In my first blog post, I have already announced my latest side-project, designsupplies, a collection of design resources and tools for creative people. In this update, I'd like to go into a bit more detail on how the idea came about. Likewise, this blog post is also about the status quo of the project.
The idea for designsupplies came from my love for Content Curation. Through my weekly newsletter, Creativerly, I'm already following that love. I collect tools, apps, software, design resources, books, podcasts. Those may not only be of interest to me but to creative minds in general. Creativerly is a medium through which readers can increase their creativity and productivity. Every Sunday, the newsletter reaches 55 subscribers. My goal is to generate 100 subscribers within 12 months. I only have four months left for this goal. The number of subscribers stagnated recently. Therefore, I had to think about what tactics I use to still crack the 100 subscribers. Read more about this in my separate blog post "Growing my Newsletter to 100 Subscribers - my journey so far". So, back to designsupplies.
Building up an archive of design resources
Through the constant collection of design resources, I created a huge archive over the years. I used several resources from that archive in the course of various projects. Now I want to make this archive public. Designsupplies aims to support many designers and creative minds in their next project. I'm aware that there are already many websites that provide design resources. However, I noticed that most of those websites display the same resources over and over again.
My archive contains different categories. Apps, tools, and software. Plugins, browsers, and extensions. General design resources (like UI kits, templates, vector graphics, themes, etc.). Books and blog posts, as well as podcasts and lectures. In addition, technology continues to evolve. More and more apps, tools, and software coming onto the market. So one of my main intentions is to keep designsupplies up to date. I want to make sure that always the latest resources are available to users.
Before I start a new project, I start with thorough research and evaluation. As part of designsupplies, I took a closer look at other resource sites. What interested me most was what these other websites did right. But also what they dig wrong. On top of that, I wanted to know what design resources they advertised. What social media channels they represented. What marketing strategies they followed. How they monetized their website. After this evaluation phase, I decided for myself that it is definitely worth the time and energy to plunge into the new project. The analysis of the "competitors" turned out to me that there are some points that I could improve.
Securing the domain
Another important step for me was to secure the domain as well as the username on social media. I opted for designsupplies.xyz. because .xyz domains are quite cheap and the internet is overflowing with .com domains anyway. Through an offer from Namecheap I got the domain for a price of € 1.16 for the first year. After that, it renews itself for a price of 11,75€. Compared to my .design domain (for my portfolio website philipptemmel.design) it is 30 € less. In most cases, I will decide in the first year if I will continue a project. So, of course, I try to keep the costs as low as possible, so a domain that costs me 1.16€ in the first year is very convenient for me.
How to build a MVP
Next, I had to think about how to finally implement the project online. The CMS WordPress would be obvious in my case. Why? Because I have been working with WordPress for several years. For many of my projects, I have been using WordPress. I am familiar with the setup. Therefore, I am able to not lose any time during the launch because I do not have to learn a new CMS. From the beginning, I can concentrate straight on the content. Of course, I also need a web server/hosting to use WordPress. Because I recently shut down another side-project (read more in my first blog post "Time to kill my side-project and start a new one") I already had a web server. The webserver I currently own at World4You. Their packages start at 4.90€ per month and go up to 14.90€ per month.
Themes or complete custom?
At the time of writing this blog post, I am working on the final Webdesign of designsupplies. I'm still undecided about whether I should actually use WordPress for the implementation. WordPress has a huge number of users. Thus, the community keeps developing the CMS through themes and website builders.
A good example of this are the guys and girls from Elegant Themes and to be more specific, their product Divi. It's one of the most-installed WordPress themes, as it has a distinct advantage. Divi installs like any other WordPress theme. However, you do not use the customizer of WordPress to design the individual pages. But you will have a dedicated website builder from Divi within the theme. Thus, you get your own backend within WordPress. This allows you to create dynamic and modern websites without having to write a single line of code. A particularly large selection of different themes for WordPress is available on Themeforest.
Webflow: the best option to build a website in 2019
Another tool that has been attracting attention for some time is Webflow. Webflow offers users an amazing all-in-one solution. CMS, hosting and one of the most advanced and innovative website builders. Although Webflow has a certain learning curve, you can sign up for free and work on two projects as long as you want.
However, as soon as you want to link a Custom Domain or get more out of your website, you have to switch to a paid model. These start at as low as $ 12 per month (if deducted per year) for the Basic Site Plan. It is impressive to see so many creative minds breaking the barrier of code. Webflow's user base continues to grow. There are resource sites such as Flowbase, which specializes in providing only Webflow resources. The projects can then get cloned. So even inexperienced Webflow users can start with their website project. Webflow itself also provides some user-generated resources. You can use them to get you started in Webflow.
