The August NetSquared Cambridge (UK) event was led by Dave Bower, a software developer who is the driving force behind Lourish.com. Lourish is a newly launched website designed to facilitate swapping of home-grown fruit and veg in the local community. In his presentation Dave described the ideas behind Lourish, the challenges of single-handedly building a site with almost no money, the use of social media for free online promotion and the future of lourish.com.
Dave has kindly written a wrap-up of the event to share with you, and included his presentation slides for your reference:
Growing lourish.com – building a website on a shoestring
I had a glut of cucumbers in summer 2009 and after eating, pickling and giving lots away it looked like the rest was destined for the compost heap. It seemed such a waste of great home-grown produce, I thought there must be people just a stone’s throw away facing a similar dilemma who would love some fresh, healthy produce - I just didn’t know who or where they were!
So the idea for lourish.com was born, a simple website to help people exchange their excess edibles. I left my job at the height of the recession and got to work building Lourish for the benefit of gardeners everywhere.
With 10 years' experience of building websites I didn't envisage too many problems knocking out a simple site in a couple of months - such is the optimism of the lone developer.
The reality wasn't so straightforward and involved missed milestones, winter days spent in front of a computer with no heating and hours spent trying to get answers from a soft toy.
Armed with what I know now and with the support of the people I've met along the way doing it all again would, of course, be a doddle!
Get a grown up to help you
Getting help early significantly reduces time and therefore cost. Embarking on a project completely on your own is a difficult, near impossible task - Lourish really got started only after I involved other people - designers helped with more than just the branding and page layouts and getting involved with Cambridge networks like Pitch and Mix, Net2Cam and ideaSpace really got things moving.
Build the absolute minimum, release early, then often
It's something that the guys at 37 Signals have long been promoting but actually doing it is much harder, it's just too tempting to add features. But resist!
Cut out the stuff that isn't essential, make the common case fast (do you really need to make users repeat their password when they join?) and then release the first moment you can.
Once you've got something out there you can see how it's really being used and add the features people really want.
If you build it, they probably won't come.
Promotion is such an important part of setting up a website that I'm constantly surprised that it's rarely discussed. There's little point creating a website if you're not prepared to put the effort into getting it noticed, not just for you but for the users who've joined your site. Promotion needs to start before you've written the first line of code and then continues for the life of the site.
The great news is that the best, most effective ways I found to promote lourish.com were completely free thanks to social networks, blogging and search engines and it's really easy to harness their power.