Four weeks ago, I launched a new website, Cheatography , into public beta. It felt very good to get it seen by fresh eyes, and all those extra visitors, users and contributors have helped improve the system so much that I cringe when I think of all of the problems it had when I launched it. Still, better to have the thing out and being used, even if a little rough, than have it collecting dust and stagnating.
I know some of you are involved with various stages of starting up your own websites and online businesses, so I thought it might be useful to share what it's been like in this first few weeks. Hopefully it won't put you off your own projects!
First, the Numbers
I am in a rather good position to start with, in that this site gets some significant traffic for cheat sheets already. So getting a small amount of starter traffic was just a matter of adding some extra links to the existing cheat sheets.
So the first month saw around 22,000 visitors to the site, average 2.7 page views per visit. Of those, 121 signed up, producing a massive 162 content blocks, 27 content blocks and, best of all, 14 new cheat sheets (of which 9 were from new members, with another 35 cheat sheets in progress). Most of those numbers have risen steadily through the month (and long may that continue). Revenue wasn't stellar, but things are still new, so I'm not going to worry about that for a fair while yet!
I wasn't expecting the signup rate to be particularly high - most people just download or view a cheat sheet and move on - but would like to find a way to convince people to stick around and contribute some content. I'm also hoping that as the community grows there will be more communication between members. I'm looking at adding some collaborative tools, which may help with that.
Most of the changes so far have been led by the community, either through emails or the Get Satisfaction support system. My thanks to everyone who got in touch and shared their ideas and thoughts. Please keep them coming!
There have been a lot of changes since launch, but by far and away the most significant is the addition (finally!) of PDFs! I'd been working on PDF support for over two years, trying every technique or tool I could find, but nothing worked. In the end, I found the wkhtmltopdf project, and PDFs of a high enough quality were achieved. There are still some issues (mainly with pagination), but at least there's now a high quality printable version of everything!
The PDFs also include a footer bar, added since they went live, which includes some more information about the author, relevant dates (so you know how old your cheat sheet is) and there's a space for a sponsor advert, which at the moment is being used by me to promote my other incubating project, Envoy, but will be a paid advertising spot in the future.
The last cheat sheet related change is the addition of thumbnails, which show up in listings, helping reduce the text-heavy feel of a lot of the pages.
The system now also provides draft preview URLs, so that you can solicit feedback for a cheat sheet while you work on it.
When the site launched, all the links that were important to you - your favourites, your cheat sheets (and so on) were in a dropdown from the main menu. I converted these to a new "you bar", which is always visible while you are logged in and gives you easy access to your favourites, your cheat sheets, and so on. It also alerts you when you have new comments on the site.
In order to make signups easier, I integrated Facebook and Twitter logins. These have proved a reasonably popular option for signing up, although it is difficult to tell if it increased the number of people who joined, or just provided more convenience to people who would have joined
Finally, there's a new blog on the site, which I am already behind with posting to. I will try harder! There are RSS feeds for the blog and new cheat sheets too.
Top of the list at the moment is a cheat sheet request system. You'll be able to add and vote for cheat sheets that you'd find useful. You'll also be able to comment on a request, to say what you'd like to see on the sheet, and you'll be able to see who's working on it already.
More formats for cheat sheets are planned, including a JSON-based format (that's right, an API for the content!) and hopefully PNG and JPG format (although long, multi-page, cheat sheets might be problematic).
There are a few other ideas in the works, and obviously mobile support and integration would be nice, but I'm sure there will be lots more ideas from the community, so mobile interfaces may be a while off yet.
Back to the Coal Face
Given the level of enthusiasm of the community so far, and how far the site has come in the last four weeks, I can't wait to see what happens in the next four!