I’ve had a few side projects over the years, these are some of the more “significant” ones I’ve had that have I taken significant learnings from and been able to apply in my day-to-day work.
Pixels and Watts
2020 saw me start using Zwift – and as I found myself getting more and more immersed in it – no doubt due to lockdowns (COVID induced) – I started to think about how all the ‘virtual’ cycling could be translated into some kind of ‘real-world’ representation. I’m currently working on a range of Zwift/Cycling related products…more to be revealed soon.
The ‘failure’ of my iOS kit (see Rappidly below) due to Apple updating the design style to what became known as ‘flat ui design’ led to my next side project – a gallery/curation site for various sites and products that began to adopt this new ‘flat ui design’ trend. The site became very popular – helped along by a mention from Smashing Magazine (which temporarily crashed the site due to the surge in traffic).
Seems the site is down – web hosts having a few problems. Hopefully back online later today. Sorry about that!— Flat UI Design (@fltdsgn) August 6, 2013
I ultimately sold this side-project when Automattic acquired WooThemes.
Lessons learnt? How to deal with “overnight” success, migrating a website to a new host, developing a thick skin to the people who criticised the fact that someone was ‘curating’ this design style and ultimately how to value something when it comes to selling it.
Rappidly was my next side project which I started in July 2013. The idea was to make design resources that could help designers work “faster”. After a lot of work on the initial product, a UI kit for iOS 6, I launched the site only to find Apple updated the entire UI to what became known as ‘flat ui design’ shortly there after with the release of iOS 7.
As a result, that first product made a few sales – but did not blow the doors off as I’d hoped. This time round I used Gumroad as the means of selling the initial UI kit as it made getting an MVP out so much faster than anything else available at the time.
I ultimately ended up shutting down the standalone website and creating a ‘shop’ on Creative Market to utilise their growing audience at the time. The shop went on to make some really good monthly revenue in the early days of Creative Market and still exists today (making a few sales a month now at best) and the original UI kit is still listed there for posterity.
Lessons learnt? The early bird catches the worm. I remember signing up for early access to Creative Market before it officially launched. In hindsight, if I’d started creating products for it from Day 1 my shop no doubt would have been even more successful than it was.
Wallpx was a site that I created back in 2011 to share my personal photographs as wallpapers for mobile and desktop. The site was built on WordPress and unfortunately came out just before WooCommerce launched – if only I’d have had access to WooCommerce back then – I remember spending countless hours trying to hook up PayPal buttons linked to digital product downloads with restricted access!
±7 months after starting it, the photos had been downloaded 777 times – which I considered a major success at the time. I can’t remember why I stopped this one to be honest – but now the domain name is even owned by someone else as I could not justify keeping it going.
Lessons learnt? At the time I learnt a lot about building a website (using WordPress), trying to take sales online and ultimately that even the smallest idea can be successful if you can find the right audience.