My name is Alexander. I’m a programmer from Minsk and I would like to share with you the experience I had while creating my project – service for evaluating people’s achievements My-Wins
I will tell you about how the idea was born, how I managed to implement it alone, and what happened after the launch.
A few words about yourself Now I’m 24 years old, I have small experience as php-programmer – only two and a half years. In my first job (in the office) I had a lot of energy – the desire to learn as much as possible the technology we were working with was overwhelming. Articles on hubra about good, quality code, best practices for creating web pages, google tips all made me somewhat of a perfectionist. I began to be very reverent about my code and slowly looked at the work of the coders. The pages I was getting from them were not always up to par, as they say, the speck in their eye was clearly visible. Within a few months I began to learn CSS, mastering at least the basics.
However, I can hardly be considered a good programmer, I would rate my level as "average".
What came before My-Wins?
Nobody wants to work for an uncle. I started thinking about business when I was a student. In my senior year in 2011 my friend and I had a lot of ideas: real estate, car classifieds websites, an online clothing store (like ebay) and more. Some started to develop, but always bogged down after a couple of weeks. What came out couldn’t be called quality at all – everything was just awful. I realized that I couldn’t do anything without experience.
Got a job. First learned what a framework was. At the beginning of 2012, I started going through ideas again. But all of them seemed to me now very time-consuming. I understood that sitting idly by is not an option either – water will not flow under a lying stone. I decided that the best option would be a simple pilot project, which would give me an idea of how the site works on the Internet, what is Google Webmaster Tools, and besides it was likely to earn money on Adsense.
All summer and my vacation I made an article site about business – business-notes.ru. The articles were planned to be translated from foreign analogues. Searching and translating an article took me about 3 hours, which was a lot. I invited the translator for the job – 5 dollars per article, a month for about $ 150.
Meanwhile, business-notes was not very popular.
A small advertising campaign in April in Vkontakte showed that people are not interested in this kind of articles, and search engines unique content is not so revered. As a result, I concluded that without serious financial investment in advertising you can not get high traffic to the site. Arouse the interest of people can only very high-quality material or something revolutionary new.
How was the idea for My-Wins born?
In early 2013, I went into freelancing. No public transportation in the mornings and evenings, sleep as much as you want, organize your day however you want – a fairy tale?! Not really. Organizing myself at home proved to be very difficult, but what I missed the most was talking to my colleagues about work issues. To discuss the algorithm, to ask for advice, to help with advice, to find out how this or that problem was solved. I wanted to get an assessment of my work from another expert, since my relatives and friends had little understanding of programming. Besides, I wanted to be updated on the progress of other colleagues.
In mid-February 2013, I had the idea to solve the problem of "loneliness" by creating a service to share their achievements with people of the same profession, with the ability to evaluate these achievements, both positive and negative (because so not enough dislikes in social networks). In addition, such a service would be useful not only for programmers, I was sure that in almost any area of life, people would like to know the opinion of their success. Be it work, hobbies, relationships, sports. The system of achievements exists in many computer games – players like to get "achievers" by competing with other people. Why not create a similar system for people?
I was blown away by the idea! For the first few minutes, creating images in my head of the finished site, I saw how in-demand and popular it would be. With great excitement, I opened Google and started searching for analogues. Nothing was found! Neither a Russian-language site, nor an English-language one. I was thrilled! I immediately decided that I would make a multi-lingual site with a domain in the .com zone. I started to choose a suitable domain name, everything was busy with the word achievements, I tried a synonym for wins and – good luck! A short, easy to remember and indirectly conveying the essence of the project domain "my-wins.com" was free!
Start of development
I was in no hurry to start development. After reading various articles about startups, I realized that the idea should sound just as good after some time. I decided to do an Under construction stub and wait a while.
The wait dragged on. On weekdays I only did freelance work (I couldn’t organize work from 9 to 18). On the weekends I read Getting Real (from 37 signals), helped my parents build a house, and sometimes just got lazy. However, this pause turned out to be helpful – at my main workplace I developed a small and simple framework based on CodeIgniter for one task, which was later used to develop My-Wins. Also, the ideas expressed in Getting Real helped me a lot – I didn’t include a bunch of functionality in the first release.
At the end of May the idea in my head sounded as good as it had in February, and the mood was disposed to work. I set to work.
I had no experience in design, so I drew the prototype as best I could. I knew that I couldn’t make something that was comfortable and beautiful the first time.
The design was based on an Under Construction page I found online. I liked the background with two colors and the container in the center. I love shades of blue, but I didn’t want to do the project in the same colors as Facebook, Vkontakte, and Twitter. I chose green. Everything was very simple with the logo: in a series of Photoshop experiments on the letter W a crown was found, which hinted nicely at an element of rivalry.
