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Ask HN: I made an app that makes people happy, how do I let them know about it?
94 points by evilchelu on Jan 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments
Tzigla.com is a collaborative drawing application. If you're old enough, you might remember the idea from tiles.ice.org. The first board just got finished (after about 2 months) and the participating artists seem absolutely thrilled about it.

However, it seems that the problem with making an app for non tech geeks is that they're not tech geeks. They don't spend their day hanging around on twitter/hn/reddit/etc looking for new shiny apps related to their interests and then bragging about their finds.

The few active users that we have (about 20, all form a pixel art forum) are pretty thrilled with tzigla but that's where it stops. Maybe one or two of them have brought another person to the site.

What should we do to reach the users who would enjoy using the Tzigla and crank out more awesome boards?

ps: a review of the app would also be highly appreciated




StumbleUpon, reddit.com/Art.

Upload some of the best resulting pictures as examples of a novel kind of online collaboration in appropriate forums to pique curiosity. Do some themed collaborations around upcoming holidays/events/controversies. (Superbowl, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, etc. – each output might carry further, and fit discussion in more places, for a few key days.)

Try to find fans/discussions of the precursor ('tiles') thing and mention Tzigla to them. Find discussions about collaborative art and make sure you're appropriately mentioned in context.

Make sure you have a Facebook fan page so any enthusiastic new users might inform larger networks that way. (EDIT: I see you've already done this.) You might even want to try some small Facebook ad experiments, targeted on people talking about 'art', 'painting', 'doodling', 'drawing', 'exquisite corpse', 'surrealism', etc., but otherwise as different from your existing users as possible (ages/regions/etc). At a very small price – maybe just dozens of dollars – that might find other totally new clusters of people as passionate as your founding userbase.

Good luck!


You should try uploading some stuff periodically to www.DeviantArt.com, one of the best sites for Artists around, very Tech addicts, with a huge crowd of users...

But don't shoot all your bullets at once, drop a new piece there once a day, and it should give some some users in some weeks.


Thanks for the out of the box ideas.

I didn't know about reddit.com/art (and i actually looked for it about the time I posted to hn)

Already found some of community but they all seem to have jobs now so response was kinda non-existent or encouraging and then silence. I'm starting to think I should get more pushy and have less... shame in doing so.


You go to the deviantart forums and let people know. The key is to go find where artists are hanging out, and tell them... don't broadcast where they can't hear, go tell them.

Tiles was great. One of my desktops for the longest time was this: http://www.slothy.com/118.jpg which is a tribute to Van Gogh drawn collaboratively.


Thank you, just posted to deviantart!

My dream is that the old school tiles.ice.org people will stumble upon (ha!) tzigla and want to moderate boards.


Try irc. Efnet #ice


Thanks! Joined. :)


Amazing idea!

One data point: my sister draws, she doesn't care about twitter/hn etc, but she does care about facebook, and about forums dedicated around drawing.

DeviantArt and "dolls drawing" forums come to mind, for instance.


Hey, maybe you could convince her to share some of those forums.

I tried googling for dolls drawing forum without much success. Do you have a link?


I will ask her - can you leave me your email somehow ?


You can post a reply here, I'll be watching. Also @evilchelu or @tzigla on twitter.


If you can reconstruct the boards from timelapsed states (either every time a block is finished or even better as it is drawn over time) you could generate youtube videos and have a youtube channel and reach a main stream audience? People like videos.


Nice idea. Will definitely look into automating this.


Maybe call them tile drawings or something? I too was expecting something like drawball when I read "collaborative drawing." Quilts, patchworks, lots of words to play off here.

Get the artists' permission to use their work in the design of the site. It'd be more interesting than the grey that's there now, and would also help to show what's going on. The first image would be great for getting visitors' attention.

The name's a bit tricky. You could rename it to whatever name you come up with to describe the whole process. (I don't think Tzigla is sticky enough to become that name on its own)

Prints of this stuff could be really popular with people who like psychedelic art (which is a lot of people). Maybe that's your market? Of course, giving the artists their share is gonna be tricky (not to mention how fast the money/art clash can ruin your community).

I'd say build up your community before worrying about monetizing it. (I have to run now, before an angry mob forms)


The irony: in romanian, Tzigla (Țiglă) means roof tile


I went to the site, clicked around, but it wouldn't let me draw. I didn't "get it" (still don't), so I left.

I think you need to make it clear what the site does.


