I just signed up for a blog newsletter, and I immediately received a welcome email from the founder. Pretty standard stuff, honestly. I usually don’t read these welcome emails, but this one was titled “why’d you do it?” and I my immediate thought was – do what? What did I do?
So of course I opened the email. Manipulation #1
Obviously don’t rip off someone else’s design, that’s not going to help you improve. But there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be heavily inspired by designers that are better than you. In fact, it’s probably one of the most efficient ways to learn and become a better designer.
Good artists copy, great artists steal. – Pablo Picasso/ Steve Jobs
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. — Albert Einstein
This isn’t a new idea. People have been learning by stealing for a very long time, and it’s not something anyone should be ashamed about. Most people’s first work is a derivative of someone else’s work. This is true of product design, web design, coding, fine art, writing, and virtually every other discipline.
Here are two well known examples
Andy Warhol, an extremely popular and successful artist, created The Last Supper, which is a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s original The Last Supper
Any Warhol’s The Last Supper
Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper
Apple’s iOS multi-tasking interface is copied from Palm’s webOS (source)
Palm WebOS (2009)
Apple iOS (2013)
I just lost a customer. He purchased Duet, ran into some bugs, and festered in silent frustration for almost a week, before sending me an angry email demanding a refund because the software is broken. Having any customer demand a refund sucks because it means I failed, but the most interesting part about this particular case is that the bugs he encountered had already been reported and fixed, he just didn’t have the newest version. So I apologized about the inconvenience, directed him to the version with the fix and BAM he’s hit with another bug – the download page apparently doesn’t work in Firefox anymore. There was nothing I could do to save this customer, he was exhausted, and rightfully so. I had no choice but to refund him and learn what will probably be a very valuable lesson:
I’m a developer. I’m not a designer. I have no training as a designer. I’ve never read any books on design. Despite these facts, over the years I’ve learned to build web applications and websites that look professional.
Here’s a list of things that I think are important to becoming good at design when all you have is development background:
I discover awesome new products and apps on sites like HN every day. Unfortunately, I very rarely revisit these products after I first discover them; I usually forget that they exist even though it’s possible I could have gotten great value from them. I imagine that this issue is common. People are busy and it’s difficult to keep track of every cool product you discover. Because of this, I wanted to come up with a way to keep Duet fresh in prospective customer’s minds after their initial visit to the site, and hopefully increase the probability that they purchase Duet.
Within the tech community, there seems to be widespread belief that SaaS is the only way to build a Software company and achieve long term profitability. I didn’t realize how pervasive this belief was until after I launched Duet and the questions started flowing in
“This is great, but how will your business survive without recurring revenue? I think a hosted solution would be better”
Summary: Launch went well with 27k unique visitors. I made $2000 in one day and $10,000 for the month. I’m still figuring out marketing but I’m currently at about 5k uniques a month and growing
I didn’t do any pre-launch marketing. Literally none. I didn’t even have any friends try it out before I launched. The first user to see (or hear about my app) was after it had already been launched on Codecanyon. I wish that I had generated some interest beforehand and collected emails to start building an email list.
I posted Duet on Hacker News when it was first launched. The response was overwhelmingly positive, but one comment stood out:
I can understand the appeal of selling on Codecanyon for the existing marketplace you get access to there, but I would consider an independent checkout for the website. Your design and branding are well done and signal high quality, while Codecanyon has more of a script/component flea market feel. I think taking someone out of the flow of your site to buy there is a bit jarring and might cause people to reconsider, especially enterprise-y customers. -danenania Continue reading
This has literally been the worst sales week I’ve had since I launched Duet. I’ve only made 2 sales this week and they both occurred on Tuesday. This is especially frustrating because last week was spectacular and I was starting to believe that I had finally reached a sweet spot – consistent sales at a decent level.
What’s worse, I don’t have any idea what has caused this so I can’t think of any ways to ‘fix’ it. Continue reading
There are already a million flavors of project management software. Well known, battle tested software created by giants in tech industry. Most of these apps are pretty fantastic but there’s one problem – they’re all SaaS apps and they all have a monthly fee. Continue reading