Matthew Gates https://www.notetoservices.com 5m 1,228
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Designing Your First Product
If you are a web developer, software developer, application developer, etc., than you know that you have much to learn. Every application or website you make will always take lessons learned from your previous product, but the very first one is going to be your biggest learning lesson. Whether it fails or succeeds, you will learn a great lessons. If you are designing your first product in hopes of making money, the chances are that unless you know what people want, understand the human psyche, build a desire and a great use for your product, and give people this absolute need or want of your product, and you do some crazy amount of marketing, chances are, you might have little growth, or none at all.
I began as a Visual Basic developer when I was younger and fell in love with it. While it took me almost a year to master, it made everything so easy, and I would make applications that interacted with the computer and especially America Online (specifically the chatroom feature). Remember those AOL punter programs? I used to love making them! I never actually distributed them to anyone but my close circle of friends, but it was still awesome and gave me some basic understand of logic and programming.
Anyways, if you have no idea what I am talking about, they were these programs that used to “punt” people offline (kick them offline) by sending them a specific character set that AOL couldn’t understand, freeze their computers, and kick them offline. There used to be other features included such as ascii that you could sent to a chatroom and although AOL had anti-spam measures in place, there were timeouts you could set to prevent people from getting kicked out who were using it. I do not think any of these work anymore and the hype of AOL is gone.
Developing your first program is a learning opportunity and experience. In designing MyPost, a website and application that helps you get a creative webpage on the Internet in less than a minute, I learned a great deal about PHP and MySQL. I was trying to figure out ways to monetize it before I realized that I probably should not charge for my first major product. While I do continue to work on it and consider it always in beta and an ever-improving product, people really cannot complain about possible bugs because it is a free product. While I have worked over the years to get many of the bugs out, and still improve the product, it still remains something I reflect on as my first major product that I built.
The lessons learned of building MyPost, and with almost no marketing or advertising, I did create a product that is used by thousands of people in countries around the world. It is mostly spread by an occasional Twitter post, in which I look at a major trending hashtag related to it, and post the link. Other than that, it is spread by the people of the Internet via word of mouth, sharing their own posts, etc. I mainly created the product for myself: I wanted a place that I could just share a link without having anyone have to register or sign up for anything. I wanted a place I could store notes and keep a list of them without having to figure to scroll through my bookmarks on my browser. As a result, it turns out: Many other people wanted this too.
While I could have surveyed and figured out what people wanted: I created it for myself, and then I shared it with the world. I use it everyday. The chances are: If you find it useful and you use it everyday, it is likely that other people will see the same value in it, especially if you make it user-friendly. It was an awesome learning experience and taught me things that I would incorporate again and definitely improve upon.
Since then, I have started a business called NoteToServices. Through this company and the products I have made, I have learned about “templating” which means I use the same template over and over but only the content changes. With these products, I did have to learn to market and spread the word, but I was able to charge for them. These products are things I also use for myself everyday and I created it on the hunch that my lady would always say to me: “Can you remind me… ?” And lo and behold! I would forget. Sometimes, I cannot even remember to do things, so these things were designed with the ability to send reminders via email, phone call, or text message.
However, long before I started, I began doing research to understand what other products were out there. As far as I was concerned, nothing was affordable to the individual. Most of the web applications out there were designed for business and most of them required that you sign up for a trial. I am not a huge fan of trials, especially ones that require me to hand over my credit card. Imagine if you just started dating someone and you were getting to know them. Would you hand over your credit card and trust them? Likely not. Some of you probably wouldn’t even hand over your credit cards to your girlfriend or wife. Ha.. just kidding, she’s reading this, isn’t she? Don’t look. She’s staring at you. Hand over your credit card.
Anyways, my vision is different: I want to register for a product and use it for a few days without any obligation, and if I like it, I will sign up for it. I don’t want to be harassed. I don’t want to have to call the company to tell them I don’t want to use their product and come up with an explanation as to why. I just would like to sign up and if I decide it is not for me: I can easily stop using it. If I like it, however, than I will gladly give my credit card information over to keep using the product. Therefore, the product I designed came with how I see products should be designed. Each month, you get a certain amount of the product to use before you run out. You can refill or subscribe to get more use of the product. No contracts. No obligations. Sure, some people will keep using the limited free version, but for those who find it useful, will probably keep using it.
When it comes to your first product, it should be your learning experience, your trial, your understanding of how people use your product, and whether people like your product or not, especially if there is a want and need for it. It should not be your biggest product or a product you intend to charge for, though if you do charge for it, you should keep it at an affordable rate. Start off small and with a mission. Your mission is to understand how you design your own products and to tinker with your user interface and experience. Whether you just want to share it with your friends and family, or even put it out there on Hacker News or Reddit in order to get some proper feedback.