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Ask HN: Would you want to sell code of complete websites?
67 points by CAFEEFAC 96 days ago | hide | past | web | 40 comments | favorite
Let me clarify: if you've heard of Themeforest, you'll probably know that it is a website where you can submit website designs that any number of people can buy. The problem is essentially this: you can only buy front-end code.

This question is mainly directed towards developers. Would you be interested in creating complete websites (as a template, with both back-end and front-end code) solely for the purpose of selling it on a website similar to Themeforest? Example: Full code (back-end and front-end) of a generic social media website.

Thank you very much for reading and taking the time to answer this question. Any feedback is appreciated, as long as it's constructive. :)

People do this on https://flippa.com

But most of the sites are junky WordPress sites. And people pay a couple hundred dollars depending on the setup and the niche.

If you can build a flexible back end, then you could find entrepreneurs willing to pay thousands or tens of thousands to have it customized.

So, would you rather sell 100 $200 "as is" sites, or 1 $20k custom site?

If you can build a flexible back end, then you could find entrepreneurs willing to pay thousands or tens of thousands to have it customized.

On Flippa?

I'd be interested in that too. As far as I can see, there are websites on offer but they are all finished. Where is the customization part?

No, Flippa is for finished sites. Finding a client and building what they want can generate you thousands in revenue.

Before the SaaS hype, this was just called "Scripts".


Check out the PHP folder section. It certainly has advantages using: bought scripts, instead of everything being a subscription. It has a onetime fee, and often can be modified yourself to anything you want.

Oh man what a blast from the past. Completely forgot about this; I haven't been to hotscripts.com in like a decade!

For me, as a Perl-lover, three words that both take me back and fill me with a little bit of horror:

* Matt's Script Archive

reminds me why i love the commonjs module system. I can just requre whatever I need, where-ever I need it.

binpress does this already: http://www.binpress.com/. I've purchased iOS components from there in the past. Not sure how active/popular it is currently. As others have said, there's also flippa, hotscripts, etc.

I like the idea and I'd look into selling some code (I have a collection of Sinatra apps I re-use for all sorts of things from APIs to payments). The issue really comes down to support, customization, and deployment. I don't mind writing some documentation once, but I don't want to spend 4 hours supporting something I sold for $299.

Ignore the people that say there's no market. One way I think you make this stand out is with a "verified" badge of sorts. For any project, ensure that it has one or more of the following:

- Dockerfile that works

- Deploys to Heroku with min. effort

- Has a test suite that passes

- Has a working demo

- Includes a minimum amount of documentation/setup videos

That's my 2ยข

I love you man! What great feedback. Thank you very much.

As many have already posted on here, there seems to be several solutions to the problem already. I will definitely take these suggestions into mind! I might just create an MVP to test for any demand first, though.

Buyers are typically more interested in buying a niche customer base/traffic, then they are about buying a web site code base.

In fact, many buyers don't even consider the programming language or platform the site is hosted on as being important, so long as they can get it up and running - and it has good PR and traffic analytics.

Hence, why fippa works (at least for selling a site for a few hundred; if you're lucky).

I understand Flippa, but there's one part of it that grates on me.

A person is selling a site for $200, and it makes them $50 a month. Many of these sites require little to no maintenance so why are they selling the site in the first place? Surely it's worth keeping the site going until the traffic dies out because you'll make more money that way?

I've been tempted to buy a site on Flippa before, but even though this is an extreme example I've often felt like some of the deals are too good to be true.

The deals are too good to be true.

Otherwise people (me included) would be snatching them up.

Most of the sites on flippa are newly-created wordpress sites. Often they build a site once, then sell it repeatedly, each time with a new domain name. They can sell them for $60 or something and have a minimal amount of time invested, plus a domain name.

These sites likely will never make their new owner one cent, although perhaps they're not a bad way to get your feet wet.

Anyway, any site selling buy-it-now for 4x MRR is lying about something.

So instead of selling templates or whatever, I'm selling, like, a Dockerfile or Vagrantfile, seeded DB, backend and frontend, the whole thing? Sure - if the price is right, sign me up.

I have no problem with the concept necessarily, but I feel like it's kind of a solution looking for a problem that's already been solved, either by freelancing or, as mentioned elsewhere here, Wordpress/Wix/etc. The budget for freelance work along the lines of "Youtube/Twitter/Amazon clone" tends to be incredibly low, certainly lower than most Western developers can afford to live on, so my main concern would be, whether or not it the market would be worth the time.

