A Behind The Scenes Look At Product Development

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Last week we pre-announced the addition of Landing Pages to Teachery. The feedback we’ve received since has been overwhelmingly positive. Knowing you’re on the right path is wonderfully affirming. This feature it looked to be relatively easy to implement as there are plenty of existing structures within Teachery to build it from and we had received permission from Paul Jarvis to use the landing page design he built for the “Finish Your Damn Book” course.

Just copy, paste, and voila! Right? Wrong!

The building of a product, whether it’s a web app or an online course, is rarely as straightforward as getting from point A to point B. What I thought would be a simple one week sprint will now take at least twice that length. This brings with it internal frustrations with not meeting expectations, but I’m also learning some important lessons along the way.

Don’t take shortcuts

Since I was building off an existing page, I thought the easiest path to integration was to take the original html and css and simply add/remove Teachery’s own css hooks as needed. This worked out okay in the beginning as I was able to quickly get a template up and running with 90% of the fidelity of the original page. That early “win” soon became a loss while building out the WYSIWYG editor for the landing pages. Small layout inconsistencies due to conflicts between the original page css and the Teachery editor css started eating up a lot of time, for little reward.

Taking a step back to reevaluate things I realized that the original page template was not that complex! I could rewrite the entire page from scratch and move over only the CSS rules I needed to preserve the page presentation in far less time than I had already devoted to fixing css conflicts.

Lesson learned? Leveraging existing work is not always the most efficient path to achieving a goal.

Slow it down

Another issue cropped up with URLs. Payment pages are the current entry point into Teachery courses and they occupy the top level URL for courses.

For example, if you have a course at mycourse.teachery.co, your “pay-me” payment page lives at mycourse.teachery.co/pay-me. Simple enough, but if you have a “check-it-out” landing page, where would you expect it to live? mycourse.teachery.co/check-it-out right? But payment pages live at that level of URL!

So what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you’re deep into a coding session, already frustrated at yourself for making bad templating decisions earlier? “We need to move all the payment pages! This is going to disrupt ALL OUR USERS! We need to email everyone to warn them and everyone is going to hate us.” When this thought crosses your mind, go take a walk, get a bite to eat, or swing by a coffee shop, give yourself time to decompress and come back with a clear head.

Coming back with a clear head made the path forward obvious. Make Teachery aware of different page types and have it route them accordingly.

Lesson learned? Working with a clear head is when you do your best work. Take a breather, it’s not a waste of time, it’s time well spent.

Set realistic expectations

Since I made the assumption that landing pages would be similar to existing features within Teachery, I vastly underestimated the time it would take to build. This lead to me being overly optimistic when beginning the work, and quickly demoralized as I failed to meet the velocity I expected to achieve.

Instead of stopping to realize my estimates were off, I pushed myself harder to make up for lost time. The worst part is that this emotional roller coaster was entirely self-inflicted as there were no external factors pushing me to hit a hard date. (Jason does nudge me in Slack for updates, but all of our deadlines are self-imposed so there’s no real pressure.)

Lesson learned? Be ambitious, but realistic, and don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go according to plan.

Write it down

When I set out to write this post I didn’t think I could do it. My head was in cloud of fog and I reached out to Jason telling him we wouldn’t have a post this week. He encouraged me to write about the struggles I’ve been having. It sounded horrible at the time, but I agreed to do it anyway. And you know what? It’s made me feel a lot better.

Even in difficult times there are lessons to be learned. Writing is a great way to force some reflection and to get the thoughts swirling in your head aligned so they start to make sense again.

Lesson Learned? Reflect, learn, share 🙂

So now that you know what it’s like for me to develop Teachery, what are your experiences building a product or business. I’d love to hear from you @gpxl or gerlando@teachery.co.

 

Gerlando Piro

Co-Founder of Teachery. Crafting the web since before it was cool. Full Time Portland (Ripcity!) Evangelist.