Posted this to http://www.pingstate.nu/, a hangout for Finnish artsy people.



The idea is reasonable. A few comments:

  * The login system is difficult to use. A user registration system on your site is really worth the effort; if not, at least supporting OpenID would be good. After logging in, returning to the page the user signed up on could also improve the flow.
  * For a site like this, I'd expect that having a very refined visual design might matter to many users; the current visual design will probably be perceived as minimalistic. Minor details like curved borders and whitespace around important elements like drawings probably matter more to your audience than most.
  * I'd suggest adding something similar to karma on HN or awards on StackOverflow. Make people compete for who can use the site the most and give them positive encouragement in the form of validation for doing things that benefit you.
In terms of getting users to the site, I think you need to decide on a business model; that will affect how much you can spend and be profitable. I think you probably have several groups of users:

  1. Users who hear about the site, play with it, but aren't 'hooked' so don't return.
  2. Users who get a link to an image on the site, look at it, and don't come back.
  3. Regular contributors who come back to draw pictures.
  4. Regular critics who look through the site looking for interesting stuff.
Everyone visiting your site potentially is of financial value to your business. You want to maximise their future present value (FPV - that is, how much a user is worth to you, taking into account that money in the future is worth less than money now because you aren't earning interest). A customer who regularly buys from you, or clicks on ads, is worth the most.

All of this assumes you have ways of extracting value from users. Suggestions: * 'Get this drawing on a T-shirt / mug / print' (make sure you get users to agree to terms giving you a license to print their tiles). * Advertising - not always a high income source, but still a viable one sometimes. * Maybe some kind of freemium model - I'm not sure how it would work though.

Once you have an idea of how much a customer is worth, you can spend money driving them to your site - by advertising and PR - just make sure you spend less than what a customer is worth.

It is also could be worthwhile to add features to make it easier to share links to artwork on Twitter, Facebook, and so on - this is a good way to get virally referred users at no cost.


Sorry, I forgot to mention. For some strange reason, I'm not looking to make money out of this. At some point I was considering it, but decided that just making people happy and having a fun project to play with is good enough for now.

Thanks for the advice tho. Most of it applies even if I'm not looking to monetize in some way.


People will be made happy giving or receiving mugs and t-shirts with good designs on them. By all means leave the ads out of the equation if you're not interested in exploiting that angle, but there's no need to leave money on the table.


That's awesome, but be wary of your bandwidth rocketing up faster than you can afford to pay for it...


Two big usability issues:

Have a picture on the home/landing page! Show what kind of cool stuff can be made by this. Maybe an awesome, mainly complete picture that still has some "puzzle pieces" blank on it. Then the call to action text next to it is "Help complete this picture" or something. Basically you want to make it clear that by uploading a single small piece you are contributing to a larger piece of art.

The feedback upon "clicking to reserve a tile" is not good. I kept double clicking because nothing was happening. It took me a long time to realize that the details were being populated over in the left column. A better design would be a lightbox that expands the single tile to full screen when you click a tile. Enforces the fact that you're now editing THIS tile. This would be an especially great interaction if you included a rudimentary web drawing tool for directly editing the new big tile.


Thanks for the suggestions.

We're working on a better homepage right now, but it's taking a while because we kinda (really) suck at design.

I agree that the click to reserve ux is bad. But I think it's also a thing you only need to learn once, then you'll know stuff is in the sidebar. Taking up the whole page is pretty strange because nothing else does that at the moment, but this might change. For now, we'll add some hints to direct you to the sidebar when you click on one of those available tiles.


I tried to use the sandbox on the site, but didn't manage to draw anything. I think you should focus on the UI first (make it easier), next promote. If you promote a UI that's hard to use, a lot of people are just going to leave.

Ask a friend/family/anyone to try to use it, and observe them. Don't speak.


Thanks for the feedback.

We already did the user testing with 3 people. It was painful to watch, sigh. But that was two iterations away and we learned a lot since. Or so we thought.

Were you expecting to actually draw something while being on the site? This seems to be a common gotcha and thing we don't explain well yet.

Maybe we should make it clear that tzigla is not actually an editor. Or maybe we should just plug one in.


yes, was expecting that :)


Hi, nice idea. Had a few issues with usability however.

- Think you need to simplify the site, its a bit too cluttered to be easily approachable.

- Maybe i just missed it but on first arrival maybe have a simple 3 step instructions as to what the site is/users do. Using the word drawing so much gave me the impression there was a simple flash/canvas drawing tool. Perhaps make it clearer that you download the file then upload the new version.