Steep learning curve
In the beginning, I was a little skeptical about Webflow. It seemed like it has a steep learning curve. Because of that, I decided to create my first MVP in the form of a landing page with WordPress. The landing page I created was solely for the benefit of informing interested users of what designsupplies actually is. The user who came to the site for the first time already read in the Hero section that this page is about design resources and tools. Driven by interest, the user was able to move around the site to get more information. To stay in contact and inform interested users I set up a mailing list.
Subscribers to the newsletter will be the first to hear about new blog posts and updates. At the bottom of the landing page, the users found a little description of myself. I also wrote some words about why I started designsupplies. Here I also linked to my blog again, as I am posting updates on my projects. This was my (first) MVP, which I applied to win users before the official launch.
Get early feedback
These then have the added value that they can take part in the entire creation process, as I always inform them in the course of updates. So it is also possible for me to include direct feedback in my project. It is important for me to get to know other perspectives of my project early on. Users usually see the project in very different ways than I do. Sharing with users is therefore essential.
However, this MVP did not last long. I soon discovered that Webflow is definitely the better solution. Not just for the MVP, but for the entire project as well. After a few Youtube tutorials and blog posts, I felt fit to work on my first designs in Webflow. A weekend investment was enough and I released the second version of my MVP, which is still online now.
The status quo of designsupplies
The status quo of the project looks like this: The MVP is online and available in the form of a landing page. Likewise, I have also set up a mailing list or a newsletter. For this I use Mailerlite. I started at Mailchimp with my personal newsletter Creativerly. After several newsletters sent, my account got closed. No warning, neither instructions from Mailchimp how to solve this problem. After several attempts to contact the support, I decided to leave Mailchimp. So I made the switch to Mailerlite. Mailerlite is easy to use and offers great possibilities using blocks and a Drag'n'Drop Editor. So you can design and edit emails to your preferences.
The move from Mailchimp to Mailerlite was as easy as there is an import function. The first 1,000 subscribers, as well as 12,000 emails per month, are free. Great and sufficient for getting started. Through this mailing list, I would like to notify prospects directly if I have updates regarding designsupplies. In addition, I will also prepare special news about apps, software, tools, and design resources only for newsletter subscribers.
Focusing on social media
I also focus on social media. Twitter and Reddit are my go-to's. But also Instagram seems to be a good fit. You wonder why these three channels and why not Facebook? I use Twitter because the design community (especially in the tech sector) has a strong presence on Twitter. That's exactly what I want to achieve in the first place. Instagram has strong creative and design community too. Although a lot of content seems to be generic. More and more sites grew an incredible user base by only sharing user-generated content. Nevertheless, I saw some good engagement rates from previous projects while using Instagram.
Facebook is useless
Facebook turned out to be rather useless for me a few times. Even if a page has collected a certain amount of "Likes" and built up a user base, you can reach only a very small part of the users. If you want to reach all users you have to take a lot of marketing budget into your hands and place ads. At least on Twitter, as well as on Instagram, there is still the possibility to win organic new users. Reddit is somehow an underdog. There are some design related subreddits with a large active user base. Posting a project or blog post to Reddit has also positive effects on SEO. With my newsletter project Creativerly I have made some good experiences posting content to Reddit. If you haven't focused on Reddit, you should definitely try it out.
How to monetize a side-project
In addition, I also wondered what ways exist to monetize the project. While this may not be the first motivation when working on a side project, I like to consider the possibilities right at the beginning. So I know what steps I can take as soon as I reach a certain number of users.
If I realize that the project is well received and therefore there is traffic, I will consider advertising on the one hand. However, I do not want any irrelevant ads, but those concerning the topic of the page. This is possible with carbon ads. Because they aim with their ad network exactly on designers and developers. Another option would be Affiliate Networks. Since domain and hosting providers are also part of designsupplies, I can use affiliate links. A third option would be partnerships. However, this possibility is likely to be an option only when traffic has increased significantly.
The next steps
The next important step, as already mentioned, is to finalize the web design in order to start the implementation in Webflow. Working with Webflow has also brought me into greater contact with the entire no-code movement. A true pioneer in this field is definitely Ben Tossel. With his website makerpad.co he has created a true Eldorado for all makers. Tutorials, templates and a large community. Everyone can learn the skills to implement ideas without code.
I will soon write a blog post about the whole no-code movement, which is growing faster thanks to people like Ben Tossel. The fact that anyone can make a website, a web app or even a mobile app without any technical understanding and without the help of a programmer to design and build is just terrific. But as I said, that's another topic for another blog post. So much to say, I, as a designer, will definitely benefit from the many no-code opportunities that exist now, as I use them in every one of my projects.
On this blog, I'll keep you up to date on the status of designsupplies. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, where I share status updates from time to time.