Since 2009, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has nurtured great ideas. But once a project reaches its funding goal, it can get lost in the mix, and its Kickstarter page becomes a shell of its former self. Spotlight, launching today, is Kickstarter’s attempt to extend the life of a project beyond the funding stage. It gives the creators of successful projects a way to shape their story and image the way any company might market an important new product.
Kickstarter Spotlight is a special page design that kicks in only after a project is funded. Unlike in-progress Kickstarter projects, which don’t allow for a lot of design customization (something Kickstarter’s lead product designer Zack Sears tells me is to help encourage a level playing field), Spotlight allows creators to customize their Kickstarter pages with different text and background colors, insert full-bleed images, add a short text description of where the product has headed since it received funding, and more.
The goal, Sears says, is to do a better job communicating that not only is there life after Kickstarter, but that life after Kickstarter is the point.
“After funding was over, Kickstarter pages used to just be these dead old relics,” Sears says in a phone interview. “We wanted to turn every successfully funded Kickstarter project page into a living, breathing place.”
From the perspective of creators, it used to be that a successfully funded product could launch its own site, only for the old Kickstarter page to get the best SEO. Now, creators can transform their old Kickstarter projects into landing pages for their brand, which redirect users to another site (or, as Sears puts it, the “next part of the story”) with a big, customizable button that replaces the “Back this Project” button. They can also add custom text at the top of the page, allowing creators to easily summarize what is going on with the product now.
But how do average users benefit from Spotlight? Like it or lump it, every successful Kickstarter is a moving target: A successful project might have to change its goals and timeline even after being funded. Before, Sears admits, Kickstarter didn’t really do a good job of making it easy for users to see how a Kickstarter was unfolding past the funding stage. Any course changes for the project were buried under an “Updates” tab. Spotlight visualizes this tab as a swank chronological timeline that is front and center of every successful Kickstarter, allowing users to more easily grasp what has changed with the project since they funded it, as well as clarify what was originally promised.
“Before, if you landed on a successful Kickstarter project page, it was really hard to understand what was going on, even as a backer,” Sears says. “Now, with Spotlight, you can see right away what was promised, what has changed, and where to go next.”
What does Kickstarter get out of it? Sears says that Kickstarter’s mission isn’t just to fund products; it’s to build tools for creators. He also admits that Spotlight is a potential differentiator from competing crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and GoFundMe.
When I asked if Kickstarter might take Spotlight to the next level and actually start hosting the websites of successful Kickstarter projects, Sears didn’t say yes–but he also didn’t say no. “Spotlight is about more than funding,” he says. “it’s about creating a nice little home for your products, and could even serve as your product’s web page,” he says. “It removes the immediate need for creators to design their own website.”
Where Spotlight evolves from there is still to be determined, Sears says. But from where we’re standing, it’s possible that Spotlight is a small step toward a future when Kickstarter is as synonymous with a successfully launched product’s present and future as it is with its past.