Interview with Deepa Govind, Zoho Creator Developer

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Deepa Govind is a very active Zoho Creator developer who develops custom Zoho Creator applications for clients. Recently she got featured in oDesk’s Newsletter

We interviewed her to see what goes on in the mind of a prolific Zoho Creator developer. If you are a Zoho Creator developer reading this, we believe the tips from Deepa will surely help you in getting more customers. Read on …

Tell us about yourself, Deepa
Well, I’m a Life Science postgraduate who could not differentiate between Windows the operating system & the one that looks out of my balcony. It was only after my PG, I was introduced to the world of “computers” via APTECH. This opened up a whole new range of possibilities for me & I haven’t turned back since. At the moment, I reside at Bangalore, India and work from home & I have no intention of going back to the brick-and-mortar routine.

Why did you choose to use Zoho Creator?
The drag and drop interface at form-design and at Deluge script won me hands-down. Additionally, the logic command blocks at Deluge Script , along with the help documents were very helpful in the initial stages. I sort of kicked-the-tires by developing some applications for personal use. Like, to keep track of client enquiries, team submissions, so on and so forth. Once this began to fall into a routine, I was all geared to take up projects that are built-to-order.

How do you pitch Zoho Creator to your customers? Has it been an easy sell?
In fact, I didn’t have to pitch it at all. Zoho Creator already did it for me! Anyone who has spent at least 30 minutes with Zoho Creator forms & the basic ‘Send Mail ‘ script will be able to comprehend what this could do to their business. So I was fortunate to have well informed clients who had tested Zoho Creator hands on. It has been my observation that, out of every 10 casual signups, at least 8 are willing to harness the developer pool for a decent remuneration. That’s 80% conversion rate, guys!

However, my motto had been Blog–Publicize–Connect. I was already having a blog that gave away tips on using blogspot templates. Later, I added Zoho to this and started posting simple how-to-do tutorials. Each of these tutorial posts targeted one aspect of Zoho Creator, and came up with demos (for live experience) and screenshots to explain the code behind the demo. Any comments received were duly attended to. Let us not forget the Zoho Creator forum.

Once the blog posts were out, there was Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn to attend to. I was my own P.R.O. So I began to tweet and post status messages that made clear of the fact that I am ready and available. I even had a ‘Get Quote’ form (of course, a Zoho Creator form!) all set up to collect enquiries. After that, it was time for me to wait. Any week that went by without a Zoho Creator enquiry, I would make a new post at my blog. And every enquiry was promptly responded with & I promptly connected with all prospective clients in any of the social networking platforms.

There is one more thing that I learnt the hard way. When you work for yourself (read, not associated with any company), there is absolutely no room for modesty. We have to scream at the top of our lungs to sell our skills, else the customer looks the other way.

How are you trying to attract new customers? 
The Zoho Creator Marketplace is a great place to start. Plus, I try to stick to the schedule & deliver results with my existing clients, and they get me new clients.

As a designer yourself, how did you find the Zoho Creator experience?
I personally prefer “less is more”. So, the form’s design elements were pretty much satisfactory. After all, we are using Zoho Creator as a database platform, and not as a website developmental tool. (Oh, I had those shares of enquiries as well – “Design a website for me in  Zoho Creator”!). I am not saying, “It can’t be done”. May be someone with a little more perseverance will do it soon. But, that’s not what Zoho Creator is meant to do.

Tell us your favourite Zoho Creator feature and why you like it.
I love the HTML View AND its ‘Convert to PDF ‘ option! Zoho Creator is database oriented, and HTML view coupled with Deluge script’s ability to pull out records to be displayed in HTML format is the ultimate report presentation ever. The look-and-feel is tailor made, the requirement decides the logic for data, and the pdf option allows us to save the report. Even without any data, these HTML views allow us to make wonderful dashboards that never fail to impress the client. What could be more alluring than this!

