3 Side Projects Turned Popular Tools for Designers, Part 2

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In part 1 of this series, we talked about that exhilarating moment when you decide that you are finally going to pursue that passion project, and we heard from the designers who created HTML Arrows, HTML Color Codes, Color Hunt, Chartico, Swiss Style Color Picker and The Evolution of Web Design.

Here, we hear from three more designers who have created online design tools and resources for you, their fellow designers and creatives.

These projects have helped them “get noticed,” regardless of whether they started out as self-promotional projects.

Behind the Scenes of 3 Resources and Tools for Graphic Designers

1. LOLColors by Mackenzie Child

LOLcolors, one of many online design tools for graphic designers, created by designers

HOW: Why did you create LOLColors? Would you say it started as a passion project?

Child: I created this project to scratch (mostly) my own itch. When searching for color palette inspiration, there are a lot of them out there, but you have to sift through a lot of Œ”okay” ones before you find a great one. What I wanted was something curated where there would be only high-quality palettes. I teach design + development on my YouTube channel, and from that I’ve realized that one of the things people, developers especially, struggle with is choosing colors. So I wanted to create something that helped the community as well. 🙂

Mackenzie Child, creator of LOLColors

Mackenzie Child, creator of LOLColors

What sort of challenges did you face in the creation of this project?

Well, the biggest challenge was the self-imposed time limit to launch it. I gave myself 24 hours to design, code & launch it (reason for that was because I kept coming back to the idea, but I never made anything happen from it).

There were some technical challenges. I went down rabbit holes with one route to build it only to realize I should have done it a different way from the start.

Also, figuring out what features I needed at launch was a struggle. There was a lot I Œcould do with it, but wasn’t a must. It was a balance between creating & launching something quickly, and creating something beautiful and useful (or not releasing a crappy product).

What did you learn about yourself through the execution of this project?

I learned that I have a tendency to overthink stuff. And because of that, I get overwhelmed and don’t start. When really I just need to sit down and do the work.

What did you most enjoy about the process of creating this project?

I absolutely love design, but my designs are most gratifying when I get to see them become a reality and watch people use them.

How has this project helped you “get noticed?” What sort of responses have you gotten regarding this project?

The response has been insane. Overwhelming, almost (my inbox, twitter & youtube has been blowing up the past few days!). I’ve gotten a few job and collaboration offersŠ, which is very flattering.

I didn’t expect much of anything from it, but it took off. Overall the response has been very positive. I’ve gotten a few haters, but that’s to be expected.

Do you have any advice for other creatives who are thinking about starting a side project?

I¹d suggest to just do the work and not to overthink it. You can fantasize about what something Œcould possibly beŠ, but you¹ll never know until you launch it and get feedback. Also, just create / make stuff just for fun and without any expectations. Just put it out there and see what happens.

Are you working on any side projects now? Give us the details!

Yes. Always. 😉

I guess YouTube could be considered my biggest side project right now. A lot of my time / focus is going there.

I’m also working on a course aimed at devs who want to learn how to create beautiful / user-friendly sites called Design for Developers.

And I’ve got another “24hour”–type project aimed at helping YouTubers that I’m hoping to get to next month.


2. UX Timeline by Jacinthe Busson, COO & Co-founder Elegantt.com

ux timeline, tools for graphic designers, by Jacinthe Busson

Why did you create UX Timeline? Would you say it started as a passion project?

It was the summer of 2015, and my team and I were deep into the redesign of our site, Kontestapp.com. And a redesign means a constant search for inspiration: trends, analyses, mockups, prototypes … Even though I’m someone who likes treasure-hunting, I quickly got frustrated by how hard it was to find things I’d saved previously because websites are always changing.

My memory isn’t good enough for me to remember every detail, color, animation, or article on the sites I visit every day. And it’s impossible for me to see everything that has changed and analyze the strategic evolution. Many sites index their landing pages, new SaaS services, logos … But to my knowledge, none of them archive or make comparisons regarding critical changes to the services that are essential to us every day.

A showcase site is so important to the image, values and business of a company that it has to be flawless. It becomes a completely distinct product. I wanted to answer the question, “What was it like before?” and to travel back in time like Marty McFly. 😉

My frustration lasted for days, and I had to fix the situation as quickly as possible. Because if I’m frustrated, then other people are too. And that’s how the idea of UXTimeline was born!

Jacinthe Busson, creator or UX Timeline

Jacinthe Busson, creator or UX Timeline

What sort of challenges did you face in the creation of this project?

After defining the concept on paper, many questions came up:

  • How do you get high-quality screenshots from Archive.org?
  • How do you build a site that would be useful to people interested in product design?
  • How do you create a tool or service that is easy to put in place?
  • What would be the most efficient work methodology?
  • How much time is it going to take me?
  • How do we spread the word about it?
  • How do we collect feedback?

My biggest challenge was without a doubt optimizing the time I spent on this project given my other concurrent activities:

  • Cofounder of a startup that builds two products: Kontestapp.com (a turnkey solution for attracting and loyalizing customers using marketing apps) and Elegantt.com (a Chrome extension that automatically generates a Gannt chart for Trello)

I’m also…

The main challenge was to design a service that would be useful for me and also meet the needs of thousands of design enthusiasts worldwide in a minimal amount of time.

