Bright Idea: UW-spawned platform makes websites more responsive


How many times have you been shopping online and wanted to ask a question about something you’re about to buy? The usual options — if there are any at all — are reviews from previous buyers (sometimes helpful, but not always), an online chat with customer service (argh!) or a phone call to customer service (double argh!).

A Seattle startup has found a way to provide a faster response with AnswerDash. Simply hovering one’s mouse over the item online brings up the most frequently asked questions about the product and, ideally, the one that’s nagging you.

AnswerDash aims to become the world’s leading “contextual answer company,” says President and CEO Jake Wobbrock. “In comparison to conventional ways of getting questions answered,” he observes, “it’s a much quicker, easier and more direct way.”

Wobbrock developed the platform at the University of Washington’s Information School with cofounders Andy Ko and Parmit Chilana. Several years of research showed many web users simply will abandon websites rather than seek help, so AnswerDash was built to provide answers by simply getting users to click on the content in question.

Enterprises using AnswerDash should see increased sales — because users don’t abandon the sites — and lower support costs since visitors get their own answers without engaging a third party, Wobbrock says. Other benefits include in-depth analytics and easy setup. Clients that incorporated the technology during AnswerDash’s beta period include Moz, RedAwning, PetHub and the State of Washington.

Wobbrock says Washington is taking full advantage of AnswerDash’s abilities to make the state’s many online portals easier to navigate. “They care about giving people a good user experience on their websites,” he says. “They’re using AnswerDash to basically help make the experience better for users and also show government websites where they can improve.”

Formerly known as Qazzow, AnswerDash ( went live in May. 

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Susan Gates, left, and Kate Isler

Longtime friends Kate Isler and Susan Gates encourage consumers to shop with purpose