CSS for JavaScript Developers: A Journey from Idea to Product

How I Transformed an Idea into a Fully-Fledged Product

So, I made some mistakes along the way, going against the best practices of indie-hackers. There were ready-made course platforms like Teachable or Podia that I could have chosen, but they didn’t meet my requirements. My vision was to create an immersive and interactive course filled with practical examples and engaging mini-games, so I decided to build the platform from scratch.

The advantage of building my own platform was the ability to make the content interactive. This course is not about passively watching videos; it encourages active participation. Moreover, it allowed me to customize the learning experience and create something truly unique, premium, and whimsical. For instance, my course stands out by welcoming students with captivating, live-animated fireworks.

After the initial development phase, I divided my time between creating content and enhancing the platform. Once I had a few modules ready, I invited around 30 people to test it out. These individuals were former students of mine from when I taught a web development bootcamp at Concordia University. Although I received useful feedback during this process, it wasn’t ideal. The bootcamp alumni were caught up in their job hunt, and since they hadn’t paid for the course, they lacked the motivation to fully engage with the CSS material.

As 2020 drew to a close, I decided to adopt a “building in public” approach. I began sharing quick GIFs showcasing my work progress, providing previews of the content and the platform itself. This strategy helped generate early interest and allowed me to secretly sell the course to individuals who had inquired about it via email. The feedback I received during this phase proved invaluable.

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By January 2021, it became apparent that completing the entire course was still a long way off. To bridge the gap, I planned an “Early Access” launch—an innovative form of crowdfunding. For a price of $129, people could gain instant access to the first 5 modules and follow along with the ongoing course development.

To be honest, I set what I believed to be an ambitious target of $50k. Surprisingly, that goal was achieved within a mere 10 minutes! 😅 Aware that I needed to concentrate on completing the course, I decided to keep sales open for just one week. By the end of that week, nearly 5000 copies had been sold:

ProgramMatek

It was an extraordinary week, albeit with its fair share of technical issues (the downside of building a platform from scratch!). Most of my time was spent handling an ever-increasing number of support requests. I experienced a mix of stress and exhilaration.

Of course, people weren’t paying for an incomplete CSS course. After taking a couple of days to catch my breath, I fully dedicated myself to improving and expanding the course content.

As we approach August, I’m excited to announce that the full course will be launched next month on September 27th.

Marketing Strategies that Propelled My Business Forward

My primary strategy has always been to provide as much help as possible. I genuinely enjoy being helpful, and it serves as an excellent way to showcase the value of my expertise. By helping others solve their problems, I establish trust, making potential students more inclined to enroll in my course.

Aside from being active on Twitter, where I share “quick tips” and bite-sized morsels of developer knowledge, I also maintain a blog—joshwcomeau.com. The blog posts delve deep into specific topics, expanding upon the ideas presented in my tweets. While the majority of my content revolves around JavaScript and CSS, I also touch on career and personal development.

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My initial goal in mid-2019 was to publish one blog post every two weeks. Although a nerve injury hindered my progress, I have managed to publish approximately 60 posts since then. According to Google Analytics, my blog attracts between 60,000 and 90,000 unique visitors each month.

When readers visit my blog, they are invited to join my newsletter. To date, around 20,000 people have opted in.

In addition to my newsletter, I maintain two other email lists using ConvertKit:

  • I wrote a concise book in 2020, focused on building a developer portfolio site. I self-published the book and gave it away for free (although I require an email address to send it). It has been downloaded by approximately 12,000 people.
  • I also created a waitlist for individuals eager to receive updates about my CSS course. Currently, the waitlist boasts around 11,000 subscribers.

Email marketing has proven to be the most impactful tool for my business thus far, and it all stems from my blog.

While Twitter has also contributed to my success (approximately 14% of sales, according to referrer data), email marketing reigns supreme.

To learn more about ProgramMatek, please visit ProgramMatek.