I started my website project with such a template: a Ruby on Rails project (open source on github) that already included user registration, email list management and selling products (ebooks). Over time I've replaced almost all parts but it was a huge timesaver in the first couple of months. I could see that work for Rails, Django, Express.js and similar frameworks.

Interesting input, thank you. I do admit I haven't seen anything like it. I'll keep that in mind.

Care to share the project?

This was the template https://github.com/RailsApps/rails-stripe-membership-saas In the 'generate' section you'll see it asks a couple of questions to setup different configuration. The project built is https://geocoder.opencagedata.com/ but like I said most parts are replaced by now

Seems like it'd be hard to market. Designs you can look at and immediately differentiate. Back ends, eh, how could you tell? Unless you're going all-in like Magento, with customer support and everything under the sun, what would you have to differentiate your solution?

Between that on one end and todomvc.com on the other, I don't see any middle ground that would interest anyone.

I think the better thing is like Heroku, with a platform and pluggable services, and you write your own code into it.

These are called "Turn Key Websites" and they were quite common in the late 90s early 2000s.

Most common were dating and real estate websites.

Edit: infact, doing a Google search not much has changes. Tons of scammy sites you can buy for only $300 each.

There are websites out there dedicated to flipping web sites.

Most sites are people's side projects that bring in a bit of revenue. They've lost interest or have different priorities.

They sell it to others for anywhere from $2000 to $100k+.

I wonder if you could make a go at private cloud installs. Contrast synology and a roll your own NFS server. The former has perf analytics history, auto update, auto scrubbing, well supported apps, bullet proof certified hardware (as much as you'll find in the < $1000 range).

There is not a great solution for well-curated (read: backed up, encrypted and updated in a standard way, and works on the first try) dockerfiles. I'm to the point where I'd pay ~$10-100 per service for that at home, and I run about 5 services. Presumably the SMB market will pay more than me.

No. Sell me data and then you're talking. (ie geolocation data, lists of most popular hash tags, lists of sites that use MixPanel, etc) Most code is worthless. Its the data thats worth money.

Hey, thanks for commenting! :)

I'll have to disagree a little with you though. As we have heard many times, "time is money" and you can save a lot of time by buying templates of some sort. Of course, this brings us back to whether or not the marketplace will be filled with Wordpress templates, thus making my website identical to Themeforest.

Thank you for your input though, I wonder if there is any data I could also have users sell on the marketplace. I'll have to think a little about that.

Yes, time is money, which is why I would prefer to outsource the boiler plate app code to someone else. Don't even bother looking to see if there's a "template" I can use (which inevitably I will find holes/flaws in and want to customize and then find out it's a pain to customize, and takes more time than if I originally developed it from scratch).

Very true. Good concept of this currently on hn show. Input data like gems

I don't feel there's a market - for very generic things you have Wordpress plugins or Wix, for anything less generic you simply can't create it without a very specific use case in mind. There is no "generic social media website" more specific than that Wordpress plugin that makes it look and feel like Facebook.

I'm inclined to agree. There's a wordpress plugin for almost any generic use case one can think of. Social media site? Ultimate member and a bunch of others have that covered. Need it more customized? Jump in the source and fiddle until it does what you want.

I just did that yesterday. I needed to control access to certain pages to only include users that have paid for credits using stripe (provided by WP simple pay). I modified the Wordpress Access Control plug in and in about an hour I had a solution for a very specific use case.

Doesn't this already exist as WordPress themes?

I sold a wordpress theme site on flippa for $400 a few years ago. It included the site, themes, and demo sites. I was surprised I even got that much. Given the time spent, It wasn't a very good investment.

there is sandstorm and codecanyon already

And CodeCanyon is owned by the same people as ThemeForest, Envato. You can buy DolphinPHP on there, which is one of the best open-source Facebook clones.

People would be interested in buying the business if it is profitable (and not solely based on ad words gimmicks that would disappear with the next google update)

sell code - you betcha!

list for (potential) sale - no thanka...

There could be a market amongst those learning the given tech stack. I would have definitely considered buying well-built apps to study back in the day.

Actually, that is something I thought as well! And the marketplace wouldn't be limited to only selling website code, it could sell app code too. Thanks for commenting. :)

There's no doubt the answer to your question is yes. The more interesting question would be whether there'd be any buyers.

Same company that runs themeforest sells scripts on codecanyon. Yes, full frontend and backend was called scripts back in the days.

Isn't there already a cottage industry for Squarespace themes?

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