Over the weekend, my husband and I put together FriendshipAPI.com. He did all the coding, while I wrote copy, designed a logo, and did a little bit of marketing. Christopher wrote up the technical side of launching an app in one weekend, so I figured a rundown of how I spent my time would be useful as well.
The Overall Goal
I saw a contest last week for creating apps based on Context.io’s API (which is especially good at analyzing big chunks of email). We decided to see what we could come up with on short notice; luckily, we already had a few ideas in the pipeline. Christopher and I have talked about how to stay in better touch with some of our friends, especially since we’ve moved cross-country a few times.
Because we were building Friendship API as a contest entry, rather than a business that we expect to be quickly self-sustaining, our goals were:
- create an app that functions correctly
- make an attractive site that showcases the app
- get a little traffic to the site (mostly to get people to test out the app)
Getting more traffic might be nice, because the contest does have an award specifically for whoever grows their traffic the most. But, honestly, too much traffic would be a pain in the posterior for us because the app is running on Heroku’s free plan. If we actually got a serious number of visitors, we’d have to pay for a better plan.
A Full-Fledged Web App
Building a web app requires a fair amount of work, but just writing code is not enough. This is a big pet peeve of mine: hackathons, school projects, and all the other various quickie apps you might write have the same crappy look.
And before anyone tries to tell me that a weekend is too short a period of time to put together a design, let me tell you what we did: we bought a design from ThemeForest — this one, in fact. Starting from scratch on a design is tough in this short a timespan (although not impossible if you actually have access to a designer). But modifying an existing design is pretty doable.
If you do have some design skills and trying to move fast, I always recommend putting together three creative assets first off:
- A color palette
- A set of typefaces
- A logo
You can polish up an existing design quickly if you know what colors and typefaces you want to use and if you have a logo to add to the design. Super short on time? Use a typeface you don’t plan to use anywhere else on your website to make a text-only logo of your app’s name.
Friendship API is done in blues and gray; I used the blue built into the design already and added a darker shade for the logo and some design elements.
The logo is set in Unica One, which is available under an open license through Google Web Fonts.
A Quick Bit of Marketing
The real goal of our marketing Friendship API was to get some feedback on what we were doing: a weekend isn’t long enough to do real UX testing, but you can get people to tell you what they don’t like about your app through Twitter.
We were specifically looking for the sorts of people who will be judging the contest: startup nerds. That informed where we put our energy.
Our marketing plan broke down like this:
Twitter: I created a Twitter account for the site (mostly for tracking purposes on Twitter) and tweeted about the launch on the day of. I retweeted that tweet, along with writing a couple of original tweets for my account and my husband’s.
Blog: We launched with two blog posts — one on my husband’s site and one on Medium. I was able to write tweets about the blog posts, as well as share them on sites like Hacker News.
Private Channels: I wrote a couple of short messages to post on a few different private channels I have access to (Facebook groups, Slack teams, and the like).
We got about 100 visitors in the first day. Just like every other time I’ve launched a project, private channels brought us the most traffic — over two-thirds. Twitter came in a distant second.
We also got quite a bit of feedback, which is exactly what we were hoping for. We were able to make a couple of crucial adjustments before sending in our contest entry.