After delivering two back-to-back client applications in late 2014, my colleague and I decided to take a couple of months off to work on a side project which we later named Movieo.
Since this was a pure passion project, we skipped market research and jumped straight into design. We started by brainstorming and sketching out different user interfaces, then spent some time refining what we thought was the best one. We wanted a simple-to-use filtering system that encouraged exploration, with movies ranked by a combination of IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic scores.
The next step was building the actual web app. Responsibilities were split, which translated into Ivor working on the client-side, while Vedran dealt with the back-end part of the application. Smooth and performant user experience was our top priority, so we needed all movie data to be readily available in our own database. We decided to write a script that imported quarter of a million movies from TMDB and OMDB API’s, and automatically updated them on a daily basis.
After a few months of work we were ready to release the first version. We presented the prototype to a chosen few and the initial reactions were extremely positive. Since the point of this project wasn’t to make money, we went with zero budget marketing. We decided to submit Movieo to three popular sites who’s users would appreciate this kind of product: Reddit, Hacker News, and Product Hunt.
We beefed up our server stack expecting a high amount of traffic, created the submissions, and went out for a beer.
We checked our real-time analytics after ordering drinks.
Upvotes on all three sites started mounting. We kept checking analytics.
Comments and email started pouring in:
People started tweeting:
By the end of the month almost half a million people tried our product. We rose to front pages of both Product Hunt and Hacker News, staying there for over a day. We received hundreds of emails and witnessed thousands of people tweeting about Movieo.
Big numbers are fun to brag about, but in reality they don’t mean much. Many products experience viral spikes during launch, but soon after, traffic inevitably starts dwindling.
At the early product stages, it is not as much about traffic as it is about getting valuable feedback from your target audience. And that’s exactly what we received. Overnight, our inbox turned into a goldmine of amazing ideas and suggestions. It’s unbelievable how many people are eager to help and express their support for products that actually solve their problems.
After our initial success, we spent the next year working on design, features and onboarding in our spare time.
Here is the difference between the initial and the current version:
We used Movieo as a platform for experimenting with different technologies, analytics setups, onboarding & conversion tactics, and more. Having your own product where you can allow yourself to go crazy and try out different things is simply amazing.
We stopped working on it after a while, but the servers are still running. The automated scripts keep movies up to date.
Today, Movieo is used by about 100,000 people every month. Even though we haven’t promoted it in years, the numbers are still slowly but steadily rising.
Looking back, the decision to start our own project was definitely worthwhile. We learned a lot as we went through all phases of the product lifecycle. We received several interesting job opportunities, and most importantly, we had tons of fun in the process.
I'm happy to talk business or simply give you some free advice. If both sides see value in working together, we’ll move forward. If not, that's okay too. Worst case we both had a nice chat and received some free feedback.