How I built Malaysians Who Make
This is a story of how a small side project turned into something greater, and how I bought yet another domain.
Except this time, I made sure I finished coding the site before committing to buy the domain. It's called Malaysians Who Make 🇲🇾
This project is inspired by Women Who Design, People of Craft, Latinxs Who Design. Do also check out Amazing Design People List!
How it all started.
COVID-19 happened. I was stuck at home and had a lot of free time. So I thought to myself, why not do something that I've always wanted to, but too afraid to?
Malaysians Who Make is a living directory of talented, passionate Malaysians who strive to build and create things. Here we have artists, comic artists, designers, data scientists, photographers, speakers, writers and more! For Makers, find like-minded people to connect with. Recruiters could find potential candidates for their next company. Event Organisers, Youtubers & Podcasters can use this to find the next guest/speaker! 😄
Week 1: Ideation 💡
I started off by brainstorming ideas. Inspired by Pieter Levels, I store these ideas in a Notion Board sorted by Ideas, Promising, Building, Completed.
Whenever I have a random idea (the best ideas come in the shower, during the commute to work and middle of the night), I note them down and asked myself this: 'What user problems does this idea solve?'. If I struggle to answer that question, it means I'm inventing a solution to a problem that does not exist. And we want to avoid that.
I focused on quantity over quality at this stage. I didn't care if the idea sucked or felt too far-fetched --- It's more fun this way. The more we enjoy something, the more we start to think creatively! 💭
Week 2: Make a PRD 📄 + Design 🎨 + Code 💻
I gave myself a time limit of 1 month to launch this side project. This is my amateur attempt to come up with a Product Requirement Document (PRD). Honestly, it was just to entertain myself so I didn't dwell too long on this.
Well, what's a product without a PRD, right?
Once the PRD is drafted, I moved on to my area of expertise --- Design.
I timed myself to finish the design in 2 hours on Figma, so that I don't get caught up in the details or spend forever to decide on a final design, because I'll never be fully satisfied with the design. There'll always be iterations --- I want to focus on designing the big picture first.
As a designer, I'll never be 100% satisfied with my design.
Soon after the V1 designs are ready, I straight up launched Visual Studio Code and created a GitHub Repository for Malaysians Who Make. At this point, I'm still at Week 2, Day 1.
Yay! I'm soooo ahead of the sprint! --- Me, a happy coder
A great colleague/friend of mine, Vincent Loh, gave me some useful suggestions on tech. I followed his advice and built the frontend with Next.js + TailwindCSS! I have learnt React briefly in the past but it's my first time using this tech stack. I spent a day to familiarise myself with them. I highly recommend this tech stack --- It's blazing fast, lightweight & super easy to maintain! ⚡
With my super limited frontend knowledge, I finally got the site running! Yes, just running. Now, I need some sort of backend to handle data of Malaysian Makers, but I have zero backend knowledge.
I looked up keywords like 'Connect React with Google Sheets', 'Google Sheets as database'. When in doubt, just Google. After hours of trying, I managed to make it work!
The remaining of the week was spent fine-tuning stuff, learning how to improve the frontend code, and researching errors I encountered.
I screamed in excitement when the Sheets data reflected on my localhost 🎉
Week 3: Adding Filters 🔦
This was a real nightmare for an amateur coder like me. I failed after countless attempts to implement Filters. Thankfully Vincent taught me how to use React Hooks and helped refactor the code. It was an eye-opener for me! 👀
Yet another error... and say hi to Detective Pikachu!
Week 4: Onboarding + Launch 🚀
I forced myself to stick with the 1-month timeline. To overcome the fear of showing my project to the world and the fear of being judged, I drafted a tweet and hit 'Tweet' without giving my brain the time to decide if the tweet is good enough or not.
It was a really uncomfortable thing to do, but it had to be done.
I shamelessly tweeted this and it was one of the best decisions ever
Along the way, I started a public thread 🗒️ to update people on my progress, including tiny feature improvements. This kept people engaged and reminds people of what I'm working on, from time to time.
From Twitter alone, I gained 4K+ Impressions and 700+ Engagements at the time of writing this. Heck, I'm not even popular --- I only had 280 followers.
I started asking people to be on the site...
To get more people on the directory, I had to onboard people one by one. As an introvert myself, I assure you, this is NOT an easy thing to do. I had to give myself pep talks. To not annoy anyone or sound pushy, I kept the message short and casual.
The response was better than what I expected, people actually liked it! I received DMs where people tell me how much they love the initiative. Some asked if they could create one for their home country! I was like, 'What? Did nobody laugh at this project? Oh okay...'.
'Hey, it's not that bad!', I thought to myself.
I started asking people to be on the site...
My team lead at Fave, Archie Tep, suggested that I talk to Felix Lee from Amazing Design People List to explore collaboration opportunities. So I did. Now, the directory features Malaysian adplist candidates too! Thank you Felix for being so helpful 🙏
I was expecting rejection, and got the opposite instead.
Week 5: Getting User Feedback 💬
I posted on Indie Hackers to ask for feedback. I tried to be as honest and open as possible. The internet is not the nicest place sometimes but thankfully, the helpful IH community gave really good feedback. (I'm sorry I haven't replied to the comments yet, I still read them!)
I got 18 feedbacks from the helpful IndieHackers community!
So as usual, I updated my Twitter thread. Indie Hackers gave me a retweet (which I totally did not expect) and it blew up. Sign-ups kept coming in.
Great things happen when you step out of your comfort zone.
1,040 page views in the past 7 days, with zero marketing! 🎉
Thanks to the word of mouth of Malaysian Creators, sign-ups kept pouring in. I had to stay up at night to review their details, one by one. It feels really rewarding when people see value in what you do.
My final thoughts 🤔
Throughout these 30 days, I gained new friends, new knowledge, and overcame fears I initially had. If you have been postponing that little idea of yours, maybe it's time to start. Don't worry, if you put your heart to it, you'll kick ass.
It all started with the decision to build something out of nothing and the will to make things work, no matter how hard it gets.
Shoutout to Makers who helped support the initiative 🔥
Vincent Loh, Kimberly Mak, Farez, Zoe Chew, Felix Lee, Ryzal Yusoff, Kenny Wang, Gaddafi Rusli, Henry Lim and everyone who made the effort to sign up.