Maksim is a product designer from New York and the creator of the popular Design Hunt app. Maksim taught himself how to code, then launched Design Hunt, getting to the top of Product Hunt in the process. Here’s how it all started:
It all started with “what if.” What if I can build a mobile first product, for creatives to find quality inspirational content, and top new products daily.
Why go on such a journey? There are tons of resources online for this type of content. More than anything, why mobile first? Why not build a website and give people the luxury of screen real estate?
The answer to the mobile first question is actually pretty simple. It’s for selfish reasons. I wanted to build something I can enjoy using: something that would fit into my everyday life. I spend a lot of time commuting to work everyday, and my iPhone is my best friend when looking for content. This is how I started thinking about my app. It has to fit into this environment. It had to be mobile first.
The second part of my selfish reason is my desire to learn mobile development. I am a product designer by day, and deal with a lot of mobile work. I needed to know more about the other side of the fence. What is it like to actually build one?
Now to the content. There are tons of resources out there for discovering creative and inspirational content. This is good and bad at the same time. Great for the sheer amount of content out there, bad for discovering hidden gems. This is why delivering less content, and curating the hell out of it, became my main goal.
Designer to Developer
From the beginning, I was pretty confident that I could design a great application. This is something very familiar to me, and would not be a problem. What I didn’t want to do is design first and develop later.
There are a few problems with this approach. If I am going to develop this myself, I have to work within a set of limitations, my skill set and the technology available. Technology might not be a problem for this type of application, however, my skill set was a big limitation.
Learning development isn’t easy, no matter what anyone tells you. In the beginning, I was struggling to get the grasp of it. Xcode was not a familiar tool. Language was a barrier.
I started developing using Objective-C, and as you may have heard, the language is a tough pill to swallow.
Everything changed for me when Meng To published his first set of Design+Code chapters. I immediately knew this was going to change everything for me. His approach to development is very friendly to designers, and he made sure that his tutorials are very easy to follow.
If you are looking to get started with iOS development please check out his book. You are not going to regret it.
The other blessing was Apple introducing Swift. It’s a great modern language with far less syntax then Objective-C. It is also much more readable, and safe.
My design process was pretty smooth thanks to amazing new tools like Sketch (used for all my design work), and Marvel (used for creating interactive prototypes). I won’t go in depth about each product, but it’s worth highlighting that Marvel recently published a great plugin for Sketch that exports all your Artboards directly into Marvel. It makes all the difference in the world, quickly updating tons of screens and instantly updating your prototypes saves tons of time.
Rough prototype created in Marvel to test out new version of Design Hunt:
As funny as it may sound most of the design for this application took place in code. I would think of a feature I wanted to have, I would try to make it work in the App. If I succeeded in making it work only then would I go back in Sketch and actually think about what it should look like. Instead of focusing on how it should look and function first, I prevented myself from getting stuck in the process. I decided I would ship only what I can make. If I had problems with a feature, it would get put on hold until I can execute it flawlessly. This approach helped me ship my product on time. In this case I had a personal goal and a personal ship date marked on my calendar.
I had many ideas on how to launch the App, and after many days running through different options I decided to launch on Product Hunt exclusively. I wanted to test what that would be like, and if it failed I had other back up options. Product Hunt exceeded all my expectations. I was sitting in front of my computer all day watching my numbers climb, and my app reaching the top spot for products that day. I didn’t understand why or how I moved in front of the competition from Google, Dropbox and Microsoft. My product has a very niche market, so this was unbelievable.
When I woke up next day I saw that I had over 600 registered users in the App and over 2k downloads in the App Store. The numbers for user engagement in the App were through the roof. Not only did I get tons of exposure from Product Hunt, I also gained real users who genuinely like the product. That’s something you can’t buy.
I am currently working on the next major update to the App. There are bugs left to fix, features left to build, and people left to inspire. One big challenge I set for myself is to have Apple Watch support on day one of Watch launch. I’m working hard on trying to meet that goal and appreciate your support.
The Apple Watch extension will be almost like a separate app, with its own set of features that are more appropriate for the device size.
This post was originally posted on Maksim’s Medium profile.