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How I made my first online website successful

A couple of hours ago I launched Topicks , my first online website. The idea is simple: select the topics you like, such as French, Paintings, or gaming (just to name a few), and your feed will change every day with fresh new content, related to what you chose. You can check it out here!

How it all started

A couple of months ago, I was preparing for a big exam that every 8th grader has to take here in Romania. As I was memorizing all sorts of different formulas or definitions, I came up with a simple idea of an app that would help everyone learn and prepare for exams or tests: every day or so, you would memorize a new useful fact or idea relevant to your subject. I bodged a simple Javascript program that would do exactly that, and it helped me a lot in getting a perfect 10/10 score in the maths exam.

Two months after the exam

As I was organizing the files on my computer, I came across the simple app and, after a couple of discussions with some of my friends, I decided to make it a real thing, expanding it’s database with all sorts of new topics, from entertainment to arts.

Creating the app

I chose to create the application in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and use embeded windows for the apps, as I lack any sort of experience of actual app design (on both iOS and Android), and web apps can be more flexible.

Research and topics

I first started with the core of the app: adding topics. I planned out what I wanted to add and what was trending at the time. After that, I started filling the database with around 61 different posts related to each topic (I chose to create content that would last at least two months, in some cases a little lower). You might be thinking: didn’t it take a long time to make that many posts for each topic? Well… it nearly did. After manually making some topics, I quickly realized that I could use bots that would create the content that can be automated. For example, for all the languages, I used a list of 65 words in English and translated it to each individual language, using a Python library called Googletrans. Obviously, I checked everything after automation to make sure that there aren’t any problems. My friends also helped with a couple of other topics such as music.

UI and Design

Just to get things forward: I have little experience with UI/UX design. Even though I’ve been using CSS for over 3 years now, I only know some of the basic principles. I quickly created the layout and structure of the whole webpage, adding simple design elements such as borders and creating it’s own colorway.

Accounts

Now came the hardest part: account management. I needed to find a way to store the data given by the user into a database as efficiently as possible, to save space… or so I thought I did. I realized that by using HTML5 Storage I could easily save the user preferences, as I didn’t need to save anything on my server. At the current state of the site, this is the best method of solving this problem, but later on, when I’ll add device syncing/accounts and many more features, I will need to add account saving.

The name

I first came up with a simple name, “MonTips”, “Mon” meaning “My” in french, but sadly, the domain was taken. As I was playing with the words in my head, I started getting to the core feature of the site: you need to pick topics. “TOPICKS! That’s it!”

Branding

Creating the trailers and posters

It’s the 5th of August. Around noon I start working on the main 1 minute trailer, planning it carefully so that I can include as many pluses as possible. I searched for music, a good font and some editing software. By the time I finished, it was around 2 AM. FOR A ONE MINUTE LONG TRAILER. Ahh… the sacrifices you have to make as a developer…

Promoting the app

Promoting the application was one of the most easiest parts. I already created the original trailer, and also made a second 15 second-long version, in portrait orientation, for promoting it on Instagram. My budget for promoting the app was exactly $0. I already spent around $30 on buying a domain and host, and my parents were quite unsure about this whole project. Luckily, one of my friends, who is a social media influencer on Instagram (timeeaciobanu) was happy to promote my site. You should check her ukulele cover videos, they’re awesome! That basically meant that my ad would pop up in the Instagram feed of over 18k people. WOW!

The future

The next couple of weeks I’ll work on advertising and adding new topics. Once again, you can check my app out at https://topicks.online ! See you there!

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dominic

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