What I Learned by Releasing a Freebie

This post was originally published in blog.chrisveigt.com

A few months ago, I’ve launched one of my side projects. Same as the first one, I decided to share it with the community for free.

It was a long time since I worked on a mobile project different from the apps of the company I work for, so I thought, why not do a mobile screens set. Having in mind that I only work on these side projects some nights of the week and on weekends, It could not be something too big that takes so much time. First, I quickly started to define a generic set of views; Sign up, Profile, Settings… you know. A week after, I have finished 6 views and I realized I can get some others done.

I decided to do 6 views more so it could be a more complete set, so, it could be more useful. Few days after, I had all views finished and at that point, everything was going great until here, but something I learned when I did my previous side project (SomeIcons) is that by the time you finish design and have your file ready to upload, you have to think of some additional things like where you’re going to climb, how are you going to showing it up, and the way you’re going to share it, for many it is a part uncomfortable but definitely necessary if you want your project at least be seen, and truth ultimately lead to interesting and fun.

From my experience, this is what I learned in the process of creating and publishing a personal project:

Design a landing page

One of the things I’ve always liked to do is write HTML and CSS, so after finishing my set of views, I decided to make a landing page where I can show the content of my UI kit and promote it from there. For this, I sat down on a Saturday morning and the first thing I did was create a name and a logo in 20 minutes, there was born “Breathe” A Mobile UI Kit For Designers & Developers. After this, I spent the rest of the weekend building the website, writing the copy, refining design details and making sure that everything was working fine.

Find the right sharing channels

There is something very important when you do not have a website or blog with millions of visitors, you do not have thousand of followers on Twitter or you are not a famous designer, if you are going to release something, you should do everything possible to make your project been shared in social networks, mentioned in blogs and get the most exposure possible, so it can even get a medium range.

Finishing a side project last year, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I shared those for free and most people who come to download it, do it because somehow the content of the project is useful. So, what I did was to implement a simple Pay with a Tweet to ensure that the project was shared in a tweet before user download it. This is a simple way to get presence on Twitter and Facebook and is a small cost for users if we compare it with what they get in return. This time, I tried doing the same but I noticed that people got upset with this, some people just accepted to make the tweet and another significant number of people actually thought that it was a kind of trick. I have got a couple of tweets and emails about it, so you have to decide what is most important to you, share it or keep all people happy.

Another basic thing is having the option to share on Twitter and Facebook within the landing page that you have designed for it, and finally, something that has worked for me pretty well is to publish a news on sites like DesignerNews and WebDesignNews to give out your project the day of its released, I recommend doing it on Monday or Tuesday.

Launch in a smart way

Finally, I’ve noticed that when launching a project, even if it is personal, the most important thing is not just launch it, but observe what happens after you have launched it. Something I learned when I published SomeIcons was that after you uploaded and shared something, there is no turning back. It is on the internet and anyone can download it, use it or copy it and there’s nothing you can do.

A good practice to know what’s going after this happens, is to install web analytics service, there are many but for what I need to track, Google Analytics has worked perfectly and it is pretty easy to install, this will help you to know how many people are visiting the site, how many are downloading your project, from which countries, browser, etc… You can also place your login Twitter or a hashtag in the tweet of Pay with a tweet to watch the movement on Twitter or Facebook. All this will allow you to see which errors you may are doing fix and improve those for next time.

Plus, create a licence.

An extra tip is to create a small file, may be in PDF or TXT that makes clear which class of licensed or permitted uses have your project and thus prevent abuse from users that download the material.

Subscribe to my personal list to be notified when I publish new design blog posts, tips and resources.