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I build a side project, then what?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Communitya month ago

This question relates to Alex's talk on side projects (an excellent session by the way which really inspired me!). It made a lot of sense to pick something super simple and do it. However, what do you do once you've implemented your simple idea? Specifically in terms of tracking and marketing:

  1. Tracking: I've heard Alex/Rahul mention the number of users is important (moreso than monetizing etc). Maybe Android/iOS apps have in built tracking (I'm not sure), but I'm doing a web app - do you recommend proactively integrating tracking tools to ensure you can show how many users you have if asked about it? Any specific ones? Esp since having logins and account maintenance adds complexity and wanted to keep my app simple.
  2. Marketing: How did you get to 100,000 installs? Was it just early days and the app stores were less saturated? Did you do any marketing or did people just happen to search your app? I can't imagine that many people just stumbling onto my website!
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Discussion

(3 comments)
  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    For tracking, you should have some things "built in". For example, if you have user accounts, I imagine those are persisted to a database and you can query the number of rows to get user count. Back when my flashcards app (175k+ downloads) was full-stack, I would run SQL queries every week to see the number of users, flashcard sets, flashcards, etc (it was really fun!).

    On top of the built-in analytics, you can just add logging/instrumentation. The 2 we use for Taro are:

    If you're not doing user accounts, PostHog should give you basic usage data (like page visits) out of the box and for free. The free tier of PostHog is very generous from our experience.

    How did you get to 100,000 installs?

    95%+ of my downloads came from showing up in Google Play search results. I break down all of that in-depth (alongside other tactics) here: [Masterclass] How To Build And Grow Tech Products To 500k+ Users For Free

    Here's another good thread (which has more related resources): Marketing your side projects.

  • 1
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    19 days ago

    How did you get to 100,000 installs?

    Just make a lot of apps and eventually you'll get lucky. Think of each published app as a seed you're planting -- some of them will die, but others will surprise you by getting picked up in search/word-of-mouth and see a huge growth of users later on.

    Your goal is to give yourself as many chances as possible to get lucky.

    • 1
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      Thoughtful Tarodactyl
      Taro Community
      18 days ago

      Quick question to Alex/Rahul, but if you're a web app SWE, how would you recommend building side projects as web apps are not as versatile/convenient as mobile apps? Any advice/tips would be useful!