When we started working on Sofa, it was very different from what you see today. In fact, it wasn’t even called Sofa. It was called many things: Movie Night, Movie List, and Movie Pal just to name a few. I wanted to share a little bit of the story about how we got to Sofa 1.0.
Sofa was originally called Movie Night. My wife and I love watching movies, but we would always argue over what to watch. We set up a rule where we would each get a turn to pick whatever we wanted and the other person wasn’t allowed to complain. Movie Night was intended to track what was watched and whose turn it was. At the time, I was keeping track of this in Evernote, but thought it would be better as it’s own app.
That concept ended up not being very interesting so we tweaked it to be more of a movie journal. We didn’t find anything compelling about that either and moved on.
Then it became Movie List. You would simply add movies you wanted to watch so you wouldn’t forget. Basically a to-do list for movies. This is where the product really started to find it’s legs, and this feature is still a core part of Sofa today.
Our First Builds
Once we felt like we had something interesting with Movie List, we started building it. This was my favorite part of the whole process. Seeing something that you’ve been concepting, designing, and refining become a real thing is such a rush. I was literally overwhelmed with emotion when I launched the first build on my phone.
We kept the first fews builds to ourselves to test and refine. We wanted to see if the product was even interesting to us before we let others check it out. We liked it and invited family and friends to check it out.
Having other people use the app
Having other people use Movie List was a big and necessary step. We liked it, but will anyone else? It turns out that while it wasn’t a home run, there was something interesting about a simple way to keep track of movies.
At this point, Movie List was simply a list of movies. You could add and delete them, nothing else. We didn’t even have a movie detail page.
During the beta period we were constantly talking to and soliciting feedback from the testers. We slowly added new features that we didn’t originally intend to or think of, such as, a movie detail page, Discover section, people pages and sharing. We also fixed plenty of poorly designed workflows and bugs.
We were in beta for close to a year. While this may seem like a long time, keep in mind that we weren’t working on this full time. We all have day jobs and families to take of. Those always come first. We had to have a lot of patience.
The beta period was extremely important for us. Not only to find bugs, but to shape the product. When something is so new, it’s hard to nail down what it really is or if it’s good for anything. The only way to figure that out is to get people using it.
Knowing when it’s time to launch
This was a tough one. There were a few times when I thought we were ready, but it turns out we weren’t. The moment I knew it was time to launch was when we were arguing over really minor features. The product was beyond good enough and we needed to see how more people would use it.
Before launch, we had a product roapmap that stretched many releases into the future. This was dumb. We were planning where the product should go before people had even used it. While it was good for us to have ideas for new features, making hard plans was a waste of time.
We ended up totally revising our roadmap about a month after launch, and only planning a few releases into the future. This is good because we are able to make plans based on feedback, be more flexible to market changes, and focus on what really needs to get done.
The Importance of Getting Feedback
I can’t stress how important getting feedback was during this entire process. From the very early concept phase to the beta releases. Everyone’s feedback shaped Sofa into what is today and will continue to shape it in the future. If you are not constantly soliciting feedback for your work, it will never be as good as it could.
What did we learn?
It’s OK to change your mind
We changed our minds A LOT. Constantly. Falling in love with your ideas is simply a bad idea. We changed the product, design, name and a million other things. It was all to make Sofa better.
Get feedback early and often
I know I’m really harping on this, but it’s incredibly true. GET FEEDBACK ALL THE TIME. Don’t be scared of it. Don’t take it personally. Feedback helps you.
Be open to the unexpected
I didn’t originally expect us to be in beta for a year. I thought a few months at the most. I didn’t expect the product to change so much. I didn’t expect people to love certain features and be confused about others. The point is, be open to things that challenge your ideas.
Ok, so we’ve shipped our 1.0. Now what? We have plenty of features in the pipeline, but we don’t want to plan too far ahead. This is all new to us. None of us has ever created a company or product before, so we are simply rolling with it. We are learning tons about product development, marketing, strategy, etc. We are probably going to screw up a lot, but man-o-man is this fun 😜