WDYWT.net, a Breakdown

January 6 2018, 11:24pm

One of the first sites I ever developed was a fashion website called WDYWT.net. WDYWT referred to the acronym "What Did You Wear Today" and featured daily postings of people's outfits. In its heyday, I had a couple dozen people sharing their outfits day in and day out. Over time, interest in the project faded and I eventually let the domain expire. What follows is a series of insights and learnings about the website.

wdywt

At a time when I didn't care much about fashion, it was a bit odd to create a site dedicated to just this. Seeing that WDYWT's was a subculture that was developing at the time, though, and seeing that these types of posts were just relegated to forums, I thought creating a more dedicated space would allow the project to take off.

On WDYWT.net, anyone could come onto the site and sign up as a member. Members could then vote on other member posts as well as post their own outfits. At a time when smartphone camera's were still just okay, most of the photos posted to the website were from DSLR's and pretty well orchestrated—one has to imagine that anyone posting to the fashion website would have their photos to look the best.

The site was loosely modeled off of the Digg format of upvoting and downvoting posts. It used Pligg as the main software to make these interactions happen. As documentation was a bit fragmented at the time, I learned a lot in terms of using a content management system and tweaking the platform to fit my needs. Fitting Pligg (a square peg) into my design (a circle), provided some of the foundation for my diligence in development today, to say to the least.

Once the site was developed, I released it to friends and encouraged them to join. I also reached out to many people posting wdywt's on forums and brought them over to the site.

Although it was fun seeing new outfits posted to the site everyday, the number of users and visitors was not quite enough for me to justify keeping the site up and running. I did learn a lot from the experience though.

First and foremost, I learned that if you build it, they will not come, at least on the Internet. It's only getting harder to garner the attention of people online. Even a useful site and promises of self promotion can only take a website so far before more brute-force marketing has to happen. An site should still go through the process of market validation to figure out how great the idea is.

Another lesson learned is that if it's not broken, it doesn't (necessarily) have to be fixed. For many people, the existence of a platform, touting a better experience was not reason enough to move away from an older way of doing things—in this case posting daily wdywt's to forums. If the site really was something that solved a problem, then it might have had more success. Instead, because it generally duplicated a forum, there wasn't much added value. Moreover, because visitors would have to go through the hurdle of signing up for an account to vote, the site was—in a sense—less valuable to the same person already carrying out duplicate actions on another site.

What problem does the average wdywt poster and audience have? It's this question that should have dictated the site's development.

The last lesson I learned is align project goals with passion. Though it was fun soliciting new users, initially, because I didn't enjoy fashion that much, I eventually found the process more arduous and uninspiring. By the second month, there wasn't much about the website that was appealing to me beyond checking out daily analytics to see how well WDYWT.net was doing. Having more passion for fashion, I believe, would have allowed me to engage more with users and figure out ways to make the site even better.

Through the experience of creating WDYWT.net, I learned a lot. Nowadays, I'm able to develop more robust sites that speak towards the needs of end-users. All it took was a little question, "What did you wear today?"

Any thoughts on all this? I'd love to hear them.