February was a slow month. Many makers in the One Side Project Challenge community shared the same feeling — unlike when we started our projects, when everything is so exciting and moves so fast, after a month or two, the pace slows down. More distractions, less motivation, feeling harder and harder to guard the quiet, quality, creative time we wanted to spend on our side projects.
But that is exactly why we are doing this challenge and committing to one side project per year. I believe that when we feel tired, bored, distracted, and discouraged, the mere action of just keep going will eventually get us into a better place.
For Premade.io, this was really not an easy month. I met both marketing challenges and technical challenges, and had to work and think hard to overcome them.
I somehow messed up and Medium refused to pull the feature image for the first Premade.io post. To this day, I still can’t get it to show up. (If you know how, please leave me a comment. That’d be very helpful.) And the post didn’t perform as well as I wanted it to.
I tried to make up for it, and pitched the article to all the design newsletters I know, and got it into eWebDesign and Designers Thursdays. But the result is still not good enough: 2K views, 1K reads, and 50+ recommends so far — that’s only 10% the attraction my previous posts got.
Not having enough people coming to the top of the funnel resulted in me not getting enough feedback for the first prototype:
As you can see, I ended up getting eight user feedback in total, and it’s really difficult to generate conclusions and make changes based on this tiny sample size.
Making a decent prototype is not enough. I either need to make the prototype so good it goes viral, or I need to get enough testers for it in other ways like spend money for user testing, use paid advertisements, provide incentives for giving feedback, and more.
Trying to minimize the money spent on the side project, I will just spend more time on making the prototype good enough, and then launch it. It could take more time and resources beforehand, but it’s necessary because I can’t afford paying for multiple testing rounds.
I will also spend more time on improving the user experience of giving feedback as well. I thought I don’t need to optimize for that process, because I thought only early adopters and geeks would see the prototype, and they should be able to overlook the user experience and find a way to leave me feedback. I was wrong. I need to craft that experience to get more feedback in the future.
Despite the low amount of feedback I got in total, it is all very positive. On average, the prototype got a 4.63 out of 5. People love the simplicity and love it being an open source project.
Some quotes from the feedback:
“From what I was able to do in beta I can definitely see myself using this weekly on a broad spectrum of my clients businesses :-)”
“Super simple. Currently use Weebly because it is simple, but this is even more so. Looking forward to it.”
“Super simple drop and drop. I love it! And it’s open source, which means we can all make it better together.”
And better yet, when I pitched the article to different newsletters, many editors were giving me positive feedback too. And I may even be able to write an article about the One Side Project challenge idea and Premade.io on WebDesigner Depot.
With this feedback, I can see there is a group of user who really like Premade.io and its approach. I won’t say the idea is validated, but there are good signs still. I will keep measuring how big this group is and can Premade.io become a self-sustainable project for them in the next month.
On Jan 28th, Parse.com made an announcement that they are moving on and will be winding down their service. Saddest. News. Ever. The whole database of the Premade.io project is hosted on Parse.com, and Parse.js is the only backend language I know.
Though I still have a year to migrate it to a self-hosted Parse Server, I’m concerned that Parse won’t get enough maintenance in the future, and it will gradually fade out.
Be very careful with what technology you spend time to learn and bet on. It’s one of the more important decisions you get to make as a developer, as the language you choose and the stack you master can either save you a lot of time or give you a lot of headaches in the future.
Instead of investing more time on developing Premade.io using Parse.js, I speed learnt Node.js, Express.js, and MongoDB on CodeSchool and got a better understanding of how things work in the background. I also deployed a Parse Server on Google Cloud Platform for testing.
I still haven’t fully decided on if I am going to continue to use Parse.js, or switch to Backbone.js, or try out Angular.js and Flux + React.js yet. It’s a tough call, and I want to spend time learning and comparing those frameworks. Definitely don’t want to make the wrong choice again.
I may even end up writing a comparison post about those libraries. Leave me a comment if you’d like to see it.
As you can see, I was procrastinating this month and didn’t spend a ton of time on Premade.io, especially in developing the actual product.
Good thing I grew the number of mailing list subscribers to over 500 and I just got 1,000 Medium followers. (Woohoo! Thank you all! 🎉) But other than that, I didn’t finish the video I wanted to put on the Premade.io homepage, and I shipped zero new features to the prototype. Sorry.
I’m definitely looking to change it in the next month.
- I see the pattern that I tend to spend more time on Premade.io right before the deadline (like all human beings). So I will try to dedicate at least one weekday night and at least half a day during the weekends every week to keep myself on schedule.
- I will make a decision on the framework I’m going to use in the first week of March; and migrate existing Premade.io code to use that framework in March.
- I will make a video that explains what Premade.io is, and renew the landing page to show that video.
- I will also try to add more themes, and add a couple of new features.
If I stop procrastinating and actually get those done, hopefully I can do another round of tests at the beginning of April.
I know things are moving slow for Premade.io. But I think sharing the mistakes I made and lessons I’ve learned might be even more helpful to the community than just bragging about the progress I made. Let me know if that’s true :)
And as always, give this article a 💚 recommend if you enjoyed it, and follow One Side Project Challenge for my future updates and other inspiring side projects.