The 12 hour product launch

Hello ladies and gentleman, and welcome to the 12 hour product launch, brought to you by your host @disco_lu.

You may remember me from such articles as You’re Not a Designer Unless…, How to Stay Sane as a Designer, and Why Designers Need Meetups.

Okay, enough of that.

I launched a micro product a few weeks ago and I was asked how I turned it around so quick. In thinking about it, I realised I may have stumbled across a formula for product launches, which I am calling the 12 hour product launch.


Let’s contextualise

In order to understand the formula, you’ll need some context.

Every time I start a Sketch document, I moan at the mundanity of having to set up a typography system.

It happened on a job recently, and I thought there must be another way.

I thought that rather than having to do it every single time, I could just build a starter kit that is useful across any project, and here we are.

The product of this realisation was the Sketch Typography Starter Kit.


I’m going to break down the formula into 4 exceptionally simple, and predictable, steps.

  1. Rationalise
  2. Design / Build
  3. Launch
  4. Market

1. Rationalise

TLDR;

Write down your pain point/s, and how you think you could solve it, simply.

Don’t spend more than an hour on this, as you need all the time you can get on building the thing (yes, even if you don’t code).

What pain point/s do you have that you’re pretty sure others are experiencing too? Are you struggling to find good bars on a Wednesday night, or are you wanting to join a meetup group where you can meet other designers, but not sure where to look? Or is it more specialised — are you bored of using the same old fonts? Are you not sure of good colour combinations for your next project?

These are all problems that you could kickstart, solve, and market within 12 hours. Hey, there might even be some dollar in it.

I realised my typography problem could be designer-wide, so worked out what the MVP could be. I decided that it was a simple, one font face system that had headers and body copy in different alignments and in a few colours. It’s simple, but takes time.

I decided to set the kit in a popular, and hopefully familiar, ratio – the golden ratio, and with a line height of 1.3.

2. Design and build

TLDR;

  • Spend 5 or so hours designing / building your product and landing page in preparation for spraying that link everywhere.
  • Use free tools to maximise ROI of your time
  • Don’t build the super shiny version just yet, make enough to create value

That’s right UX’rs, I’m skipping user research here, because it sucks / we only have 12 hours and one pair of hands.

Build something that solves your problem, and you’re more likely to follow through. Plus, seeing as it’s only potentially one day, you want to solve your pain point in 12 hours, not in 12 weeks.

If you can’t build something that demonstrates a solution to your problem in under half a day, your problem is arguably too broad.

How? I can here you screaming. Right, we have a few tricks up our sleeve, whether you’re a coder or not.

Design

I opened up my go-to design tool, Sketch, and started to get my typography template going. I set the headers and body in the ratios mentioned above, and in all of their alignments and brand colours.

I quickly realised this whole thing was useless unless it was organised. It’s no good having a type style list longer taller than your laptop, so I meticulously organised them into groups and sub groups, to make it easier for people to find what they were looking for when applying the style.

This took something like 3 or 4 hours, as I was working it out as I went along. It sounds simple, but it does take time to set up these systems. Ahem, it’s useful.

With the template done, it was time to move onto the ‘marketing site’. This was essentially somewhere to hold the template and drive traffic to.

I intended to leverage my burgeoning Medium publication, 8px, to promote this. The 8px.design domain was free through a company called Porkbun, and I also host it for free through Github Pages.

If you’re not comfortable coding or deploying a website, there are tonnes of alternatives for you to set up a free holding website, including:

Hey, if you want to build a directory product, you could even just set up a public Airtable. What’s the point of going the extra mile for something that can be just as good in simple form.

Let’s face it, your first customers won’t give two hoots what it looks like, just solve their problem.

It then came to the obvious problem of, how do people get it? I’ve downloaded products from Gumroad before, and not having to handle personal data or credit card details myself was a relief. I set up my Gumroad account and bar a few technical glitches (I had two accounts that needed merging), I was up and running in no time. I also had to set up a Stripe account, for receiving payments.

All I then had to do was link the landing page to the Gumroad download page, and it was ready for promotion.

You’re right, I could’ve just set up a Gumroad page and called it quits, but that means I wouldn’t get to brand it and write some killer marketing copy. That’d also mean you could probably launch in <10 hours, or spend more time on the product.

Going down the Gumroad route also only works if you have a downloadable or physical product. If you’re offering a service, you’ll need to build out a landing page or Airtable thingamajig.

3. Launch

This is the easiest part, your hard work should have been done.

With the product and landing page coded and designed, taking about 5 hours, it’s time to push the button and deploy it.

Oh, don’t forget your Google Analytics tracking code, and SEO information.

Check out Hey Meta for a quick and easy SEO meta tag snippet you can add to your website, post launch. You obviously don’t need to think about this if you’re not building a landing page.

You’re live! Pat yourself on the back, because you’ve officially launched a product that you can tell all your friends about.

4. Marketing

Now this is make or break time.

I’m going to assume you have more than 0 followers on Twitter, and actively participate in other channels relevant to your idea or job. With that in mind, get your link out to:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Any Slack channels that you’re part of
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Emails — send it to anyone you think might find it relevant

Now the knack with all of these is to to be genuine. Don’t go spamming the link around without context – you need to prove value and also that you’re not there to take advantage of your community.

Everyone hates a plug, trust me I’ve been called out on it, but if you’re sensitive to the environment and prove value, you’ll be grand.

The next step is up to you, but can potentially reap many rewards. You can submit your link to forums or resource channels, such as:

Plus many more.

Luckily for me, someone submitted my project without me having to, which not only saved me time, but also proved it was valuable.


There we have it, a quick an dirty explanation as to how you, yes YOU, can go and build that idea you’ve been mulling over for two years that’ll make you a billionnaire.

Aside from these points, it’s always important to try and build out your network. In order to have ‘customers’ you need people that know you exist, which you have full control over. Go and join those Slack channels, attend meetups, Tweet your heroes and contribute.

An early retirement won’t be given to you for free, so start making those strides and you’ll be making some solid progress within no time.


For those of you interested in how my product has done, after approximately 2 weeks, I’m sitting at 500 downloads and have made $36! What a result, I know, a whole $36 dollars.

Obviously if I didn’t hate UX I could’ve asked people beforehand how valuable it is to them, and charged accordingly, but this is a 12 hour problem.

Until next time.