What did you learn about yourself through the execution of this project?

The first Timeline came out in September, 2015, and it was a “success” when it appeared on Product Hunt in January, 2016. Until then, very few people went to UXTimeline.com. It didn’t matter to me, I kept working on it bit by bit, mostly for myself. It would take me about 8 hours to build one timeline.

Patience, perseverance and my thirst for exploration were the main characteristics that came into play.

What did you most enjoy about the process of creating this project?

The most amazing thing was seeing the evolution of these companies over the years: business models, marketing positioning, visual trends, screen resolution, the advent of smartphones … For example, MailChimp has been around since 2001, and Shazam since 1999! They weren’t overnight successes, and these companies adapted to changes in user behaviors and the web.

These timelines remind me of this very impressive video, which speaks for itself.

I like seeing how these sites have evolved over the years, seeing how they transformed in step with their companies’ own evolution.

ux timeline, tools for graphic designers, by Jacinthe Busson

How has this project helped you “get noticed?” What sort of responses have you gotten regarding this project?

The night before I was about to go away for the weekend, one of my colleagues Slacked me the link to the feature on Product Hunt. I was pretty surprised, and most of all honored, to see the enthusiasm of users in the comments, as well as the tweets and e-mails we got from all over the world.

The best part was seeing that the site had touched every aspect of the industry: designers, developers, product owners, marketing directors … Anyone with an interest in the concept. I feel like I created something that is useful to people, and that’s very gratifying.

After Product Hunt, several journalists and bloggers contacted me about the site. Here’s the timeline of UXTimeline.

Do you have any advice for other creatives who are thinking about starting a side project?

The most important thing is to address “user pain,” which means identify something that is missing and try to fulfill the need as best you can. Everyone has ideas, but it only counts if you act on them.

“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”Guy Kawasaki

I don’t know how to code, I only know design and CSS, but I don’t let that stop me. I learn, I try, and I persevere. If I fail, no biggie, I keep going.

Are you working on any side projects now? Give us the details!

My next challenge is making Elegantt.com a success. Elegantt.com is a Chrome extension for Trello.

Trello is an incredible tool for managing projects from day to day. It makes it easy for your team to work together and gives them lots of flexibility. Everybody can focus on what’s important and be more efficient. But when you need to check the status of all your projects, Trello just doesn’t cut it. So we designed the “Elegantt for Trello” extension to allow you to see the big picture. It enhances your Trello boards with Gantt schedule charts that are automatically generated using the project info already in the boards.

elegantt for trello, tools for graphic designers

This time, I’m not on my own. My team and I believe strongly in our vision for this new product, and we’ve lost track of the R&D hours we’ve spent to build the best possible product. The alpha release was very well received by Product Hunt in October 2015. The enthusiastic response and feedback of the Trello user community encouraged us to keep going.

If you’re a Trello user, you should try it!


3. Colordot by Devin Hunt/HailPixel

Colordot by HailPixel, one of many tools for graphic designers, created by designers

Why did you create Colordot? Would you say it started as a passion project?

I created Colordot to scratch an itch. Most of my design work happens in code and jumping back into Photoshop to grab a color felt unwieldy. So I sat down one weekend and sketched out what I required from a color tool. It needed to be quick. I wanted to choose colors based on hues rather than RGB values. I’m a big proponent of crafting your own tools, so I sat down one weekend and Colordot was born.

Devin Hunt, creator of Colordot

Devin Hunt, creator of Colordot

What sort of challenges did you face in the creation of this project?

The biggest challenge was being true to the design goals: a minimal interface that prioritized the colors above all else. I wanted to color sandbox. Over and over, I kept catching myself adding extra UI and features that really didn’t add anything to the core experience. The more I stripped away, the better it became.

What did you most enjoy about the process of creating this project?

That fact that the first version of Colordot was actually a weekend project. It was an intense couple of days, but I set a goal to launch it on Monday morning and actually made it. It was quite refreshing to just have something finished.

Did this project help you “get noticed?” What sort of responses have you gotten regarding this project?

Yes, in a way. When I launched the project a few kind strangers posted it to sites like HN (news.ycombinator.com) and Reddit. Turns out other people were looking for a tool just like it. Off the back of that, I’ve received a lot of constructive feedback on how to improve it and even started collaborating with other designers.

Do you have any advice for other creatives who are thinking about starting a side project?

Set a time frame (like a weekend) and just do it. When the time is up, launch it. There will always be time to iterate on the work later, but if you don’t push your work into the wild, it will enter this downward spiral of tweaks and improvements. So pick a project and just do it.

Are you working on any side projects now? Give us the details!

I’m actually working on the iOS version for Colordot. It will be ready by the end of the month! Hold me to it.

[Update from the Editor: Hunt has informed us that Colordot for iOS is now live in the app store, and you can learn more about it here.]

6 Side Projects Turned Popular Tools for Designers, Part 1

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