Building a new product

It started as a pain point. I wanted to write more, but I was not satisfied with the way blog services work. Wordpress is fairly complex, and Medium, as nice as it is, doesn’t really feel like it’s my own content. Furthermore, writing and consuming content on mobile can sometimes feel quite arduous. So I set out to make my own service!

Project goals

  • Make the writing process less complex.

  • Share content quickly and easily.

My roles and responsibilities

  • Product Management

  • Design (all aspects)

  • Engineering

The Why

Who is the customer?
I had seen some behaviors on Twitter where people post images of text as a way to extend the character limit. I needed to dig a bit deeper on who would actually use this type of service, but it is definitely a certain segment of Millennials.

What are their goals?
Using images of text as a way to extend character limits on Twitter is an interesting "hack" and it's clearly something people are still doing these days. It's a way to be able to write more and share more insightful ideas. It also reduces the complexity of threading, since everything is all contained in one tweet!

What are their pain points?
There are 2 aspects to this that affect people. First, as already mentioned, are the character limits. At the time I was working on this, it was the original character limit of 140 characters. But even now with 280, people are still posting images of text.

Secondly, blogging services are quite powerful, but also more complex. Simply writing and sharing content can be somewhat daunting because many of these services (e.g. Wordpress) contain features used for "professional authoring".

The What

Understanding pain points is just one important aspects of product development. In this case, the problem I set out to solve was largely my own, and rather than commit to a lot of user research (as is common in good UX design methods), I decided to learn about the problem space by building the service as fast and low cost as possible and study how people use it, validating and iterating as I go.

I almost always start by writing. Writing is an important aspect of how I design, as it helps me identify key principles and concepts that should be communicated throughout the experience. To help with product development, I reached out to some friends and business connections to pitch the idea and pick their brains how to get it started. This alone was incredibly helpful as there are so many ways to get something started. The best advice I have is to just pick a method and get started!

After naming the service and buying a domain name, next was sketching out the screens that I needed to make. In the beginning, I just had a form page to submit your writing and an “About” page to talk about the service. To make it super simple, I wanted people to come to the site and just start writing, but I later realized not having an actual landing page was a really bad idea.

Eventually, I needed to add an actual homepage to describe more of what the product does. While it was more direct to give visitors direct access to the writing feature, it was clear from feedback that people didn’t understand what the product does, and I needed to find a way to convey this first.

The How

I designed and built all the web pages and launched it as a "web app". It wasn't so much a web app as it was me getting the submissions and posting things to the 200words Twitter account. It was an easy way to build something and start testing the concept with actual people. The feedback I consistently received was that people wanted it to be tweeted out from their own accounts, which of course is possible, but difficult for me to do on my own. In general though, this was a perfectly reasonable version zero.

Conclusions and take-aways

As with any early stage product, growth and success is extremely challenging. Working on a product of my own creation has taught me a great deal about many more aspects of product development than just the design parts. I eventually worked with a software developer to build a beta version of the app. Everything worked well, but it unfortunately used Fabric to do the Twitter integration. This is always a challenge, tying your own  product to a roadmap that depends on other products existing. As of today, I would need some additional support to get it working again, as I'm not sure how to do the integration on my own. For the time being, you can view the current state of the product at 200words.co!

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