My name is Stephen.

I like to write and tweet.

I work, code and photograph.

Learn more about me and my blog.

Fruition: Inside Look

Fruition is a side project I made to use custom domains and pretty URLs for Notion pages, and this is the story of how it got to #7 on Product Hunt, 10000 visitors, and a lot of positive reviews from users.

I've been a pretty avid user of Notion (yes, I get $5 if you signup with the link, but hey, you get $10!) for a while. With the shelter-in-place order, I thought it would be cool to start some kind of side project with the additional time I have. So I decided to combine the two and make a little side project for Notion - that is to make it easy for people to build website with Notion. I found an existing script that does it for free and also a managed solution that's paid. And my goal is to combine good ideas out there and make it accessible for the Notion community.

Fruition Homepage

The result is Fruition, a free and open-source toolkit to build and customize your website using Notion pages. I hacked it together in a weekend, put up the marketing site (using Fruition, oh so meta) last Monday, beta tested with a few people last Tuesday, and last Wednesday night, I shared Fruition on Notion's Facebook group and subreddit, without any expectations that it would go anywhere.

A week later, the result has gone way beyond my imagination. Here're some numbers to report:

Besides posting on relevant groups, I didn't have any strategies when releasing Fruition to the public. Retrospectively, I think there are 5 factors that made the launch successful.

  1. Build a tool on top of a community. As a side project, I don't want to spend a lot of time and money on marketing. The best way to get the bang for my buck is to build on top of a thriving, existing community. That's why I picked Notion. Its user base is still on the small side, but it has plenty of room to growth, and everyone is pretty passionate. Additionally, there are still a lot of low-hanging fruits to tackle.
  2. Pick a well-understood problem with strong demand. The next thing I did after picking Notion as a starting point is to figure out what problem to solve. Building website is something a lot of people are looking to do. Additionally, Notion has a nice interface for editing and rendering. A way to take advantage of both needs is to create a way to set up a custom domain and pretty URL.
  3. People are lazy. Make their life easy. I did two things here. First, I created a visual tutorial on how to setup Fruition. Each step has a screenshot and a simple sentence, so folks can easily follow along. Second, I built a React frontend to generate the Cloudflare Worker script. So users can just enter their domain, pretty URLs, and other settings, instead of messing with the raw code, which is error-prone.
  4. Generate social proof. Reputation is important. For a new project, the best way to gain reputation is to use social proof. People trust other people more than the owner. Having social proof inherently makes people trust you more. This is a well-studied psychological phenomenon. So I decided to build a showcase displaying selected sites people have built with Fruition and a review section listing praises from people.
  5. Engage with people. I responded to every single comment on Product Hunt, Reddit, Facebook, Slack, Discord, and Twitter. I also emailed a bunch of folks who may be interested in Fruition. Doing this takes time, but I think it's worth it. As PG said, do things that don't scale. I want to show up and talk directly with folks. People trust a product when they can trust the people behind it, which leads to other people recommending your product.

Lastly, I just want to say a big thank you for everyone who has used Fruition, offered suggestions for Fruition, helped promote Fruition, and most importantly, gave critical feedback for Fruition to make it better.

Hearing things like these really warms my heart:

This is incredibly awesome. I just want this project not to die. That's all. Thank you so much. - Nitesh Manav on Product Hunt
such. a. useful. tool. THANK YOU. - Devan Sood on Twitter
This is probably the easiest-to-manage website ever. Just open Notion, change stuff, done. - Chris Coyier on CSS-Tricks