What is this?
I launched my project Stencil two weeks ago in Product Hunt and I figured I should probably document the whole process - publicly.
To give you some context, Stencil is a service that builds image variations from a custom template very quickly. If you want to know more, head over to https://www.usestencil.com
I started a new hobby in RC plane and quad-copters mid-year last year, and basically spent every extra time I had working on my build. I didn't code on anything outside of work for the first time.
I was using DJI digital FPV goggle and it had a few limitations. The playback recording does not have overlay telemetry data. I figured I should create a software to overlay telemetry data - something similar to BetaFlight Blackbox Viewer. I looked into BetaFlight Blackbox Viewer and was pretty surprised it was actually using web technologies.
I started with creating an editor to create an overlay image. At that point I realized there's actually a good use case for this and started doing some market research. There are few similar products in the market and thought to myself that this is an interesting area to work in, and I also have my own take that I want to implement. This is how it started - from a newly found hobby.
I have a channel called Flying Duct Tape where I post some of my flight videos.
The development process
Development took around 7 months while maintaining a full-time job. The initial launch date was supposed to be in April (4 months development cycle) but due to lock-down things got delayed. Progress was slow during lock-down as I don't have much free time considering my wife works as a doctor and I am mostly taking care my 2-yo while working remotely from home.
Lessons learnt from launching Stencil
Launching a product has always been an exciting moment and of course all the anxieties to see how people react to the product.
These are some of the lessons I learnt from launching my first ever project to the public.
MVP is not enough
With how competitive the market is, I don't think MVP is enough anymore. Unless you're launching a truly original idea then it might pass.
It's okay to ship with less features but it's not okay to ship with incomplete features. The key is quality of quantity. Most if not all products launched in Product Hunt are really good in quality and presentation. It's hard to stand out if it is just a working MVP especially if you're launching in PH. You'll see why in the next point.
This is probably the opposite of "Just Ship It".
Know where and when to launch
Product Hunt is the best place to launch and it is the most sign up referrals I've gotten so far. Looking retrospectively, my timing could have been better. I launched on Tuesday and apparently Tuesday is the day everyone is targeting for. I did my research before hand, but I didn't came across that fact.
I also launched on BetaList and LaunchingNext but the results are meh.
The highest peak is the traffic I get from PH launch and the second peak after that is from BetaList and LaunchingNext 😂
Build an audience before launching
I did not do this. I was in developer mind-set - develop, develop, develop. Having an audience does not equate to more sign ups directly but it's a good way to get people talking about your product. People talk about new product if it's good and helpful, and in early stage of a product cycle any marketing I can get is more than welcomed.
Marketing is hard
It's not as easy as I thought especially when you are starting from zero. My twitter account has less than 100 followers - it was around 84 at that point. So I have pretty much zero audience and solely relying on Product Hunt launch.
Product Hunt launch is great marketing of course but it's only give you the initial spike and you need more than that to sustain growth. Long term I hope to grow organic traffics to my site and I am doing more tutorials and guides to help people use the product - which can also help improve traffic to Stencil.
Get early feedback from beta users
I had a few friends who helped me test my product and I implemented some of their feedback, and some I didn't. Turned out you should listen to all of the feedback.
It is the same feedback I got from the Hour of Truth product review. Also seeing how new user uses your product can help pinpoint where exactly your UX suck.
Nothing beats getting your first customer
Stencil got its first paying customer few days after the launch and honestly it is one of the best feeling in the world. I felt I had accomplished something really really big at that point.
Capture bugs early and fix them ASAP
Use automated bug tracking tool to catch exceptions and errors. First release is always buggy no matter how much I tested it. I caught few silly bugs that slipped from my QA (I am the QA too).
I rolled out the fix ASAP because first impression is important and I want to fully capitalize on the PH traffics that I've got.
All in all it's been good, could've been better but that's where the future is. Thing will take time to develop and I'm going to continue working on this - it is still in early days of product cycle.
That's all I have for now, I guess I'll see you in the next issue 👋