Validate Your Product With Hacker News

How to leverage the brilliant and authentic minds of Hacker News

Jordan McRae's profile picture

Jordan McRae

Full Stack Javascript Developer

· 5 min read


We spent a little over 8 months carefully planning and building our product from the ground up. We ran a focused beta and received some great feedback, but we knew once our product was in the wild we’d get the honest feedback we truly needed. Our goal was to make a $0 marketing budget go as far as it possibly could. We quickly realized that you don't need to go very far or spend thousands of dollars to get the feedback and advice you need. Great feedback is seamingly just a post away. We decided to get feedback from the audience who understands and is interested in technology the most: Hacker News. Here is our experience, lessons learned, and some tips and tricks from our journey to the front page of Hacker News. You can also check out our product here: (viyo.io)[viyo.io]. The easiest way to turn a camera-enabled phone, tablet or laptop into a secure home monitoring system.

What Just Happened?

It was 8:00am EST on a Thursday. Our team casually bounced ideas around for a title to get the point of our product across. We landed on the shortest and punchiest title possible that explained what our product does, and didn’t self-promote (no product name, branding, etc.). The goal was to get as many eyes on our concept rather than our brand. The title we landed on was: “Show HN: Turn any device with a browser into a security camera”. Did it convey everything our product does? Absolutely not. But we’d hoped it would spark the curiosity we needed to drive users towards figuring the rest out for themselves. At 9:00am EST we agreed that it was go-time, and our product was officially released into the wild. The first thing we did is craft a short blurb about our product. We described who we are, why we created it, and thanked everyone for taking the time to provide us with any feedback they had. We added it as the first comment on our thread around 45 minutes after we posted. We left the post to fend for itself while we carried on with the rest of our day-to-day duties. Around 11:30am, we checked in on our analytics and noticed our visitor rate was climbing very fast. The rush of realizing that things were starting to snowball was exhillerating. The critiques and praises started pouring in, the moments of “why didn’t we think of that?” repeatedly pummelled us, and the dichotomy of user opinions were sparking conversation. By noon we’d hit the front page and we hovered there for nearly 24 hours. We were lucky to keep the momentum going and our product was exposed to users across many different timezones each with their own unique perspectives and critiques. By the end of the day we felt like we’d been hit by a truck, but it was a significantly worth-while endeavour. The following day we took some time to organize and discuss every single piece of feedback we’d received and went through our plan of attack. Here is a post mortem of what we learned and experienced after the dust had settled.

Hitting the Front Page

If you Google “how to reach the front page of Hacker News”, you’ll find a bunch of differing opinions and ideas. The truth is, there’s really no magic formula. We think our success boiled down to four aspects:

  1. Give yourself the best fighting chance through the timing of your post
  2. A title with a great hook and as little self-promotion as possible
  3. Keep the momentum going by responding to all of the questions and comments as soon as you can

How To Use Feedback to Improve Your Product

The Hacker News demographic is diverse and intelligent, so feedback is generally very technical, thorough and insightful. It’s very easy to become defensive, but true improvement happens when you remain objective and listen to what a potential customer is trying to tell you. We categorized our feedback into four categories

  1. Design / UX Feedback
  2. Content Feedback
  3. Functionality Feedback (e.g. bugs, missing critical features)
  4. Business / Monetization Feedback

Each of the categories are equally important, but you’ll be able to quickly see patterns and priorities when you break it down like this. We scrapped the opinions that we agreed were minority opinions, we prioritized the majority opinions, and we planned the roadmap to our V2 before marketing to our true target demographic.

Ready For The General Public

Hacker News is an amazing community with some really helpful and insightful users. You’ll be surprised at how quickly users will be willing to help you out and take their own time to write detailed feedback. If you’re willing to put your feelings in the back seat and receive some great feedback, Hacker News is a great place to start before you release to the general public. It can also open up opportunities to meet other engineers who have similar interests or who are working on similar things. You never know where a single post can lead you, and you’ve got nothing to lose by trying. Good luck to you and your team!


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