From “No lines of code” to 200 users in 5 days
Coming up with an idea
It’s Monday morning and the clocks ticking. I don’t have too much time to validate an idea properly, so I fall back on the conventional entrepreneurial wisdom
“Solve your own problems. Because you’re an expert in your own problems.”
My Problem 🤔 — I often have several ideas bubbling around in my head and don’t know which one to work on next.
My Solution 🛠 — Product Hunt for Ideas. Entrepreneurs post their startup ideas. The best ideas filter to the top and you can discuss each others ideas and give feedback. Hopefully this would stop people building things nobody wants.
I only have 5 days to make something. This means I can’t mess around with superfluous features. It’s all action. When I made 140 Canvas I spent 3 months making an amazing site. Perfecting the design. Media queries galore. And after all that no-one wanted the product.
Having a time constraint forces me to ship the bare minimum. All I’m hoping to build is:
- 1) Login with Twitter
- 2) Ability to Post, Comment & Upvote Ideas
- 3) Basic Leaderboard
And, this is all which is required. This is enough to test my idea. And if there’s demand we can always add in additional features.
I make a quick mockup of my vision on Sketch and sent it to Ewan. An hour later he sends back an updated (much improved) design and we were rocking and rolling. It’s time to build my idea.
On this project, I’m planning on using Node JS with Express for the backend , Pug to render the views, Passport JS to handle the twitter auth, Mongo DB to save all the comments and upvotes, Sass to write CSS and Webpack to bundle it all together.
Why? Because these are the languages I’m familiar with. I know I can code fast in these languages. And for this project coding fast is the priority. It’s not the time to experiment with new tech. I think too many developers are obsessed with this hot new framework or that trendy new library. They get stuck in an infinite loop of learning and learning and the consequence is they never actually make anything.
4 days of googling, fixing errors and completing todo’s fly by and the site is finished It’s time to launch!
Another benefit of solving your own problems is that you know the audience for your your own problems. I don’t have to guess. I know all the the spots where entrepreneurs hang out online. I post on Product Hunt, Indie Hackers, Designer News, Hacker News, Reddit/SideProject and the site starts getting traction. Then I text all my entrepreneur friends asking if they want to post an idea and we start getting more momentum.
Next thing I know the founder of Product Hunt has tweeted about our site and it’s started taking off.
At this point we realise we need a way of re engaging users and bringing them back to the site. So we add a simple box where people can enter their email and get a summary of the best ideas of the week. I also write some code so that every time someone comments on your idea you get an email notification.
Little things like this are crucial. Most people see a giant drop in traffic after their launch ends and their side project ends up dying a slow death. Getting users interested is one thing, but figuring out how to keep them interested is a whole ‘nother battle.
And that’s pretty much the story up to now. By the end the 2nd day we’ve got more than 200 users and an email list of over 100! I’ve just sent out the first newsletter to our email list and we’ve just got another wave of traffic.
Will the site stand the test of time? Who knows. But I feel like we’ve all learnt a lot coming up with an idea, building it, launching it and getting 200 users all in the space of 5 days.
If anyone wants to test some ideas out, the site we made is here Ideas Are Worthless
When I’m not working on side projects, I’m building startups at Ourselv.es it’s a venture builder looking for new founders, so please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to partner with us to build your company.