The Story of a Side Project — Dimer
This is how we shipped our first ever SaaS side-project in 6 weeks while working full-time at Kayako
Namaste ji! I’m Abhi, product and brand designer at Kayako.
Dimer is a side project built by Harminder Virk and I. We built Dimer with the goal of creating an app to help you easily write and publish your docs. Below is a complete story about how we shipped our first public beta within 6 weeks, only working 3–4 hours a day on the side.
The goal of this article is to show you how we research and planned, design and developed, and launched a SaaS product in our limited time. We hope this motivates you to launch your own personal side project and try Dimer for yourself.
So, what is Dimer?
Dimer is an app that makes it easier for you to publish your documentation, with a distraction-free writing experience and beautiful, handcrafted themes.
This is how it begins
From late 2015, Harminder and I have been working together at Kayako on projects like Kayako Messenger, a public marketplace, and developer portal. Also, we’re putting in our free time on side projects like AdonisJs and Edge.
While working on these projects we realized about the problems all writers are facing on a daily basis with their current workflows. We learned about the friction between writing and publishing fully functional docs websites.
We talked with few people at our company and through our network to identify the core problems and needs around this. After doing some research we decided to give it a shot, with a set target of shipping the first public beta within just six weeks.
Why 6 weeks? Putting a deadline on launching would help us quickly figure out if we’re onto a good idea. The only way to figure that out is by shipping it to the public and seeing what feedback we got.
We kicked off our product in the first week of March, aiming for baseline requirements for our first public beta, and an extremely tight scope of what Dimer does and provides. Inspired by Kayako’s 6 week cycle approach, we divided our 6 weeks time into two phases:
- Phase 1 — Research and planning (Two weeks)
- Phase 2 — Design and development (Four weeks)
Phase 1 — Research and planning
Two weeks of planning. Below are the key areas we focused on during planning phase:
- The problems — We started by clearly defining and documenting the problems we’ll be solving.
- Target market — Selecting potential target customers allowed us to focus on baseline requirements of product and overall value proposition.
- Documentation — Detailed documents of what we are building and why, which includes a list of each feature we’ll be shipping in beta. Next to each feature, detailed spec sheet for the feature.
- Roadmap — Define and zero-down the roadmap for next 6 months of Dimer.
- Announcement — On March 14th a statement made to the public on Medium, DN, and Twitter.
- Landing page — With above announcement we launched the signup page for our potential customers to subscribe and track the progress.
- Task lists (or priority list) — We created few lists that counterbalanced the design and development requirements, the things we aimed to complete in next phase.
Phase 2 — Design and development
Below are the key areas we focused on during the 2nd phase of the cycle.
- Dimer positioning — covers branding, basic website and content strategy for Dimer brand.
- Dimer default theme — One major element of our product, we tried to get it right before launch.
- User signup and login flow
- Dimer CLIs, and very basic dashboard for onboarding our users.
- Use cases, FAQ’s, syntax guides, error pages, transactional emails, launch email and marketing visuals are few other requirements for beta we covered roughly during this phase.
We decided to launch Dimer on May 1st, and we chose Product Hunt to kick it off.
One day before the launch, I pinged Jamie Edwards (Co-founder of Kayako) on Slack and briefed about our side-project and asked him if he can help us with the post on PH tomorrow.
“omg I love it
I need some time to sit down and digest
would love to provide feedback
and yes I will post it on PH
we’ll also RT from @ kayako”
He loved our side-project, agreed to post about Dimer on PH and also helped us fixing our website copy horrors.
On May 1st, 4:00 pm IST we made Dimer’s website live and asked Jamie to hit the button on PH.
Since there is no thing called perfect. Right after the ProductHunt launch, our emails stopped working (when their was a flood of new user signups). Got it under control in few minutes and re-sent failed emails. Phew.
Some stats after 30 hrs:
— #2 product of the day on PH
— 435 upvotes
— 4738 pageviews
— 40% users from US
— 383 signups
Beta launch was more than what we expected.
Next goal is to make Dimer into a profitable online business where we can learn and experience all the secrets of running a SaaS product.
Things we learned
- Start by documenting problems you’re going to solve — really helpful!
- Keep it minimal — As stated earlier. We have thousands of ideas to make Dimer one of the best products to publish documentation online. But, it is very important to stick to bare minimum, improve and ship everyday.
- Prioritize your tasks first — So that you’re satisfying all baseline requirements.
- Having an extremely tight scope — is essential to focus the small amount of time we have to devote in right areas.
- Ask for feedback as early on as possible.
- Ship. Iterate. Ship.
- to Raksha for helping us out finalizing the illustration style.
- to Adam, Alicia, Gufran, James, Jamie, Kelly, Neil, Robin, Steve, Swarnava and Yogesh for providing us the gift of feedback during this journey.
- to our Early Adopters for believing in our product.
Comments? Feedback? Need some help with Dimer?
Leave a note here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.