Custom made versus ready-made.

It’s now a month that I started my daily writing challenge. I first wrote on my own website and posted some articles on medium. Soon I noticed that my articles on medium got more reads than on my own website. I spent a lot of time creating my website that feels great. It has a magazine look that makes it enjoyable to read. And the illustrations are just perfect in it. But still, my articles were more read on medium. So I decided to post all my articles on medium too. I even decided to share only the version of the articles posted on medium. It’s now a month, and I got more than 1300 reads in just 30 days! This is an amazing number for someone who never had an audience. 

Custom made 

It isn’t alway the solution

The first learning is that custom made is not always better.

Custom made tools, websites, services, etc., look gorgeous. But it’s not always what people prefer. For the reading experience, people prefer to stay on Medium. So why bother to create a whole website? Vanity. Surely. I have such vanity I admit it. But there isn’t much more than that. A lot of custom made solutions aren’t better than the one that are ready to use. If I had to advise a client who wants to build a website with a lot of content, I would tell him to think about tools like Medium. Because people are already there.

Platforms

Where people are

This brings me to the second learning. Build on existing platforms rather than creating your own product. Platforms are places where people interact. You can see such products as elements you show to people and that they don’t care about. Search for places where people already have the behavior you search.

It’s hard to build a community. But it’s much easier to be part of an existing community.

Templates

Save time and get started

The last learning for me is one that proves that I made the right choice a while ago. A while ago when I rebuilt my website I decided to build it with Squarespace. Squarespace is a hosted CMS with customizable templates. I decided to use it even if I was able to code my website. I started with it just because it was quicker to get started. Today I’m happy that I haven’t invested days and weeks in building the system and the design. Because I have to admit it’s only a showcase. The real things happen on platforms: medium and twitter. Still I’m happy that I started with Squarespace. It was quick and easy and gave me the motivation to write. If I had spent a long time building the system, I would still be doing maintenance. I would lose time designing when I could spend time writing and sharing. Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t say that design has no value. I say that we can design within the constraints of existing systems.

The service-design.co website is for me a good example. In the constraints of a Medium publication it has, it’s own visual language. And it works quite well.

So, next time you build something, look at what are the existing systems. Get started quickly. Look if there are interesting platforms existing. Platforms with people who do what you would love them to do for or with you. Leave the custom-made, use templates and join a platform. Then design, build and create inside these constraints.