blind playtesting as well. Every morning I wake up to questions about rules. My internal reaction is, “It’s right there in the rulebook on page X!”

But then I get over myself and realize the truth behind those questions: Even if the rule is in the rulebook, if a playtester can’t find the rule, then there’s something wrong with the rulebook.

So I always go back to the rules to see how and where I placed the rule. And often I reach out to the playtester to ask where they looked for the rule. I might think the rule makes sense in the “Mech” section, but if everyone is looking for it under “Movement,” that tells me something.


Finally this brings us to Kickstarter and crowdfunding.

Whenever I send out the preview page and after the project launches, I often see questions that are answered on the page or in the FAQ. Again, my internal reaction is, “It’s right there!”, but then I get over myself and remember that if someone can’t find the answer, it doesn’t matter that the answer is there.

Sometimes these are one-off questions that don’t require more than subtle changes or clarifications. But sometimes several people ask the same question. That’s a clear signal that I haven’t highlighted a certain piece of information well enough, that something needs to be elevated on the project page, or that something needs to move from the FAQ (which few people read) to the core text of the project page.

Really, it’s all about customer-facing service. Sometimes it’s hard, but the next time you have the same reaction as me–“It’s right there!”–just think of what my friend did to make the old man feel at home again. If you can do that in a small way for your backers, you’re doing a great job as a creator.

Can you think of times when a company or creator executed great customer-facing service for you? Or perhaps an example of how much organization matters in helping you find the thing you’re looking for?

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19 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #154: Hip Surgery, Organization, and Customer-Facing Service

  1. A good tip indeed. Always in the right mindset Jamey. Keep working to be the best version of yourself. The ferocity with which you work toward that constantly, and the humility with which you allow yourself to do it in the public light is awesome and inspiring.

  2. I work for a tech company and we’re building apps. What you’re describing is very similar to the User Experience (UX) work we do. So much research, testing and improving is done to ensure that the user experience is ‘right’. That we find out what experience the user expects compared to what they receive.

    Regarding things like rules, I do two things to learn from playtesters. I tell them they can write all over the rules if they want to but most people are too polite to do so. The second thing I do is give everyone a scrap of paper and a pencil and tell them they can use it to write down whatever they need to remember. Almost every time, they write down rules they struggle to remember, or things about the game they need to track that’s not already easy to track. After the playtest I review what each players has written down on their scrap of paper and try to implement their notes into the game so that next time the playtesters won’t need to write those things down.

      1. Thanks Jamey, I wish I could take full credit but the first time it was just a lucky accident, a friend took notes and when I was clearing up afterwards I thought ‘I can use this!’. Ever since then it’s been the most useful method for getting feedback I’ve ever tried.

  3. In general I think it can be more difficult as well if you’re the person who’s writing and have had the answers on your mind for quite some time. I’ve done a great deal of technical writing, and it feels incredible easy to proofread for others and give feedback. Then when it comes to the instructions I’ve been writing, I find myself making simple mistakes when someone proofreads them for me.

    TL;DR version – it’s much easier to think it all makes sense when it’s in your head.

    1. Alex: That’s a great point. Perhaps that ties into the “get over myself” part of this post. :) I have to step outside of myself and realize that no matter how perfect I think my rulebook or project page is, what matters is that it makes sense to other people.

  4. What doesn’t help for rules, I imagine, is that where the rule makes the most sense in the rulebook for learning the game often isn’t where it makes the most sense for referencing the rules while playing the game.

  5. An inspiring and fitting story to address an important subject.

    It is not only about customer support but listening to your customers always improves the presentetion of your product, thus the product as a whole.
    Not to mention that addressing various issues your supporters report improves your relationship with them and makes fans out of customers.

    Also, blind-playtesting is the best way to improve your rulebook without any doubt. I believe all designers can relate with situations were rulebooks were improved when we thought “no further editing needs to be done”.

    1. Evangelos: I’ve had that same experience many times! Both with rulebooks and Kickstarter project pages. I think it’s perfect and finalized, and then people have tons of questions that make me realize they have a long way to go. :)

  6. I write software – and the user manuals that go with it – and me and my team offer suffer from the “It’s right there!” syndrome when a user asks us a question. We’d like to think that the user manual covers everything, and with a text-based search of a PDF it shouldn’t hard to find what you need… but to be honest, it’s hundreds of pages long (our software does a *lot*) and most people find it easier to ask a question than go searching for an answer… and I don’t really blame them. When it’s someone else at our company asking the question, they even usually go to the right person who can give them the answer straight away, which saves everyone some time…

    I like your approach – we should probably be asking our question-askers: where did you look for help to start with? And that might help us rearrange the user manual a little better.

  7. Usability is so important. It’s an invisible art. The best way to troubleshoot your design, game, website, etc. is to get it in front of people, and just watch to see how they expect it to work. Let them make mistakes, and figure out how you can make your design intuitive enough to reduce those mistakes. I’ve done a lot of usability-focused design, and I’m still not too good at predicting how people will interact with stuff. Trail and error, baby!

  8. I had a great opportunity recently to watch some players use my *Lanterns* rulebook on video. They were live-streaming a game, had multiple questions about the rules, and went to the rulebook to find them. In one case, they did not find the rule in the rulebook. It was really great to be able to watch this happen on video to drive home this point. I detailed the experience (with video clips) on my blog:

  9. “It’s right there!” is always a challenge when designing the layout of documents, books, cards, websites, etc. Although there are some common practices for info location, there are not set industry standards for consistency. Thus, your fans and potential customers their own preferences where info should be found. This truly is a customer-facing service you are offering when you desire to place the info where they desire to look.

    Even as a proofreader, this is an area of focus for my work beyond the normal spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout, tone, etc. I also view the manuals, books, and cards I review from the reader’s standpoint. As I am reviewing the content of the text, I question if I have all the information I need to understand the section. If not, I recommend possible additional text or page number references to the writer/editor that a reader might need at this moment to be fully informed. As you stated, the goal is for the customer to find the information where they are looking, not just where you put it in the first place thinking they would find it there.

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