Blog

Designing Product for Backend Developers

February 28, 2019,

I am talking about website design here, not the actual product design :)

I am a backend developer through and through, and while I understand the importance of a good looking UI, I have avoided it like the plage, so much so I have avoided the great javascript framework wars of the last five years. This is not to say I won't pick it up when the time requires it. I am fully aware that Automaily will at some point need the dashboard updated to improve usability. However, I thought I would write a little guide for backend developers like myself on how to build a product and avoid the topic.

Split landing site/dashboard

I think this is one of the key parts, define a clear separation between the landing site and the application.

The application in the early days needs to be a purely functional plan. Customers will not mind about the appearance if the system is robust! As a Laravel developer, I build my first product dashboard using the Laravel default bootstrap theme. After two years it's still going strong and I still get customers telling me how easy it is to use.

Your landing site, unfortunately, you do have to make, and for that, I recommend if your bad at a design like my self seeking help.

Buy themes!

I buy all my landing site themes! Even this one was brought, not to say I don't spend time getting them right, changing the feel to how I want.

Normally I use WrapBootstrap or the offical bootstrap themes. Well spotted I always go for bootstrap themes, my reason, I am most familiar with its style and can easily make changes. When someone cracks tailwind templates, I will start buying them!

Do learn SASS compliers

Generally, if you get a good theme from one of these sites they provide the CSS via SASS or Less and it does pay to learn and use them makes making changes so much easier.


Laracon EU Talk – Paying the mortgage with SaaS

January 30, 2019,

#saas #video

Strong title right!

When I went to Laracon EU I gave my first public talk in the unconference section in front of about 30 people. I felt the presentation went really well and I got positive feedback and questions which I really enjoyed.

Lots of people on twitter were asking if I could put my slides online, however, I felt most of the value of my talk came from my actual speaking. I decided to record it at home which, to be honest felt more difficult than giving it to a room of people.

In the presentation I cover the following:

My previous failed why they failed and how you should see them as experiments and not failures. Ways to come up with ideas. Some quick and simple validation methods. And briefly some tips on getting your product out fast. At the end of the presentation at Laracon EU I was asked by a member of the audience “If you could only give one point whats the single piece of advice you give”, and my answer was simple. Start really really small.

I am going to cover the topic of starting really small in a follow-up post.

Transcript

I’m hello and welcome to my presentation on paying your mortgage with sass this is a lightning talk that I gave at Laura Conn EU, and after the talk a lot of people on Twitter were asking to see the slides but the slides of my talk don’t contain didn’t contain much information most of it was me just talking so I thought I would do a screencast with me on it as well as a way that I could sort of reuse the presentation that I gave for the people on Twitter and you know anyone else who’s interested in this topic so quickly.

Who am I my name is Simon Bennett, and I am a software consultant based in Norwich in the UK and for the people who are into Laravel I started using Marvel in 2013 which I think was around about version 4 being released my talk covers four main areas

I talk about some failed products that I had I talked about creating a good ideas and coming up with them I talked about validating your ideas, and then I talked about building a successful product and paying your mortgage, so we’re going to start off with the failed the failed stuff now I think the biggest thing to take away from this slide rime is that you shouldn’t count your product failed product launch fails or whatever it was as failures you treat them as experiments there’s a way someone can take away from it so here’s a history of a brief history of stuff I’ve tried to do in the past when I first started with websites:

I tried to make a news website about beta software and beta web apps and stuff like that I was quite interesting you know I like trying things out I can see some product out there at the moment which probably do what this does, but I was dyslexic, and I am dyslexic and why was I trying to do something with content content isn’t where I’m strong so yeah it was never going to work, and then after that I didn’t learn my lesson I tried to do another news based blog so obviously didn’t really evaluate why the first experiment didn’t go so well

The next thing I tried was building a community forum around a small game, and I had moderate success at the time $2,000 was amazing when it sold I was over the moon and then tried to make an MSN bot with my friend Tom Needham.

Our phone provider at the time gave you MSN for free but it didn’t give you Twitter or Facebook for free so we created a bot that you could connect your Twitter account and your MSN account together and you could use Twitter wireless n now there was no market for this I didn’t even know how you would market that and then as soon as we were actually ready to go to market the mobile phone provider came out with free Twitter so it was a failed product launch I was quite young at the time I was quite so naive and it wasn’t going to work however I did learn a lot about using bots this is way back in the day before anyone was even mentioning BOTS so I maybe should have pivoted that a couple of times and I could have had something better now but you know hindsight, and it didn’t interest me.

Next, all web chat was a social media platform all in one place you could connect all the associate media accounts, and then you’d have one feed there was no market again well there may be a market, but it’s like consumer market it’s not when you can sell tea

Then around this time I was sort of ending up in university, and I tried to build something called your website is which was a website monitoring software and there’s so many of them now so many launched recently it feels like I just never finished the code as a university I was using it as a learning exercise I never got around to that was a lesson with

The next piece of software landlord rent management software the main reason this didn’t work as I didn’t actually like talking to landlords and I realized this when I’d rebuilt the code many times because I was learning a new programming style called event sourcing that it was almost an excuse not to have to talk to landlords I just needed to rebuild it remodel it so I could learn more about event sourcing it wasn’t going to work properly when really I should put it in front of landlords, and they’d have told me how to do it.

