In response to constructive feedback from their customers, Six Apart has once again modified the licensing and pricing structure for Movable Type. While the new licensing scheme is not exactly what what I’ve been suggesting, I’m satisfied with the changes they’ve made.
The tiered pricing remains, but the three options for the Personal Edition are more flexible and easier to understand:
1. The free version. You can have up to 3 sites and 1 author, no tech support, you need to install it yourself, and a few other small limitations.
2. A $69 version with unlimited sites and 5 authors. You also get technical support, promotion on the MT site, and discounts on future versions of MT.
3. A $99 version with unlimited sites and authors plus all the benefits from option #2.
Pricing for the corporate edition has changed as well, with many tiers depending on the number of users. 6A has also added educational and not-for-profit pricing.
Despite the problems that 6A had with this process, there’s a lesson in here for other companies looking to determine pricing and licensing for their products and services. User testing in Web design, once reserved for after a site or application was fully launched, now happens early in the design cycle. Designers get users involved as soon as possible, not answering questionnaires or taking surveys but using functional prototypes or alpha/beta versions of sites. The design is iterated based on feedback. Design, test, iterate, repeat. When you’re done, you should have a design that takes into account the initial requirements and what the users are looking for.
Why not do this with pricing? Make your best guess based on the competition’s pricing and internal business knowledge and throw the pricing out there. Be prepared to listen to customer feedback. Modify the pricing according to feedback and your business needs. Test it again. Make sure your early customers can get discounts if the later prices are higher in some cases…otherwise everyone might wait it out to get lower pricing. And allow for refunds for early customers if the later pricing or licensing doesn’t suit their needs for some reason. Aside from the bad PR that 6A received because of their initial pricing structure, the test/iterate approach worked well in coming up with a pricing/licensing solution that reflects both 6A’s business needs and the needs of their customers. (And I’m not even going to mention The Wisdom of Crowds here even though it’s pertinent to this whole discussion.)