What’s stopping you? Write it down.

Published on
April 26th, 2021
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Ethan, the maker of 1Feed, shares some of the challenges he encountered when making 1Feed and how he tackled them.
We recently announced which makers received our latest round of grants to support them as they continue building and creating. Ethan, maker of 1Feed, was one of those recipients. 1Feed may be a tool to help keep you up to date by aggregating your feeds, but it was built specifically to serve as your quiet place on the internet and help with your consumption problem. It’s a problem that a lot of those in our community can relate to and the response to 1Feed was filled with positivity.
Here’s what Ethan had to share about his approach to building.
What was your inspiration behind 1Feed?

I first had the idea for 1Feed soon after I found this great browser extension called Fraidycat. It first introduced me to the concept of a feed reader that showed every person/site on one line only, rather than 1 line for each post. This meant that I was able to see people who posted every few months as well as people who posted multiple times a day.

I really enjoyed Fraidycat, but I mainly used my phone to keep up with things (like while on the bus), and Fraidycat was not available on phones as a browser extension. Additionally, the compact format wouldn't have worked well on phones.
So I decided to design something inspired by Fraidycat that worked well, was easy to use on any device, and didn't need to be a browser extension to work. From here my mission around making a healthier way of consuming content and really focusing on digital wellbeing formed.

How do you decide which projects to pursue?

I don't have any kind of set-in-stone selection process. I pretty much work on whatever I think has promise and excites me. I have a Notion list called "Product Ideas" and whenever I think of one product idea I add it there, without judgement. Even if it's a really bad idea, not monetizable, or I don't have the skills to build it (eg. a hardware product), I write it down anyway! I want to get everything out without doing any kind of selection process beforehand. The promising ones — they'll usually stay on my mind for days, weeks, or even months after I write them down.

In the case of 1Feed, in the days after initially adding it to the idea list, I kept coming back and adding more details, notes, and suggestions about how something like this might look and work. I was also really passionate about the problem it was solving. Digital content consumption is something I've struggled with myself, so I knew that if I were to work on it, I'd have the motivation to continue without the spark dying out early on.

I guess the largest part of my decision is how excited I am to work on it, but part of this excitement comes from things like it being achievable to build, having the possibility to monetize, solving a problem I care about, etc.

What was the first step you took in 1Feed?

Since the interface is such a large part of 1Feed's value, the first step I took was actually playing around with a few ideas in CodePen. This was before I had a name for 1Feed, or even before I knew for certain that it was something I wanted to invest the time into!

Here's my first CodePen, which looks a lot more like Fraidycat, and here's my second iteration, which is much better optimised for mobile and looks similar to how 1Feed does today. Making these CodePens was a really good way to prototype the 1Feed interface and try using it on an actual physical mobile device really quickly! (Note: I added the name "1Feed" to the top of the CodePens when I was deciding on a name to see how it would look.)

I created that first CodePen on Aug 3, 2020. Two and a half weeks later, I had a fully usable prototype that I was already using on my phone to keep up with blogs from around the internet!

Obviously, this prototype didn't have features such as signing in. In fact, it didn't even have a database — the list of feeds to fetch was hard-coded! But it was enough for me to get going for testing out on myself.

From here, it was only another two weeks until I opened 1Feed up to the first private beta users on September 4. That means it only took 1 month from an exploratory CodePen to a real working product with real users! I initially let in about 50 early access users.

What has been your biggest challenge as a Maker?
Probably the same as most other makers: Getting people to actually want to use your product and pay for it!

I think part of this has to do with making something that people actually want to use, but one thing that’s harder to control is where your traffic comes from.

I've had large traffic spikes that didn't lead to any paying customers and barely led to any users sticking around, while I've had other, very small traffic spikes that led to multiple paying customers and lots of returning users.

In my experience, getting traffic is fairly easy, but getting the right traffic is hard, and it's not particularly easy to iterate on attracting different types of traffic. You need visitors that are both a good fit for your product and are also willing to pay for things they enjoy using.

