Working on a side-project can be lonely. It helps to get validation from others that what you are doing is genuinely useful. Does that sound familiar? It’s the same boat I was in (and still am, somedays). I've been building a free web application called Visabug which helps people find unique destinations given their passports and travel interests.
In this post, I’ll highlight my journey over the last week where I went from no product validation to people thanking me for building my product.
These comments of validation from strangers really help to motivate and to guide future product development.
I have found that Reddit is a great website for mini-launches, as people cluster in groups (subreddits) related to one topic. My product is in the travel space, but it’s also a side project and built using React. I chose to target the sideproject (46k members) and reactjs (130k members) subreddits.
My general process was simple:
- 💻 Show the site
- 😃 Tell people why I built it, and tailor my post to something that would interest them
- 🙋♂️Be available to ask all questions.
My first post was on the sideproject subreddit as it was smaller and I didn't want my site to go down if a lot of people visited it. Here’s the post that I made.
The side project Reddit group is entrepreneurial so I spoke about some of the product decisions that I made. I answered questions such as “what makes my product unique”, and “why I built this”. I also openly asked for feedback. I’ve been keeping a Trello sheet of all feedback so I can see what the most important features to build are.
The post ended up getting ~80 likes, stayed #1 for 24 hours, and sent 3,000 visitors to my website. The bounce rate was super low (30%) which is great! It told me I was on the right path.
After a few days, traffic went down again. This is natural and I expected it to happen. However, it brings back sad feelings and thoughts. They call it the trough of sorrow.
I took this time to address some of the feedback that was provided by the Reddit community. I improved my SEO by building out a better way to filter, updated the user interface, and added Analytics to practically every user interaction. This would help me track usage metrics to figure out which features were actually being used.
After a few days, I posted on another Subreddit. This time it was the reactjs subreddit. It’s 3x larger (140k members). Since my application is built on React and Next, I figured people would be interested in it. Here’s my post.
Since this audience is mostly developers, I created a post with more technical post. I answered questions like “what is my tech stack”, “how I collected data”, “how I designed the web app”, etc. Once again, the post took off and reached #1 almost immediately. As I write this, it’s still #1 and has around 200 upvotes and 60 comments.
There’s a lot of great feedback in here for me. I’ve been diligent in collecting them to iterate on this idea. I’d like to thank Redditors who took the time to respond.
Here’s what traffic looks like this week (the week still has a few days left!)
- 8,200 users (up 3,800%) ✅
- 9,220 sessions (up 3700%) ✅
- 32% bounce rate (down 44%) ✅
- 2m 12s avg duration (up 124%) ✅ ￼
So what did I learn through this exercise? Here are a few things I would keep in mind:
- Create something polished even if it’s an MVP. A lot of people liked and upvoted me because what I built was considered to actually look like a real product.
- Write a thorough post explaining your product and tailor it to the audience in mind.
- Be open and available to answer questions.
- Collect the feedback in an organized manner and iterate on it.
Lastly, if you post somewhere and it doesn’t go anywhere, don’t get too disheartened. Before these two posts took off, I had posted in some other subreddits which didn’t get any upvotes. There is an element of luck to all of this. However if you see the same pattern occurring 3-4 times, then you may want to analyze the situation further.
Let me know if you have any questions, and check out Visabug if you want to learn more about what I’ve been building.