22
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Launched my first web app. Story, costs and mistakes

Hello everyone! After around 7 months of work, my first web app is finally live at https://lofi.co and even though there's still a lot to do, it feels good to have it open to the public.

As a non-technical founder, and with this being a pretty unique app, I went through a lot to make my idea a reality, and in this post I'll tell you everything about it: the story behind the app, how much I spent (I feel like this is a piece of information many non-technical founders are interested in) and the mistakes I made.

Background

I'm a 23yo guy from Italy, I started looking for ways to make money online since I was 16 and while growing up I used to have an absurd amount of ideas, but I never had the kind of money to pay for the development and design of any of them, so in the past 3 years I shifted to crypto, social media (growing and selling pages at the beginning, then collaborating with a media company to help artists with their social media presence) and e-commerce. Thanks to all of these, crypto in particular, I was finally able to save a decent amount of money and invest in my ideas.

lofi.co: idea and development

Due to my social media background, I managed to get the username @lofi on Instagram (i know this might seem useless, but that username alone is actually worth a pretty decent amount of money) and I was thinking to start another theme page to grow and sell, but then I decided I actually wanted to make something different out of it and, still without an idea, I bought the domain lofi.co for $3.5k back in mid-2020. The idea I was looking for didn't come until this February, and it was a pretty complicated one: an interactive experience combining lofi music, interactive animated artworks, and productivity tools. It wasn't complicated because of the tech side of it, but because a lot of people needed to be involved: music producers, designers (shoutout to @speedpoint and his amazing agency PixelTrue for making the UI/UX of the app), illustrators, record labels (if I didn't want to keep paying to have original tracks only) and a developer.
Managing all of these people together was not easy, and it took 7 months to get everything done but, to be honest, it could've gone worse. I think the most frustrating part of the management process was during the interviews, where some people initially didn't take me seriously because of my age, but I guess I can understand them.

Mistakes & Costs
As I said, It was not easy, and I made a couple (expensive, both money and time-wise) mistakes. With the same experience I gained in these 7 months, I think the project would be completed in less than half the time. So yea, learning by doing is definitely a good way to learn.
My two mistakes are strictly correlated, mainly to the fact that I hired a developer before having a final UI/UX that I actually liked (first mistake), this cost me a lot of time. The developer I hired is a great guy, ended up in Forbes 30 under 30 for an ed-tech startup he co-founded a few years ago. I had him start working on the project while the first design agency was almost done with the UI/UX. Problem was that I actually didn't like that design at all, and I knew this would happen before they even started working on it. This was my second mistake, because when I scrolled through this agency's portfolio, I already knew they weren't the right fit, but I was in a hurry to get the UI to the developer. I was also late on my schedule because of an issue I had with a previous developer I hired, which ended up wasting 1 month of my time and almost $1600 (which I'm still trying to get a refund for, and I eventually will). This is a product for students and young workers (it's for everyone, actually, but that will be the target audience with marketing campaigns), therefore I really wanted to launch it before summer.
When we were close to launching the beta, I decided I really didn't want anyone to see the platform with that design and that's when I found Andy's agency, PixelTrue, here on IH. I had his team redesign the whole thing, which brought to a few UX changes and obviously delays, also caused by the summer holidays.
Let's talk about costs:

  • Development (fully working & optimized web app): $5900. I had quotes anywhere from $3000 to $8000 so this was the average. Every quote was from Italian developers.
  • Domain: $3500
  • Artworks & Animations: $4800. 10 animated, original artworks (2 are still unreleased) done by high-end artists, with full commercial and exclusive rights.
  • Original music: $2300. Over a hundred original, exclusive tracks (music licenses are a pain in the ass).
  • UI/UX $3300. $1500 for the unused one, $1800 for PixelTrue's version (which also includes the design for a future upgrade of the platform).

I also set a budget for paid marketing (mainly influencers who I already booked), but I won't talk about that because the campaign hasn't started yet and I think it would be pointless before seeing the results.

Woah! I don't remember the last time I've written something this long in English. If you've made it here, thank you for reading and I hope I didn't bore you too much ahah, would love to hear your feedback! Any advice is also greatly appreciated.

  1. 6

    Before spending any money, how sure were you of your idea? What hypotheses did you confirm and how?

