It was in October 2014. I was getting bored of the usual tasks in my web business, and I had a few vacation days left at work. Following the inspiration from a couple of blogs I follow, I decided to try and build something myself.
It had to be:
- Finished in a week
- Low-investment (<$100)
Following the idea of batch-processing for better productivity, I planned out a week of interrupted work.
Then, I took 5 days off at work.
Knowing that working from home wouldn’t be exactly productive, I also bought a weekly membership at a local coworking space.
The idea for ThemeBro was sitting in my Evernote for good few years now. But ideas, as discussed before, aren’t really important. There are tons of napkin sketch projects that will never get executed. And it’s for the best, really — this way, we can really focus on those with the highest ROI.
But how can we tell if an idea is worthy of our time?
In my course I advise people to validate it using only design. If done correctly, no coding is necessary to create a prototype of an app. But this time, I decided to ignore my own advice and create a functioning app. Since I had no audience, I knew it would take too much time or money to get the eyeballs I needed. This would be much more achievable with a developed product.
ThemeBro is a search engine for WordPress themes with a unique visual search. In fact, I actually scratched my own itch with this idea — in the past, I had spend countless hours trying to find a WordPress theme with specific features (like layout or colours). I would normally end up just customising a theme to look the way I wanted.
I figured there must be other people with the same problem.
Here’s how I organised my work
First, I sketched all the different layout features that the beta version would support, as well as outsourced compiling and sorting the first 30+ themes into those features.
Then I designed the logo and the interface. I didn’t have the time to design every little detail, so I created style tiles (more on lean branding design in my [In-post CTA [text link] linkedtext=”email course”]).
I can’t code in any of the “real” programming languages, so I decided to go with the easiest option possible: instead of searching for code snippets, I went ahead and bought a WordPress filtering plugin for $20. I also used the free WP theme called Adapt.
Now, I only had to make the tool look pretty and fix the bugs that arose. It still took me a long time since there had to be a lot of customisation done.
I spent the weekend fixing all the small bugs, writing the about page, setting up social profiles, creating a newsletter and customer survey, making the tool somewhat responsive, in short, getting it all ready for launch.
I went from idea to a product in one week. While I was trying really hard to keep the costs down, and managed to get the domain, scripts, and outsourcing for about $60.
The product made minimal profit with $79.20 of affiliate earnings now sitting in my Envato account. It’s not an amazing number, especially considering the feature on Product Hunt that brought in 2335 visitors in a single day. But I still consider this experiment a success and the idea validated.
ThemeBro will get a facelift, as well as a major content upgrade in the early 2015. I hope to add many more themes to it and test the idea further. If I can manage to drive sustainable traffic to it (preferably search engine traffic), this can become a nice semi-passive income project.
I hope this report inspired you to build your own idea. You don’t need to know how to code. You don’t need months — a single week is plenty. You don’t need an audience. You just need to get started.
Startup Design Toolbox
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