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Hackernoon logoA Weekend Website Project I Built With $14 and No Coding Experience by@karthikpasupathy

A Weekend Website Project I Built With $14 and No Coding Experience

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@karthikpasupathyKarthik Pasupathy

Published author, product marketer and someone who loves taking long walks

The first thing I wanted to do this year was take control of what information I share with the apps and services I use on a day-to-day basis. I did not want my search history and personal conversations to be tracked and was also keen on not sharing too much personal information with the ‘usual suspects’ (You know who!)

So, I started with small incremental steps.

I switched my search engine (to DuckDuckGo) and browser (Brave for windows/mac and Bromite for Android). I also did a few other things such as deleting my Facebook account and removing access to apps which I signed up using my Twitter and GMail accounts. I wasn’t using WhatsApp other than to send messages to my wife. So, I convinced her to move to Signal, an encrypted private messenger.

I did not touch my email account as it had a lot of dependencies. I created an email in Tutanota aspiring to make it my primary email. I did not move my email as I am still in the evaluating phase and felt that switching email email providers would too be much at this point. So, I parked the thought for later. The idea is to move to a paid email service in a year.

I have most of my data in external HDDs, so cloud storage wasn't that much of a priority.

Even though it was small, taking control over a portion of my online data felt good.

And to be honest, doing this involved an enormous amount of research.

I poured over a ton of online resources to look for information about privacy-focused apps and how reliable they are. And in the process, I learnt a lot.

That is when it struck me.

What if someone like me wants to make a switch. Do they have all the necessary resources in one place?

This led to the beginning of my weekend project.

‘An Idea’ or ‘The Idea’

The idea was simple. Build a website that has a list of privacy-focused apps.

If you ask me “Shouldn’t that exist already?”, my answer would be “Yes. They do.”

There are a bunch of websites that have an enormous list of privacy-focused apps. But the biggest problem with these lists is the way they’re designed.

Most of the open source apps on these lists either reside on GitHub as a codebase or on a download server. If someone wants to switch to these apps, they’ll either have to self-host the app or the service on a server or on the cloud.

The problem with this approach is, even if a non-coder like me follows all the instructions to the point and sets up the app, we don’t know what to do if something breaks.

And believe me when I say this. Things break. Especially when you’re not sure about something and just following instructions to set up the whole thing by yourself. If it happens to self-hosted WordPress, it can happen to self-hosted apps like Nextcloud too!

But there are few players that offer privacy-focused services for a small fee and they have a decent free plan to get you started! The advantage is, these companies would be financially equipped to make improvements to the app, offer an easy way to setup, a better UI, and are offer support in case something goes wrong.

So, I made a list of cloud apps that fulfill the following criteria:

  1. They should be a privacy-focused alternative to existing apps and services
  2. Offer end-to-end encryption of your data (The data is also encrypted in app servers so even the company or the people working there can’t access it)
  3. Should be cloud-based (should offer cross-platform sync)
  4. Easy to set up without the need to learn development skills
  5. A decent free plan to get started

That is when it struck me. The uniqueness of my project is I am going to build is a database of cloud-based apps that are free and makes it easy for someone to switch to one of these services.

The sense of instant value is key to impressing someone to move to a product. And I decided to focus on that.

Validating the Idea

I dug through ProductHunt and I came across a lot of websites where the product was not the tech involved but the data and the value that they offered.

I came across websites like roadtoscale.com which was created using Carrd.co and Airtable as its primary stack. I also looked at a couple of other websites like layoffs.fyi and lander.xyz where the information they offer is the key to their success.

With the small list of apps I had at hand, I thought I should go ahead and put my idea to action.

Privacyfirstapps.com was born.

Finalizing My Goal

My primary goal was to help people who are looking for alternatives to their existing online services. This list will be actionable and useful to them.

My secondary goal was to learn how to launch a simple, useful website (I would not call this a product. Common!) on ProductHunt. This will give me a fair idea on how to build and launch something from the ground up. In the process I also wanted to learn a bit of visual design, branding, marketing, and a teeny-tiny bit of web development.

So, last Saturday, I woke up and got to work.

Tech Stack

I already had a Carrd.co account where I currently host my personal website and the landing page of my blog. So, I decided to create Privacyfirstapps.com using Carrd as the Pro plan allows me to create and host as much as 10 websites.

My idea is to have a basic website that has an Airtable base embedded into it. The Airtable base will have the list of apps which users can filter based on category, software platform, and pricing plans.

So, I got the ball rolling and started building the website. Within four hours, I had the basic layout of the website. By the end of day, I had the v1 of the website.

The Airtable base embedded on the website will allow users to filter and group apps based on price, category, and software platforms. 

Even though it was small, I felt happy that I accomplished something.

Over the next couple of days, I focused on making the design of the website a little better. I also posted it on a couple of subreddits to see what people think about this website. I got some helpful feedback. A few of them reached out asking if I can add their privacy-focused app on my website.

So, I considered the idea a success (a small win!)

Cost involved

I got the domain name from Namecheap for $9. I already owned the Carrd.co Pro plan that costs $19/year. Since I already host four websites in my account, I would assume that I had spent $5 for this website. The Airtable account was free. So, the total investment for creating this website was $14 and 4–5 hours of my time (+4 additional hours for writing this blog, designing the social cards, etc.)

The next step is to launch the app on ProductHunt.

No Code is a Platform to Test Ideas

Five years back, if someone had asked me if I could create and launch an online directory for privacy focused, I would’ve been clueless. Now, Technology has provided the canvas for people to test their ideas. You can receive pre-order for a book you’re working on by sharing the first few chapters of it on the internet, or build a landing page to get interested people to try out your product that is in the works. In my case, I wanted to see whether I can build and launch something on ProductHunt, and I am on my way into doing it.

So, if you have an idea that’s been bugging you and if you don’t have the necessary coding skills, don’t worry. We’ve come a long way in terms of Technology. The future of startups will be built on no code platforms. All we need is the right idea and the right story behind it.

See you soon with another exciting post, or a DIY project.

Checkout privacyfirstapps.com and let me know what you think. If you’re a maker of a privacy-focused app, feel free to reach out to me. 

Liked the blog? Show some love by sharing it with your friends. Every week, I write about productivity, product management and technology. Follow me on Twitter for more content.

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