- Would like non-social logins (some people like to be able to make a throw-away login).

- Also...on logout page "FIREFOX SUCKS ASS!" (guessing some unmoved place holder) seems a bit "odd".

Keep it up chap. :)


I'd really love to hear if you have some ideas about uncluttering it. We've iterated lots of versions till we got to this state.

The canvas drawing confusion seems to be quite spread. We'll definitely have to add something about it.

Oh wow, that's but is nasty.

Let me explain why you got that, you'll find it hard to believe, I promise :)

We use an iframe to upload the tiles directly to s3 and s3 redirects back to the site on success. However, in firefox 3.6, if you refresh the page with such an iframe present, it'll reload the last iframe src, even if the src is now about:blank, because you've just reloaded the page. So, in effect it'll hit the "tile just uploaded" page again. Which is a completely stupid thing to do.

Therefore, when we receive one of the s3 uploads, we also redirect to a page which expresses how we feel.

You might ask yourself why you saw it at sign out. Because we're idiots and the code that remembers the last page you saw to be able to redirect correctly after sign in/sign out remembers this request.

So, I'm guessing that you uploaded a tile, then hit signout immediately, amirighte?


Will go back and look over usability stuff again, but just quickly yeah id just uploaded then logged out (In latest stable chrome btw, not ff).


Yup, FF is just the root cause. We didn't do any browser sniffing for the fix.


Felicitari! :)

Apparently the good advices are already given, so I'm only left with supporting your initiative. I just wanted to say that, karma be damned :) (I know this is not reddit but hopefully I will be forgiven)


Tiles.ice.org? I have nothing constructive to add except thank you for bringing back this concept. A few years ago I went back to ice.org to find out it had turned int a wasteland and was completely gutted.

Genuinely shocked to see this resurrected, can't wait to get into this again. Chewed up many a friday night during university. =)

Edit: one thing, any plan for a standard login / google account support or the likes? Kind of a shame that you can't register without facebook or twitter.


I hope you have a low threshold for this addiction and you'll get the bug again.

Sorry, tzigla auth is not gonna happen. We can add other providers tho if people really hate both twitter and facebook.

ps: in the meantime, you could sign up with with: http://www.wayofthepixel.net/pixelation/index.php

We have custom one click integration with them, they're our lovely shiny delicous first users.


openid and google would be handy, but that's just me, not sure on the masses. Will sign up for watp and get started.

Tiles have a creative element, scarcity and a time constraint. I always wind up getting hyper competitive and tearing through as many as I can in a session. It's an evil crack-like substance for arty types.


Good idea about google. OpenID probably won't add much tho.

Hope to see you around the boards then :)


Finding right target audiences is always the most important thing to do first. However, this another direction might help at the beginning. Basically drawing itself does not create a purpose. It is the purpose which drives to draw. So one approach is to ask artists to draw for charity events. I am sure collaborative drawing for charity can create very inspiring drawings and also get more attentions to your application. Wish you the best.


Tried to test:http://tzigla.com/boards/6

For me, it does not render correctly in Opera 11. Does not load correctly in IE8. Only loads right in Chrome.


IE is not supported at all. IE9 might work through some divine intervention, but we didn't test it.

Opera 11 should work fine and it actually does works fine for us, just tested it right now. But, thanks for the report, we'll look into it a bit more.


Opera 11 [build 1156] looks like the CSS is broken. Not supporting IE means the easy-to-use meme is more likely to be stillborn.


How do the edges work? Does the site provide them at the start, or do neighbours come to a consensus on what their edges look like?


New tiles receive edges from their neighbours, and they must make sure they blend in correctly.

When a tile is uploaded back, we discard the edges that would overlap existing tiles and present that to the curator to confirm the tile is correct.


related: http://infiniteblank.com/

Infinite Blank is a massively multiplayer online canvas. The game’s world is endless, because players draw all of it. Anyone can draw a new piece in a blank spot. It then becomes a permanent part of the map.


The concept is amazing, the execution is perfect and the first resulting picture is beautiful.

Well done!

Edit: The only places I can think that may contain your demographic are Dribble, Forrst and DeviantArt. There is also an advertise link at the bottom of DeviantArt


Thanks! Dribble and Forrst seem like they should overlap the twitter/hn people with artists, good idea.

Oh, and I'm quite positive we have no money for advertising on DeviantArt tho.


FFFFOUND too.




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