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How I pivoted a tiny feature of my site into the main product.

About a year ago I launched a website to help developers centralize all of their recurring chores into a universal dashboard. It’s sort of like Mechanical Turk, but where you create and complete your own microtasks. If that sounds confusing….it is! I had a really hard time communicating this idea to people and went through several complete redesigns of the landing page to try and improve the messaging. I also spent a year (part-time) adding features in an attempt to make it more useful. In the end, it just wasn’t working.

After using my own product for a year and conducting many interviews with developers (some of whom originated from these forums. Thanks!), I realized that some of those side features that I added on over the year were actually the MVP. And I mean that in both senses of the acronym (Minimum Viable Product and Most Valuable Product).

When building the original site, I recognized the need for developers to get up and running quickly with recurring chores. So, I built a small tool where you enter your domain name and the site will automatically monitor your domain registration and your SSL certificate and notify you if they are about to expire. Then I built a tool to monitor your site’s Core Web Vitals and track them over time with graphs and to get notified if any of the metrics drop unexpectedly. These were things that most indie hackers would need to monitor regularly.

At the same time, I was trying to improve deliverability of the email notifications, so I was learning SPF, DKIM, DMARC, BIMI and all that DNS stuff that makes email delivery work better. I discovered that there wasn’t a good tool that validates all these records, so I hacked one together and was about to add this to my original site when a lightbulb went off. My users liked these specialized tools, but they didn’t really use the main feature of my site. That’s when I realized that I should pivot the idea and focus on just these types of validation tools.

After a few months of hard work, refining the original tools and adding several more, my new site is now ready for action. Please check out ValidBot.com and give it a free spin with your domain name. If you want to read more, I posted about it here: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/universal-website-validation-tool-are-you-following-best-practices-0804e2d9eb

My advice to other indie hackers is to continuously collect data about how your product is being used, both through analytics and customer interviews. I want to emphasize how important it is to talk to your customers. Analytics don’t tell the complete picture. You need to get on a zoom call or a text chat with a potential customer and watch them use your product and ask them questions. Entice them with a gift certificate if you have to. If you notice that a piece of your product is used more than the rest, move that front and center. If something is confusing to customers, rework it. Don’t feel bad about killing, tinkering and relaunching a new product. It’s all about continuous optimization.

Time will tell if this new idea is any good, but after talking with several potential customers I’m feeling pretty good about it. At the minimum, it’s better than my previous idea and I’ll keep tinkering and refining!

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    Very valuable feedback. I believe analytics are here to give you an overall picture but if you really wanna gain insight to make a significant difference you need to talk to your customers. Thanks for sharing!

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