What I Learned from Asking, “How did you build that?”

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Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of people, asking a pointed question: “How did you build that?” In that time I learned common tools, business decisions, and generosity. Recently I gave a talk where I went through the most important lessons I learned, and some tools to get the job done.

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Now Hosted by Liquid Web!

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The Hosting field is an ever-changing landscape that requires constant evaluation to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck…OK maybe that’s not necessarily true for most folks, but while transferring sites is a bit of a pain in the neck, I still like to make sure I have tried my fair share of web hosts so that I can offer the best recommendation. It’s why I’ve moved this site a few times, and why I’ve moved it again. This time, to Liquid Web.

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Trade Secrets to Help Build Something Wonderful in 2017

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I imagine building product is like building anything else. Let’s take a recipe for lasagna. Sure there’s a basic set of instructions you should follow, but everyone probably does it a little differently. Everyone has their own method for layering the pasta, or what sauce to use.

When it comes to building products, the same thing is true. The only difference is there’s no cookbook. There’s no set number of steps you can take to get from start to successful business. The best thing you can do is the same thing I do when I try to cook: talk to the experts*.

*The expert in this case is my Italian mother. Thanks mom!

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Not Everyone Needs a $10,000 Website (and that’s OK)

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Let’s set the stage. You want to take a trip to the Grand Canyon with your family of 4, but plane tickets cost $1000 each. Plus there’s the hotel for a week and food, not to mention other expenses. Instead, you decide to take a few extra days off work and drive there because it would save you literally thousands of dollars. What if someone told you that if you can’t afford to fly, you shouldn’t go? Now think about this: you just started a business and you know you need a website but you can’t afford a $5-10K one. Someone you know says they can make a website for $500 using WordPress and a page builder. Are you wrong for accepting that? I say no.

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You Don’t Need to Save Lives to Find Meaning in Your Work

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My wife and I do very different things. I sit in front of a computer all day, get to work pretty much the hours I’d like to work (within reason), and I don’t have to put pants on. Erin is a nurse, who works 12 hour shifts, taking care of the some of the sickest people in the hospital. Her bad day is much worse than my bad day. But when I say that, she tells me I shouldn’t devalue my work, and that I can still talk about my bad days to her; it’s not a competition. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago, when in the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why.

*This is a community made up mostly of developers and designers.

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You Need to do More than Build it to Make Them Come

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In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, there’s this iconic scene where Kevin Costner’s character is standing on his land in a corn field, when he hears a voice say, “If you build it, he will come.” Confused, Costner keeps walking, assuming he’s hearing things. Then he hears it again. “If you build it, he will come.” Then again. And again. Eventually he gets the hint, and is inspired to build a baseball field on his land, beginning a journey of catharsis he needs for guilt he feels after the death of his estranged father.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I feel this is a sentiment felt by myself and by others when we build products on the web. If I build it, they will come. After all, it works for Google. But building it, much like in that classic movie, is not enough. It takes a lot more work.

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Asking, How Did You Build That?

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If you visit Florence, Italy, visiting the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Florence Cathedral or  Il Duomo, is a must. From its completion in 1436 until the advent of modern-era architecture, it was the biggest dome in the world. Even better, it’s completely self supported. All without the help of modern technology. How?

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