So as some of you might already be familiar with, Dev.to and Hashnode both are online communities for developers, or at least that's how they represent themselves.
But Dev.to is quickly gaining a lead over Hashnode as we can clearly see in the following stats.
I thought this would make for an interesting case study to understand why this is happening. So I tried to dig deeper and this lead me to discover some crucial points that can help young entrepreneurs in making great products and make them work. Let's get started.
My friend introduced Hashnode to me stating that it's a platform with the best design ever made for any community. Of course, that couldn't be the sole reason for me to leave dev.to, but I signed up just for the sake of curiosity to actually check out their product. The platform has got a great UI, no doubt in that; but after spending a little more time on that, you will find the problem.
The design of Dev.to is very simple. They've got Blog, Discussions, AMAs and challenges, everything that Hashnode has got, but the starting point for all of them is the same - "WRITE A POST" - and everything is separated by tags. That's how they've made things simpler for the users. On the other hand, on Hashnode, the user gets overwhelmed by a lot of options during the sign-up process itself. There is a separate page to add everything, and a slightly different design also.
I am a huge fan of this article "Product Hunt’s Rise" by Ben Gelsey. This explains how RYAN HOOVER actually made the Product Hunt community work. If you observe carefully, you will notice that Ben Halpern is doing something similar.
What's the first thing you see when you surf Hashnode? "ZERO INTERACTIONS". Most of the top posts have either 1 or no upvotes, people rarely comment on each other's posts. They just drop by to promote their stuff and then leave.
When you start your community, obviously the interaction won't start by itself. You have to start it so that people can join in, too. See how many comments and posts Ben has published so far.
"Develop an app like you yourself are the first and last user."
Ben lives that mantra. I see him posting comments on almost every great discussion or blog. Sometimes he is the first one to comment, even when there is nobody else there.
Hashnode's founder, meanwhile, has posted only 15 articles in a span of 4 years, and he doesn't even answer direct questions asked to him on his profile.
(I'm sure he's a busy man and has better things to do.)
But you can clearly see the difference.
Another trick that Dev.to have up their sleeves is these cool buttons. I don't know if you know this or not but each user can click all three buttons and that will count as 3 upvotes/likes/hearts. I think it's a pretty cool trick to seed the initial interaction with the post as an author himself can click all the three buttons. That means no matter what, each post can always have 3 likes on it. So "NO DEAD POSTS"!
Dev.to have this awesome weekly top series. They post weekly articles dedicated specifically to last week's top posts and comments. Yes, you read it right - COMMENTS.
They never forget to tweet daily about top posts from each category. This not only helps authors reach more readers but also helps them in getting more followers and interaction on their posts. Now that's how you empower your users.
They keep coming up with new ways to make their users feel special. For example, last week, because of my post "Are we Developers helping Google to build an unstoppable monopoly?", I discovered that
Dev.to two hardcore fans have created a podcast where they discuss posts from Dev.to itself 😱. It's awesome, check it out.
These might seem like small things to some of you, but these are the very things that create true fans - not just users, but true fans. These true fans are your free marketing army. You can see a clear difference when you visit Hashnode's twitter page. You will find no interaction with their userbase there either. No surprise that there is a huge difference between the number of followers of both platforms.
The habit of over-delivering is the key to success. If you are a regular user, you may have noticed there are various posts by Dev.to team that can help you find people that you need.
And these are just additional benefits besides the amazing community. I have myself found some new friends in posts like these. Hashnode used to charge for posting jobs on their platform, by the way, and they only recently made that feature free.
If your platform does what it promises to do, it's a useful platform, but these small features are the real gems that make people love your platform.
We all know that Dev.to is open source, but another interesting fact is that they are a very open company as well. I mean posting-about-their-own-weaknesses kinda open. This not only gives them contributors but also users that don't hesitate to point out bugs in the comment section.
Last week in a discussion on my post, Ben stated something that really represents the core value of Dev.to - "Modesty is key". I think that's why Dev.to is open source. It shows that they are very open about their goals, i.e. they want to build a COMMUNITY for DEVELOPERS.
I'm not saying that Hashnode is dead. I'm sure they can learn something from their talented competitors and improve. Because in the end, developers will benefit from it too.
Thanks for reading this, guys. I hope this can be a good learning experience for you like it was for me. Building products is easy; building meaningful products, on the other hand, is where things get interesting.
If I missed something, feel free to share that in the comment section. If you liked my post, share it with your friends and hit that ❤️ or all three 😂.
Btw I'm on Medium as well. Check it out here.