Going From Idea To Landing Page

Last night, David and I put up our Swapiverse's landing page. It's a simple idea: trade books you have for books you want. I had the same stresses most people have. Where do I get my users? How do I do SEO? I can't afford ads! Am I wasting my time? However, we've quickly seen a really high conversion rate with organic marketing! I want to share what I think has helped us find an idea worth showing people.

Finding A Problem I Have

I used to go out and seek problems to solve. I would code something up for these problems I have never personally experienced, but knew others had. It's no coincidence that these were always my least successful projects. Why have I been looking for other people's problems? I have enough of them on my own!

Last year, I made Vim Bujo, a minimal task manager for vim. I made it for myself - to solve a problem I personally had: how do I manage a todo list without leaving my workflow? It should not have been to my surprise that this was my first open source project with consistent users. I know deep down about the problem they are facing, because I have the same one!

This time, my problem was buying books. Since I just graduated from The University of Chicago, "the place where fun goes to die," I have been experiencing more free time than I've had in the last four years. There were no brutal nights up late studying, reading for class, or even partying with students! Sure there are some nights where I need to stay a bit later at work, but nothing in comparison to what college was like. With all this free time, I've found lots of hobbies. I go bouldering a few times a week, and have finally been reading books.

Inspiration Strikes

Now, I'm admittedly a slow reader. I have ADHD and get distracted really easily! However, with all this free time, I've been able to plow through books pretty quickly. When I ran out, my partner and I went to a bookstore where I bought four books, for... $80!!!

$80?!? Jeez. These are all recent bestsellers, I'm sure someone also reading a recent bestseller would be willing to trade with me after they're done. Wait... That would be awesome! I save money, I help the environment, and I get to connect with someone over what we read!

Researching Competition

I started looking up products that do this, and, as always, it already exists. In fact, a lot of them exist! I've learned not to be discouraged by this, though. That means that my idea has a market. Furthermore, I believe in myself to do it even better. Maybe this is just because I'm arrogant, but we have to believe that we can do it better if we want to create things!

I signed up for just about every competitor I can find. I used their sites and apps extensively. I studied how their process works. I took notes on where the user experience was strong, and just as importantly, where it was weak. I researched their audiences, their keywords, their social media presence, etc.. This was probably the most important part of the entire process. I can't create a better product, if I don't know the ins and outs of the competing products.

After a few weeks of this, I was ready to begin working on Swapiverse.

Making The Pre-Launch Landing Page

I believe that this is where I struggled the most. I wanted my landing page to be perfect! Of course I did; who doesn't? I read articles on building a great landing page and tried to get it all right. Unfortunately, there were so many areas that I felt were slacking. Even worse, there was so much more I wanted to add.

At this point, we were a few days past our deadline to finish our landing page. I knew that getting something out is better than nothing, so we decided to launch it anyway. The most important criteria were fulfilled: users knew what the site does, they knew how to sign up, and they could find all our other social medias. Of course, this page will be iterated on, but I couldn't help but feel as though if I try to perfect it now, I will never finish my MVP.

Realizing My Resources Aren't Infinite

I find that I end up comparing my landing site to that of Facebook, Stripe, etc.. But I need to remind myself that Facebook pays countless engineers hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their landing page perfect. One day when Swapiverse is a billion dollar tech giant, I'll be able to make it perfect. But for now, as a dev with a fulltime job, I'll accept my limitations. Heck, I'm not even a frontend developer!

Realizing Most Sites Aren't Pretty

The More I think about it, the more I realize that most websites aren't as gorgeous or functional as they could be... I come across bugs and clunky UIs with just about every site or app I use! On top of that, I don't even care when I really like the site/app I'm using.

Sharing Our Landing Page

Our marketing tactics have been inspired by Paul Graham's advice: Do Things That Don't Scale. If I want my first users, I just gotta grind it out and go out there and get them.

Reaching Out To People On Social Media

The golden answer for us has just been to find the right people and DM them. You're going to be rejected a lot, but if you are genuinely excited and solving a problem of theirs, they're going to be interested in your solution! Have a really succinct starter message, and as soon as you get a positive response back, hit them with the link. Our conversion rate when we DM people on social media has been much higher than we anticipated.

Telling Our Friends

I am lucky enough to have good friends. We genuinely care about each other. The moment I tell them that I am building something, they are instantly willing to sign up and use it! While we gain a lot of users from social media marketing, nothing is better than the support of those you care about.

Now Onto Building The Rest...

There's a long way to go, but don't underestimate the success of getting your first users. Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll stay in touch :)