After doing the rough layout for a few days, I wanted to add some kind of "wow" effect. I’ve always been amazed at the beauty that the guys are doing here. and decided to do page transitions with a cool CSS3 effect. But putting a 3D effect on the main container turned out to be not so easy, it was very difficult, I had never dealt with this in my work. When it did work, it didn’t look very nice, so the 3D was replaced by "popping" (scale + opacity).
The key feature of My-Wins, it seemed to me, was to allow the user to view wins from the area of life that interested him, to exclude from his feed wins from a completely different area, because he might not have rated them properly. A category system with many subcategories was invented.
I believed that a user who wanted to read about advances in mathematics should not have to see the advances of high school students in that subject. So hundreds of different categories and subcategories were created to help the user read what they were interested in. A total of about 3, 000 categories and subcategories were created with English translations each. It took a lot of time and, as it turned out, for nothing. But more about that later.
Overall, the basic functionality I expected to finish in a few weeks, but finished in 3 months. It took me a long time to fiddle with the main page (win slider), where filters were applied and history was saved. For a long time I was trying to change the values of CSS properties to make everything look as good as possible. It was very difficult to write the text for the main page. But one way or another, the basic functionality was done by September.
I chose cloud hosting. I never set up servers, so I asked an acquaintance for a small sum to do it for me. Next, I started setting up authorization – Facebook, Google and Vkontakte and quickly tested everything.
In October, I invited my friends and asked them to add at least one win each. I thought this would give a jump-start to spreading the word about the project. However, it turned out that almost everyone had a lot to do, and most were only able to register. This made me a bit sad, but looking at the situation from the other side, I understood that people have their own affairs and problems, and it was hardly worth counting that one request to friends could attract thousands of users.
To start any advertising campaign with 5 wins was pointless – too little content. So I turned to Adwego (article exchange) for help. By creating there an order to add new victories, got a very good response from the authors. Many of them praised the project, thanked me for the payment and wanted to continue cooperation. The praise pleased me very much at first, but watching the traffic, I realized that almost none of the authors returned to My-Wins! The winning authors were just doing their jobs.
In the meantime, I decided to add comments, no ratings, no replies, no subscriptions – just comments. This was quickly done over the weekend. Also, I started getting complaints about the annoying CSS effect, the one I’d been sitting on for days! How come? I was enjoying it! I added a checkbox to my profile settings that would remove it.
In November, I decided it was time to add a subscription system, since it would be more important for the user to read his acquaintance’s win in the first place. At the same time, I kept checking every author’s work, adding missing categories to the database. Gradually it was getting tiresome, these categories seemed to be endless. All these sports, hobbies, jobs, various diseases, and their classifications were consuming a lot of my time. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to replace the Categories with a Tagging system. It was unpleasant to give up work for which I must have invested a total of about 50 hours. But the Tags turned out to be very handy, and the filtering form was simpler and clearer.
Mid-November was the start of Yandex.Direct and Google Adwords advertising campaigns. Yandex unpleasant surprise by the lack of opportunities for payment by credit card (for non-residents), and the bank transfer fee of $ 14 unpleasant. However, the most interesting thing was the results of these campaigns.
Conversion is a user registration. And Yandex and Google for some reason considered it not quite right, the real registrations without taking into account the authors Advego, was one and a half times more. But in any case, about $ 10-15 for a new user is not cheap. Perhaps such a price is due to a kind of "product" of advertising, because users are unlikely to want to find it is an achievement assessment service. Before launching the advertising campaigns, I had read quite a few articles on how to build them correctly. In early December, I created separate pages for tags with a limited list of wins and a call to register (e.g. Smoking tag. ). After that I added new ads specifically for them :
CTR (% of clicks per impression) increased by 2 times, conversion rate remained the same.
Poor search engine advertising results made me realize that in order to find optimal advertising, the project should be promoted on all fronts, including social media. Pages were created in Vkontakte, Facebook, and Twitter. A little later a system of notifications by mail about new events was added.
Now the plan is to publish in the media.
A good idea comes when you encounter problems or situations in real life. Paul Graham talked about this, and I just now realized what he meant.
Development is the easiest thing to do in a startup. I was very mistaken, expecting thousands of users to come out of nowhere after the release. It’s not that easy to manage promotion, development and freelance work by myself, it’s very exhausting. By New Year’s Eve I was completely exhausted and took a break for a week.
Creating a startup alone has only some advantages – you never have a conflict with your partner and all the decisions that are made you like. But there are much more disadvantages – your decision is not always right; the project is developed slowly; you spend only your time, effort and money; you solve problems from another professional field, which can irritate you and which can be solved incorrectly.
Tips from Getting Real turned out to be very useful – a lot of secondary functionality for the project release really proved unnecessary, because it can be added later, uploaded to the server in a matter of minutes.
All these conclusions are just my point of view, and I would welcome any comments, suggestions, or advice.
If you found this article interesting, I’ll be happy to share the hubro effect and the details of media promotion in my next article.