I think this is especially hard for B2C products like 1Feed compared to B2B products where the company can spend money more easily.

What has been your biggest reward?

The obvious reward is revenue, but the reason that I chose to make money via building 1Feed instead of via working at McDonald's or something is due to the satisfaction I get from helping other people via my products, and knowing that people like my products enough to pay for them!

This is especially true with a product like 1Feed, where the goal is to help people build better digital content consumption habits. In society at the moment, we spend an insane amount of time-consuming content, and often this is really bad for our mental health or directions in life. I'm really passionate about building products to help people out of that constant stream of noise from their phones to create healthier lifestyles.

Hearing positive feedback from users and seeing people continuing to use 1Feed as a better way to consume content is really motivating and fulfilling!

What are your next steps for 1Feed?

In the short term, my main next steps are:

I'll also be working on a large array of other improvements to 1Feed based on feedback from users and my own personal experiences using it!

In the longer term, I'd like to potentially branch out and experiment with other ways of solving this content consumption problem. One of these ideas is building a platform that lets non-tech-savvy people publish social-media-style updates on their own domains, to fight the monopolies that allow social networks to push these harmful algorithms on us. I'd also like to experiment with other things, such as creating different types of content and resources to help people build healthier digital habits. These are all hazy future hypotheticals by the way, not concrete plans.

I'm not sure who wrote it, but I saw someone on Twitter a while ago say that making many different products that solve the same problem allows you to make much more refined products and decisions, compared to making lots of products that solve different problems. That's really stuck with me.

What words of wisdom can you share for Makers looking to get started?

In terms of how to ship a product fast, I'd highly recommend making a "what's stopping me" list. I've used these many times in the past, and they always help so much to keep me on track and give me direction.

First, choose a big goal or milestone that you're working towards. My first one for 1Feed was inviting the first beta users to 1Feed, meaning it was ready for other people to use. Yours could be something similar, like inviting your first beta testers or even just going straight into launching it!

Once you have this goal, create a checklist and title it "What's stopping me from doing X?". This could be a physical checklist or a simple Word document, but I make mine in Notion. Now, this isn't just any old checklist. Imagine if I told you "you have to do X right now" (for example, launch your product). You'd probably say "Ethan, wait, no!" and give me a bunch of reasons why your product wasn't ready yet. These are the things you should write down onto your list, and not anything else! Those other things are just distractions and can come later.

Then, work your way through the items in the list, and once you've ticked all of them off, you're ready for your big milestone! This method has worked very well for me in the past and allowed me to ship the first version of 1Feed for other people to use just 1 month after first thinking seriously about the idea.

Here's that first "what's stopping me" list I made for 1Feed:

In terms of how to get traction for your product, I'd say, build in public! Post the journey of creating your product on Twitter, from writing those first lines of code, to working on the design and asking for feedback and input, to launching your product! There are hundreds of people launching their products every week., Just building a great product isn't always enough anymore. People need to be invested in the human story behind the product.

In terms of a successful Product Hunt launch, my advice is pretty similar — I'd suggest live streaming your launch on a platform like Twitch or YouTube. This shows the human story behind your product launch, and "watch me launch this live" stands out so much from yet another "I launched this thing on Product Hunt, leave a comment pretty please" tweet. You can see the video recording of my livestream here if you're curious what it was like.

In terms of general maker advice, I'd say, just get started! I used to browse Product Hunt and think how I wanted to "become" a maker, but really the only difference between being a maker and not being a maker is you decided to build something you always wanted and shared it with the world. While it can seem really hard to "become" a maker from the outside (it once did to me), it really just requires you to start taking action! And your first product doesn't have to be perfect, once you get started, it'll evolve over time along with you as a maker.
Comments (7)
Charlie Taylor
Loved this. Starting my "what's stopping me" list right now!
John Perry
Kudos this! from study help me
Ferriss Timothy
Ethan's general advice to aspiring makers is to simply get started and take action on their ideas, emphasizing that anyone can become a maker autistic test by building and sharing their creations.
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