LifeHQ is the first real product that I’ve built completely on my own. It is a joy to be working on something where you are the ideal customer.
Today I will start sharing my daily journey about building LifeHQ, everything from development, design, marketing, finding product-market fit, getting users and keeping them.
I started developing LifeHQ in March, 2018. So in this article I will get you up to date about what I’ve done so far and why. In the next article I will start logging my daily journey on building my first startup. I will be sharing what new things I’m trying out and things I’m discovering, obstacles I’m facing and everything in-between.
The Story so far
Origins – The Ultimate Commonplace System
The idea of an all-in-one productivity software first popped into my head after reading The Ultimate Commonplace System by Ludvig Sunstrom from StartGainingMomentum. The idea behind a Commonplace System is to have a place to organize all the things you are doing in your life. Things like book summaries, lessons learned, keeping a journal, setting goals, running projects etc. Commonplace is a place where all these things should be properly organized for easy access and review. In the book Ludvig was using Evernote and Onenote for organizing his personal digital Commonplace. I tried both of those for a while, but they are basically just apps for taking notes, a lot of features are missing.
So I decided to build a software specifically designed to for a Commonplace or in other words to run your life with it, hence LifeHQ.
I’ve read the first edition of that book back in 2016 but it wasn’t until 2018 that I started development. Over the years I’ve head many ideas about applications but I’ve forgotten most of them. The fact that this one stayed with me for two full years was something I could not ignore.
The kick in the butt
In March 2018 my wife revealed to me she was pregnant. I am not the the type to panic, but this was a major kick in the but. I figured if I don’t develop this in these 9 months while she is pregnant, there is no way I can do it once the baby is born. This sense of urgency is something magical. As an introvert I am very much in my head and it is very easy to overthink and spend months just planning. But the urgency forced me to make quick decisions and it is still a major factor in keeping me going.
I started development in March 2018 and for a few months that is all I did. The deadline I set to myself was to have a version out by the end of the year and have a few users on there.
I started the social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter in the summer, in June or July, and this blog in August, 2018. I knew that a blog can be started from day one but it is my first public project so it’s normal to have insecurities at the beginning.
I launched the Beta in November and I got a few dozen users. Since then I’ve been talking to a few of them and have been finishing up everything I like to have in the final version. I published on BetaList in the beginning of January and I’ve had a few more beta users from there as well.
You can read about the composing parts and features in the About LifeHQ article.
There are many great communities out there for startup founders like myself trying to build things on their own. I am not as active as I’d like to be, but development must come first, at least in this early stage. However I’ve found the following portals most resonating with me and with the mission of LifeHQ:
- Reddit r/DecidingToBetter
- Reddit r/getdisciplined
- Fb group: SaaS Growth Hacks
- Fb group: Saas Founders and Execs
Where are we now
Currently LifeHQ is in public Beta where anyone can sign up and use it for free.
I have just a few features left (for now) before I am ready to roll out the red carpet and deploy to production. This is on the development side.
On the marketing side the landing page needs to be reworked. The central part above the fold needs to be top notch. The rule for landing pages is show don’t tell so a new picture or a video is needed. Also the overall design of the homepage is not modern enough for general public consumption. I can do better, but we’ll see what the time allows, I don’t want to waste time on nothing. I have a self-imposed deadline of deploying it in two weeks.
The tech stack, what I am using and why
As a developer I feel like I need to talk about the tech stack I’m using, so here we go.
I am a Python programmer so obviously I chose the Django framework for the backend.
Frontend wise I dabbled in AngularJS few years ago but it was always too complicated for a one man show. After looking around I decided on using StimulusJS. It’s a micro JS framework developed for the html we already have. And it only has controllers, no model, no view, no anything. Just Stimulus controllers and regular html, I love it.
HTML and CSS
I bought this Material Dashboard theme from Creative Tim. It looked ok at the time, still does, but of course more than half of my elements I had to make from scratch. It is a great starting point though. Especially for a hardcore backend guy like me with no design experience.
As a solo founder I can’t afford UI and UX expertise so I went the old fashioned way and just got inspired by some of the sites I already love and then added my own flare on top.
I always loved the guys at Basecamp, I’ve read all of their books except the last one. So I borrowed the homepage design of Basecamp 3 but without making a clone. I just made the homepage a place where you can get information on everything. It’s simple, slick and intuitive. LifeHQ is basically a Basecamp for personal users, but with a self-improvement twist on top. I sacrificed the project management features to add Journalling, Habit tracking, Pomodoro work sessions etc.
Sharing the journey
From tomorrow, I will begin to log my daily adventures of building my first company. There are a million blogs out there from the already successful. But this will be the raw, unedited journey of a guy still in the trenches. My app still isn’t in production and I have no paying users whatsoever. I am very excited about this, I can’t wait to come back and read it one year later. Hopefully from a Lambo 😀
I plan to publish one article at the end of each day. I will use this bullet point list as a template for the daily blog.
- Productivity log
- Procrastination log
- What I’ve learned today
- What scary thing I’ve done today
- What I worked on today
- What I plan for tomorrow
- The occasional motivational thoughts
Until next time.