You are featured in oDesk Provider Spotlight. Congratulations! Tell us how it happened.
Thank you! Although, I signed up with oDesk in 2007, it took me almost two-and-a-half years to get to this spot. Thanks to Zoho Creator in all accounts, coz, Zoho Creator is indeed my developmental platform, and it is the users of Zoho Creator to whom I cater to. Without Zoho Creator & the support team, this would not have been possible.

Remember, a short while ago, I told you that I had to wait after writing the how-to-do Zoho tutorial blog posts. Well, I was not exactly waiting for ‘something’ to happen. I did a little bit of research on freelance marketplaces, and found oDesk to be reasonable and reliable. Profile building and understanding the system took a while, but completely worth it. I even did some gigs that were way out of database management. But, helped me to understand the portal as a whole.

At this time, Zoho Creator was gaining momentum, and the marketplace was not yet integrated. I came across a Zoho Creator job-opening at oDesk, where-in the owner wanted someone who could take his existing application and mould it to produce suitable results. By this time, I also had quite a few number of Zoho tutorial blog posts (See! blogging does help).

I promptly placed my bid for this project, and gave reference to my blog posts. And within 2 days, I officially received the hire notice via oDesk, and the project was successfully completed in 3 months. I still continue to provide ongoing support & attend to any requirements on enhancements.

The success of my first Zoho Creator project gave me the much needed booster dose of confidence. I would watch out for openings that requested for Zoho Creator skills and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was fully engaged at Zoho Creator, developing applications for clients. At this time, I was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain my Zoho tutorial blog. I still haven’t had time to do justice to my blog. In every sense, they are my silent partner, being there when I needed them the most, moving to the sidelines when my priorities changed.

Any tips for other developers considering building Zoho Creator Apps for their clients?
First off, All the best. You may know that you are the best, but you will have to sell this as well.

Have you seen a sketch artist’s scrapbook? All his/her work neatly arranged and bound for easy viewing. That’s just about same for us as well. It is not just enough to say “I did this-and-that”, you need to show what is “this-and-that”. However trivial, collect your work samples, and present them as your developer portfolio. Links are for reference, screenshots are for relevance. Use them wisely.

Frequent the Zoho Creator forum, and bookmark / follow the topics that are relevant to you, even at their tiniest proportion. A frequent forum visitor stands the chance of picking more tips, which might come handy later. Expertise is a journey; we will all get there sometime. It’s what you pick along the path that matters.

Watch out at the Zoho Marketplace. It is probably the first place a buyer would present his requirement. Plus, you can be assured that he has personally tested the Zoho Creator environment & understand what “Forms” & “Views” mean. You wouldn’t have to deal with explaining how forms / views are different from tables (as in the conventional database model). Believe me, it takes a great load off when the terminologies are understood in their actual sense.

 If you are active in any of the freelancing marketplace(s), stick to their TOS. You have greater chance of receiving payment on the work done there for any client who happens to contact you via the same freelancing marketplace. I am not ashamed to admit that I got my share of burnt fingers as well.

Last, but not the least, before you commence the project, confirm the requirements in a manner understandable and executable by both parties. You wouldn’t want to end up re-doing the whole application when the buyer says, “Oh! You did this, I thought that”.

And beyond that, do what you do the best. Knock yourself out building applications with Zoho Creator. And, don’t forget to get feedback from your clients. Need I say, use Zoho Creator forms ;-)

Patient Information in the American Healthcare System: Zoho Creator Case Study

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Medicfusion has integrated Zoho Creator into their EMR (Electronic Medical Record) system to offer their customers the ability to design their own intake forms, questionnaires and basic patient surveys. Says Melisa Kirby Rottinghaus, Medicfusions’s CEO,

For the first time ever, fully custom intake, exam forms and patient research studies are integrated into an electronic medical record. Exciting “in the clouds” integration between Medicfusion EMR and Zoho Creator makes it possible. [...] Until now, integration of a physician’s proprietary forms into an EMR wasn’t possible. Not without many thousands of dollars in custom form development and even then, not fully integrated. Now it’s possible, thanks to the roll-out of a revolutionary and very exciting integration between Medicfusion EMR and Zoho Creator. [...] For Medicfusion and Zoho Creator, it represents an important technical advancement, utilizing “cloud computing” in exciting new ways with important market implications.

