Muxu Muxu bootcamp: one week, one app, one thousand Upvotes

How long does it take to build an app? No matter how succinct and specific the brief, the build must inevitably take months. So the process of defining, designing, implementing, and releasing a product in one week must surely be impossible.

But here at Muxu Muxu, we don’t shy away from a challenge. Entrepreneurship is changing. Now, speed, traction and growth matter most. This means identifying a potential market demand, and acting on it — before someone else does. An early release, with all its bugs and glitches, provides enormous potential for feedback and enables you to hone the product into something that responds to your users’ needs. This is far more productive than spending months perfecting a product, which may not have much traction anyway.

During our recent Muxu Muxu Bootcamp, we set ourselves a mission: one week, one app, from finding the idea to launching on Product Hunt. Perhaps it was that sea air in Cap Ferret, but just one week later we’ve 15,000 downloads and are proud members of the Product Hunt 1000 Upvote Club!

The idea

The idea came about one evening, whilst Luc was playing around with making a to-do list in a new tab. He had always liked the idea of having notes present in the navigator, and being able to jot things down as he browsed. But he found the process to be restrictive and complex and he hadn’t yet found an extension that corresponded to what he was looking for: simplicity, elegance, and no fuss. So there it was: the idea and USP for our product.

Planning and prototype

Our first priority then was to create something that was lightweight, efficient, and only ever a tab away. That emphasis on simplicity was going to come in handy, seeing as we were working to a tight timeframe.

Luc drew up a quick prototype of a text field in which he could save his content. Twenty minutes later, Charley had come up with a prototype of an app. He used a block of ContentEditable, the only added intelligence being the automatic saving in localStorage. It was pretty rudimentary, but the important thing was that it worked. He passed the HTML to Luc to play around with, who drew up a basic idea for an interface.

We liked the idea and decided to pursue it more seriously. This was when we came up with the idea of ‘The One-week Challenge’ too. The next day Luc and Charley put together a list what they would like to see in the web extension, including export capabilities for PDF, markdown, and HTML. We wanted to make the app available through the Chrome Web store, so needed to tweak the interface and come up with some brand assets.

But in reality, creating export features that will function impeccably takes far longer than just one week. At this stage in the development process, we realised that some of those export options would be too complex and far-removed from the simplicity that we were seeking.

Plus, in tools such as this one, the smallest friction can repel the user. We were already hoping that the app would continue to grow post-release. A smooth user experience was going to be crucial in gaining — and maintaining — traffic. Pretty quickly, we saw that the key to making an app in one week was going to be in knowing where to stop.

Our aim was to provide the most useful features, as quickly as possible. We could then change the design or development in response to feedback along the way. The best export feature turned out to be good old copy-and-paste. The original, basic interface that Luc had come up with was the one that stuck, precisely because it had been quick and simple.

Muxu Muxu Bootcamp

Bonjour, Day 3. We hadn’t yet resolved how to publish the app. Nor did we have any brand assets or communication materials in place. The rest of the team got involved, and we centralised our work on Azendoo, which is a really handy task-management and team-collaboration tool, separated into Workspaces and Subjects. Azendoo was crucial when it came to effective time-management and productivity throughout the week. We created Tasks, delegated them to the relevant team member, and all commented on the best way to proceed. Via Azendoo, we were able to tackle issues swiftly and easily, for example how we should publish, what the name should be, and whether we should make this a paying app. We came up with ‘Papier’ for the name, which reflects the simplicity of the extension — and its French roots. The extension would be made available for €4.49 per download.

Charley polished the extension and corrected some final details, enabling us to confirm that the app was ready for publication. He checked that the ‘click’ functioned everywhere; that the cursor didn’t jump around within blocks of text; that all keyboard shortcuts worked correctly on different platforms. Papier is based on Draft.js, a brand new library made available by Facebook one week previously. Papier also uses APIs from Google Chrome for synchronisation between tabs, as well as for its upcoming Google Cloud synchronisation.

Luc updated the design, and set about preparing the assets for the Chrome Web store with Audrey. Meanwhile, Emily came up with a short-but-sweet placeholder text to explain how to use Papier (it’s pretty self-explanatory). We kept Papier’s USP at the forefront of our minds: your best thoughts whilst browsing are just a new tab away. By this point, the product was taking shape. We were keen to launch as soon as possible.

