Page Flows is my most successful solo product so far. It’s only a mild success, but it’s done well enough to help me reach my goal of building a business that can comfortably sustain my lifestyle. I’ve been interviewed for articles & podcasts a few times, but I’ve never told the full story of what led to Page Flows.
All business stories are missing key, important pieces. Not because they are secrets, but because the full story is likely complicated, hard to tell, and boring.
The path to Page Flows has certainly been too long and boring to tell in interviews, but I'm happy to share it here on my blog. I don’t expect anyone to read it, but it’s worth scanning through just to see how many iterations it took for me to get to this point. I imagine there’s a similar long, winding path to most bootstrapped businesses you read about.
The road to UI Movement
I usually mention UI Movement (now Screenlane) when people ask how I decided to work on Page Flows, but I don’t usually talk about the various iterations that led to UI Movement.
It all started in 2014 with a tiny site called UI GIFs.
UI GIFs - 2014
This was the very first product I built in the “design inspiration” space. In 2014, it became possible to easily record your iOS screen using a Mac and QuickTime. I was obsessed with interesting UI interactions at the time, so thought it would be awesome to curate and share cool iOS app interactions. I would record them with QuickTime, then convert them to GIFs.
I was transitioning from a product/marketing role to a junior front-end developer role. I hardly knew how to put a site together, but managed to hack away at WordPress and jQuery to make what I thought was an awesome site to feature these UI GIFs.
I launched it on Product Hunt and it did reasonably well. I don’t remember how popular this became, but I think it ended up at somewhere between 1k and 5k newsletter subscribers before I pivoted. I was happy with the growth, but after a while I struggled to find enough interesting iOS UI interactions to feature in the weekly newsletter.
Inbox Pixels - 2014
After struggling to find enough weekly content for UI GIFs, I changed it to a newsletter called Inbox Pixels, which featured links to design articles as well as UI GIFs and images.
This allowed me to send a weekly newsletter, even when I couldn’t find enough interesting UI designs to share. Subscribers seemed to enjoy the newsletter and it continued to grow at a slow and steady pace.
User Flow Patterns - 2014
During this time, I also made User Flow Patterns. I honestly don’t remember the thinking behind this and have no idea why I gave up on it. It was a site that featured animated UI design videos from iOS apps, not too different from UI GIFs.
UI Movement -2016
After sending out the Inbox Pixels newsletter for a year or so, I became tired of reading design articles. As a developer who’s interested in UI design interactions, I wasn’t super interested in other aspects of design.
I missed the movement and interaction of UI GIFs and found the Inbox Pixels newsletter fairly boring in comparison. I decided to go back to the UI GIFs concept, except this time I would feature UI animations from other sites instead of recording them from iOS apps myself.
These animations would be curated from design sites like Dribbble, Behance, Medium, etc. It would make it a lot easier for me to find enough content to feature every week so in theory I wouldn’t have the same issue I had with UI GIFs.
This was easily the most popular iteration so far and ended up quickly reaching over 10,000 newsletter subscribers.
The Page Flows story I usually tell starts here. I interviewed some of the UI Movement subscribers to try find out if there was anything I could build that they’d be willing to pay for. The idea for a site that featured user flows from popular products came from those conversations.
It wasn’t super different from ideas I’d tried before (UI GIFs, User Flow Patterns, etc.), but I didn't have any better ideas in the pipeline, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
User Flow Pro v1 - 2016
Page Flows was initially called User Flow Pro. It was essentially exactly what Page Flows is today, just way less polished, with way less content, and with a price tag of $14 per month. After putting the site together and adding some user flow videos, I started reaching out to friends and founders for feedback & advice.
This got a lukewarm response. Most found it interesting, but none wanted to sign up.
One friend who I'd previously worked with and who I have a lot of respect for told me they had an idea in the space that they’d pay a lot of money for. Instead of a library of user flow videos, they wanted to be able to request user flow recordings for specific products and have them updated frequently. They’d use this to research their competition.
As I didn’t have much conviction about the idea for User Flow Pro, I thought I’d give it a try. That friend became my first customer at ~$1k per month for a set of user flow videos which would be updated weekly. Every week, I’d re-record the user flows and write up a report on any changes and send it over. They loved the reports and got great feedback from their teammates.
Through cold emailing, I managed to get another couple of paying customers for this service. Every week, re-recording the user flows became more tedious. The apps & products I was recording every week started to block my numbers, emails, and even my iPhone from signing up. I guess they had these measures in place to stop spammers and bots.
Every week, I'd have to generate new emails, new numbers with Twilio, and wipe my iPhone. That was before any of the recording or reporting would start. Although these are issues that could easily be overcome and this was easily my most successful business venture so far, I decided it wasn't for me. There's still a great opportunity here for anyone interested in starting a service business.
User Flow Pro v2 - 2016
After shutting down the competitive research version of User Flow Pro, I went back to the original vision and launched it on Product Hunt. I wasn’t expecting much and reality matched my low expectations. It didn’t go well and after a few weeks, only one customer signed up for the $14 per month plan.
I made all of the user flow videos free to access, moved them to the UI Movement site, and moved on.
Page Flows - 2018
Finally, in 2018, I noticed in Google Analytics that the user flow videos were getting a decent amount of traffic. I thought I’d try my luck by putting up a pay wall with a one-off price instead of a monthly subscription.
Inspired by the Buffer MVP, I made a fake payment form just to see if anyone would attempt to pay. Almost instantly, a couple of people tried to pay $29 to access the user flow videos. One person even got in touch to make sure they hadn’t been scammed. This was enough of a signal to convince me to put up a proper pay wall and try make this idea work one final time.
After a few weeks and a few sales, I created the Page Flows site, moved the videos over, recorded a whole bunch of new videos, and relaunched. I’ve been running, iterating, and growing Page Flows since.
Looking back, it’s insane that it took so many iterations and so much time to end up at such a simple product. I guess these things can just take a while.
Dec. 8, 2020