So if you’re like me, and you’ve been doing this for a while and you’ve been trying to launch stuff and you haven’t actually had anything that’s really kicked off and made money and they’re still running it does make you feel a little bit low I hate it when you’re trying to a value evaluate an idea, and then you reach a point when you realize it’s not going to be what it what it was going to be or even further down the line you actually built it, and you realized it’s not going to work

How you thought and it just it’s depressing so I just sort of suggested people take breaks relax format focus on something completely different in your life maybe take go back to her at the gym go running don’t worry about it and let ideas naturally come to you the best idea is always naturally come to you-you just see them so we’re going to talk briefly about coming up with ideas so some methods are what do people repeatedly ask you to do now you may need to think about this because it may you may or may have subconsciously worked out how to do the task but you’ve been repeatedly asked to do it and you could automate it or you know your client can actually really do with that being automated and they’d be willing to pay

With it goes on to the next point that what do your clients struggle with you can tell this is a kid mostly towards developers and stuff like that but does your does your client regularly have problems with their invoicing and needs just a tight little script to fix that you know it could all be the basis of a good idea

Maybe look further afield for ideas what does your partner do for a living could her job her industry benefit from what you’re good at which is building software another method is scratching your own itch this is a problem you regularly run into maybe something you have repeatedly have to solve do you need to be careful the scratching the own itch thing especially if you’re building stuff to sell to developers sometimes if you’re building tools for developers sometimes it is more difficult just sort of consider are you selling to businesses in your space or are you just saying to other developers like you individual developers or freelancers or people employees or companies you may struggle more

So bringing on to the last point just make sure you’ve your idea is actually focused on the customer

The next thing about your idea is keep it really really small at the end of the talk at LaravelCon EU you someone asked what’s the one takeaway from your talk is and it is keep your idea and what you’re gonna build incredibly small

This helps you finish it quickly or wants some timescale that works it helps you validate your idea quickly and helps you just get to completion and get to mark it gets customers much faster and will go back to us in a minute so validating your idea make sure you talk to people about it there’s no point keeping your idea to yourself know.

I don’t think anyone is ever going to steal your idea you see this a lot those people you want to sign an NDA or they’re just really closed about talking about it no one will steal your vision if your vision your vision is what you want to achieve and what you what benefit you want to provide to your customers I you will people will struggle to steal that so make sure you talk to as many people talk to your peers talk to developers try and talk to people who may actually buy it some simple ways to this just start tweeting about it if you start going on and on and on about it you might be able to gauge some interest

Which make sure you put up some sort of landing page that’s great get your ideas on a page somewhere people can go and learn a bit more and potentially leave their interests see the last point quite emails another point is you can make a video they if you put them in the right marketplaces you can get a really good response and sort of another point for a developer really why don’t you write a medium post depending on what market you can be in again but medium is a great distribution platform and can many times over which I say it can get much bigger audiences than let’s say your blog might or even a tweet mine so just things you can explore so you’ve done all that you’ve actually ascertained that you have people who would buy it.

So start off by making sure you keep your ideas simple let’s talk about your idea but if your core functionality let’s say in the rent software is to be able to take rent payments and email landlords if a payment fails keep it literally that simple don’t even don’t even think about what user logins or whatever maybe just try and keep it really tight.

Don’t worry about the admin system and all this other stuff and don’t build new features don’t think about how I’m doing this how much what build the deposit system and why don’t we talk about the contracts here and all we could talk about damaged damage reports no you’re just doing way too much keep it to the one core thing you were trying to solve for that peer if the landlord said I’m having trouble knowing when direct standing orders fail literally build the solution to that and then build the rest later

The UI is probably not as important as you think most are I’m not a designer myself and I know a lot of developers sort of aren’t regular design or very slow at doing it as iron and you so just don’t worry about it too much if it functions you’re winning.

Third point here is don’t start new technology this is the reason why when I tried to build full rent it didn’t work I was learning new tech I would also recommend maybe don’t enter a market just because you found new tech a good example now, stripe on their documentation house a lot of a new area about issuing credit cards or debit cards and I can think of a million product ideas for businesses to manage expenses and give their employees cards bla bla bla bla bla that is new technology that is not something you’re experienced in so I wouldn’t go down it and don’t think of fancy you see new tech coming on the market all I can think of a product idea may not be the best strategy

If you’re not using new technology and your existing stuff and then you think well this little area the system would be so much better if it was in this JavaScript framework for example but I don’t know that one just try and cobble together with what you do know and then you can always come back and revisit it.

The fourth point here is just launch it don’t you strive for perfection you you you are going to struggle to reach it be far more important to get it in front of people and fix it as you go and sort of another point here was especially for developers is if you use my sequel and you have really good custom customer support like let’s say you got live chat or you’ll really quick on emails and tickets then there’s a very good substitute for code

When I first launched SnapShooter which I’ll talk about in a minute I didn’t have any way for a user to change their email address delete their accounts etc etc there are all things I could solve with my sequel and good support

To conclude my talk is don’t maybe don’t give it away I’ve seen this quite a few times where a developer has spent a long time building a product they’ve launched some sort of beta or early access which they’ve given away for free they then sort of get to the point where they’re comfortable with charging and they go to all those existing customers or users and or customers and say we’re now going to introduce paying can you please convert to one of our paid plans and the conversion rate is awful it’s is literally zero maybe one or two people may convert and you’ve just spent six months building a product getting feedback off people who were never going to pay they are not the people who giving good feedback they’re not you only want feedback from the people who are paying so as I say maybe don’t give it away yeah and I think that’s going to conclude my talk so

Thanks for watching and if there are any questions leave a comment and I will get back to you