Snapguide, which just launched on iOS, is rethinking the stodgy “How To” guide for a mobile generation. Thus far the consumption and creation of “How-To” guides on the web hasn’t been particularly groundbreaking, with SEO-optimized, paid contributor-written fare like eHow.com dominating the market. In contrast Snapguide was built to be super simple, fast and take advantage of your phone: Think of services like WikiHow as Facebook and Snapguide as Path.
“eHow was a pioneer in publishing content online,” says co-founder Daniel Raffel, “but it is a lot of ‘evergreen’ [and impersonal] content. We want to be a place where people share what they’re passionate about … ” he explains, saying that he could even envision a partnership with eHow eventually.
In fact, Snapguide is so well-suited to realtime mobile that it’s not shocking that Path founder Dave Morin is one of its backers, in an illustrious line of investors that includes CrunchFund and Index Ventures. The Snapguide co-founders are also of pedigree, with Raffel being, in addition to a Thomas Keller protege, one of the creators of Yahoo Pipes, and Steve Krulewitz formerly a member of Google’s Chrome team.
The project, which currently boasts hundreds of guides from “How to make Sous Vide Chicken at Home” to “How to wear a scarf 5 ways,” was initially the result of a gift; Krulewitz gave Raffel the Tartine Bread book and Raffel took the complex recipes as a challenge — how does one break something down step-by-step to its most simple components in real-time? The solution was to use your phone, of course!
In order to make a guide, download Snapguide onto your phone, take a series of pictures (or a up to 60-second video) delineating each step in your process (Like, ‘Step 1. Cut a hole in a sock’ for my “How to make a sock bun” guide). Then fill in the text instructions. Because Snapguide is optimized for iPhone, you can also speak in your text and the app uses Nuance technology to transcribe it.
“We wanted to make it really easy to document a process in realtime with photos. And how you would cover something in realtime is different from how you would cover it after the fact,” Raffel says.
After you’ve got the initial steps down, you can delete, edit or rearrange their order and then publish your guide. Snapguide has social sharing functions to both Twitter and Facebook, along with its own internal “follow” graph, where you can see a timeline of guides created by people you’re following, in addition to which guides are popular. The app’s search function — which doesn’t exist yet on web — is also optimized for mobile. “It’s ridiculously fast, Raffel says.
Raffel eventually wants to give Snapguiders the ability to export their guides into widgets, and port them to any site across the web. This would be super-useful for communities and blogs like Beautylish and Refinery29, who traffic in “How-to” content. Here is Beautylish’s sock bun for example. “Imagine making that guide the old school way?,” Raffel says, referring to the process of individually downloading all pictures, and painstakingly formatting all the steps.
Raffel’s ultimate goal with Snapguide is to connect people who are experts and passionate hobbyists with each other, and bridge these people and their experiences, “The space is ripe for disruption on mobile, and there’s a lot of tribal knowledge that hasn’t yet been captured.”