How we turned a very simple idea into a useful product
Background and coffee discussions
There’s a joy every time you make progress, ship something you were working on, out in the real world for review. We recently did so, it went a bit unexpected at first, but ended pretty well for us! The product we shipped — “Programming Guides”. Its aim is to be a one-stop place to get the background information of the programming language, topics to focus on while learning, and its job potential.
Usually, anyone would know what programming language or subject matter they want to learn. Then they would find a related course and study it. Simple, right? Apparently No.
We at QuickCode aim to find the biggest challenges in online learning and solve them for learners around the world. As part of that effort, we launched features such as Collections and Learners in the last couple of months. (you can read about those features here). Once we launched these, we noticed, “How to get started” as a recurring issue faced by our users in our user interviews and survey.
At first, it was a surprise since both of us. Since we and our friends around had technical backgrounds, we weren’t sure what do users mean by this. We too have taken several online courses in the past. We know that technology tutorials for beginners would usually walk them through the simplest of steps to get you started. So what’s the missing link here? Usually, anyone would know what programming language or subject matter they want to learn. Then they would find a related course and study it. Simple, right? Apparently No.
A New Audience
The assumption that all those people are from programming or a technology background was that mistake.
Somewhere during these discussions, we figured, that we are making a big assumption here. The assumption that all those people are from programming or a technology background was that mistake. We immediately took the next logical step. We dug into our data sources and pulled out the data for users with and without a programming background. In the last 12 months, a little over 20% of our new learners were from a non-programming background.
We felt good about it as it meant that our platform is reaching to a wider audience. At the same time, it also hinted our lack of preparation in addressing an audience segment like this. Now it was important for us to assess how we want to address this audience. Should we simply go with the flow and serve the core programming audience? Or should we try to help this new audience base which we didn’t expect?
To help us proceed, we turned to the new God of 21st Century again- The Data God! We went back to our data sources and researched a bit more about non-programming learners. Soon data showed us the way. The number of non-programming learners though initially small has been gradually increasing. Here’s a trendline for new non-programming learners on QuickCode in the last 12 months.
The answer was as clear as sparkling water (bad joke I know!). Basically, we knew that our platform is connecting with new kind of learners. Learners, who despite having years of experience in different fields, are looking to learn to code for the first time. This realization helped us decide what we needed to address for this segment of learners. The realization was beginning to add some light on the issue -”Know what to learn”.
First Learning Guide-
In a zone to experiment, I titled it -”How to Learn Python Like a Tiger”- The response sucked!
We got some clue on how to address the issue. The idea was to start a blog post series where we can talk about a particular programming language in sufficient detail. For example, how to approach it as a newcomer, what topics to focus on as an intermediate learner, and the job potential it can offer.
The first language we took for this was Python. I researched and compiled the first guide. In a zone to experiment, I titled it -”How to Learn Python Like a Tiger”. You might have noticed it when first launched. If not, let me tell you that title was for real! I know, it sucked.
We noticed two things with its launch. First, few people connected with it, perhaps due to the confusing title. Second, those who noticed it seemed to like it. The reading ratio was good, though I conceded to Keyul that the Tigerish title wasn’t a good one, to begin with. I changed the title to “Learning Path For Python” and since then it’s been reaching out to its audience well. In fact, it did exceedingly well when shared it in one of our email campaigns. And the generous response to that email was what triggered the making and launch of Programming Guide as a product in itself.
Given the initial feedback we received on the first guide, we agreed it was an important feature for our audience.
After we reviewed the encouraging responses, we also uncovered a few relevant questions. How can someone who is totally new to programming and wanted to cover or get an overview of different languages easily find these guides? We publish anywhere between 40–70 blog posts in a month on our publication. These programming guides can easily get lost in the online pile. Consider searching for those 6 months or a year down the line. It would be almost impossible for a new user to find those posts from the dump.
Given the initial feedback we received on the first guide, we agreed it was an important feature for our audience. That’s when Keyul suggested the idea to in fact launch it as a new feature or sub-product on our platform. I wasn’t initially convinced, but the idea stuck. Anyway, I started working on more programming guides. Alongside, Keyul started his work on the technology side to get the guides integrated on QuickCode as a stand-alone product feature.
Launch on ProductHunt
Knowing our audience, I designed each programming guide to cover these topics for any technology:
- Background of the Programming Language/Technology
- Core topics to focus as a beginner, intermediate or advanced levels
- Reference for courses at each level
- Complementing skills to learn if targeting a professional job
- Popular job roles for that language
During one of our regular coffees, Keyul suggested launching Programming Guides on Sunday, March 17th. I wanted to do it on Monday, but the upcoming week was already filled to the brim. So we decided to launch on Sunday, we scurried through the whole of Saturday to get the act together for launch on midnight. Finally, we had 9 programme guides created (we planned for 10, but I missed on 1, sorry guys!). Meanwhile, Keyul finalized tech integration, so we were ready for launch. Honestly, I was a bit nervous initially, I wasn’t sure how people would respond to its launch. Considering it was a pretty simple product in comparison to some very cool and sophisticated product launches that happen on ProductHunt.
The day passed on for sure, but the upvotes kept increasing too! The day ended with ProgrammingGuides was still the 3rd product of the day.
Anyway, we have done our bit of research. We knew there are people who need it, and even if not appealing to a wider audience, we know we are solving a problem for our own audience base, even if small. We pushed the launch button on 12 pm on Saturday night. We were awake and following traction for the next 30–40 mins. There was hardly any comment or feedback until then. And I wasn’t feeling cool about it. Anyway, we bid goodbyes for the day and went to our homes. I didn’t check the results until morning.
Morning 8 AM, “Programming Guides” was trending as the third product of the day with 107 votes when I woke up! This was totally unexpected, needless to say, I was feeling elated. I thought maybe it's the day start and some other product would replace it. The day passed on for sure, but the upvotes kept increasing too! The day ended with ProgrammingGuides was still the 3rd product of the day.
Here’s the ProductHunt launch post on the day and a screenshot from the launch end of the launch day!
Honestly, for a moment I was feeling greedy that it should come to the top, but the two products at the top were really good. There were several other product launches on the day, and I felt really glad that we maintained our 3rd ranking throughout the day. Not only that, but the comments below the launch, response on twitter and email was really positive as well. Cre
I hope you enjoyed our background story. How we conceptualized around a simple thought to launch it as a product. It would be great if you check out the product and let us know your thoughts on it. Especially if you’re planning to learn a new programming language. Let us know if the information helped you, or if there are things lacking that we should address in our future learning guided. We would love to know your feedback and incorporate into our product in future launches.
So this ends our background story for Programming Guides. Turns out there’s still space for simple ideas to be turned into products. And yes, they can be officially launched on a Sunday!