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How I Built a Side Project | StayInTech.com

Iteration-2: MEASURE

Again I posted a link of the website on Hacker News. However, this time the submission did not make it to the front-page.

Next I emailed my mailing list of 1222 people, notifying them about the launch.

According to analytics, 37.1% opened the email, and the website link was clicked 684 times.

During the couple of months after launch, approximately 300 - 600 visitors visited the website daily. However, only ~ 450 people created an account out of thousands of visitors.

The biggest problem was that out of registered users, only ~ 20% used the site weekly. Many users created an account, perhaps out of curiosity, but did not use it actively.

Iteration-2: LEARN

To learn more about my users, I sent a short list of questions to 1222 recipients.

The goal of corresponding with users was to find out who they are, and what problems might they experience with their current UX work. The open rate of the email was 45,8% and 27 people replied.

~ 96% of respondents told that they would - or already have - recommended the tool for a friend or colleague.

Lots of interesting feedback was received from users about their UX work and processes.

Clients love UX, because they essentially know it will make them more money. Some team members just see it as new work." - Manager

We do share UX ideas with clients, but not a much as I'd like currently." - Project manager

I've tried to share UX ideas in the company where I work, but we have a dedicated team for that." - Developer

CONCLUSIONS

Even though I received lots of positive feedback for the tool, the monthly costs of running the service were adding up, and user retention was low. The monthly services on Heroku consisted of a SSL endpoint, PostgreSQL database, dynos, a wildcard SSL certificate for the subdomains, automatic backups, free analytics services and emailing services.

I realized that there was not a good enough problem / solution fit, I had iterated way too slowly, and interacted too late with users. Also, I should have thought more about how much it will cost to run the service and how could I have monetized the project in order to break even. Finally I decided to take the service offline and concentrate on other projects. However, the original, simple usability checklist is still live on this domain.

Fortunately the Wayback Machine still holds a copy of the old website, where the customizable checklist tool resided.

Even though I took Userium offline, I know the time spent on it was not wasted. I learned valuable new skills during the process, gained new contacts and new insights from users. Unlike startups, which need to create something people want, a side project can just be a labour of love, and a learning project. It is a great opportunity to experiment with an idea, and build anything you want.

USEFUL TOOLS

I have found the following tools useful while building my side projects. Hopefully also you will find some of them useful.

  • Free usability testing service, "Peek"
  • Deploy, scale, and manage your applications on Heroku
  • Ask programming questions on Stack Overflow
  • Add a signup form on your website with MailChimp
  • Check which search words or topics are trending on Google Trends
  • Create a cool questionnaire for your users with Typeform
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