    1. 2

      The growing lofi trend, the numbers made by competitors with higher prices and less features and the possibility to expand into something bigger than a web app, thanks to the traffic a website like this might bring organically. In the beginning, the idea was indeed just one set of illustrations and a couple of sound effects, to create a 'viral' website and redirect traffic to Spotify and a merchandising page (which are still included In future plans), but eventually, as i was receiving great feedback from everyone who saw the prototype and beta, it grew into something bigger and I decided to create the premium plan with more artworks, sounds and the productivity tools. This is because I was comfortable in spending the money I spent, in a different situation I would have probably launched a basic version to the public and went from there.

  2. 3

    This is really cool Oan. Superb work man.
    This is unlike any other tool I have seen before.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much!

  3. 2

    It's great! I closed the tab after a few minutes and now I feel empty

  4. 2

    Love the onboarding! Good job.

    1. 1

      You mean the tutorial at the start? I was pretty insecure about it actually ahah, thank you

  5. 1

    Very nice idea and project.

    I don't mean this in a bad way, but I'm not sure it's a good business model/strategy, BUT I'm also not sure that it isn't. It needs to be tested.

    That said, here is some feedback about your approach to monetizing:

    Everywhere it says "only with premium" is heavy handed. It's like putting up a big stop sign and not very fluid for a purchasing journey.

    A better strategy is to put up a sign saying "click here to sign up for a 2 week full access trial, no credit card required" OR 30 day free trial, 100% money back guarantee (but you will get less conversions and user data to begin with).

    At least this was you will get user data.

    Problem is, you will also find out if they want your product or not, there's a good chance you will get a lot of signups that go no where.

    So next up you'll need to work out exactly what type of person would pay for something like this. Then, you'll need to work out where to find them.

    Keep in mind I'm just a random person on the internet, you probably know better about your product than I do.

    IN other news, it might be worth your while reaching out to and trying to set up a call with - @matteomosca - who I know has done very well during the past 12 months Indie Hacking.

    Might be easier to have a conversation with someone in your native tongue. He has been through this process on multiple projects!

    @matteomosca I hope it's ok I referred you here!

    1. 2

      Thanks, @justinvincent!! And yes, I'd be happy to jump on a quick call with you @Oan! DM on Twitter https://twitter.com/matteomosca_

    2. 1

      Hi Justin, I really appreciate your feedback, thank you!

  6. 1

    This is amazing! I really like the art, I was surprised there is actual rain on the windows when I turn it on, and I can change another art to "dark" mode. Just incredible, the best project I've seen in months. Congrats!

    1. 2

      Thank you so much Bruno! The night/day switch will be added to most of the illustrations in the next updates

  7. 1

    Verynice Oan, some great vibes and super cool atmosphere. It's not something I would use, but I know some who would and will recommend to them.
    Good luck with it.

    1. 1

      Thank you John!

  8. 1

    Congrats, this is really cool & good job on finding a way to keep a free and paid plan.
    Best of luck!

  9. 1

    Quality is amazing. loved it.
    But that's a lot of money 💰

    1. 2

      It is indeed, but to be honest, even now I can't see many ways to do something like this with less money. You can go with collaborations only for music, and save that, but those animated illustrations will still cost a lot, not much to do about that. As for development, I found out myself that often times the cheaper option is the worst one, so I think the average did the job nicely.

  10. 1

    I just sign in and the web app looks great. Always love to listen to lo-fi while working. Nice work man. Congrats!

    1. 1

      Glad you like it!

  11. 1

    Woah nice UI and loved the lofi tracks why only desktop though?.

    1. 1

      The app is mainly designed for desktop but we've put a lot of effort in making a decent mobile version as well. It works fine on Android, but iOS has some issues that can't be solved at the moment, sadly.

  12. 1

    Lofi looks awesome!

  13. 1

    This looks amazing! Congrats!
    Very interesting to read on your process!!

    Also, the Twitter link in your 'about us' section is not working.

    1. 1

      Thank you Jasper, and I'll make sure to fix that asap

  14. 1

    Wow!!!!! Really fantastic job on this Oan, this is seriously amazing.

    I've just signed up and I'm looking forward to using this on my next focus session. Can't wait to see where you take this :)

    1. 1

      Thank you Andy!

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