The videos below explain in detail how the custom forms built using Zoho Creator form an integral part of the Medicfusion system.

Thanks to Pascal Veilleux of NSI Solution, the man behind this integration, who is doing a great job as a Zoho Reseller, and to Medicfusion for using the Zoho Creator Platform. Pascal has a detailed blog about this project too.

Zoho Creator Partner Program

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Zoho Creator, Platform-as-a-Service has successfully deployed 100,000 database apps and has helped more than 400,000 users (individuals and small businesses) to build and deploy business applications that are flexible and affordable.

Zoho Creator partner program is quietly and steadily growing, adding new resellers from around the world. Our Partner Program is targeted to drive Value Added Resellers (VARs), IT Consulting Services, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and industry solution providers to build a variety of business apps within days and deliver to customers across regions. With Zoho Creator, VARs will be able to sell customized and robust apps to their clients in minimal time.

Check out what Mark of Credible Systems (one of Zoho Creator’s Partners) has to say about the platform:

Benefits of Zoho Creator Partner Program

  • Join for free
    There is no charge to join the Zoho Creator Partner Program. Sign up and participation is completely free!

  • Develop Apps for free
    Zoho Creator is 100% free for VARs. Zoho Creator lets partners to create unlimited apps for free
  • Flexible and Low-cost pricing model
    VARs can set their own pricing. Partners have to pay just $3.5 per user (50 user pack @ $175)
    For eg: You can set your own pricing as $10/user where as you only pay us $3.5/user

Interested to join the program? Please fill in this form and our representative will get in touch with you.

Did we say that Zoho Creator is a lot cheaper ($3.5 per user) than Force.com ($7.50 per user)?

A discussion: Does Zoho Creator have 300,000 customers?

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Zoho Creator userbase
I have clarified her about our claim in the same post by commenting that number – 300,000 is for users and not for customers, though we wish to have these numbers for customers ;)  but we need to wait for some more time.
Couple of points from her post


 It seems such quantity of potential users should be of a great interest for VAR, Solution Providers or Individual developers, but I can hardly believe anybody builds a profitable business on that.

Zoho Creator has couple of partners who are bringing business regularly. We signed up Web Force Express, Inc last month, they were partnered with Coghead earlier. For the individual developers, I would recommend to read the comments by Zoho Creator developers at WebAppsatWork . They are the ones who can answer it better and they have done just that. We also have success stories at Marketplace


My concern is it’s difficult to call it a marketplace at this stage. I
mean just 200 requests (I followed the link you cited) sound not very
promising comparing it to 300 000 user base if anybody wants to build a
profitable business on this marketplace, doesn’t it?

At Zoho we put out the service first and refine it with the frequent updates till it gets into a decent shape. Zoho Writer 2.0 is a proof of it. Anyone who has been using Zoho Writer since its launch can vouch for it. Yes we do admit that Zoho Marketplace has a long way to go, but no way is long enough. We are brainstorming about Marketplace 2.0. Nothing is concrete as yet. But we will match up to your and others expectations in coming days, for sure.

Thank you Zoho Creator developers – Ranjan, Pascal Veilleux, Gaev, George and Binarysprinter for voicing out your opinion. Check out their comments.

Comment from a Zoho Creator addict flatters us

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It’s good to see such comments after a long, hard and tiring month for Zoho Creator team, which is working hard on performance enhancements of the apps. Did we succeed? Updates on that front later. First let us take a quick sigh of relieeeeeef reading these comments.

AND WY I AM SO ADDICTED TO ZC?

1º Because this tool is simple and easy to learn and, because of that, it is also easy to explain to non-developers how to setup things;

3º Because ZC have a free plan (despite the increasing of limitations);

 

Yes, we have limited some of the features in Free plan, reason being that we want to run the show so that small and medium business owners with an idea can create apps at low price and manage their business. Now we have introduced 3 user plan at $15 targeted to smallest business owners and home-based businesses. Marketplace is one of the kind of initiative where in business owners can buy apps from third party developers -or- get a custom made app by the developers at reasonable price.

