So you have an idea for a product? I have good and bad news for you. The bad news is that it is not as easy as “build it and they will come”. The good news is that it is doable and it is doable on a budget. I have built several web apps in the past and continue to build new ones for myself and my clients. There are very repeatable steps that I go through every time I build a new one, so I have decided to create this guide/checklist to share with you.
I will try to break it down into logical and sequential pieces, but you can do many of these tasks out of order or at the same time.
Naming things is hard. Finding a domain is harder. I use http://www.bustaname.com/ to come up with different domain names. I use Dreamhost for registering domains.
Sure, your mom thinks it’s an awesome idea and your wife believes in you, but let’s make sure it’s really a good idea before you mortgage your house and quit your job.
You can validate your idea without breaking the bank (or even writing any code).
Create a landing page that explains what your idea is and the problem it solves. Since you don’t actually have an app that users can login to and use, add a “request beta invite” or “get on the waiting list” form instead. This way, you will collect emails of potential beta testers and customers that you can announce the launch to.
Creating a landing page is not that hard, you can save time and use a landing page service like Instapage, Unbounce or others.
If you want to save money or plan to launch multiple ideas or landing pages, then you can deploy a simple WordPress site with a nice template for under $20.
My go to theme/template marketplace is Themeforest, but there are hundreds others, just Google “WordPress themes”.
For hosting the WordPress site, I usually go with Dreamhost since I already use them for domain registration and they have unlimited plans. I can host tens or hundreds of landing pages without paying extra. They also have 1-click WordPress deployment.
Host unlimited WordPress sites without paying extra.
Make sure you are capturing emails on your landing page. If you are using a landing page platform, they will have all the email-capturing stuff built-in. If you are using WordPress or a custom site, you will have to connect WordPress to your email list provider. I use Mailchimp but there are other options such as GetResponse, AWeber, Drip and many more.
You can also use checkout sumo.com for lots of tools to market your landing page.
Track traffic and conversions for free using Google Analytics. The landing page platforms mentioned above have built-in reporting and anlytics as well.
Write the content for the website – you can either hire someone to do it or write it yourself. Or you can write it and then hire someone to review and tweak it. I use Upwork to find writers.
Publish and promote your landing page. There are countless ways to promote your landing page.
Create a Minimal Viable Product and launch quickly. Basically, don’t wait until you have a perfect product with every feature in the planet.
Priortize your features and launch with a minimum amount of features that would make your product usable.
This way, you will get it in the hands of users sooner, get feedback sooner and correct course sooner. Correcting course could mean shutting down the whole idea. It’s a lot cheaper to shutdown after a few weeks than a few months. You also eliminate building the “wrong” product and you can use your initial users feedback to build the “right” features.
You need some technical skills to build an MVP, so if you don’t know how to code and/or design, then either learn or hire someone to do it – we can also help.
Whether you build it yourself or hire someone, the steps are almost identical.
You probably want to have a design done first (or at least in parallel), so you can use it across all your assets: landing page, app, website, email communication, social media accounts, etc… So, design your brand and app. Here are some of the design elements that you will need:
Tip: You can also use a service like Canva or Designbold to create quick graphics for your blog and website.
Your homepage is your post-launch landing page. This is your sales copy, where you convince people to try out your app. Copy (content) is very important here, you want to explain to the visitor what you do, what problem you solve and why they should try your app.
Here are some basic tasks that you should perform:
We build a lot of web (SAAS/Software As A Service) apps. Every SAAS application is different but there are many common features among them. We actually created an application template to use for all our apps, so we are not re-inventing the wheel. You can see a demo here and you can see an app built using that template at omnihabits.com.
We plan to open source our starter SAAS template, but if you cannot wait, let me know and I will email it to you.
The starter SAAS template has the following features that are pretty common across SAAS products – you can always disable the ones you don’t want:
Everything you have built is completely useless if you can’t get customers to pay for it. This is where marketing comes in. There is a lot to be done in marketing, so it takes time and there is no magic bullet (I haven’t found one yet). If you have a lot of money, you could just run ads and call it a day.
Here are a few things that I do (or hire people to do) to address marketing:
Depending on your budget, you might do everything mentioned here or you might hire others to do it. I highly recommend outsourcing most tasks to free up your time for more important tasks. Potentially, you could be managing these people:
For management, I use Asana, which is very powerful and very affordable. I set up a project and create tasks for each of the workers. If I find myself repeating a task over and over, I just assign it to my virtual assistant and have him handle it. You will be amazed at the amount of stuff you can get done with little of your time by leveraging outsourcing.
I also use Asana to manage the blog publishing calendar. Basically, I come with a bunch of potential blog topics, assign them to writers and reviewers and shoot for a 1 article per week.
For instant communication, I use Slack. You can get by with a free Slack account. It’s been a few years and I haven’t had the need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Tip: I occasionally use Fancy Hands in lieu of a dedicated virtual assistant – depending on the task at hand. Fancy Hands integrates in Asana, so you can create a task and assign it to Fancy Hands and they will take care of it.
Automation is your best friend and there are tons of tasks that you can automate. Here are a few suggestions.
You could write a book about Zapier, it does so much and you can automate all kind of things you could think of. I plan to write a post about all the things I automate with Zapier.
Conversion Checklist – an excellent checklist for your website to make sure you have done everything to make your website convert.
The Ultimate Product Launch Planning Toolkit from UserVoice
Also published on Medium.