On Day 4, Charley created getpapier.com. As he’d been making a lot of landing pages for various other projects, he’d become a bit of a boss at it and had it done in the blink of an eye. The extension was ready to go, and we wanted to launch on the Monday morning, for maximum visibility.

Product Hunt and Chrome Web store launch

Luc handled the launch and preparation of assets for Product Hunt, including our tagline: ‘open a new tab and trap your best thoughts’. The extension went live in the Chrome Web store. Then it was just a question of waiting for a reaction…any reaction!

We were stupefied by how people responded. The Internet welcomed us with open arms, and Papier was a real hit! Product Hunt is such a useful tool for teams seeking to get something new off the ground: it gave us a platform for visibility and for interaction with potential users. Emily and Audrey remained active on Twitter, responding to queries and comments from new and potential users about what they liked, and what they didn’t like.

We listened carefully and centralised all feedback in Azendoo. We were able to post Tweets from the community, and comment on them in-team in order to decide on the best course of action.

Despite the positive feedback, the PH Upvotes, and the steady flow of Chrome Web store traffic we saw during the first few hours, there was little conversion to download. The price was evidently a real braking factor. Other feedback tended to be about bugs and missing functionalities. Some people wanted a character counter; others wanted URL detection and tab settings.

This feedback was valuable, because it led us to make certain changes. We made the extension free and reimbursed all purchases. People are used to free Chrome Web extensions. Producing an extension that was convincing enough that people would pay for it was always going to be tricky. Once we made the extension free, we saw a real boom in downloads.

There were 150 downloads in the first hour, and the same every hour throughout the day. We had had over 1,500 downloads by the end of the first day, and over 5,000 by the end of the second. The fact that we were featured in PH’s Daily Top 10 certainly helped in gaining momentum, and we were featured on the second day too. We also saw a big surge in traffic after posts from Lifehacker and Hacker News.

One week: mission accomplished!

One week after the idea was born and ‘The One-week Challenge’ had been set, the Upvotes kept on coming. We had made it into the PH 1000 Upvote club, and have now had over 15,000 downloads!

Although the challenge was over, Papier continued to live and breathe by itself. People were downloading the extension all around the world, and it was proving particularly popular in the US and Japan. We were getting a lot of love from users wanting to download, but unfortunately they were in countries without access to Chrome Web store web payments. This confirmed to us that it would be cool to find a way around that problem in a second version.

Some big names on Twitter criticised a lack of functionality. They said that the extension was too lightweight, and should at least offer the option to save documents locally or to Dropbox. The crucial point was in knowing where to draw the line. We had known from the start that offering something this stripped-down was quite radical. Adding in these other features would make Papier more complex, and distance us from our original vision for the app.

We discussed this feedback in Azendoo. Arnaud, a pal of Muxu Muxu, reminded us that the number one rule of product management is: say no to 99% of the requested features. That’s particularly true when you’re working to a strict time schedule as we were. Otherwise everything gets too complex and there are too many visions of what the product is, and is trying to accomplish. When we took a step back, we realised that this was just a few users protesting because we weren’t offering certain features that they could have found in Evernote or similar products.

The future for Papier

We were blown away by the feedback we received. We had succeeded in our original challenge of releasing an app in one week. Even better was that people actually seemed to like Papier, or at least had engaged with it enough to give us their feedback. It had never been about achieving perfection though. The challenge had been to produce something that worked well and which responded to a need, incorporating user feedback along the way. So, some of the upcoming additions to Papier will include Google Cloud synchronisation, enabling you to open a tab in the browser of another computer, and find your Papier notes there waiting for you. Firefox and Safari versions are also in the pipeline.

Product Hunt was an invaluable tool when it came to getting Papier off the ground. It offered us a ready-made community of enthusiasts, who were willing to react and share their insights. This, combined with Twitter, meant we’ve been able to interact with our users and fine-tune Papier into something that responds to their needs. Azendoo was crucial when it came to Muxu Muxu’s collaboration and ability to work productively throughout the week. Now that we’ve proven we can get an app of the ground in a week, hopefully this is the start of more exciting things to come!