And finally, i start to understand some programming logic and i started to make some progresses in coding… could you imagine that?!?!?!
 

The reason behind designing the contextual linking to Script Tab from ‘Form/ View’ tab is this. We wanted to introduce ‘Deluge Script’ at slow pace giving users time and flexibility to run their hands on it. Further splitting Script Tab into two – Script Builder (for novice scriptwriters) and Free Flow Scripting (for advance scriptwriters) makes it easier for them to get accustomed to Deluge Script quickly. Guess we have succeeded.

 Because of the dynamic of this forum, and some advanced users: Several shared doubts are posted, and we always have an answer, almost of the times with code examples. And the best part is that we can grant permissions to developers for helping us… (Thanks ZC team, Binarysprinter and Scriptlogic ;) ).
 

Truly, they are the superstars in Zoho Creator Forum, helping users with the tips and tricks and offering solutions for user requirements at Zoho Marketplace. Thank you Binarysprinter and Gaev

More details about the Zoho Creator addict at forum titled – Zoho support sucks yes the thread started that way ;)

On behalf of the entire development team I thank the Zoho Creator Addict – Arcílio Silva, for making such an elaborate comment :) Hope we can live up to his expectations in future too.

Zoho Creator Offers Helping Hand to Coghead Customers

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Techcrunch has announced about Coghead, a online application development platform closing down their business.

We were watching Coghead’s announcements and its progress closely since its launch and were really impressed with their 2.0 Launch. But sad that they’re closing.

As Zoho Creator is competing in the same space of ‘database application development platform‘. We feel responsible to bail out all the Coghead users who have put their business critical data in Coghead. We can understand how shocking it would be to read the news that you no longer can use the service which you have been depending on.

Good news is that Zoho Creator is offering Free Migration For Coghead Users

How Zoho Creator can help you to migrate from Coghead?

  • You will fill out the contact form embedded below
  • Our representatives will get in touch with you at the earliest to discuss your project needs
  • A team of experts will be assigned to help you to build apps and will offer free personal consulting
  • The experts can also build your apps for free, if needed
  • You can also post your requirements in the Marketplace to get it done by the developer community.

Here’s why you should migrate to Zoho Creator?

Price Factor - Zoho Creator is priced at very affordable rate. Zoho Creator Pricing starts at $15/month for 3 users which is very much lower than the competition

Trust Factor - Zoho Creator is in business for more than 3 years with very strong user base. Zoho is part of AdventNet, a company that has a 11 year history of profitable organic growth.

Deployment to Google App Engine – A nice way for Zoho to demonstrate that we are not holding user’s application hostage.  More here

Zoho Marketplace -  You can buy and sell off-the-shelf Custom Business Applications

TAKE ACTION NOW
Please fill out this form and we will get back to at the earliest.

We are looking forward to working with you
- Raffic Aslam

Car Accident

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Unexpected things do happen at the most odd of times and I guess in life we have to handle all these unexpected situations.

One such thing happened to one of the Zoho Creator user – Alan Bradford, last week. His wife was hit by a driver when she was traveling back home from the gym. The driver was DRUNK!. Luckily she was not hurt. But the car has got hit very badly and Alan says that the repair works would cost $13,000 dollars.

You might think what this has to do with Zoho.

Since there were no broken bones, and everybody (surprisingly) had insurance, we decided to try to get through this on our own. While I was on hold with the insurance company the next morning, I logged into my Zoho Creator account and built an application for us to manage all the details related to the accident. It took me about an hour to build it. You can demo and download my Accident Tracker application in the Creator Marketplace

However, this action of Alan perfectly mirrors the aspect of his strong personality. Alan, our best wishes are with you and your wife. Hope she recovers out of this emotional trauma soon.

Alan Bradford has blogged about this incident in detail here.