Just under three weeks ago, I pressed “go” on a new web application called Indxd – a simple tool for notebook users that keeps track of which books contain which topics, and makes them searchable. While I’ve built a few niche web apps for friends, and I design electronics for a living, Indxd is the first solo project I’ve put out on the web. The response has been amazing, so it’s time to get a little “analogue” and talk about how that felt.
Starting from a Clean Sheet
On this week’s episode of Relay.fm’s Inquisitive podcast, Myke Hurley interviewed several app developers about their approaches to ideas. One of the responses resonated with me:
“I’m very…impatient… What I want to do is I want to build things! … There’s typically a thing that the app is trying to accomplish…and the quicker that I can get to a point that that core part is working, the sooner I’ll know if it’s a good idea or not.”
I took much the same approach with Indxd, and it was a big departure from the way I ordinarily tackle a new project – with a flurry of sketches, designs, conversations with family and friends – all of which usually leads to analysis paralysis or talking myself out of an idea.
With Indxd, I just sat down with an empty Meteor project and a text editor, and started building the thing that was still forming in my brain. I didn’t even show the site to my wife – or give it a name – until a few days before launch.
In part, I think this change was an artifact of the Meteor framework on which Indxd is built – it’s a toolset that makes developing web applications a phenomenally fluid process. But I think the seat-of-pants approach was more driven by giving myself permission to build a simple solution to a simple need – to “scratch my own itch”. It didn’t need heavy-weight up-front design or an air-tight business model. Only after Indxd began to come together did I realize it was something others might also enjoy.
Now, My Face Hurts
On Wednesday, March 11th I pushed the app to the Meteor servers, pointed the domain http://indxd.ink/ at it, and published an announcement blog post. I posted the link in a forum for fellow Pen Addict podcast listeners, tweeted it to a small handful of people, and went on with my day – albeit watching the site’s analytics out of the corner of my eye. Visitors began to arrive and poke around. A few opened accounts and added books and topics.
And then, a few hours later, some things happened. Patrick Rhone posted about Indxd on his fantastic analog-themed blog, The Cramped. Brad Dowdy (the Pen Addict himself!) tweeted about it. Favorites and retweets began to light up my Twitter notifications, and some very kind folks had some very kind things to say:
— Brad Dowdy (@dowdyism) March 11, 2015
— patrickrhone (@patrickrhone) March 11, 2015
Needless to say, as a developer, seeing this sort of reaction put me on top of the world. Moreover, since my aim in releasing Indxd publicly was to contribute something useful to the pen and writing community, it felt awesome to see my fellow enthusiasts’ positive responses. Hearing nice things about my work from people I respect and admire really meant a lot.
Then, just when I figured new interest might trail off, Tuesday happened. I was driving through Rochester’s East end, heading toward my favorite coffee shop for some cappuccino-fueled coding, listening to Monday’s episode of The Pen Addict. And just before I arrived, Brad and Myke reviewed Indxd on-air! It was totally unexpected – I was so surprised and excited to hear them discuss it, I had to stop the car!
The pen community’s reaction to Indxd is a reflection and affirmation of the very reason I shared it to begin with: This is a welcoming, supportive, helpful and – perhaps best of all – incredibly friendly group of people whose enthusiasm for pens, notebooks and writing is matched only by their delight in welcoming new members (like myself) to the fold. To everyone who visited Indxd, responded kindly, provided feedback or bug reports, or shared the app with their friends and followers, thank you so much.
Numbers and Next Steps
Between launch and the time of this writing, Indxd has had over 2,700 visits. My awkward, hurried intro video has been watched over 650 times. Almost 200 incredibly-cool people have signed up for accounts and taken it for a spin. It’s even earned a review from Leslie at Comfortable Shoes Studio!
While these numbers will surely seem minuscule when measured against the stats from others’ ventures, they mean a great deal to me personally – each one represents someone who, perhaps, recognized that I gave a darn2 about building something useful and building it well, and who then gave a darn about that thing I built in return.
In the first two weeks of Indxd’s life, I did make some changes – adding a few requested features, and fixing one bug. I’ve got a pile of ideas for other improvements and small new features – captured, of course, in my latest Field Notes notebook. I’m already looking forward to building them in – in hopes of making Indxd a better, faster, more-useful tool in one little corner of the Internet, for a group of new friends who I’m honored to have use it.